A Date For Mad Mary/ Young Offenders/ Sausage Party

Kicking off the month in fine style is Irish movie A Date for Mad Mary (September 2), winner of the Audience Award at this year’s GAZE festival.

The story follows the eponymous Mary upon her completion of a six-month prison stretch for a vicious assault. Returning to her home town of sunny Drogheda, Mary sets about rekindling her friendship with soon-to-be married ex-bessie Charlene. However, Charlene has outgrown Mary, as evidenced by her increasingly distant demeanor and her refusal give Mary a plus one to the wedding.

Unable to face her friend’s rejection, and desperate to prove her worth, Mad Mary sets about find a date for the wedding. After a parade of laughable losers she encounters lovely chanteuse Jess and a ray of hope penetrates her wounded warrior ways. Prepare for the feels, viewers.

And there’s another Irish film on offer this month (yay!), Young Offenders (September 16), this one inspired by Ireland’s largest cocaine seizure off the Cork coast in 2007.

The action centres on inner-city ne’er do wells Jock and Connor, typical Garda-baiting, bum fluff-sporting rascally teens.

When a boat carrying 61 bales of cocaine capsizes off the coast, the lads, hearing that one bale – worth €7 million– is missing, head to West Cork to find the missing coke.

But things are very seldom straight-forward when there’s a massive brick of cocaine involved and soon the lads and their supporting cast (featuring Naked Camera’s PJ Gallagher and Republic of Telly’s Hilary Rose) find themselves in some deep water. The gowls! Go see it and support Irish film.

Ostensibly a parody of emotionally-manipulative Disney Pixar flicks, Seth Rogan’s Sausage Party (September 20) gets a long-awaited release this month.

Rude, crude and full of epicurean entendres, Sausage Party centres on the anthropomorphic foodstuffs (voiced by Seth Rogan, Kristen Wiig and a host of others) in a supermarket as they alternate between longing to be picked up by a shopper and carried off to the Great Beyond, and longing to have sex with each other. This is a sexually charged supermarket – sort of like the Spar on Parliament Street after pub closing time.

Anyway, after learning the truth about what really happens to them once they’re carted off (geddit) by the shoppers – peeled, sliced, roasted and consumed – outraged Frankfurter Frank (Rogan) sets off on a quest for answers. Definitely one for fans of silly stoner fare.

This piece first appeared in GCN, September 2016

Film, TV

Celebrity Big Brother Launch Highlights

It seems as if every season of Celebrity Big Brother kicks off with the audience saying ‘Wasn’t this just on?’


Well, ‘yes, sort of’ is the answer to that: the last Celeb season wrapped up in January with toothsome geordie Scotty T crowned winner, and the normal people (I use this phrase loosely) Big Bro wrapped just 2 days ago, which seems like hardly enough time to de-scumify the house after a dozen party-loving, chore-hating reprobates living there for 8 weeks.

Anyway, on to the show, in which eternally elegant Emma Willis wheels out a collection of semi-recognisable rejects from Geordie Shore, Ex on the Beach, porn, youtube, the ’80s and er, Storage Hunters.

First in was eternally upbeat panto Dame and bona fide reality TV veteran, Christopher Biggens. Biggens has done it all: Panto, Porridge, more Panto, and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.


“A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man”

Most Likely To Say: Some obscure Bette Davis quote
Least Likely To Say: “The level of intellectual discourse in this house is stimulating” followed immediately by “OH, NO IT ISN’T!”

Next in was the obligatory Loose Woman, Saira Khan, who is a bit of an Annie McNoFace to be honest.


Sair-a later, snoozezilla

These Loose ladies always make the mistake of trying to interview everyone constantly, but most CBB contestants have the emotional range of a basketball and so do not make good interview fodder. Anyway, she was in The Apprentice, describes herself as “gobby” and immediately got Arianna Grande’s name wrong so I sort of like her a bit.

Most Likely To Say: “Let’s have an in-depth chat about Brexit ?”
Least Likely To Say: “I just want to sit in a state of silent contemplation now”

Next in, Frankie Grande ‘Youtuber’ (yes, this is a valid career now apparently) and brother of infamous donut-licker, Arianna Grande, who EXPLODED on to the stage in a cloud of glitter and fierce posing.


Literally, he moves around too much to get a good screen shot

I want to be snarky, but his entrance was so ebullient that it was fabulous. High energy housemates are annoying to live with and this makes them TV gold. PLUS as an American (who has already appeared in the US BB) he is more aware of the game-playing needed to win.

Most Likely To Say: “Sissy that walk! Purse first!” before cartwheeling around the house
Least Likely to Say: “No thanks, I have enough glitter on already.”

