In London

RiffTrax live at the Prince Charles Cinema

Last night was a real treat. For the first time ever, RiffTrax were in the UK performing their riffs live at the Prince Charles Cinema. The guys were hilarious, sweet, and there was a genuine feeling of excitement and joy in the cinema.

The RiffTrax crew had two shows in London. The first being the classic Plan 9 From Outer Space, followed by Samurai Cop. Plus the bonus short of The Calendar: How to Use It, which simultaneously still has me laughing while giving me nightmares.

For me personally, I had been wishing for this event to happen ever since I emigrated to the UK. Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a staple of my childhood, and ultimately my adulthood. Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbet were always my favourite team of robots and host on the Satellite of Love.

Since it was their first time riffing in the UK, the guys made some of their jokes more Anglicised. But to this Midwestern girl, the best jokes were still the ones that hit home. I’m cracking up even now recalling a great zinger about cold ham sandwiches at Lutheran funerals. Thankfully both jokes seems to hit home with both the Americans and the Brits in the audience (and everyone in between).

My stoic, Northern husband was even jubilant after the show, recalling his favourite jokes of the night. This was by far one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time. So thank you, RiffTrax. Thanks for making me hurt and cry from laughing. Please return soon.

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Wicked Wednesday: The Exorcist at the Phoenix Theatre

Thanks to a friend who has seemingly endless connections and belongs to something mysteriously referred to only as “The Club,” I’ve been able to see a lot of West End shows for free. I’ve never been a theatre person, but London is filled with oddities that I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of experiencing. This week’s show brought me into home territory with The Exorcist, based on William Peter Blatty’s novel and film of the same name.

Seeing The Exorcist performed on stage marked my first horror play. The show was okay, but largely forgettable with strange pacing and inconsistent acting. Not that I’m any sort of expert on the subject (I’m not an expert at anything, but that’s besides the point). But one thing that did stand out to me was the practical effects.

Making a good horror movie is not easy. Even if it is “successful,” you’d be faced with one very large problem: nothing scares everyone. Making people suspend their belief takes a true skill, one that I would imagine is even more difficult when you’re on a stage.

The original 1973 film had a lot going for it. It had a wealth of locations and an absolutely fabulous cast. But it was shocking at the time. Filthy and uncomfortable.

My mom told me stories of how when she saw The Exorcist in cinemas for the first time, she had to leave to be sick.

Once something sets the standard, it can be impossible to replicate the feeling years later. While I think the original Exorcist film holds up incredibly well, many people don’t. And it’s for the same reason: the special effects. Regan, the young girl possessed by demon Pazuzu, has that iconic pea soup vomit and vibrant red blood.

The stage adaptation at the Phoenix was much more subdued. White vomit and an increasingly large wig to convey that the young girl was increasingly becoming more ill. I imagine it takes a great deal of stage magic to produce what this show did. At one point Regan tries to cut herself with a knife, and no blood is seen. She tries desperately to cut into her bone, but nothing happens.

But perhaps the most convincing effect was when the face of Father Damien Karras’ mother was superimposed over that of Regan’s. It was the time I felt the most “thrilled” by what was happening on stage.

It’s clearly not an easy story to bring to the stage. Many of the visual effects done electronically were missed because we just had really crap seats. But I still feel like the staging was fantastic.

Scaring a crowd of jaded viewers has to be difficult. But there were plenty of moments that The Exorcist truly creeped me out. It’s certainly a different feeling to watching it on screen, but it was definitely worth the experience.

Riverdale actor KJ Apa graces MCM London Comic Con with kiwi charm 

Sunday was the final day of MCM London Comic Con, and with it was one last big name to close out the weekend.

New Zealand actor KJ Apa, who plays Archie Andrews on the television show Riverdale, was in London to answer a number of questions at his Q&A panel.

Apa, wearing a shirt given to him by a fan at MCM, charmed the socks off the audience. The show is young (it only first began airing in January), but has already gained a dedicated audience.

Though things were easy straight off the bat for Apa. Being a New Zealander, he had to adjust to his new surroundings in America. Apa said that he needed to stop using certain Kiwi terms that his American counter-parts wouldn’t know, and said that it took the cast a little while to get their chemistry working. Thankfully they pulled it off well.

