Monday, 29 June 2015

Manic Monday: The Terminator and the Monday Blues

Picture © Warner Home Video | Meme created by BSP on imgflip

See that picture above? It's Monday again, and the T-800 is not amused. But, honestly, who could be when a sunny, chilled weekend has come to an end and the tiresome burden of everyday life has just crept back into one's routine?

No-one knows better than the T-800 how annoying it can be when things don't work out according to plan - and, on Mondays, they hardly ever do. But hold your heads up high, BSPeeps, because just like the Terminator you might find that, in the end, things will turn full circle and you'll eventually get what you were looking for - even on a Monday.

As proof, enjoy this tiny scene from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), watch Arnie succeed under rather aggravating circumstances, and have a great start into the week.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Episode Close-Up: The Astronauts Wives Club (2015-): 1x01 'Launch'

We’re in the middle of summer and with that come basic human needs such as cold drinks, sunny weather, and a desire for light and uplifting entertainment. What could be better qualified to satisfy this latter need than ABC’s new period drama Astronauts Wives Club? Based on Lilly Koppel’s novel of the same name, this summer TV show provides an in-depth look into the lives and minds of the seven women whose husbands were in the race to become the first man in space and eventually on the moon. 

Obviously set in the 1960s, the show offers a glimpse at a time when America once again felt that it had something close to royalty in its midst: Not only Jackie and JFK as the first lady and man of state, but also the possible first man and lady of space. And let’s be honest, the lives of these possible spacemen and –women couldn’t be anything short of perfect and glamorous, right? Right? Well, nothing’s ever as peachy as it seems, but, with only 2 episodes broadcast so far, I would guess the real drama’s yet to come. But have a look yourself and in the meantime join me for this Episode Close-Up of the series premiere, fittingly titled Launch.
©SpoilerTV | ABC
1961: Cold War, propaganda battle, race to space. And for a chosen few it’s the year in which they will change the history of mankind by venturing off to space. A group of government and NASA officials is very aware of the positive publicity that can be made not only with the first astronauts but also their picture perfect families. Therefore they commission a LIFE magazine article to bring these all-American-yet-slightly-more-glamorous families into the homes of the ordinary people. But first they have to get the wives to participate in their little publicity stunt. Episode one sees the wives agreeing to be featured in LIFE, being forced into bonding with each other for publicities sake, and having to deal with previously unheard of difficult situations that actually bring them together as a group of friends and support system.

The pilot opens to the, well, launch of the rocket that sent the first American into space. Original media footage is combined with shots of the fictionalized wives and children anxiously witnessing the take-off in front of the TV screen. One woman, addressed as Mrs Shepard, is singled out and asked by a once again fictional reporter for LIFE, how she feels in this moment seeing her husband leave earth. She doesn’t answer, but her emotions are painted on her face, which is shown in close-up. The opening already reveals what looks like it will become a characteristic feature of the show: real and fictional news coverage is cleverly montaged into the plot, to provide a historical sense of authenticity, at times suspense (like when we see the astronauts at the command post trying to reach Alan Shepard in space later in the episode), and nostalgia. 

©SpoilerTV | ABC
This keenness on covering time can also be seen in the time the show tries to cover in just one hour. After the launch in 1961, the viewers are taken back another 2 years in time, to where the man-to-space program was initially put together. As we end up back in 1961 when the hour ends, this leaves a lot of historical and interpersonal ground to be covered in just 42 minutes without commercials, which is, spoken mildly, ambitious at least. We’ll have to see how the show will cope with trying to put so much time in so little time.

The problem this brings with it for the actual Astronauts Wives Club is reduced opportunity to actually bond on screen. The women meet in 1959 at a cocktail party organized by NASA, where they are more or less forced into club membership by participating in the article for LIFE magazine. This leads Louise to ask who has the more difficult job, her or her husband who’s being sent to space.

I'm about to be forced into bridge and bake-sales with a bunch of wives. Hard to say who’s facing the bigger challenge.

The viewers get to see a lot of the initial skepticism the women feel, since they are forced to suddenly spend a lot of time with a group of people they don’t know and because they have to play nice with their competitors for a once in a lifetime opportunity. At the end of the episode in 1961 we see the group of women spontaneously dropping by each other’s houses and dancing freely together. The bond between them seems to have grown. Yet scenes of female bonding to show how they got there are sadly far and few in between. Let’s hope the show spends more time on the titular club and the relationships within in future episodes.

