Posts tagged ‘Hollywood’


When someone you know got ‘Harveyed’

12.10.2017

‘Repugnant’ is a very good word, used by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences to describe producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assaults. It’s a small world when someone you know was ‘Harveyed’, and it all follows a very familiar script. My op–ed’s in Lucire today.

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A look back at 2015: a year that was harder to laugh at

20.12.2015

I’ve done this a few times now: looked through my year’s Tumblr posts to get an alternative feel for the Zeitgeist. Tumblr is where I put the less relevant junk that comes by my digital meanderings. But as I scrolled down to January 2015 in the archive, I’m not that certain the posts really reflected the world as we knew it. Nor was there much to laugh at, which was the original reason I started doing these at the close of 2009.
   January, of course, was the month of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which saw 11 murdered, including the famed cartoonist Wolinski, whose work I enjoyed over the years. Facebook was still going through a massive bot (first-world) problem, being overrun by fake accounts that had to be reported constantly. The anti-vax movement was large enough to prompt a cartoonist to do an idiot’s guide to how vaccines work. In other words, it was a pretty depressing way to end the lunar year and start the solar one.
   February: Hannah Davis made it on to the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition by pulling her knickers down as far as socially acceptable (or unacceptable, depending on your point of view), while 50 Shades of Grey hit the cinemas, with one person commenting, ‘Seriously, this book raises every red flag warning signal I learned during my Military Police training. Grey is a ****ing psycho.’ Mission: Impossible’s second man with the rubber mask, Leonard Nimoy, he of the TV movie Baffled, passed away. Apparently he did some science fiction series, too.
   Citroën celebrated the 60th anniversary of the DS, generally regarded as one of the greatest car designs of the 20th century, while Alarm für Cobra 11 returned for another half-season in March. In April, one Tweeter refused to do any Bruce Jenner jokes: ‘there are kids & adults confused/bullied/dying over their gender identity,’ said an American photographer called Spike. The devastating Nepalese earthquakes were also in April, again nothing to be joked about. There was this moment of levity:

And the Fairfax Press published a photograph of President Xi of China, although the caption reads ‘South Korea’s President Park Geun Hye’. Wrong country, wrong gender. When reposted on Weibo, this was my most viral post of the year.

   In May, we published a first-hand account of the Nepal ’quakes in Lucire, by Kayla Newhouse. It was a month for motorheads with For the Love of Cars back on Channel 4. Facebook hackers, meanwhile, started targeting Japanese, and later Korean, accounts, taking them over and turning them into bots.
   In June, rumours swirled over the death of Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow, whereupon I made this image:

   In July, rape complaints against actor Bill Cosby reached fever pitch as woman after woman came out with credible and very similar stories. Staying Stateside, one writer said of the GOP primaries: ‘It will go down someday as the greatest reality show ever conceived. The concept is ingenious. Take a combustible mix of the most depraved and filterless half-wits, scam artists and asylum Napoleons America has to offer, give them all piles of money and tell them to run for president. Add Donald Trump.’ A Sydney man, who allegedly insulted then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, inspired the internet public to raise funds for him to beat the fine.
   In September, Doctor Who returned to telly for its 35th season, while Facebook continued to be overwhelmed by bots, mostly based around hacked Korean accounts. A young Briton, Connie Talbot, released a cover version of Sam Smith’s ‘Writing’s on the Wall’, the theme from the James Bond film Spectre, which I regarded as superior to the original.
   In October, US Senator Bernie Sanders answered the question, ‘Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?’ He responded, ‘Black lives matter. And the reason those words matter is the African-American community knows that on any given day, some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car, and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail. Or their kids are going to get shot. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom, and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system in which we have more people in jail than China.’
   As we neared the year’s end, I wrote a blog post, uncharacteristically published both on my Tumblr and here, on how a pharmaceutical company would release a Daraprim competitor for US$1 a pill, after the company behind Daraprim raised its price from US$13·50 to US$750. That was before Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, was arrested in an investigation that began in 2014. I did one post noting what my Dad had begun forgetting because of his newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease, with the intent of following up, out of solidarity with another other caregivers of Alzheimer’s sufferers. November, too, saw Paris’s second major terrorist attack, and Astérix illustrator Albert Uderzo contributed this touching image:

Microsoft rolled out the bug-filled Windows 10, which worked differently every day.
   In December, it wasn’t quite ‘Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars’. There was, after all, Trump, Trump and more Trump, the only potential presidential candidate getting air time outside the US. Observing the primaries, 9Gag noted that the movie Idiocracy ‘started out as a comedy and is turning into a documentary’. Michael Welton wrote, meanwhile, in Counterpunch, ‘The only way we might fathom the post 9/11 American world of governmental deceit and a raw market approach to political problem solving is to assume that moral principle has been banished because the only criteria for action is whether the ends of success and profitability have been achieved. That’s all. That’s it. And since morality is the foundation of legal systems, adhering to law is abandoned as well.’ The New Zealand flag referendum didn’t make it into my Tumblr; but if it had, I wonder if we would be arguing whether the first-placed alternative by Kyle Lockwood is black and blue, or gold and white—a reference to another argument that had internauts wasting bandwidth back in February.
   It’s not an inaccurate snapshot of 2015, but it’s also a pretty depressing one. France tasted terror attacks much like other cities, but the west noticed for a change; there were serious natural disasters; and bonkers politicians got more air time than credible ones. Those moments of levity—my humorous Jon Snow image and feigned ignorance, for instance—were few and far between. It was that much harder to laugh at the year, which stresses just how much we need to do now and in 2016 to get things on a more sensible path. Can we educate and communicate sufficiently to do it, through every channel we have? Or are social media so fragmented now that you’ll only really talk into an echo chamber? And if so, how do we unite behind a set of common values and get around this?

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Posted in cars, China, culture, humour, internet, media, politics, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


Why I ran

24.04.2014

In two elections, I told people some blarney on why I decided to run.
   In 2010: ‘I was working at Lew’s Diner and this guy had been picked on. I told him, “Stand tall, boy, show some respect for yourself. Do you think I’m going to spend the rest of my life in this slop house? No, sir, I’m going to night school. I’m going to make something of myself.” Some weird guy sitting next to him in a life preserver chimes up, points and me, and says, “That’s right, he’s going to be Mayor!” And that’s when I got the idea. Mr Carruthers did say, “A coloured mayor, that’ll be the day,” but it didn’t deter me.’

jenna-louise-coleman-clara-oswin

   In 2013: ‘I was wondering whether to stand again and decided to chill out and watch Doctor Who. In that episode, Jenna Coleman turns to the screen and says directly to me, “Run, you clever boy, and remember.” So I did.’
   You have to admit these are better answers than the stock politicians’ ones.
   With that, ladies and gentlemen, have a blessed Anzac Day.

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Posted in culture, New Zealand, politics, TV, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


The Saint goes on

30.04.2013

I belatedly came across the YouTube preview of The Saint, a reimagining of the Leslie Charteris character, which was shopped at Cannes this month. It had been posted by Ian Dickerson, who at my last contact was the honorary secretary of the Saint Club. (A quick glance at the website reveals he still is.)
   I’m in the pro camp on this one. It’s a mistake to compare this too closely to the RKO movies with George Sanders, or the famous TV series with Roger Moore—it’s only right that the character has been reinvented for a modern audience. I’m a little less convinced by the back-story (who killed Simon Templar’s parents?), but TV networks seem to like these story arcs. I was a big fan of Return of the Saint, starring Ian Ogilvy, and saw as many Saint episodes as I could thereafter. New Zealand missed out on the Simon Dutton series of TV movies (I only ever saw one of the four on YouTube), though we did have the one-off pilot starring Australian actor Andrew Clarke airing here in 1990; and, of course, I saw the Val Kilmer big-screen adaptation as well.
   Adam Rayner almost looks the part of how Charteris described Simon Templar, and is athletic enough for the role. I hope they let his version of the Saint be a bit of tough bastard sometimes: the literary Templar wasn’t afraid of breaking a few bones when it came to unsavoury villains, even if that might upset the Moore fans. It’s great to see the return of the Patricia Holm character, whom Charteris regularly had in the books. The last time she had appeared on screen was 1943; this time, it’s Eliza Dushku playing her. It’s a good move, in my opinion, since Dushku has her fans, and they’ll probably want to see her in a new series kicking arse.
   We also see Insp John Fernack return—the last time he was on screen was in the Clarke version. They may have made him LAPD rather than NYPD, but that’s Hollywood.
   While I know Kilmer’s portrayal of Simon Templar was not well received—leading some to feel that maybe the new Saint should be closer to the way Moore played him—I didn’t really mind. Perhaps it was a tad too early for a Hollywoodized Saint, but director Phillip Noyce had the disguise aspect right. Templar delighted in them, if my memory of the books serves me correctly, but because we never saw it with Moore, and Ogilvy adopted one of the Charteris aliases only once in his 24 episodes, people tended to forget this aspect of the character. I was more let down by the sugar-sweet and badly edited ending—I understand another version was originally filmed which ended on a tragic note—but since this was pre-Batman Begins, 1990s audiences didn’t want to see that. It’s a shame, because a follow-up with Simon Templar out for revenge might have been an interesting proposition.
   However, there is an English actor playing Templar this time, which should at least silence those who felt an American should never have taken the role in the 1990s. There is a small group of us proud of our Chinese heritage and note that Leslie Charteris was born Leslie Bowyer-Yin, and that the Yin part is (Singaporean) Chinese, so surely his alter ego should reflect a bit of this heritage, too? A minor point in a globalized world.
   If there is one aspect I would like to see retained from the books, it’s the notion that one person—or in this case, two people—can go up against the establishment, and win. A lot of the Charteris villains were dishonest types who fooled the majority of society into thinking they were respectable. But sometimes when you’re right, you’re right—and it doesn’t matter which part of society you’ve come from.
   I know, I’m judging this positively before I have seen the pilot, but I reckon giving it a chance is better than rubbishing it, as a few have around the internet. Sir Roger Moore has a cameo; as does Ian Ogilvy, who seems to be playing a villain this time. As with the Kilmer outing, the trailer seems to use an updated version of the Edwin Astley theme, rather than the familiar eight notes from Charteris. Sir Roger and has son Geoffrey served as co-producers, Jesse Alexander (Lost) scripted the pilot, while James Remar, Enrique Murciano (as Insp Fernack), Thomas Kretschmann, and Greg Grunberg round off the principal cast.