The 19-year-old actor showed plenty of affection for his television father, Luke Perry. Apa said that Perry was the one actor that he got on best with (name Jugheard actor Cole Sprouse as the second). That special relationship lead to some great acting experiences for Apa.

The final scene of the season in which Perry’s character Fred Andrews is shot, was one of Apa’s favourites to film.  Both actors received the script for the scene the night before filming, and Apa said he was thrown. But Apa said that his special relationship with Perry made that final scene very difficult to film, and they both had to stop to take a few minutes from the emotional scene.

The shooting of Fred Andrews (which may or may not be fatal) will lead to Archie becoming a lot darker as he looks to avenge his father. Apa promises that Archie will become much more intense in season 2.

As far as season 1 was concerned, Apa said that he initially thought that Jughead was the killer. The actor said he thought it would be cool, considering that Jughead is the narrator of the show. But once he dropped that idea, he moved on to suspecting Clifford Blossom. And he guessed it right early on, saying that he stunned one of the writers when he asked if Clifford was the one responsible for Jason’s death.

Perhaps Apa has a future in writing murder-mysteries.

Apa is a fairly new to acting, getting his first role when he was only sixteen. And it was something that came fairly naturally. He claims he didn’t even have to work on his American accent for Riverdale. When Apa first auditioned for the role of Archie, he brought his guitar along to his callback. Apa, who performs all of his own music in the show, said that he felt calmer with his guitar in his hands.

But a solo album doesn’t look to likely for Apa. Hopefully he sticks to acting, though, he has plenty of fans to carry him on.

 

Firefly’s Summer Glau and Sean Maher reunite at MCM London Comic Con

Two stars from Joss Whedon’s short-lived, cult television series Firefly were reunited on Saturday at MCM London Comic Con.

Actors Summer Glau and Sean Maher (who played siblings River Tam and Dr Simon Tam respectively) joined the stage for a lengthy Q&A session with their fans. The pair completely packed the room on the sold-out Saturday, which is pretty impressive for a television show that didn’t even make it through its first season.

Despite it’s short life, Firefly has a massive and dedicated fan base. Glau and Maher agreed that it was probably this aspect that helped fans become so fanatical. But it didn’t hurt that the story and its characters were each so special.

Maher recalled how when the cast first started working together, the chemistry was both instantaneous and organic. Their sibling affection for each other helped create some of the more dynamic parts of the show. Each after sighted the other as a larger reason as to why their performances did so well.

The actors said that the filming was a unique and special experience. Glau said that she was mostly kept in the dark about the future of the show, and said that creator Joss Whedon only gave her glimpses into her character’s past – information that she wouldn’t divulge to the fans.

The subject of Glau’s ballet training came up multiple times in her responses. But her character River uses a variety of martial arts in the Serenity film. Glau spoke about how her “gangly limbs” were used to her advantage to form a unique style that was one of the more impressive aspects of the movie.

Both Glau and Maher’s characters were at the forefront of Firefly’s follow-up film (and excited about having dialogue on so many pages). Glau especially had to work on her martial arts training, which she said she began several months before filming even began.

“It became my life,” said Glau, reflecting on her training – which included lessons with 12-year-old boys who all refused to be her partner.

Glau and Maher also discussed the string of cancelled shows they’ve both been on. Maher especially felt jaded after having a number of his shows axed by the same network on multiple occasions. But if the success of Firefly proves anything, its that there can still be love for a show that is gone too soon.

But mostly, both actors look back fondly on their time on both Firefly and the follow-up film Serenity. Both actors have worked with Whedon on multiple occasions. Whedon himself mostly lives in the realm of movies these days, but a full-fledged return to television would always be welcome.

Minor note, but bonus points for Glau’s super-adorable little girl. She could be heard chatting away during the entire hour. And is apparently a big fan of The Jetsons.

MCM London Comic Con brings out the legends on day one 

MCM London Comic Con was back again for its 2017 Spring edition.

The convention, at ExCel London, started its three-day weekend celebrations with some of the biggest and most-loved names in pop culture as well as some new British-bred talents.

Included in the morning’s schedule was four of the Power Ranger‘s most familiar faces. Original rangers Austin St. John, Walter Jones and David Yost were joined by former Yellow Ranger Karan Ashley.

The four old friends discussed their times on the much-beloved television show, including reminiscing about favourite episodes and moments. Though the conversation veered more to the serious side when they began to talk about the difficulties of getting good contracts in Hollywood and what they view as unfair treatment by their bosses.