©SpoilerTV | ABC
The opportunity is definitely there and there’s also possibility to delve deeper into the individual characters of the women. This show has a strong female main cast that definitely will be able to carry the show, even though the producers were asked by ABC to also focus on the actual astronauts in a prominent way. With this decision a lot of the lack of time to develop interpersonal relationships on screen can be explained, but it shouldn’t make the show runners shy away from developing strong female characters. The premiere strongly featured Dominique McElligott (known for Hell on Wheels) as Louise Shepard, whose husband Alan was the first American to be shot to space during Launch. Most of the episode sees her as a reserved woman trying to put on a strong face in a possibly deadly situation. Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck) plays Rene Carpenter, a self-confident woman that likes to be the center of attention, but can also be a good friend as we get to see when she saves shy Annie Glenn (Azure Parsons; True Detective) from a pushy reporter. Trudy Cooper (Odette Annable; Dr House) is a modern young woman that did not put up with her husband’s cheating and is filing for divorce. How much of a strong character she’ll turn out to be we have yet to see, since, despite her principles, she stays with her husband to give him a shot at being an astronaut. Erin Cummings (Masters of Sex) as Marge Slayton and Zoe Boyle (Downton Abbey’s Lavinia Swire) as Jo Schirra also appear in the premiere, but have yet to get any substantial plot lines. 

©SpoilerTV | ABC
What really makes this the perfect summer show is the look of it. Set in sunny Houston all shots have a pastelly-orange tint to them, that creates an atmosphere of constant warmth and beach parties, while also providing a feeling of sepia-style past. Dresses and outfits of the time also provide the typical period drama charm. A nice plot but also visual feature of the show is the stark opposition between the glamorous life NASA and LIFE magazine would like the astronauts’ wives to lead and their everyday lives in which the women have real problems that go beyond what shiny dress to wear to the next cocktail event. Fancy outfits and the company of President Kennedy are switched for toned-down practical attire while cooking dinner for the children or calling the neglecting husband on base.

©TVBox Promos | ABC
After just one episode it is hard to say if The Astronauts Wives Club is going to be the show to rock my socks, but it certainly comes at the perfect time of the year. The sunny look and period drama vibe hold a certain appeal of their own, though it would be lovely to see some strong female characters come out of this as well. After all the race-to-space should only function as a setting, since the title of the show and the novel it is based on suggest a focus on the tight-knit group of women. It also remains to be seen if the show can move on from the superficial glimpses at plotlines that are due to the fast pace the creators decided on. While glamorous cocktail dresses and 1960s cabriolets are nice to look at, the only real appeal and device to get viewers hooked on Astronauts Wives are going to be the relationships between the women, possibly their husbands, and the outside world. We therefore have a promising set-up, that with some tweaking in future episodes could become a show to keep viewers off the beach and in front of their television sets. For now, enjoy your summer in the sixties!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Film Review: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

© Artisan Entertainment | Source: kinoweb

USA, France; 137 min.; action, sci-fi, drama
Director: James Cameron
Writing: James Cameron, William Wisher
Cinematography: Adam Greenberg
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Earl Boen, Joe Morton, S. Epatha Merkerson, Castulo Guerra, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley

“No, no, no, no! You gotta listen to the way people talk. You don’t say ‘affirmative’ or some shit like that. You say ‘No problemo’. And if someone comes up to you with an attitude, you say ‘Eat me’. And if you wanna shine them on, it’s ‘Hasta la vista, baby’.” 
-- John Connor  

Remember the time when Edward Furlong was still young and full of promise? Those were the days back in 1991 when the then 14-year-old achieved childhood stardom as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cheeky sidekick and, well, the future saviour of humanity. In the role of John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day – or T2, as we robot-savvy people like to call it – Furlong is one of the main reasons why the sequel to The Terminator (1984) is an even more satisfying movie experience than the predecessor.

The outline looks quite familiar. Due to her belief that machines will try to wipe out the human race in a future war, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) resides in a psychiatric ward with no hope of ever being released. Her teenage son John is in the custody of foster parents and, once again, in mortal danger. The T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a new kind of cyborg assassin, is sent from the future in order to terminate the rebel-leader-to-be. A reprogrammed version of the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) also travels through time to protect John and his mother, and to prevent the eventual rise of the machines.

While the first part comes across as a raw and gritty diamond, I think that the second part, also directed by James Cameron, appears polished up in all the right places. The all-encompassing gloom and hopelessness are replaced by a more subtle yet effective apocalyptic mood. Burning playgrounds, sterile hospital hallways and hot desert landscapes convey an atmosphere of human coldness and foreshadow the end of civilisation. The fast-paced and dynamic action sequences known from part one are now more in number, staged on a higher scale and savoured to the full extent. With guns blazing and trucks, cars, bikes and even helicopters crashing, action fans are certain to get their money’s worth.

The greatest improvement for me, though, is how the characters develop and interact throughout the film. While The Terminator focuses on thrill and action, T2 offers a much desired inter-human balance. The relationship between Sarah and John feels authentic under the circumstances. The way in which they manage to support and protect each other subtly shows their temperamental as well as loving connection. The heart of the film, however, is John’s interaction with the T-800. Regarding the gruff robot as a kind of surrogate father, the young Connor makes it his mission to teach it all kinds of human mannerisms. From hip phrases and gestures to ethical matters – it really is a joy to watch John and the T-800 become friends in midst of all the deadly chaos. Fortunately, Cameron never makes the mistake to let his cyborg hero appear too human. While it may quickly apprehend complex forms of human interaction, it always remains a programmed piece of metal underneath. By maintaining the human-robot divide, the film allows for a discourse on our affinity with and emotional reliance on technological gadgets.