Next in was Ricky Norwood, aka Fat Boy from EastEnders, who was booted from the show after being caught doing something sexy while smoking a spliff on Skype (I don’t want to Google the exact details, thanks).

Big Brother’s Bit on the Side aficionados will recognise frequent panelist Ricky, as he is a legit BB super fan who’s been angling for a spot on the show FOREVER. This could work against him though: the more familiar a contestant is with the show, the more likely they are to be undone by hubris. Yeah, I said it. Remember John Partridge?

fat boy.png

Fat Boy: a potential winner

Most Likely To Say: “I’m just here for the experience”
Least Likely To Say: “Add me on Skype”

Next, another total blank: Renee Graziano, who apparently appears in a show called Mob Wives.


Look at this ass!

If I remember my Sopranos correctly, the mob operate under a similar system to Fight Club, with rule number one (apart from ‘snitches get stitches sleep with fishes’) being never, ever admit to the existence of the mafia.

So why hasn’t anyone put a hit out on her and her gravity-defying derriere?

Most Likely To Say: “Pass the gabagool”
Least Likely To Say: ‘No’, to more ass implants.

Next in was generic Geordie Shorer Marnie Simpson. Blah.


Oh, a finger in the mouth! How sexy.

She’s a bisexual, she “speaks her mind” (like, haven’t they realised yet that the people who keep their mouth shut last the longest?) and has the “best looking vagina in Britain”. She was surprisingly modest outside of the VT though, so maybe she won’t be so terrible?

Most Likely To Say: “Does my vagina look big in this?”
Least Likely To Say: “No, thanks – I’ve had enough to drink.”

Next in was this season’s obligatory troll, DJ James Whale (sample quote: “men and woman can never be equal.”)


Literally, a dick-head

Is only in the house because first-choice Nigel Farage (Whale’s bestie) wanted a whopping £750,000 to appear. That’s five times more than Biggens, this year’s highest-paid star (£150,000).

Most Likely To Say: “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic BUT…”
Least Likely To Say: “Three cheers for intersectionality!”

Next in was Aubrey O’Day, who you might remember from such things as 2004’s Making the Band (she ended up in P Diddy-managed girl band Dannity Kane).


This is where a degree in Political Science gets you. Don’t stay in school, kids

She has a degree in political science (!), she’s 32 (“so I get Botox”) and hates Donald Trump, so I guess she’s not all bad? American housemates are always the best, and they usually stick together so let’s hope for a Grande-O’Day-Mafia wife alliance!

Most Likely To Say: “One more procedure and I qualify for a free nose job!”
Least Likely To Say: “I recognise almost everyone in this house.”

Next in was visibly coked-up energetic Ex On the Beach bum, Steve Bear.


*ape-like snort*

In his VT he was confident and flirty, but when he came out on stage he was so PUMPED UP that he looked like he might throw Emma over his shoulder and climb to the top of the house while fighting off by-planes. And he said he thinks the earth is flat (seriously), all while wearing sunglasses at night. Terrible.

Most likely To Say: “Seriously, the earth is flat. Seriously.”
Least Likely To Say: “Sunglass at night make me look like a twat, right?”

Next in was ex-X Factorer Katie Waissal. Remember? She was the one who was always forgetting her words and breaking down on stage? Her granny was a prostitute who accused her of ruining her career by drawing too much attention to the family? Anyway, she came across as nervous which is always a bit endearing.


She doesn’t want to talk about nana’s knocking shop, thanks

Most Likely To Say: “I don’t want to talk about the X Factor…”
Least Likely To Say: “Check out my nana’s sexy PoF pics”

Next in was Lewis Bloor, another chiselled but rather generic TOWIE-r. Yes, he’s handsome and he likes the ladies, but so does literally everyone else on these shows.


Ain’t I ‘andsome, though?

What else is there to say? Apart from the fact that he went into the house in Patrick Bateman cosplay, which I guess is sort of unique?

Most Likely To Say: “Hand me my filofax”
Least Likely To Say: “No thanks, I’ve seen enough boobs for one night”

Next was Grant Bovey, formerly Mr Anthea Turner. I recognised him because I’m over 30, but I’m betting at least 98% of the other viewers didn’t.


*caption not found*

The best thing about Grant’s entrance was that, like Darren Day, he went in saying he just wanted to correct “public perception” about him being a love rat, etc, but unlike Darren Day, no-one had a clue who he was, so it was totally pointless. And hilarious.

Most Likely To Say: “I was Anthea Turner’s husband? Remember?”
Least Likely To Say: “I’m the poor-man’s Darren Day.”

This next housemate in was Farrah Abraham-alike Chloe Mafia, who you might remember from her brief stint on X Factor. She was the one who, post-X Factor, made the transition from £160 prostitute to founder of a million-pound webcam business. Good for her.

