Friday, 12 September 2014

TV: Bates Motel

Bates Motel: "Had me hooked from the first episode."


Bates Motel
Bates Motel is a TV prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, but with a modern day setting, and the show is based on the early life of main character, Norman Bates.  The show explores the loving but intense and occasionally creepy relationship between Norman and his mother Norma Bates, and also examines the psychology of this young Norman Bates and the events of his early life which will eventually lead to him becoming the psycho of Hitchcock's movie.

This early version of Norman Bates is a long way from becoming the ultimately unhinged Norman Bates from the Psycho movie though, and you don't have to be a fan of the original movie to enjoy Bates Motel.  The show does include some clever and interesting details which fans of the movie will recognise, however, such as the beginnings of Norman's interest in taxidermy, and of course his complex relationship with his mother, Norma Bates.

Perhaps the danger with doing a show about a character who goes on to become a psycho killer is that you could potentially alienate some viewers by having a main character who it's difficult to sympathise with.  However, at this stage in his life Norman, although already showing signs for concern with his mental state, is nevertheless a largely likeable character.  Actor Freddie Highmore is the perfect choice to play Norman, and helped by some talented writers he does a superb job or portraying the deep and complex nature of Norman Bates' character.  He also infuses the perfect balance of edginess and vulnerability into Norman, with the overall result being a character who you cheer for even when his psychological problems surface.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Funny Webcomics Worth Checking Out

Surreal humour from comic strips found on the web...


There are lots of amusing webcomics out there with large followings of fans, but in my opinion many of these webcomics deserve an even bigger audience.  This month I've therefore featured below a few comic strips from some favourite webcomics of mine...

1) Unearthed Comics


This first comic strip is from the Unearthed Comics website created by Sara Zimmerman (with her husband Rob providing support), and it features quite a literal joke...


Monday, 12 May 2014

Movie: Clear History

A treat for fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm.


Clear History starring Larry David
Any Larry David fans who haven't yet seen Clear History will be pleased to know that it follows the tried and tested format followed by Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the result is a brilliantly funny movie.  Although not a carbon copy, Larry's character Nathan/Rolly still has some similarities with the Larry David character from Curb, most notably that they both seem cursed with the same bad luck.

Another similarity is that Clear History was also produced in an improvisational style, rather than by following a script.  According to Larry David, in some cases this helped create extra unintended laughs, as for example the character of Frank (Nathan's friend and co-conspirator in his quest for revenge, played by Danny McBride) was originally meant to be more of a straight role, but because of Danny McBride's improvisational skills he ended up with more jokes in the finished version than intended.

One thing which is different though, is that Nathan has a sinister side to his character and this provides a key element of the plot.  The story sees Nathan Flomm fall out with his friend and business partner just before the launch of a new electronic car (known as the 'Howard') which goes on to be the success story of the decade.  As a result Nathan loses out on what would have potentially made him a billion dollars, and becomes a figure of media ridicule.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Music: 6 Cool Tunes By Australian Artists

Six of my favourite songs by Australian musicians


In my youth I don't remember being aware of that many Australian bands and musicians who were big in the UK.  However, I'm guessing there were actually loads of great Australian musicians and the problem was just that their talent hadn't gained the worldwide recognition it deserved.

Whatever the reason, the internet now means that great bands and artists from all over the world can be enjoyed all over the world, and Australia seems to be producing more than its fair share of great music at the moment, so to highlight some of the best, here are six of my favourite tunes by Australian artists.


1) Cypher - Liar


Liar by Cypher
An absolutely brilliant track to start things off.   Liar opens with simple piano and vocals, then gradually builds up as more layers kick in, and it's a tune that for a brief spell I listened to on repeat.  The first time I heard it I sort of casually had it on in the background, but it turned out that Liar was so excellent that I had to stop what I was doing and give the song my full attention to fully take in and absorb every moment of its brilliance.

Cypher recorded Liar on Garageband on her iPad and if the marketing executives at Apple had any sense they would launch a promotional campaign around this song to showcase the excellent standard of music you can potentially produce with GarageBand.

Listen to it and download it for free from the Triple J Unearthed website:
Cypher - Liar

Like Cypher on facebook:
Cypher

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Graphic Novel: Anya's Ghost

Anya's Ghost: "...brilliantly illustrated in a way which makes it impossible not to connect with the characters."


Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Anya's Ghost tells the story of Anya Borzakovskaya, a Russian girl growing up in America.  Her life takes a twist one day when she falls down a well and meets a ghost called Emily, and after an initial tentative start they then go on to become friends.

The theme of ghosts in fiction is hardly a new idea and yet the concept behind Anya's Ghost manages to come across as fresh and unique.  It's also a creatively concocted story, with lots of cool ideas and twists.  I have to admit that when the main twist arrived it took the plot in a direction away from the storyline I expected and hoped for, but within a few pages I was drawn into the story even more and the unexpected developments definitely crank up the intrigue and drama.

The author, Vera Brosgol's, own life mirrors the basic outline behind Anya* in that she was born in Russia but grew up in the US, so that probably helps explain why some of the emotions Anya describes about growing up as a Russian in America and feeling like an outsider, feel so genuine and believable.

* Apart from the bit about the ghost, presumably.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

TV: Impractical Jokers

"Warning: The following program contains scenes of graphic stupidity among four lifelong friends who compete to embarrass each other."


Whichever Joker gets the most fails is that week's loser
and has to suffer the end of show punishment.
That's the cautionary note that precedes every episode of Impractical Jokers and at its most basic level that's what the show is all about; four friends trying to embarrass each other.  What the warning doesn't mention though, is just how funny Impractical Jokers is.

I got into Impractical Jokers more and more as the first season progressed and I think it definitely helps the humour once you get to know the personalities of the four jokers.  Once I was hooked, some of the episodes had me absolutely crying my eyes out with laughter and in fact on one occasion I was literally laughing so much that I had a sore throat.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Animated Short: Spacebound

"Everyone but the most hard-hearted of viewers will enjoy Spacebound."


Spacebound is a touching animated short movie which tells the story of an astronaut and his cute space dog who are stranded in space with their oxygen supplies running dangerously low.  The movie reveals how the dude and his dog spend their last few minutes and in a way Spacebound is basically an animated version of the saying, "Stop and smell the flowers."

You can watch it below...