I love the chemistry between Furlong and Schwarzenegger, but they also manage to hold their grounds individually. The latter is, once again, perfectly stoic and utterly convincing as a machine among people. Now that his character has turned from villain to hero, he is endowed with a more extensive bunch of humorous episodes, one of the most memorable ones probably being his attempt to learn how to crack a heartfelt smile. With T2 being his debut film, Furlong shows that right from the beginning of his career, he is capable of carrying a film. He delivers comedy, emotion and the mental as well as physical strength necessary to make him look convincing as a future war hero.

Hamilton is my personal highlight. Buff and relentless, she has turned into a warrior woman willing to do everything it takes to save her son and the rest of humanity. However, underneath all her toughness, she has to come to terms with the loss of her own humanity while fighting the terror of the machines. Hamilton’s no-bullshit portrayal is strong, yet fragile. It’s embittered and shaken, and certainly constitutes one of her finest performances to date.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day balances action with comedy, drama, amiable characters, great performances and social commentary. It thus manages to deliver even better than the original Terminator film. Edward Furlong’s fresh and unspent take on John Connor is still fun to watch today. Considering how alcohol and substance abuse have wrecked his life and career during the past years, I bet the actor would love the opportunity to follow in his film buddy’s footsteps and, like the T-800, travel back to 1991 when life was still auspicious and the world at his feet ready to be saved.


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Data Base: Lost

© EW | Source: EW

Series Premiere September 22, 2004
Series Finale May 23, 2010
Genre Mystery, Survival, Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction
Country of Origin United States
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 121
Running Time 40-48 minutes
Channel ABC
Developed by J. J. Abrams
Jeffrey Lieber
Damon Lindelof
Starring Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Sam Anderson, Naveen Andrews, L. Scott Caldwell, Nestor Carbonell, François Chau, Henry Ian Cusick, Jeremy Davies, Michael Emerson, Jeff Fahey, Fionnula Flanagan, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia, Maggie Grace, Josh Holloway, Malcolm David Kelley, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Ken Leung, Evangeline Lilly, Rebecca Mader, Elizabeth Mitchell, Dominic Monaghan, Terry O’Quinn, Harold Perrineau, Emilie de Ravin, Zuleikha Robinson, Michelle Rodriguez, Kiele Sanchez, Rodrigo Santoro, Ian Somerhalder, John Terry, Sonya Walger, Cynthia Watros
Guest Stars Worth Mentioning Clancy Brown, Francois Chau, Kevin Durand, Mark Pellegrino, Katey Sagal


The survivors of a plane crash find themselves on a seemingly deserted island. There they struggle to stay alive, but it’s not only the “usual” aftermath of the crash and being lost they have to overcome. The island bears its own mysteries that threaten the lives of the survivors.

Yay or nay?

With its intriguing plot, an abundance of OMG-moments and more secrets and cliff-hangers than any even only mildly curious person can bear, Lost is the kind of show that gets you hooked so fast, you won't even notice. Among fans it seems to be common practice to spend nights binge watching episode after episode - it's just that addictive. So if you are a fan of the sci-fi/mystery genre and don't care much for a good night's rest, Lost might just be THE show for you.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Manic Monday: Top 3 Creepy Creatures

Source: fanpop

I’ve lately discovered a passion for our new Top 3 section. That is why, on this Manic Monday, we send your adrenaline levels soaring with our Top 3 of the creepiest creatures to ever appear on the big or little scream. These are my personal favourites – or nightmares, depends on how you see it – but who would you pick? Let us know and have a jolly good start into this new week.

Top 3 Creepy Creatures

3. Pennywise the Dancing Clown from It (1990)

© ABC | Source: dailygrail
Now isn’t this the stuff nightmares are made off? Clowns are scary. End of discussion. I mean Pennywise is actually laughing on this picture and he has colourful balloons in his hand, but don’t tell me that if you happened to cross him in real life your first instinct wouldn’t be to flee asap.

2. Mrs. Ganush from Drag Me to Hell (2009)

© Ghost House Pictures | Source: imdb
This not-so-nice lady with her milky eye and the flying handkerchief is about the last person you want to meet in a parking lot in the middle of the night. Especially not after incurring her wrath just moments earlier. So respect the elderly and steer clear of parking lots after dark and you should hopefully be fine.

