“Can A Ship Sidle?”

Diane Morgan in “Drunk History” UK (S1)As I’ve said before, I’m not a big fan of the Drunk History concept, but when I discovered that Comedy Central had made a British version featuring Diane Morgan and Tiff Stevenson as drunk-historians, I had to check it out! Sadly, it was hard to find all the episodes online, but I have seen a couple, and enjoyed them a lot more than I expected to. It was fun to see Morgan in a more casual mode, flubbing her lines and laughing her head off over Lady Godiva… though, conversely, Stevenson seemed a lot sterner than usual, during her segment on Henry VIII.

Surprisingly, my fave contributor turned out to be Kerry Howard, a comedy actress whose previous work has largely passed me by*… but she really threw herself into the role of story-teller here, and her segments on Queen Victoria/Prince Albert and Blackbeard were laugh-out-loud hilarious. She’s got a very dirty mind/mouth, bless ‘er.

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* That’s totally my fault/loss, of course… she’s best known for her recurring role in BBC3’s BAFTA-winning sitcom Him & Her, which also netted her a “Best Female Performance” nomination in 2014.

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Buttersweet Goodbyes

[Contains forgotten parrots and SPOILERS!!!]

Jenny Slate as ‘Ruth Diamond Phillips’ in “Kroll Show” (S3)I didn’t find the third season of Kroll Show quite as final as the pre-publicity led me to expect… true, one of my fave characters (‘Dr. Armond’) did die in the penultimate episode, but then he came back as a ghost in the finale, with a slightly muddled brain and a whole new reality-show for us to enjoy! So, I was glad to read on The Atlantic website that Nick Kroll might well revive some of his creations for future projects, once he’s had a little time to recover. I doubt he’s taking requests, but I’d love to see ‘Ruth Diamond Phillips’ get a spin-off sitcom, featuring more of her hilarious courtroom cock-ups and dating disasters… and they’ve already got the perfect title for it with “Laws Of Attraction”! Sigh… I’m really going to miss my weekly fix of Jenny Slate… though I can still enjoy her vocal talents in occasional episodes of Bob’s Burgers. Aside from her recurring role as Tina’s classroom rival ‘Tammy’, she also voiced a socially-awkward magazine-subscription sales-girl in last week’s episode… she wasn’t credited, but her scenes helped to make it one of my fave eps of the season so far…

Chelsea Peretti is “One of the Greats”!Meanwhile, Chelsea Peretti is still starring in the brilliant Brooklyn Nine-Nine… and I’m glad to see that they’ve toned down Gina’s criminality this time around, because that was really bugging me in the first season. They’ve also cast Sandra Bernhard as her mother, which seems like a perfect match to me. Last night I was watching Peretti’s very funny stand-up special, One of the Greats, and there were several moments where she seemed to be channelling Bernhard’s spirit, somehow… in her own unique way, I mean…

Oh, and Kroll Show also featured some subliminal advertising for Samantha Futerman’s documentary Twinsters*, via a very funny episode of “Wheels, Ontario” in which it’s revealed that Futerman’s character, ‘Tunes’, has an identical twin with a French accent (and terrorist tendencies)! Sacré bleu!

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* Which is currently picking up a lot of positive buzz at the SXSW Film Festival.

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Gwynhood

I know it’s not fair to “review” a movie that you haven’t watched all the way through, but I still feel compelled to write something about the 30-or-so minutes I saw of Disney’s gender-swapped swashbuckler Princess of Thieves (2001)…

Keira Knightley as ‘Gwyn’ in “Princess of Thieves”I love the premise of Robin Hood’s tenacious tomboy daughter taking on her captured father’s mission to protect a young French prince travelling through England incognito… but the actual plot and dialogue were so blah, I couldn’t help zoning out after the first half-hour. Added to that, the eponymous “princess”, ‘Gwyn’, reminded me so much of Arya Stark (especially after she cut her hair to pass as a boy) that I just started pining for the new season of Game of Thrones which is due to start in April*, and will no doubt be vastly superior to this bloodless bore.

