The Help @ Dendy Cinemas, Newtown (Saturday 27 August)

(image via Impawards)
(image via Impawards)


 The Help is one of the most moving, inspirational movies I have seen in quite some time.

Set against the first stirrings of the civil rights era in the 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi where for over a century black woman have been house slaves then maids (sadly in terms of the treatment meted out to them there was scant difference between the two types of servitude, though the latter one meant they were ostensibly free) to the landed gentry of the town.

Everything continues much as it always has until ‘Skeeter’ Phelan (Emma Stone), a southern society belle (but worlds apart in attitude and thought from her close friends), returns home from university determined to forge a career as a writer, and decides to write a book about the lives of the maids in the town.

She encounters resistance at first until Aibileen (Viola Davis) decides that the only way that true change is going to come is if light is shone into the darkest recesses of Jackson society, starting with the lives of the close knit black community and the impact that white racism has upon them.

It’s a gutsy move, and while Aibileen’s best friend, Minnie Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is at first reluctant to join in, she soon does, and eventually so do many other maids leading to a massive outpouring of stories that highlight the great inequities in southern society.

In the midst of this book being written and then released, great changes are wrought in Skeeter’s friendships, her relationship with her mother, the lives of the maids themselves, and though just a crack or two at first, in Jackson society itself, through the simple act (thought ultimately there is nothing simple in the act of being brave; these women bare their should and risk much to reveal the truth) of the maids talking about their lives.

I found the movie intensely moving. The courage of these women, treated like less than nothing by their employers who actually thought they weren’t racist, in standing up and being counted was beyond inspirational since it mirrored the lives of so many people during the civil rights era who fought hard to be treated as people of equal worth and standing, which, of course, they were.

I always watch movies like this which depict man’s utter inhumanity to man with horror and contempt for the perpetrators, scarcely believing that anyone could treat another as less than human simply because their skin is a different colour, and while knowing it happens, wishing that people could simply look beyond prejudice.

The true genius of the book, and now movie, is that it shone a light on this racism simply by allowing these women to tell their stories, to show that their lives are every bit as valid, and intrinsically worthy as anyone else’s.

Thank god for the courage of the few to start change that will affect the many, and thank god for The Help which shows how powerful those sorts of movements can be.


Mixed Bag o’ Updates – Dr Who and Glee!

Yes I like to mix it up folks and here’s a doozy! Dr Who, time-traveller extraordinaire fighting against galactic evil, and Glee, all singing, all dancing and fighting societal evils. Yep a tenuous crossover, it’s true but it’s the best I can do right at this moment!


This second half of season 6 looks like it holds lots of promise with more River Song revelations, plots to kill Hitler, minotaurs and who knows else what as the following interview with Matt Smith details quite nicely :

GLEE – Season 3

Yes season 2 was very hit and miss, and I can only hope that Ryan Murphy recaptures the taut storytelling and immediate relevancy of season 1. All indications are that there are good storylines in the offing, and if he can re-invent Sue from a one-note character, and stop the Melrose Place-type dating syndrome in the Glee club, I will definitely be tuning in with perfectly tuned bells on!

…oh and the Dodgeball promo is a hoot! (although it doesn’t bode well for the whole Sue as an ongoing full realised character)

Thank You Eureka

Sad news today from the set of Eureka where it’s the beginning of the end of the show.

After syfy’s shock cancellation of the show – the word had been that syfy would renew the show for a limited number of shows season 6 but instead they initially cancelled it outright before the Eureka lobbied for, and won, a final episode to close the series out properly – a tweet from Colin Ferguson (he plays the sheriff, Jack Carter) – confirmed that the show I have just discovered is indeed on it’s last legs:

“They dismantled the Sheriff Station today… that was really, really sad…. I took my name plate from the desk… 

It’s such sad news. I feel like someone who has just met this amazing wonderful idiosyncratic vital person, a person who’s is capable of carrying on forever and enriching my life, only to find that they are dying of cancer and are close to death. It’s such a tragedy that syfy is ending this since it could have gone on forever – it is far more that just another quirky small town full of odd people show, with it’s scientific bent making the scope of the show’s episodes endless.

It should have gone on for many seasons yet.

New season US TV Shows – Part 2

So there are more than 5 shows that have intrigued me? Well truth be told, the ones I featured in part 1 were my cream of the crop, A plus picks and time will tell how soothsayer-like my pop culture sensibilities are. Sometimes I jumped onto the zeitgeist bandwagon with my boots on, and ride away for 5 or 6 seasons, or more if I am truly blessed of innovative storytelling; other times, it is as if my love for the program dooms it with an unwatchability curse and it limps through 3 or 4 episodes before dying a cruel pixallated death.