1.  The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

© Esperanto Films | Source: villains.wikia
Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece of a dark, twisted fairytale brought forth the number one of my creepy creature list. I’m actually not exactly faint-hearted, especially not when it comes to movies, but I still remember sitting in the cinema hall with my heart racing as the Pale Man came to life. With his flabby, elastic skin, his grotesque, disjointed way of moving and the eyes where they aren’t supposed to be (first on a plate in front of him and then in his palms), the Pale Man makes one hideous sight. And the fact that he loves to devour little children or helpful little fairies leads to the assumption that his character is on par with his revolting exterior.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Film Review: The Terminator (1984)

© MGM Home Entertainment | Source: ArrowInTheHead

USA, UK; 107 min.; action, sci-fi, drama
Director: James Cameron
Writing: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Cinematography: Adam Greenberg
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Earl Boen, Bess Motta

“Come on! Do I look like the mother of the future? Am I tough? Organised? I can’t even balance my chequebook!”  -- Sarah Connor 

Sometimes, watching The Terminator makes me kind of sad. Sad that I don’t have my own little time machine available to go back to 1984 and experience the sensation of watching James Cameron’s sci-fi classic for the very first time. By now, the Terminator has become a figure deeply rooted in pop culture. We know it inside out, the dead eyes, the skilled gun-wielding, the “I’ll be back”-ing. I wonder how marvellous it must have been to go into the movie on a clean slate. Not knowing what to expect from it, its storyline and characters; to sense the originality behind the whole project, to be surprised by its twists and turns. Of course, all this is not to say that I don’t enjoy watching The Terminator in the present day since, well, I really, really do. But sometimes, you know, sometimes, it seems like a good idea to revisit the past.

If we take a look at the outline of the film, I guess it’s safe to say that my motives for time travelling are much more positive than the ones depicted there. In a 2029 setting, the machines have taken over power and plan to extinguish the entire human race. A group of rebels, lead by a certain John Connor, manages to keep the machines at bay and gain momentum. In order to get rid of Connor and his influential rebellious spark, the artificial intelligence creates a cyborg assassin, the Terminator T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Sent back to the year 1984, it is meant to kill Connor’s mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton) and, thus, prevent her from ever giving birth to a son. Keen on saving his own life as well as humanity, Connor, in turn, sends his soldier Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to stop the Terminator’s deadly mission.

All this sounds rather grim and darkly futuristic, and director Cameron pulls all the right strings to also make it look and feel that way. The film opens with a sombre sequence of warfare between machines and humans. The sky is covered by dark vapours. Deadly laser beams shoot through the air. A heavy tank rolls over a whole pile of human skulls. A musical score with heavy synthesisers delivers robotic, metallic sounds. There is no hope in this place, just misery; a lack of humanity, later perfectly embodied in the Terminator. Its first action, once it reaches 1984, is to brutally, and rather graphically, kill a man for clothes. By uniting this relentlessness of the title protagonist and a general gloomy, violent tone, Cameron masterly creates an atmosphere of suppression, constant danger and hopelessness.

The film, however, manages to find a good balance between dystopian depression and fast-paced entertainment. Adam Greenberg’s dynamic camera work and Mark Goldblatt’s precise and quick editing contribute to a thrilling, pulse-raising movie experience. I find it hard to take my eyes off the speedy car chases or on-foot pursuits. Well-performed stunts involving tumbling vehicles or exploding trucks turn The Terminator into a fun action feast. Additionally, Cameron provides short yet effective snippets of comedy, which lighten the overall aura of the movie.

I find the interpersonal relationships to be the weak point of an otherwise splendidly crafted film. While Cameron is able to subtly comment on a society blindly reliant on technological gadgets, he has a hard time portraying the blossoming relationship between Sarah and Kyle in a comprehensible manner. Granted since the film’s focus is on its brilliant thrill and action, I can mostly overlook the emotional short-comings. But, still, since Sarah and Kyle are meant to function as a counterpart to the cold and sterile world of the machines, I’d prefer to sense more spark between them. Cameron rushes them into a romance only to sustain his story. He doesn’t allow them proper room to fall for each other, making it difficult for me to believe their emotional journey together.

Maybe Biehn’s portrayal is partly to blame as well. His performance as Kyle walks a thin line between the right amount of tension and sheer overacting. Unfortunately, the line is crossed more than once. Hamilton, in her iconic role as Sarah Connor, strikes all the right chords. Her transformation from happy-go-lucky twenty-something, whose greatest problem so far has been the occasional boy trouble, into a responsible freedom fighter is hinted at sufficiently. She performs well as both the sweet, careless girl as well as the toughened woman trying to save her own skin. Furthermore, she musters the right amount of shock and emotionality. The highlight, however, is, lo and behold, Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator. Endowed with great make-up and special effects, he brings a necessary deadness and uncompromising nature to the character. As a former successful bodybuilder, he has an impressive, towering appearance, enhanced by some wonderful cinematography. His voice, without any signs of emotion or care, does the rest. While Schwarzenegger certainly is far from being considered a true acting talent, it is hard to imagine anyone else in the role of the T-800.

With a good balance between dystopian exploration and light-hearted thrill ride, The Terminator is a fine example of suspenseful action flicks with socio-critical dimensions. Featuring splendid camera work, editing, music and special effects, the film only falters in fleshing out its love story. So, as preparation for the upcoming release of Terminator Genisys in about two weeks, now is as good a time as ever to get hold of The Terminator and, you know, revisit the past.