On the other hand, I thought Keira Knightley was fantastically feisty in the title role, and was already showing a great deal of spirit and star-potential in this early, pre-Beckham role. Stephen Moyer was also very watchable (if a little hammy) as her potential love-interest, ‘Prince Philip’… though it was weird hearing him talking with an English accent after all the years he spent pretending to be American on True Blood!

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* SPOILER: The GoT S5 promo photos I’ve seen so far suggest that Arya has started growing her hair out and wearing make-up! Jinkies!

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“Picture Yourself Tripping Through A Bad Film…”

While there’s some room for debate over the high-point of Erica Gavin‘s acting career, I think we can all agree that the worst entry on her filmography is Erika’s Hot Summer (1971).

A slightly misleading poster for "Erika's Hot Summer" (1971)Clocking in at just over an hour, this shameless cash-in cannibalises discoloured, disjointed footage of a pre-fame Gavin frolicking on a beach and cavorting with some sleaze named ‘Steve’ (Walt Phillips), padded out with tedious scenes of the same d-bag seducing another nudey model (Merci Montello) with his witless come-ons and spasmodic dancing. The voice-overs are monotonous and nonsensical, while the dialogue is badly dubbed and incredibly wooden… during the highly-skippable sex scenes, Montello (or whoever provided her voice) keeps saying “f*ck me” in the same sort of disinterested tone that a train conductor might ask to see your ticket, towards the end of a long, tiring shift.

Gavin’s “character” (cunningly named ‘Erika’, though a shot of her address written on a scrap of paper spells it with a “C”) has no on-screen dialogue… she just spends her time grinning like a goon, laughing at nothing, sloppily eating ice-cream, and playing with random sticks and flowers… mindless behaviour which you could charitably ascribe to a naive and romantic spirit, or less charitably to severe learning difficulties! The film-makers’ attempt to cobble all this together into some sort of narrative is clumsy at best, and the story’s rushed, pseudo-“shocking” denouncement is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen… besides the highly disingenuous poster that was knocked up to sell this dreck, I mean.

I’ll admit I found this “film” hilarious, for all the wrong reasons… but it’s not an experience I’d recommend to anyone with a more sophisticated sense of humour, and less masochistic tendencies…

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“Natural Born Killer Naturals”

Carla Gugino as ‘Elektra Luxx’ in “Elektra Luxx”Like an idiot, I’ve been working through my movie watch-list in alphabetical (rather than chronological) order, which is how I ended up seeing Elektra Luxx (2010) before its predecessor, Women in Trouble (2009). Thankfully it isn’t too difficult to figure out who the characters are, or where they’re at in their lives, because… well, it’s not like a Lord of the Rings sequel, y’know? There’s no dense mythology or epic quests to wrap your head around… just a collection of loosely-connected vignettes and “shaggy dog” skits featuring a bunch of sweet, likeable characters, portrayed by an all-star cast. It’s a light-weight “hang out” flick, which makes for an amusing and entertaining time-passer, but not the sort of thing I’d rush out to buy on DVD… which is lucky, because it hasn’t actually been released in this country anyway. That said, I will be fast-tracking Women in Trouble, so I can spend some more quality time with these gals…

Carla Gugino stars as the eponymous ex-porn-star, who has taken early retirement after getting pregnant (presumably by her recently deceased rock-star boyfriend), and now teaches ladies how to have better sex, via classes at a local community centre. Her sincere efforts to transition into respectable motherhood are repeatedly wrinkled by a repentant stewardess (Marley Shelton) who was inadvertently responsible for her baby-daddy’s death… as well as various lusty men who can’t separate Elektra’s on-screen persona from her actuality as a human being. Gugino gives a gangbusters performance here… sexy, strong, sad, but always sympathetic… and even pulls double-duty as her character’s “identical” (but much harder-edged) twin ‘Celia’, who appears in a prison-visit flashback.