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I wanted to grow up and be the Dean Martin version of Matt Helm

15.07.2011

As a child growing up in Wellington, there were a few TV series that shaped my beliefs about being grown-up in the occident. The first I’ve written about before: The Persuaders, which is in part where this blog gets its name. I’ve probably mentioned Return of the Saint elsewhere, not to mention the plethora of TV detectives and cops. It’s the old-fashioned idea that good beats evil, and that one man can make a difference.
   But there was also one movie that appealed to me. Tonight I watched, for the first time since the 1970s, The Wrecking Crew. This was the final Matt Helm spy pic starring Dean Martin, and it’s amazing what sticks in your memory from age five, when this was aired on television. Considering my memory goes back to c. nine months, I realize remembering stuff at five is not that remarkable, but I surprised myself at what visuals I recalled, nearly perfectly.
   It may have also shaped my idea that when you rescue the girl, you have to sing like Dean Martin. If anyone wants to lay blame somewhere for my impromptu crooning at parties (or, more embarrassingly, at restaurants), this is where it all started. This is also why I sing ‘Everybody Rock Your Body’ to the tune of ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’.
   As a child, I had no idea there was a series of Matt Helm films. So, as a teenager, I began renting them or recording them off telly. When I saw Murderers’ Row air on TV1 in 1982, I set the video recorder to tape it, but could see nothing from it that I remembered from the first time I watched a “Dean Martin spy flick”—I could not remember the title of what I had seen in 1977. At five, I actually didn’t care.
   Then there was The Silencers, actually the first movie, rented at the Kilbirnie Video Centre around 1990. Hmm, still not the one I saw.
   I then rented The Ambushers, the only other one they had there—still not it.
   So, by process of elimination, I knew it had to be the last one, The Wrecking Crew—or I could not trust my memory. Finally, thanks to DVD, over three decades on, I was able to relive what I saw as a five-year-old—and it was this one after all.
   This gives you an idea of what piqued my interest as a child.

The Wrecking Crew
1. That the bad guys had a Mercedes W111.

The Wrecking Crew
2. Elke Sommer. Probably not due to the fact that I was a perve at age five, but that she was the model flogging Lux soap on telly at the same time. (If I was a perve, then I would have noticed Elke’s very low-cut dress in her first scene. Then again, I remember the dancers from The Monte Carlo Show, but I was eight by then.)

The Wrecking Crew
3. Dino punching some guy in a Merc and running off.

The Wrecking Crew
4. This set, meant to be the interior of a train.

The Wrecking Crew
5. Villain Nigel Green’s trap door on his getaway train.