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Characters We ♥: Marge Gunderson (Fargo, 1996) [Spoilers]

© MGM Home Entertainment | Source: Popsugar
Your average cop thriller usually features a smart and intuitive male lead. His task is to solve the crime at hand, and, in passing, save the damsel-in-distress female supporting character. In your average cop thriller, women conventionally are helpless, emotionally shattered and dependent on assistance. Now, Fargo by the Coen brothers might not be what you would consider “your average cop thriller”. The film uses the absurd, dark comedy and neo-noir elements; but what really makes it stand out among its company of modern crime films, is the lead character Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand). A female cop. Seven months pregnant. Solving multiple homicides. All on her own.
“I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work there, Lou.”  -- Marge Gunderson

In the movie, Jerry Lundegaard plans to have his wife abducted by two rogues in order to demand ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. When the scheme goes awry and the two criminals leave a trace of bodies throughout the Minnesotan landscape, police chief Marge is brought in to investigate the homicides. Heavily pregnant, good-hearted and determined, she sets out to apprehend the ones responsible.

Even though Marge’s first appearance only occurs one third into the film, she can pretty much be regarded as the centre of the narrative. I’d argue that her plot functions as a kind of coming-of-age story. Her journey from slightly naïve, gullible woman to someone who comes to realise the grim, vicious mechanisms of reality, is gripping and, for me, even delivers a feeling of heartbreak. As someone who tends to only see the best in others, she is stunned by the fact that people are willing to lie, steal and commit heinous crimes for the most trivial reasons. Disillusioned by the outside world, she returns home to her loving husband. Her life might be simple – slightly bourgeois even – but I have the feeling that after the Lundegaard case she cherishes her everyday surroundings much more than she did before.

However, despite all her initial naïveté, Marge never comes across as a simpleton. While she always acts overly nice and friendly to others, she is still portrayed as a highly effective police officer. Her work is precise and observant. When investigating crime scenes, she tends to come to all the right conclusions. Her persistent and target-oriented nature makes her follow the correct clues and, eventually, leads her to the resolution of the case. Since she herself has confidence in her abilities, she doesn’t shy away from calling out her male colleague on his wrong police work. It’s rather refreshing to see how self-consciously she navigates her way through a male-dominated job domain, and how she is respected for it by her fellow officers as well as her husband. 

”I've always told [Joel and Ethan Coen] they write great women, but that there's always something missing from them; they fall just short. But Marge doesn't. She has an inner life that is not immediately evident but which keeps revealing itself. As normal as she seems, there's something about her that people want to know more about because they don't fully understand her.”   -- Frances McDormand (Interview with The New York Times, March 1996)

Fargo really does a wonderful job demonstrating how Marge’s gender doesn’t get in the way of her doing her job. She is a happy mother-to-be and an efficient cop all at the same time. Pregnancy hormones, usually regarded as a weakness, only show in her huge appetite throughout the film and a brief episode of morning sickness. Her mental capacities are unfettered, her logic and instinct intact. Her baby bump never becomes an obstacle or a form of restraint for her. In spite of her condition, she isn’t afraid of confronting a man who she just witnessed disposing of a human body in a wood chipper. Like a pro, she immobilises him with a shot to his thigh and arrests him, proving that womanhood and badass-ness can very well go hand in hand.

Frances McDormand’s performance is critically-acclaimed and Oscar-awarded – rightly so. In accordance with the caricature-esque tone of the film, she revels in the “yah-s” and “oh-jeez-s” of the Minnesotan accent. With her exaggerated smile and friendliness she not only delivers comedy and satire to the point, she also renders Marge instantly likeable. And what’s more, underneath all the superficial niceness lies a complexity which she perfectly manages to embrace with subtle hints. Her Marge is competent, steadfast and brave, yet shaken by the horrors of human behaviour. She’s credulous, but not afraid of making amends for her naïveté. And yet, in midst of all the levelheadedness, McDormand delivers a perfectly subtle moment of emotionality near the end of the film. In a short monologue, she tries to understand the motivation behind the crimes – and fails. In a film that mostly works with absurdity and ridiculousness, McDormand manages to strike a human chord.

With her ordinary appearance, Marge Gunderson doesn’t seem fit for a murder case, and yet she is. She’s a fine example of a complex, engaging female lead in a genre that, sadly, often lacks exactly those. Appearing as a rather unconventional advocate for female strength and willpower, she might be an unlikely heroine, but, still, that’s what she is: a heroine.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Manic Monday: Summer Break

Although it's Manic Monday again, this week it isn't looking so bleak. A lot of you guys are probably on summer break already and for those who aren't, like me, the weather at least is finally shaping up to ring in summer for good 8) Thank God! 

So, while the excitement lasts, let's get active and use the energy we normally don't have on a Monday to bring some fun and joy into our lives –just like the heroes of this week's Manic Monday, Phineas and Ferb (and Perry)!

Now have a rocking week of summer BSPeeps and don't let the Candaces in your life bring you down ;)

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Features: Top 3 - World Doll Day

© Disney | Source: weeatfilms

There is a commemorative day for just about anything by now, but did you know that there is such a thing as a World Doll Day? In case you didn’t, now you do and what’s more – it’s today.