Adrianne Palicki as ‘Holly Rocket’ and Emmanuelle Chriqui as ‘Bambi’ in “Elektra Luxx”A secondary plotline features Adrianne Palicki and Emmanuelle Chriqui as a pair of vacationing porn actresses, who fall out over how to spend their evenings… largely because Palicki’s character, ‘Holly’, has an unspoken crush on her bestie, and doesn’t want to share her with the random business guys who are trying to pick them both up. Although I thought some of Holly’s malapropisms were pretty implausible (“Not the sharpest stool in the shed”, for example), Palicki was very funny in the role, and she shared a good rapport with Chriqui. Meanwhile, Malin Åkerman appeared as ‘Trixie’, an aspiring “internet pin-up” seeking career advice from a self-proclaimed connoisseur (and bedroom vlogger), played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt… Julianne Moore appeared as the ‘Virgin Mary’, in a dream sequence (?)… and Lucy Punch had a brief cameo as an eager-but-unlucky student in Elektra’s class.

Note: Despite the prominence of pornography in the main characters’ backstories, there is very little nudity or sex shown on-screen… in fact, even when they cut to clips from Elektra’s faux filmography, they’re closer in style and content to Russ Meyer’s soft-core “exploitation” flicks, than actual hard-core porn.

Surprising fact: Writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez was also responsible for Rise: Blood Hunter (2007), which is pretty much the exact opposite of this movie… i.e., dark, generic, and dull as dishwater.

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Brava?

To mark the 100th anniversary of the first British policewoman being given the power of arrest (Edith Smith, in case you were curious), BBC4 aired a feature-length documentary titled Fair Cop: A Century of British Policewomen, which explored “the individual careers and ambitions of women police officers who, through their bravery and guile, were determined to succeed in a profession that never wanted them.” It was a fascinating film, with a lot of eye-opening anecdotes and old-timey “newsreel” clips… including one of a resourceful officer rescuing a baby from the arms of its suicidal father on a roof ledge!

Stephanie Turner as ‘Inspector Jean Darblay’ in “Juliet Bravo” (S1)The doc was followed by a rerun of the very first episode of Juliet Bravo (1980), a classic crime drama centred on a female police inspector, who has just been promoted to run a small station in Lancashire. Unusually, we’re introduced to ‘Insp. Jean Darblay’ (Stephanie Turner) a couple days into her new appointment, after she’s already moved into her new office and gotten to know her colleagues a little… so we didn’t have to sit through a lot of tiresome “The new boss is a WOMAN!?” misunderstandings and spit-takes. Phew! The actual case-of-the-week was a bit lame-brained (the kidnapper they’re chasing was always in the very first place they looked, so they didn’t have to do much sleuthing to keep track him down… and apparently no one in his tightly-packed terraced street bothered reporting the fact he’d fired off a shotgun in his back yard earlier that morning… tch!), the camera-work was quite creaky, and the picture was rather scratched and scuffed… but the premise had potential, the performances were solid, the characters were quickly/vividly established, and the jokes held up pretty well too. If this were a new series, I’d definitely tune in to watch the next episode… but sadly, it was just a one-off “theme night” nostalgia blast, and the DVD boxsets are out-of-print (and prohibitively expensive) at the moment! Sigh…

P.S. Forgot to mention that the teenage girl who gets kidnapped (by her unhinged, gun-toting father) was played by a young Joanne Whalley… though she’d already been in the biz for five years by that point, and racked up plenty credits, so it was far from her acting debut!

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Lady Wipers

Catriona Knox as ‘Emily Surname’ in "Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe" (S3)The third series of Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe finished this week, with a partly-reconstituted sixth episode… and I was glad to see that this time around the eponymous snark-smith had recruited even more funny women to join the cast! Hurrah!

Morgana Robinson recurred in two different (male) guises, impersonating “truevolutionist” Russell Brand, and originating ‘Zeb’, a narcissistic teenage vlogger (but I repeat myself)… and the series was bookended with cameos by another critically-acclaimed character comic, Catriona Knox, who played both a studio floor manager squabbling with Brooker, and a “generic reporter” named ‘Emily Surname’ in a pastiche of recent economic coverage.

Great to have them aboard, and all that… but the show’s MVP undoubtedly remains Diane Morgan/‘Philomena Cunk’, with her wonderfully nonsensical reports and reviews. Bless.

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