Saturday, 27 April 2013

Why my wife hated Episode 6 of "Bates Motel", "The Truth" review

This is a guest post from my wife:

What a disappointing load of bollocks this episode was! I've loved this series so far so I'm really pissed off that this was such a shallow, obvious piece of crap.
I love it when I'm watching a film or TV program and I say, "Wow, I didn't see that one coming!" Well, this certainly didn't happen here. I saw the ending coming as soon as Norma (Vera Farmiga) went to a motel room for a bit of nooky with her dodgy lover.
It didn't make sense! Norma should so easily have said to the deputy, "Sorry, the boys will be home soon" or "Take me now, here on the patio" or even "Not tonight, I have a splitting headache."
But no, off they toddle to do the dirty in the motel room close to Jiao, the escaped sex slave. STUPID STUPID STUPID. Norma would not have done this.
The other predictable bit of writing came with the obvious physical similarities between Dylan and the bent cop, Shelby. You knew that at some stage there would be a confrontation between these two and we wouldn't know which one would make it after the shootout.
What a disappointment. Perhaps the writer(s) have used up all their good ideas. I don't know whether I'll be watching again. Maybe just one more time, to see if this was just an anomaly.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A cheap bastard's guide to travelling

Here are some random travelling tips:

  • Travel agents are redundant. We have not used a travel agent for many years after several stuff ups - thanks, Flight Centre - and that grinning prat isn't even a pilot. They don't shop around for you and always want to sell you their "preferred" travel insurance. If something goes wrong with your flight booking once you have left the country, you are on your own. Deal with the airline direct. Airlines can beat all quotes on their websites. Cut out the middleman. 
  • Flights  Investigate round-the-world fares, travelling return to a destination is sometimes more expensive than a round-the-world fare with Star Alliance or One World, plus there are no seasonal surcharges.
  • Travel Insurance  If you travel overseas more than once a year it will pay you to get a "gold" credit card that includes travel insurance cover (e.g. Amex). We have had two claims using this cover - both resolved beautifully. Do the maths - yearly card fee is around $200 - you can't buy much travel insurance for a family for $200. Plus you get perks like Qantas Club lounge access if you play your cards right. You also get frequent flyer points with your card.
  • Accommodation Use trip advisor website hotel reviews. Check out best rooms, views, proximity to supermarkets, restaurants, train stations. Use google maps to ascertain walking distance. Ask to see the room on check-in - this eliminates moving rooms later because of crap view, smoky smell, dampness, etc. Don't unpack until you are happy with the room. Always bring a plastic bowl, knife, spoon - invaluable for self-catering. We took a small sandwich maker once to Europe - amazing range of hot dishes are possible, from mini pizzas to warming up stuff. Yes, I know I am a cheap bastard. Don't forget to open a window if you have sandwich maker on - in case of automatic fire alarms. Many hotel rooms include microwaves now, anyway.
  • Transport  Walking and taking public transport is the best way of getting a feel for a city. Plus it is cheap. You can travel the entire Beijing, Buenos Aires or Mexico City subway network for less than a dollar. NEVER pre-pay for airport transfers in your home country. Many airports have integrated train links to the city. Even Los Angeles, a city renowned for its reliance on motor cars, has a brilliant underground system. We have travelled with our daughter from the age of two - using everything from the Rio de Janeiro underground to the river ferries in Bangkok.

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  • One last point: Don't wait until you retire to do all your travelling overseas. Travelling with a kid, despite all the hassles, heightens the experience. But, let's face it, travelling before you have kids is even BETTER. Travelling as a couple, now your daughter is old enough to house-sit is the BEST.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

New stuff on Australian TV (Please Like Josh Thomas)

  • Please Like Me Who knew Josh Thomas could act? Bittersweet, endearing, naturally funny. Thomas is a self-deprecating writer/comedian. Well directed, talented cast of old pros and new faces. This show is a winner. ABC 2 Thursday 9:30. It puzzles me why ABC put on double episodes on the first night. Hope it builds an audience. Perhaps ABC 1 will repeat it.
  • New Qi Series 11 "J" - why doesn't ABC play the 45 minute (XL) episodes?
  • Another ABC grizzle ... bring back Friday Night Dinner! You dropped it after 3 episodes on a Friday night for more Qi repeats. Some are 7 years old! ABC's answer to Big Bang Theory/2 and a Half Men overuse.
  • Ripper Street (on TEN) later in 2013 - set 6 months after Jack the Ripper murders. Great characters beautiful art direction. Classy and strangely informative.
  • Banshee (FX) a "guilty pleasure" series - Peyton Place meets Billy Jack meets Witness, with a sprinkling of Twin Peaks. Silly but fun. Produced by Alan (6 Feet Under, True Blood) Ball. 
  • American Horror - Asylum (Eleven) Glee creators /writers but galaxies away .... oh, it does have aliens...and Nazis doctors....and crusading lesbian journalists.....and possessed nuns ....and Jessica Lange doing a 60's dance number ....and the kitchen sink. Stylish direction and buckets of blood. You have been warned. Guilty pleasure No 2. Watch all 13 episodes with the lights off and your brain in Neutral.
  • The Following (Nine). Pilot was great. Think Seven/Silence of the Lambs I had to look away once. Kevin Bacon is great. Written by Scream's Kevin Williamson. Beware commercials and late night programming because of gore. Gets a bit repetitive, who is NOT in this serial killer cult, but Episode 6 was a knockout. Stick with it, but I prefer Banshee.
  • Elementary (Ten). We have watched 12 episodes and haven't tied of it, quality is consistent. Inventive scripts. I have no time for US rip-offs of UK shows, BUT THIS WORKS. Remember Johnny Lee Miller from Trainspotting? Trivia: both Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) played Frankenstein/the Creature in Danny Boyle's stage production last year.They used to swap roles each night.
  • Parade's End Nine has bought it because of Benedict Cumberbatch and to get some Downton Abbey like ratings but they will murder it with commercials. Gorgeous to look at, but a trifle slow for Nine viewers. That sounded snobby.... tough.