To celebrate this oh-so-important occasion, I prepared a compilation of myTop 3 favourite sweet jolly-good dolls and also a Top 3 of the creepiest dolls to ever appear on the TV or cinema screens. Excited yet? Let’s start with the good ones.

Top 3 Good Dolls 

3. Sheriff Woody Pride from Toy Story (1995)

What is not to love about Andy’s favourite toy, the old-fashioned cowboy doll Woody? Sheriff Woody is a passionate, loyal and forthright character, who has turned into the leader of Andy’s toy pack and guides them through many an adventure. His rivalry with Captain Buzz Lightyear is legendary, as are his favourite quotes: “Reach for the sky!” or “There’s a snake in my boot!”

© Disney | Source: disney.wikia

2. Mr Floppy from Unhappily Ever After (1995-1999)

I guess Mr Floppy’s being here on the good guy list is quite debatable, but he’s lacking the creepiness to make it to the other list, so I’ll leave him here. Though maybe not the best of character (which is quite an understatement) the cute, sardonic bunny doll aka Jack Malloy’s alter ego has nevertheless led us through quite some evilish yet hilarious moments. He definitely deserves his position on the podium.

© The WB | Source: cancione

1. Pinocchio (1940)

The story of the wooden puppet who dreams of being a boy has touched the hearts of children for over a century now – ever since being written down by the Italian writer Carlo Collodi in 1883, but even more so since Disney revived Pinocchio and his friends in 1940. The puppet that was created to be “brave, truthful and unselfish” taught us to always tell the truth (and don’t tell me you did NOT at some point in your childhood believe that your nose would actually start growing when you lied) – a message that has traversed the ages. So here, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the winner of my good dolls ranking: Pinocchio!

© Disney | Source: fanpop

Top 3 Creepy Dolls

3. Insaniac from Small Soldiers (1998)

Rank 3 of my bad dolls list comes from the evil twin of Toy Story, Dreamworks’ Small Soldiers. I’ve chosen Insaniac of the Gargonites for creepiness sake, and yes, I do know that the Gargonites are actually the good guys, but just imagine something like that coming alive in your room. Thank you, but no, thank you. Towards the end of the movie I had somewhat warmed up to the Gargonites, but nevertheless, the day I watched Small Soldiers was the day all my plushies had to move out of my bed for reasons of personal security.

© Dreamworks | Source: smallsoldiers.wikia

2. Slappy the Dummy from Goosebumps (1996)

"Karru marri odonna loma molonu karrano"

Say those words and you are doomed. This is the spell that brings the murderous ventriloquist dummy Slappy to life. And believe me, funny and harmless as he may look, you don’t want him to be alive. Ever.

And Shhh Slappy will be the main villain in the new Goosebumps movie that will hit the screens this October. Can’t wait.

© Protocol Entertainment| Source: thelivingdummy

1. Annabelle from The Conjuring (2013) and Annabelle (2014)

Putting Annabelle on the top of my list is almost too mainstream, but honestly, she really is that scary. Especially so, if you consider that her story is based on supposedly true events and that the real Annabelle doll is currently residing in the Warren’s Occult Museum. 

If you ask me, the real one looks way creepier than its prepped Hollywood counterpart. What do you think?

© Warner Bros. Pictures | Source: rssstrip

Monday, 8 June 2015

Manic Monday: Dinosaur Mania

RRRRoooaaarrrrrr! This Manic Monday we are already anxiously awaiting our journey to Jurassic World and, seriously, what better way to get you through the week than with a bunch of dinosaurs?! We are fed up with all the speculations about the movie. So, instead of joining in the hating or loving, we each present you with our Top 3 dinosaurs of all time:


3. Grisu the Dragon (1972)
Strictly speaking not a dinosaur (which might be what landed him on the 3rd spot only), this cutie does have the looks and charisma to pull it off. A baby dragon that wants to be a firefighter when he grows up - talk about difficulty explaining your life choices to your parents....

2. Robbie Sinclair from Dinosaurs (1991 - 1994)
©Fräulein Magazin | ABC
How a dinosaur can be hunky I may never understand, but Robbie was just that and even managed to steal the Baby's show.

1. Rex from Toy Story 1 - 3 (1995 - 2010)
© | Pixar
The original gentle-saurus! Once thought to be the big shot killer, T-Rex Rex is a gentle and likeable sidekick to heroes Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Still his love for video games that is only hindered by the shortness of his arms, takes a bit from the majestic beast of a creature.


3. The Dinocroc from Dinocroc (2004) and Dinocroc vs. Supergator (2010)
© New Concorde International | Source: Paleo-DNA
I know, right? How could a cute little fellow like the Dinocroc NOT make it onto the list? Half dinosaur, half crocodile, this trashy creature not only unites the best of two worlds, it's also the only living thing capable of eliminating the mighty Supergator. Credit where credit's due, people.