Clearly I am hoping that (a) the shows I think will be good will be as good as they look, and (b) they will be universally loved and adored such they stay on the screen forever, which in modern programming terms is more than a few weeks. I can’t say I am as invested in these second tier picks but they show promise, glimmers of original programming, and they may yet prove to be stayers that last…


The Angels are back folks – played by Australia’s own Rachael Taylor (who frankly needs to step up the hair growing pace if she wants to match Farrah Fawcett’s runaway locks), Minka Kelly, and Annie Ilonzah – and accompanied by a far sexier looking Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez), and just like in the old series they aim to help the victims square off with those that seek to exploit them.

MY TAKE : I really want this to be edgy, sophisticated and clever, and a great revival of what was admittedly cheesy but fun pop culture junk food, but instead I fear it could end up going the way of Beverly Hillbillies the movie, or Bewitched the movie. The one thing that may stop that happening is that Drew Barrymore is executive producing, and she was behind the two revival Charlie’s Angels movies that, while they were by no means perfect, had an uber-cool feel and look to them, and if that sensibility is brought tob this show it may rise up above some the cloying lines that found their way into the trailer i.e. when asked if they’re cops, one of them replies “No, we’re Angels”. Here’s hoping the writers can remember that good writing is still required to underpin even the cheesiest of shows.


Two very funny ladies – My Name Is Earl’s Jaime Pressly, and Wonderfalls’ Katie Finneran (the latter being my favourite but only just) – bring this domestically-based sitcom to life. It centres on their struggles to raise their teenage daughters so they are nothing like the social misfits their mothers were at the same age; unfortunately this simply makes theie daughters just like the mean girls who tormented their mothers growing up. Epic fail, and hopefully epically funny.

 MY TAKE : The trailer at least is hilarious, thanks in no small part to the considerable comic talents of Jaime and Katie, and if they can avoid the one joke pony trap of the mothers really hate the daughters this could really work. The key will be mining the characters’ interactions for laughs, rather than just setting one “oh the teenager girls are bitches, poor moms! ha ha” joke after another which would prove tiresome and repetitive. If the sitcom can broaden it’s scope somewhat to also include some grounded real mother/daughter moments, however fleeting, it will definitely be worth watching long term.


From the producers of LOST, comes a very clever new post modern drama, where Snow White (Ginny Goodwin of Big Love) and the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla of Swingtown) are not just fairytale characters but real people living in the deceptively sweet-looking town of Storybrooke, unaware of their true identities. Their only hope for a happy ever after ending is the arrival of Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison of House) to town, who is staggered to find out she is also in the book of fairytales.

MY TAKE : This looks almost as good as GRIMM but it won it’s way into my first picks selection by dint of a more earthy storytelling style. This series one achilles heel, and it’s minor compared to what is a breathtakingly clever idea, is the sometimes melodramatic tone to some of the scenes. I hope it manages to balance the feel good idea of these characters discovering who they truly are – nothing is more attractive, or potentially saccharine-laced sentimental than anyone being robbed of anything, having it restored to them – with some truly gritty, edge-of-the-seat drama. If it manages that precarious balancing act, I will make sure this vaults into my must see list.


This is billed a modern take on parenthood, starring the comedically gifted Will Arnett (Arrested Development) and Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?) as the parents in question, and Maya Rudolph as the married-to-her-career boss of Christina’s working mum who, along withy her stay-at-home hubby grapple with the thorny idea of having it all.

MY TAKE: I think this could very funny. Hilariously so. But I also worry it could tell all it’s jokes in the first episode or two, and be trapped in a very narrow storytelling arc, re-telling the same old jokes over and over till we all scream ‘yeah we get it, parenthood is hard!” Hopefully though in amongst all the jokes about baby poop, and lack of sleep, the show will actually try to grapple with the very modern idea of having it all, and if this is actually possible, or whether something needs to give. It is possible for a sitcom to be side-splittingly funny, and say something real and true, and I hope this show seizes on the opportunity.


Glitzy, soap-drenched look at life in the glamorous age of air travel, the 1960s, centred on the most iconic of the airlines at the time, Pan Am, and the men and women working for it.

MY TAKE: Call it the Mad Men effect but the 1960s are awash in style and glamour, and the perfect place for a soap to explore a society waking from the somnolence of the 1950s and coming alive. If it’s clever it will try to be sudsy and special, using this decade to explore and comment on the societal changes in a decade that really gave birth to the modern era. I like my suds with a good dose of this sort of social commentary and here’s hoping the producers (ex-West Wing) remember what really made their previous show, West Wing so good, and bring it to bear here.

* Now there are others shows that could be fun like SUBURGATORY ( or APARTMENT 23 (, or dramatic like RINGER ( but these are the shows that truly caught my attention.