Friday, 1 March 2013

70's TV Guilty Pleasures (10 of the best)

Not The Brady Bunch, thought it was naff. Liked the two sendup movies, though.
I did watch The Partridge Family (for Susan Dey). You must bear in mind I was between the ages of 14 and 23 in the seventies.  Here we go, in order of what I would most desperately like to see again ....

U.S. 70's shows
  1. Columbo (Where do I start? I think the first few seasons are my favourite) "Er....just one more thing....."
  2. The Name of the Game (glossy Universal telemovies with rotating stars, I'm also a sucker for great opening titles/theme music)
  3. Kolchak: The Night Stalker
  4. Night Gallery patchy Universal horror anthology series with great guest stars and soon to be famous directors (Steven Spielberg)
  5. Search (Probe was the pilot movie, loved the Dominic Frontiere theme music and the changing stars format)
  6. Rich Man, Poor Man mini-series (polished Universal production)
  7. Laugh In (1968-1973)
  8. MacMillan and Wife (Universal again, John Schuck really annoyed me!)
  9. Banacek (Cool Peppard rowing down the Charles River)
  10. The Snoop Sisters (shortlived but not forgotten, those old birds were good)
British 70's shows
  1. Family at War  must-see wartime melodrama
  2. The Sandbaggers  I preferred this to Callan, but my wife will kill me for saying such sacrilege.
  3. Bouquet of Barbed Wire  miniseries, pretty raunchy, if I remember.
  4. Journey to the Unknown   another horror anthology series, creepy introductory whistling music. I know it finished in 1969 but I didn't see it until 1970, it's my blog, it wouldn't be the first time the truth has been 'bent' on the Internet.
  5. Thriller (from the creator of The Avengers, Brian Clemens)
  6. The Persuaders big budget Lew Grade series, Tony Curtis was great, so were the cars.
  7. Doctor in the House (loved Professor Loftus)
  8. Morecambe & Wise (Brit gold)
  9. Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee episodes)
  10. Doctor Who (Tom Baker episodes)

60's sitcoms - a variation on a theme?

U.S. Situation comedies in the late 50's tended to be the W.A.S.P.(White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) family like Father Knows BestOzzie and HarrietLeave it to Beaver (June says to Ward Cleaver in bed, "Dear, I think you were a bit hard on the Beaver last night" .... ooo, er, Nurse! but I digress, it's still a classic joke though, not mine).

Then some bright spark in the early 60's came up with the idea of the dysfunctional family or the unconventional home situation - 'fish out of water' premise. And all the networks jumped on the bandwagon. Here are the variations on the same theme, in no particular order:

  • My Favourite Martian (I think it was a rip off of Gore Vidal's play A Visit to a Small Planet, also Jerry Lewis movie)
  • My Living Doll (I think my first TV crush was Julie Newmar, this over 10 years before Westworld did the robot gimmick)
  • The Munsters (not based on a cartoon like next show, Universal had all those 30's horror movies to reference)
  • The Addams Family (it is line ball which of the last two shows came first)
  • Bewitched (loved Edora, as soon as Tabitha came into it you knew 'jumping the shark' was nigh)
  • The Beverly Hillbillies (typical 'fish out of water' premise like Tarzan in New YorkCrocodile DundeeFresh Prince of Bel Air, numerous Brendan Fraser movies: Blast from the PastEncino ManGeorge of the Jungle - he specialises in looking cute but bemused). Shit, this blog post should have been entitled "How to get off the subject"
  • Green Acres (another 'fish out of water')
  • I Dream of Jeannie (setting it in Cape Canaveral was topical and a winner)
  • My Mother, the Car (this was short-lived for good reason, a variation on Mr Ed, the joke was all in the title) 
Then some bright spark in the 70's came up with the let's have social commentary sitcom. So we had: All in the Family (rip-off of UK 'Til death Do Us Part), The Mary Tyler Moore ShowMaudeThe Jeffersons (both Archie Bunker spinoffs).

But that's another story....