2. Petrie from The Land Before Time (1988) 
© Universal Pictures | Source: landbeforetime.wikia
It's very hard to pick just one of the adorable bunch from The Land Before Time, but since I've always had a thing for the little flyer Petrie, he's my choice. Scared of heights and, well, almost everything, it is lovely to see him overcome his weaknesses in order to support his friends. Espeically his friendship with Ducky always warms the cockles of my dino-loving heart.  

1. Daddy T.rex  from The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
© Universal Pictures | Source: jurassicpark.wikia
In order to rescue his infant from the hands of some ruthless humans, this concerned T.rex father travels all the way from Jurassic Park to San Diego. Cars crash, things get destroyed, people are eaten - and it's a joy to behold. Daddy T.rex is a perfectly fierce and furious dinosaur, put into the middle of some highly engaging action sequences. Mayhem can be so much fun.

Nata Lie:

3. Manda from Destroy all Monsters (1968)
© Toho Company | Source: Godzilla.wikia
Although many years have passed and my memory is more than hazy I remember that I loved the Godzilla movies and I especially loved the benevolent giant moth Mothra and the primeval sea-serpent-saurier-dragon Manda (depends on where you look it up.) Because, let’s face it, deep sea creatures are the best and I’m really looking forward to seeing the terrifying Tylosaurus.

2. Spike from Extreme Dinosaurs (1997)
© DiC | Source: Deviantart
The Triceratops Spike is the hard-boiled, tough-guy fighting expert of the Extreme Dinosaurs. Never short of words, he owns his opponents both verbally and physically. And he loves salsa and gardens in his free time. Enough said.

1. Dino from The Flintstones (1960-1966)
© ABC | Source: Chud
Having a dog is pretty great already but having a pet dino? How awesome would that be? Just imagine getting out of an uncomfortable conversation by saying: “I have to take my Dino for a walk” or “My Dino ate my assignments.” Wasn’t having your own Dino the dream of every The Flintstones-watching child?

For all of you who've always wondered what the world would look like if dinosaurs still existed and not just in a theme park, then this fall's The Good Dinosaur might be worth taking a look at:

Have a Rooarrring week, folks!

Friday, 5 June 2015

TV Show Review: Entourage Season 1 (2004)

© HBO | Source: Screenrelish

USA; 8 episodes; comedy, satire, drama
Channel: HBO
Creator: Doug Ellin
Cast: Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven, Debi Mazar, Samaire Armstrong, Leighton Meester
Cameos: Mark Wahlberg, Ali Larter, Jessica Alba, Jimmy Kimmel, Luke Wilson, Vitali Klitschko, Lennox Lewis, Corrie Sanders, Sara Foster, Big Boy, Gary Busey, Larry David, Scarlett Johansson

Turtle: Look, if you were gay, okay, I’d accept that. But you’re not. So why you gotta pretend you are?
Drama: Cause the guy’s an actor, you fucking idiot. That’s what he does.
Turtle: Well, that’s what you do, you ass-fuck loser.

Entourage is back. Not in form of a ninth season, no. The HBO comedy hits big screens this month, reassembling the entire main cast and a whole bunch of new cameos. In the course of eight seasons, the show quickly began to feel repetitive and out of fresh ideas for me. For this reason, I’m still quite puzzled as to what story might there be left to tell, or which jokes left to make. So, in light of the cinematic release, I’d like to take a look back at the year 2004, when the first season had just come out and the whole concept still felt as fresh as a newborn babe – or did it?

Season 1 introduces us to actor Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier). Formerly a poor guy from New York, Vinny is at the brink of Hollywood stardom, with the premiere of his newest movie Head On just around the corner. Always with him is his entourage of BBFs: Eric (Kevin Connolly), who also functions as a kind of manager, good-for-nothing Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), and Vincent’s older half-brother Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), an aged actor running out of lucrative work opportunities. Together, they navigate through the ups and downs of celebrity, mastering good and bad reviews and excessive publicity work, including a visit to Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night talk show.

The focus of the series, however, lies not on the plot. While the eight individual episodes present us with the every-day challenges of movie stardom, they only add up to a rough story arch. If I’d have to point my finger at something, I’d say that maybe the friends’ balancing act between artistic integrity and cash making for Vince’s blossoming career could be identified as the overall narrative of the season. But, in the end, the show succeeds much better in creating a vibe than in telling a gripping story.  

© HBO | Source: Complex
The atmosphere really is the greatest strength of the show, but also its biggest weakness. As a satire on Hollywood lifestyle, Entourage profits from its all-embracing aura of excess and shallowness. The boys hop from one party to the other, chase girls, alcohol and marijuana, lease expensive cars only to abandon them a couple of days later, or, accidentally, destroy a piece over at Gary Busey’s art exhibition. Women sleep with them for money or prestige, movie producers give Vince jobs in return for drug supply, and shops offer the boys discount for his autograph. Rap music, modern pop sounds and quick editing endow the show with a vivid rhythm and fast pace, making the 25-minute episodes fly by in next to no time. Additionally, the flat way of storytelling, without any cliff hangers or hyperboles, and the coarse dialogues full of sharp, often politically incorrect humour or mental diarrhoea provide the show with an engaging sense of realism.