Though all four actors said that they will be appearing in the film The Order in the future with several other former Power Rangers. It’s a show that has quite a loyal and fanatical fan base, and sure to give The Order the attention it needs.

The convention’s big name of the day was kung fu icon Donnie Yen. The Chinese actor sat with The Modern School of Film’s Robert Milazzo to discuss the icons of the genre as well as Yen’s own upbringing in both China and the rough streets of Boston.

Up-and-coming English director Tom Paton took the time to promote his new film Redwood while sharing his experiences as a young, indie director. The film, which stars Buffy alum Nicholas Brendon, is Paton’s second feature-length film following the success of 2016’s Pandorica.

Closing the day out with both the best of indie success and iconic names was the panel with Lloyd Kaufman of Troma with Essex Spacebin director David Hollinsworth.

Essex Spacebin, which is distributed by Troma, premiered at Prince Charles Cinema back in February paired up with the Troma classic Tromeo and Juliet.  But while Essex Spacebin is certainly Troma-inspired (Hollinsworth named Combat Shock in particular), its certainly a British film.

It’s a strange (to put it lightly) story of a woman trying to access a stargate… or something. It’s almost utterly explainable but worth watching just for the spectacle. The film was mostly shot on 35mm film and stars an actress who largely had never done any acting before.

Troma picked up the film after the creators emailed Kaufman. But Troma always strives for the unique and basks in the anti-establishment. It certainly doesn’t win all the fans in the world, but there are barely any fans that are more fanatical.

Kaufman was recently at the Cannes Film Festival to promote the new Return to Return to Nuke ’em High Volume 2. And looking at the Troma twitter page it looks like they all had a fucking blast causing a scene.

And that’s what is so great about MCM London Comic Con. It offers both big names and established icons but also makes sure to celebrate British talent. Troma being at the con is going to be a personal highlight of the weekend. Always happy to see Lloyd when he comes to London. Nothing is more infectious than passion and investing what you believe in.

There have been a lot of changes to this weekend’s schedule, including both cancelled appearances and additional panels. Always keep up with MCM’s twitter page and check those signs! If you haven’t bought your tickets, tough. Saturday is now entirely sold out.

A merry goodbye to 2016

A happy New Year’s Eve from American in London (actually back in London and nearly over severe jet lag). It feels pretty damn good to say farewell to the shit show that was 2016.

Thanks for sticking around for another year. May your 2017 be filled with good memories and new adventures.

(Also, here’s hoping you’re not stuck watching New Year’s Evil – just don’t do it.)

The Man in the High Castle European premier (or the night I had “one glass” of wine)

If you’re a familiar hear, Virginia‘s name shouldn’t be new to you. My friend, former classmate, Comic Con partner-in-crime and co-worker now has a fab new job at loaded mag as a features writer.

And if you can’t live your own dream of becoming a journalist, make sure you have a friend that can.

Earlier this week, Virginia invited me to attend the European premier of the first episode of season two of The Man in the High Castle. This was one of the first press events I was able to go to that didn’t absolutely bore me to death. Plus free canapes, wine and bottles of fancy water.

Actor Rupert Evans, who plays Frank Frink in The Man in the High Castle at the show’s European premier

The show itself was one I was oh so hesitant about. Much of Philip K Dick’s original novel was covered in the first season. And really, few people have managed to surpass the man himself (the one exception being Blade Runner and they’re even attempting to ruin that).

But after watching episode one, I’m happy to report that I was wrong in my original hypothesis. This show has so much potential, and it’s pretty damn clear that the showrunners are ready to explore that.

While the first seasons tells the story of an alternate history, season two is taking a more decidedly sci-fi avenue. When the last episode of season one ended with the same way as Dick’s novel, it needed a way to explain that away while keeping true to the point of the story.

Though I won’t be writing about The Man in the High Castle. Virginia will be, though. I won’t keep my jealousy a secret, especially after living through yet another insane week at my office job that I’m rather unenthusiastic about. But nothing pleases me as much as seeing truly talented friends achieve their dreams – especially when bottomless free wine and a great show is included.

You can check out Virginia’s review here. Keep an eye on her, kids. She’s certainly someone to watch.

The Man in the High Castle season two is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.