For a great rundown on the full list of upcoming shows, check out this URL :

Happy viewing everyone!

Crackle Me a TV Show! GAY TOWN

I have been reading for years about web-based TV shows that are typically 5-10 minutes in length per episode, usually appeal to a very narrow niche fan base (which they can do since ratings aren’t a concern) and are usually creatively fast and loose, pushing boundaries in terms of content and story line, in ways they could never do on TV.

Finally, a few weeks after discussing some of the better web-based shows with a friend of mine at work, Lisa (who is a pop culture queen par excellence, often making me feel like I watch so very little, so broad is her consumption of pop treasures) such as The Guild, and The Mercury Men, and week or so after downloading an iPhone app called Crackle (again at Lisa’s suggestion), I finally opened up the app up, and found a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind shows. 

The best one so far is the hilarious Gay Town (each episode runs 4 – 4 1/2 minutes), written, directed and starring the very funny Owen Benjamin, which turns the usual sexual orientation balance on it’s head, and features, as expected by the title, a town where everyone is gay, and where it’s the straight people who are out of place. In this town it is a crime not to wear sequined fanny packs, straight men are fired for not being someone their male boss can have sex with, and where political sex scandals revolve around someone being found soliciting for sex with someone of the opposite gender. It is gently done, and does a wonderful job of showing up prejudices for the ignorant concoctions they are by removing them from the expected contexts and inverting them.

It is also damn funny! One of my favourite lines is “Memo to self : Never get between a lesbian and her rickshaw”, a lesson learnt by the main straight character played by Owen, shortly after a lesbian couple have taken out three gay men who were competing with them for a rickshaw ride. Yes on one level it’s all very silly but that’s why a lot of social satire works well. As we’re laughing with learning, and all in compact bite-sized nuggets of fun.

Torchwood : Miracle Day

I have loved Torchwood since I rushed to see it’s first episode the moment the good folks at Dr Who announced they were doing the first of what’s become a flood of spin offs (most not aimed at my demographic, sometimes not even Dr Who it seems these days, thank you Matt Smith and your juvenile prancing around) and I adored it’s bleak, morose atmosphere which it balanced, somehow, thanks to the rapport between the Torchwood team (which became quite a lot more for Dr Jack and Ianto, which was heartening to see), with warm camaraderie-filled moments. This was one of those once-in-a-million shows that had crackling story lines, rich deep characters, and believable moments of humanity even in the midst of the most fantastical of situations.

And now? Well, now, it’s still brilliantly written, and it has to be said the current story line is chock full of twists & turns, darkness and light (mostly impenetrable darkness), and narrative plot twists to keep you utterly engaged such that you crave the next episode and rush to watch it, and yet….
… and yet, I have two downloaded (from iTunes, thank you) episodes burning a conspiratorial hole in my iPod, and I am almost glacial in my willingness to watch term. which saddens me. I mean, the current series is not bad TV at all; in fact, it’s very good, beautifully produced TV, more than a cut above much of the dross that washes over our cerebral cortex and threatens to turn it into pretty-coloured mush, and I should LOVE it…. but I don’t… it’s lacking that precious something that makes me race to watch it, love it, talk about it over the water cooler at work…in short it’s lost it’s heart and soul, and for a show like Torchwood, which had it in quirky but real spades, that’s a major loss.

Oh I will keep watching it but more out of obligation and a sense that I have watched much of it already so why stop now, but will I love it? Sadly I don’t think so.

EUREKA! My new favourite quirky comedic drama!

So usually I am an early adopter right? Not in terms of my use of technology, which usually runs along the lines of ‘I am aware of it but will wait for the no-bugs second generation thank you’; but in my eagerness to listen to the latest music, check out the latest movie releases, watch the latest weekly episodes of magic from TV land… and while it’s powered by one part instant gratification, one part insatiable cat-like curiosity, and one part pretty new shiny thing absorption, it has served me well…

Witness tracking down in 2000 what felt like the only copy of Coldplay’s first album in Australia, which led to David Jones (a department store) Miranda, Sydney, and 18 months of me saying how wonderful this band was till everyone else jumped on the bandwagon; or Stargate SG1, which everyone seemed to ignore for a little bit while I watched it and thought ‘this is kind of cool….. so very cutting edge, ahead of the pack, with hopefully no wanky I got there first overtones (OK there may be wisps of that).. and then there’s…


It’s just been cancelled in the USA after five gloriously quirky comedy-overtoned dramatic seasons, and while I have had seasons 1 and 2 in my collection for a couple of years, I just never got around to watching them…. till now when I am hopelessly (well almost) behind the tide of history. So far, I have managed to watch 6 episodes of season 1 and while I am loving it’s offbeat take on the hilarious, and often, drama-laden intersection of technology, small town life, and the friendships & relationships made in that gold fish bowl, and I know there’s 5 whole seasons, plus a wrap up show to finish things off, I can help feeling like I have arrived late at a very cool, very hip party where everyone is putting their jackets, and stumbling out the door, just as I arrive with some fine wines, eagerness to burn, and a plethora of witty, occasionally insightful observations….