Unfortunately, if there’s hardly anything else besides an atmosphere of superficiality and excessive partying, the whole thing becomes old fairly quickly. And not much can be expected from the characters to cover up the absence of an overall exciting story. In accordance with their surroundings, all of them are unlikeable. I guess, we’re supposed to identify with Eric since he seems to be the smart guy who tries to hold everything together. Furthermore, he also tries to build solid love relationships away from the Hollywood sleep-around-lifestyle. But, still, I find him to be a little too bland to really grip my interest. Vince is generous enough to share his success with his friends, but appears like a little boy incapable of decision-making. And while Grenier has all the right features to pull off the pretty-boy-routine, his acting is cringe-worthy more than once throughout the series. Turtle fulfils the task of the goofy sidekick and can be regarded as the most shallow of the four friends. He’s in the game for the money, the cars and, well, the pussy.

One of the highlights of the show, character- and performance-wise, is Johnny Drama. His desperate efforts to get back into the acting game and revive what is left of his career give him an almost tragic quality. Dillon knows exactly how to meet this sadness inherent in the role with the right amount of absurd humour. Drama, indeed, becomes the butt of many jokes and is featured in many of the truly funny moments of the show, and yet there is heartbreak surrounding him, which plays off nicely. The other highlight certainly is Vince’s agent Ari Gold, played with unleashed vigour, meanness and comicality by Jeremy Piven. Kept on a short leash at home, he tries to prove that he’s the man in his business life, and steals the show most of the time.

© HBO | Source: TheListLove
Many critics have already called the show out on its issues with sexism and homophobia. It’s true, women, except for the occasional minor supporting characters such as Vince’s publicist Shauna (Debi Mazar) or Ari’s assistant Emily (Samaire Armstrong), seem to be a mere piece of ass available for sexual intercourse. Men, on the other hand, appear like dick-driven idiots incapable of commitment. I guess, it’s fair enough to say that normative gender prejudices are broken down to their most appalling essences. However, I do find that this also supports the general tone of the show. In a world, where superficiality rules, shallow characters abound.

The same goes for homophobia. In the episode “The Scene”, Vince’s crew is in an uproar because the script for an upcoming indie project features a scene in which Vince is to receive fellatio from another man. Shauna sees his status as a rising sex symbol endangered and Drama is merely okay with him playing gay because it will increase his chances to take home a trophy during awards season. Turtle, as one of the strongest opponents, can’t understand why his friend should go “fag” when really he isn’t gay. I like how this conflict puts a spotlight on the fact that still today being gay in Hollywood is a big deal. Homosexual actors and actresses refrain from coming out because they fear for their careers. The dynamics of this issue are perfectly manifested in the way Turtle and Co. react to Vince’s project. Still, at times, I can’t help feeling uneasy about the way the writers overdo their sexist and homophobic jokes. While I think that, mostly, they play into the satirical quality of the series or serve to disclose normative male group dynamics; sometimes, they appear to have no other purpose than to be funny, when, really, they’re just insulting.

All in all, season 1 of Entourage has its issues. It suffers from a too fragmented way of storytelling, a bunch of too shallow roles and an atmosphere that perfectly sets the scene, but eventually exhausts itself rather quickly – and, mind you, there only are eight episodes. I feel like, at some point, more plot- and character-driven aspects are necessary to maintain the appeal of the show in the long run. However, season 1 strongly benefits from the way it zeros in on Hollywood. Its satirical bite, fast-paced nature and depiction of bromance make for some diverting entertainment. Additionally, the show has found two wonderful actors in Kevin Dillon and Jeremy Piven. While there’s room for improvement, it’s still good fun and worth a ride.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Data Base: Chuck (2007-2012)


Series PremiereSeptember 24, 2007
Series FinaleJanuary 27, 2012
GenreAction, Comedy, Drama
Country of OriginUSA
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes91
Running Time43 mins.
Developed byChris Fedak, Josh Schwartz
StarringZachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Adam Baldwin, Ryan McPartlin, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Scott Krinsky, Vik Sahay, Julia Ling, Bonita Friedericy
Guest Stars Worth MentioningDominic Monaghan, Matt Bomer, Rachel Bilson, Chevy Chase, Brandon Routh, Angie Harmon, Kristin Kreuk, Mark Hamill


When nerdy, mid-twenties, Stanford drop-out Chuck Bartowski gets top secret government intel implanted in his brain by accident, his life changes over night. Suddenly he's got 24/7 protection by two spies, John Casey and the attractive Sarah Walker, and gets drawn into all kinds of spy-ventures. His day job at an electronic store with a bunch of nutty co-workers and the fact that spies aren't allowed to fall in love complicate things further.

Yay or Nay?

As Chuck's job at the "Nerd Herd" suggests this one's for those who enjoy a good sci-fi or computer game reference. Action-packed missions are combined with slapsticky comedy and quick-paced dialogues. I tend to get a bit annoyed at Chuck's naive and feelings-led antics, but if you overlook that you will love Chuck with all it's stunts, fun, and romance.