Next was a guy called Heavy D, who apparently is from Storage Wars. Or Storage Hunters. Something storage-y.


B(l)oooooom(ing annoying)

Heavy makes his own clothes (and needs to go back to tailoring school since the crotch on his bespoke Ice cream suit was sagging). He’s a “geezer”, the “king of banter” and loves to roar his catchphrase “BOOOOM”.

He sounds like a Tom Hardy character, looks like Jack Black and is very, very loud.

Most Likely To Say: “BOOOOOOOOOOOOM!”
Least Likely To Say: “Give me a pie before I glass you in the boat-race, geezer”

Finally, after what seemed like an unending parade of semi-recognisable faces came a final recognisable face: ’80s siren Samantha Fox, who was no doubt eager to give TV clip-shows a new clip to replace the one of her as a belligerent pissed Dracula on ITV’s short-lived The Club. She seemed nervous, which is always sensible.


What does the Fox say?

Most Likely To Say: “Touch me! Touch me! I wanna feel your body!”
Least Likely To Say: “Pass me the proscecco and fake Dracula fangs.”

Phew! So many housemates! It’s not a great bunch (and where the hell was Mrs Dog the Bounty Hunter?) but who cares, as long as they fight!

On a semi-serious note: there’s been a real shift in the Celebrity BB vibe since Channel 5 has taken over the franchise.

Whereas once all the contestants were washed-up has-beens desperate for another bite of the fame cherry, enduring the humiliation of BB was a sort of penance necessary for winning back public favour. Appearing in it meant that you had reach your career nadir and knew it.

Now there’s an air of legitimacy to the proceedings: it’s seen as just another reality TV show with no more or less stigma attached to it than to Geordie Shore, Ex on the Beach, TOWIE or the I’m a Celebrity (Just Kidding I Slept With A Footballer) – Get Me Out of Here.

I must admit, this unironic verve does reduce the schaudenfreude somewhat. But it also means that the contestants are seasoned reality TV stars: they know that the public like sexy shenanigans, beaucoup bitching and fights that get so intense viewers start wondering if they should call the cops.

Viva la Big Brother!


Suicide Squad/ Mike and Dave Need Dates/ David Brent: Life on the Road

Kicking off the cinematic shenanigans this month is Suicide Squad (August 5). Given that this is a hot contender for ‘Most Hyped Movie Of The Year’, I’ll dispense with the laundry list of A-listers appearing (Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie etc) and get down to the plot.

Super secret government agency A.R.G.U.S, led by Amanda Waller (The Help’s Viola Davis), compiles a all-star squad comprised of incarcerated super villains. Their mission? To undertake various shady black-ops missions in an effort to chisel time off their respective sentences. Sounds legit.

But will Suicide Squad be fitting apology for the disappointment of Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice? And will Jared Leto ever be able to scrub off those henna tatts? There’s only one way to find out!

Released mid-month is Mike and Dave Need Dates (August 10) starring Zac Effron.

I already know what you’re thinking; this is obviously going to be some sort of crude, semen-scented dude comedy, but please observe the casting of the females leads. Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick are not super sexy vixens (though they are attractive, of course) but are well regarded for their comedy chops, more so then their sex appeal.

The story is simple: hard-partying brothers Mike (Modern Family’s Adam DeVine) and Dave (Efron) are instructed by their sister to find appropriate dates for her upcoming Hawaiian wedding, in order to prevent them from ruining the big day with their excessive joie de vivre.

So, they appear on a TV show appealing for dates, which puts them into contact with slovenly hucksters Tatiana (Plaza) and Alice (Kendrick) who set out to trick the guys into believe they are respectable, Charlotte from SATC types, perfect for a family wedding. And they succeed, but the guys soon learn the truth about the girls after spotting them smoking weed from a hollowed out apple on the beach. Comedy ensues.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 11.28.30.png

It’s called an apple bong, if you’re wondering

After Bad Neighbours, I began to come around to Zac Effron. He’s not terrible at comedy you guys, even if his attempts at dramatic pathos are so terrible they make Joey from Friend’s ‘Smell the Fart’ acting style look like Laurence Olivier.

Nonetheless, this has got something for everyone: brainless laughs, Audrey Plaza and Zac Effron for the (sorta) sex appeal, and a capable, familiar cast.

It’s difficult to believe that it’s been 15 years since the world’s cringiest mockumentary boss awkwardly danced his way onto our TV screens and into our hearts. It has been, though, and somehow the world has managed to continue spinning after the end of The Office in 2003 (and the end of the show’s surprisingly good American remake in 2013).

With such international turmoil and global instability, the world needs the return of David Brent now more than ever. And luckily, there’s beaucoup Brent in the form of David Brent: Life of the Road (August 15).