The Wrecking Crew
6. Dino making sure Sharon Tate didn’t fall through.

The Wrecking Crew
7. Dino making sure Nigel’s stuntman did fall through.

   I presume I knew who Dean Martin was probably because of my mother, who explained it—this was back in the day when parents made sure that what you watched was OK before they went off and prepared dinner. I can’t remember what was on the other channel, but I must have enjoyed this sufficiently to have stayed with it—and there were no remote controls for Philips K9 sets.
   Might have to watch it again tonight. It was genuinely ridiculous, but certainly better than The Silencers (whose theme you still occasionally hear on Groove 107·7 FM here in Wellington) or The Ambushers. Watch out for the second-unit actors on location and the fact that Dino and Sharon Tate stayed firmly in Hollywood; the fake grass on top of padding which moves when Dino pushes down on it; the director’s expectation that we could believe Dino’s character could build a helicopter from bits in a few minutes; and the really bad ride Mac (the boss) has in his Lincoln Continental.
   I’d still pick Murderers’ Row as the best one of the lot, thanks to Ann-Margret being very groovy, Dino’s Ford Thunderbird with rear lights that doubled as a dot-matrix display, the Lalo Schifrin score, and Karl Malden being evil.

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Posted in cars, culture, humour, interests, New Zealand, TV, USA | 3 Comments »


Time to fight the Wellywood sign—again

21.05.2011

Wellywood sign: see blog posts from last year (like this).
   You’d think Wellington Airport would know that the majority of residents are against this awful idea. An intelligent person would think: floating an idea in 2011 that was nearly universally rejected in Wellington in 2010 isn’t smart.
   Yet that’s exactly what they’ve done.
   As I said last year: copying someone does not celebrate our originality.
   The sign runs counter to any notion of Wellington’s creativity and civic pride.
   Let’s go through the motions again. Time to dig out last year’s emails to the Hollywood Sign Trust, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the licensing company with a new link to the Fairfax Press article.
   Yeah, I’m a narc when it comes to protecting originality, more so when it’s going to make our city look like a global laughing-stock. I would similarly act for any Kiwi firm that gets ripped off by someone else. Even in non-election years.

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Posted in branding, culture, marketing, New Zealand, Wellington | 2 Comments »


National thinks the internet is ‘Skynet’ as copyright amendments pass second reading

13.04.2011

This would be humorous if the implications of the copyright amendments were not so serious:

Also speaking in favour of the bill, National MP Jonathan Young compared the internet to Skynet, the fictional artificial intelligence network in the Terminator movies that tried to destroy mankind.

That was in the National Business Review.
   I believe it’s also fair to hold the Prime Minister to account.
   This is the same man who, in 2009, thought this legislative amendment was a bad idea.
   He now thinks it’s a good idea, I imagine because it was passed under urgency and he can get away with it.
   The leader of the Opposition may indeed have flip-flopped on things, but I think he took a tad longer. The Prime Minister, on this issue once again, shows that principle is not one of his strong suits.
   Especially in light of the TPPA negotiations, this government seems hell bent on ceding our sovereignty to foreign lobbyists.
   In what I believe is a tactical mistake for them, Labour supported the amendment, too.
   The first big issue for the General Election has just crept up—the internet-savvy public is far larger than politicians think—and it plays right into the minor parties’ hands.

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Posted in internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA, Wellington | 5 Comments »


Thoughts on Players, the Indian remake of The Italian Job

12.12.2010

It’s been known for some time that Players, the official, licensed Indian remake of The Italian Job, will film in New Zealand, but what surprised me is that Wellington is to take the place of Torino in the 21st-century version.
   At least they changed the name, because the American remake of The Italian Job was set in Los Angeles. I assume it is called Players because The Wellington Job doesn’t have the same ring to it.
   Abbas and Mastan Burmawalla are directing, which will mean plenty of style, and the cast includes Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Bobby Deol, Sikander Kher and Neil Nitin Mukesh. With the female names in there, this may be a remake of the remake of The Italian Job, because I cannot see either Sonam or Bipasha called Rozzer, Yellow or Camp Freddie. And the male names suggest that this film should do well among a decent part of the audience with four of India’s super-hunks in it.
   None are identifiable as the local equivalent of Prof Peach.
   A few things interest me at this stage.
   We’ll need an excuse for $4 million of gold bullion to be shipped to Wellington, and it won’t be for a Fiat car factory. Assuming that’s closer to $40 million today, there aren’t too many reasons someone would shift that much to us down here in gold.
   Possibilities include: (a) PM John Key decides to shift his personal fortune for safe-keeping at Bill English’s house in Wellington; (b) MGM’s payment for the Hobbit movie; or (c) a Chinese bribe for concessions on the free-trade deal to lock India out.
   We already know that you can race a Mini around the city quite happily thanks to Goodbye, Pork Pie:

so three should not be a problem.
   I’m not terribly sure where the Wellington traffic computer is, whether our women are, indeed, as large as Prof Peach would like them, and I wonder what shape our fictional Mafia (‘The Mafia? The Mafia’) will take. I have some suspicions, and it involves the local cast of The Apprentice throwing Filofaxes. One hears, however, Russian actor Vyacheslav Razbegaev is lined up to take a part.
   The only question remains is: what is Hindi for ‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ so I may add it to my ‘Favourite quotes’ section in Facebook?
   In all seriousness, I may well time my next visit to India when this premières. Time to email some enquiries through …

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A tribute to Mission: Impossible’s nice guy

19.03.2010

Maybe I plain did not watch the news on the 15th—goodness knows what I was doing to have missed that Peter Graves, best known for his portrayal of Jim Phelps in Mission: Impossible, passed away, after suffering a heart attack. Today would have been his 84th birthday.
   I am a huge fan of Mission: Impossible, and no, I do not mean the Tom Cruise movies. I recalled that Mr Graves himself was not a fan of the first one and was incredibly diplomatic about it, as men of his generation were.
   Graves might not have been the best actor in the ensemble cast (I would give that honour to the late Greg Morris) but what always impressed me was what I knew of his off-screen life. You never heard anything bad about this guy, not even when there were disputes on the set of Mission: Impossible. He had strong values and ethics, a passion for acting (which he continued to do well into his 80s), and was one of the few Hollywood stars who led a normal family life. He married his college sweetheart, Joan, in 1950, and they stuck together for the last 60 years, with three children and six grandchildren.
   It’s little wonder Graves found work throughout his career. I’m sure he would have been a great and dependable guy to work with. RIP, and, ‘Good luck, Jim.’
   Other cast members who have passed on include Greg Morris and, at a very young age, Tony Hamilton.

Thanks to Demian Rosenblatt for sharing the news.

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The ‘Wellywood’ sign: people power gets things done

10.03.2010

That was a very interesting 30 hours. I found out about the ‘Wellywood’ sign yesterday afternoon, through Twitter, and Tweeted to say I hated it. Little did I know then that there was a huge Facebook group—6,000 strong at the time of writing—where Wellingtonians were making their voices known.
   And when I got there to Facebook, I was inspired.
   While my opponents were still talking hot air, I decided to act for the good of the city. I was inspired by one comment on the larger anti-sign Facebook group, which asked: surely someone holds the copyright?
   First stop: the Hollywood Sign Trust. If anyone knew who owned the sign, it would be them.
   I received a very nice reply from Betsy Isroelit of the Trust at what must have been very early hours in California, to say that she had referred it to the correct parties.
   By the time I got up today, I had an email waiting from Global Icons, LLC, which, with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, owns the original Hollywood sign’s intellectual property. Global Icons, from what I understand, looks after this side of things for the Chamber. And would I please send them the artist’s impression of what the sign would look like?
   And that kicked it off. I mentioned this to Rachel Morton at TV3 news before I was interviewed, and she took the initiative by contacting the CEO of the Chamber for comment immediately. It turns out that he did not know that the matter was already brewing in California, but he does now. Rachel tells me that he then put the Chamber’s lawyers on to the case. That’s two for us, nil for Mayor Prendergast and the airport.
   All it took was the creativity of Wellingtonians to show something I have said from day one.
   You know, creativity? The thing that this sign does not represent, and makes fun of?
   And all it took were everyday Wellingtonians collaborating. I was inspired by the person on the Facebook group. And if I hadn’t approached the Trust and Global Icons, I wouldn’t have mentioned it to Rachel. And if Rachel hadn’t called the CEO, Global Icons would probably be going it alone. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, because the credit is, really, everyone’s. The result should hopefully be that this horrible sign does not go up because people were prepared to act—whether by making their voice known on Facebook, or making some phone calls.
   People power, not corporates, not élites, gets things done. And that includes this year’s mayoral election.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 5 Comments »