So while I may have missed the boat somewhat (yes I have left the party behind thank you; please try to keep up), and have only just hauled myself onto it as it threatens to sink in an iceberg filled sea, at least I managed to find what is really a luxury liner in a vast ocean of very ordinary run-abouts, decaying paddle streamers, and badly neglected fishing trawling trawlers, and I am going to cast a line, and enjoy the catch for at least, oh, 5 seasons of viewing deliciousness.

(Please note that no actual mixed metaphors were harmed in the writing of this blog.)

Paul Lockyer (ABC Australia journalist) – RIP

Today one of the finest journalists I have ever seen in action – balanced, articulate and evocative without being sensationalist – died in a helicopter crash last evening, along with his crew, John Bean and Gary Ticehurst. he will be sorely missed in an era of lazy, sloppy journalism for being the real deal.

My heart goes out to his family and friends.

A link to the ABC’s coverage of his death :

Coldplay has a new album a-comin’!

I am thrilled and excited in a way that used to happen way back when I was a kid and ABBA were getting ready to release a new album. While I love the depth and breadth of music I listen to right now, one thing I miss is the thrill of a new album coming down the pike, a thrill so great I can’t sleep or breathe for days beforehand. In fact, so great was my anticipation when ABBA released Voulez-Vouz in 1979 (compounded by waiting since 1978 for it with many false starts) that I RAN up the lane to the tiny record & gift store in Alstonville Plaza to get right at 9 a.m. and kicked my grandparents out of the bedroom so I can listen to it on the record player!

 Yes I am happy to see a new Royskopp CD (OK very happy) or Roisin Murphy but for true giddy I-am-12-again excitement, it’s Coldplay and only Coldplay. So colour me thrilled, excited, and full of giddy anticipation and roll on October 24!

* Here’s the official announcement from Coldplay:

(from The Coldplay Messenger, Vol 7, No 4, August 2011)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes @ Event Cinemas, Sydney (Sunday 14 August)

(image via Impawards)
(image via Impawards)


Rise of Planet of the Apes is a brilliant, if confronting, movie.

While it descends into shoot-em-up action in the final act, and the number of apes mysteriously multiplies, it by and large movie addresses some very real current social and ethical concerns – should we be manipulating genetics just because we can, and what do ultimately hope to achieve? For every great and laudable advance there are those that are suspect or dangerous – will these scientific efforts aid us or doom us? I am firmly in the camp that you do not throw any baby out with the bath water; that simply because a particular line of endeavour carries risks, does not mean you cease pursuing it for fear of what might happen. But this movie does give you very definite cause for reflection on where our current scientific endeavours are taking us, and if the end result will be something we can live with… or will rather be something that doom us?



It also raises the very pertinent issue of testing on animals and whether we should be doing this on any animal but especially on animals not that genetically different to us. In this respect, it is a million miles away from the late 1960s/ early 70s apes movies which treated the apes as evil savages ( a very colonial era view if ever there was one) and mankind as the victims of a great evil, and it is so well constructed that you end up rooting for the apes to win, even as it becomes obvious that mankind is slitting it’s own throat at the same time through means I won’t reveal lest it spoil the viewing experience.

Suffice to say, the movie draws you very much into the apes’ world, just as it frames a number of sympathetic (James Franco plays a scientist who thought, flawed, is fundamentally motivated by good and wholesome motives, primarily love for his father), and not so sympathetic, humans in full, well-developed ways that transcend cookie cutter stereotypes.

Of course the movie has plenty of those characters too but by and large it moves well beyond the cheesiness of its thematic forebears (though I must admit I still enjoy the older Apes movies to some degree), and tells a gripping story with characters who act from believable, if flawed motives, and reminds us that our dominance (such as it is) of the planet comes with heavy responsibilities and great risks.

Naturally too, given the current sequel-mania in Hollywood it sets things up nicely for a sequel which should prove an interesting excursion into what happens when the tables are turned and mankind no longer rules the roost.


The penetrating gaze of Caesar is confronting one for humanity, used to the idea that we sit alone at the top of the evolutionary tree (image via Impawards)
The penetrating gaze of Caesar is confronting one for humanity, used to the idea that we sit alone at the top of the evolutionary tree (image via Impawards)