The finale of the show’s brief run (which lasted only two seasons and a two-part Christmas special) saw Brent fired from the titular office before capitalising on the z-list fame generated by the mockumentary by engaging in a series of humiliating public appearances at Slough’s nightclubs.

David Brent: Life on the Road picks up the action 15 years after the events of The Office. Brent, now a nomadic office supplies sales rep selling paperclips and tampons, embarks on a tour with his band Foregone Conclusion. Deluded as ever, Brent believes the filming of the tour (which he is funding out of his pension) will be a Scorcese-esque portrait of a genius on the road, when in fact it is a ‘where are they now’ follow-up on the ludicrous (deludicrous?) Brent.

There’s clearly a bit of wish fulfilment going on here; although it’s all very tongue-in-cheek Gervais, whose ’80s new-wave band Seona Dancing scored a hit single in the Philippines, is clearly enjoying the chance to play a (albeit clueless) strutting rock star, singing songs co-written by Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

But will it be any good? Too early to say: for every ‘The Office’ Gervais creates there’s a ‘Life’s Too Short’, but the chance to hear him wheel out cringy classics like ‘Free Love Freeway’ and Paris Nights is almost too much to resist.


5 Funniest Moments from Orange is the New Black Season 4

The latest season of Orange is the New Black is the best one so far, hands down.

Nuanced, intelligent and utterly captivating, this season focuses less on Piper and her coterie of ladies and focuses more on the grown racial discord among the prisoners.

It also contains a particularly upsetting death rendered all the more tragic by its societal relevance beyond the walls of Litchfield…

But it’s not all heartbreak! So, here are some of the funniest moments from Season 4.

Piper inadvertently becomes the head of a White Power prison gang
The end of Season 3 saw perennial sour-puss Piper heartlessly sacrifice her tattooed Aussie sheila in the name of cementing her rep as number one knicker-sewing king pin (or in prison parlance, the HBIC). But, Bea from Prisoner Cell Block H she ain’t, and no amount of surly Hawaiian muscle can disguise it.


When she attempts to rally the white ladies in the face of the new Latino prison majority, she inadvertently kick-starts a White Power movement (“White Lives Matter!”) The lack of overt gang affiliations up to this point (Litchfield’s inmates group themselves among racial lines broadly, but no ‘name brand’ gangs are evident) has always seemed kind of a strange omission for a prison drama.

Piper quickly learns that race-hate isn’t an easily-wielded weapon and before long she’s smoking crack and getting branded with a swastika. (Bonus points go Ruiz for pointing out that direction of the swastika is important.)



The look on Piper’s face – imminently punchable in its smugness at the best of times – as the meeting careens away from her is priceless.

Judy King gets King-ky with Yoga Jones and Luschek
I suppose I should’ve seen where it was going when the polyamorous Martha Stewart-ish cookery guru stockpiled a few pills (of Molly, which is what American’s call MDMA, for some reason) ahead of a prison-wide lock-down in episode 11.


King, who has already made apathetic slacker guard Luschek her unwilling portly paramour, really embraces the lawless vibe. When some serotin-induced reassurance (“For your ages you’re both beautiful women!”) turns to sloppy smooching things get, well, weird. It’s a big ol’ slacker-hippy-polyamorist sandwich.



“Two Beards, Actually….”
This season’s hard-assed captain of the prison guards is man-mountain and Zangief from Street Fighter look-alike, Piscatella. And he’s as gay as he is a harsh disciplinarian, outing himself to Piper in the most hilarious way possible after she flirtily compliments his beard. “I’ve had a beard since tenth grade. Two beards, actually. The one on my face, and the one I took to junior prom,” he tells a sort-of shocked Piper.


“Yeah, I like dudes.” And just so she gets the message: “I will never find you adorable. Keep that in mind.”


(Also: his put-down game is on point, like when he asks Luschek how he ended up working in a prison when he “so clearly belongs in a Game Stop”. Classic!)

Sister Ingalls punches Mendoza
Sister Ingalls (star of one of my favourite sight gags of last season when the viewers are shown a copy of her autobiography titled: Nun Shall Pass) is desperate to check in on poor, forgotten Sophia in the SHU. When a distraught Ingalls tells Mendoza that, as a peaceful activist, she has no idea how to get thrown into lock-up, Mendoza urges her to think of the greater good.

So, she punches a stunned, but impressed, Mendoza in the face before uttering a hilarious, though less-than convincing, parting shot: “And I’d do it again…Latino!”


Palestine VS Israel
Recent convert to Judaism Black Cindy is less than thrilled to be paired with Muslim Alison Abdullah (whom she calls ‘Scarfy’) in episode 2. Soon, a squabble over whether Abdullah can leave her prison issue Crocs on the floor of the dorm prompts Litchfield’s very own odd-couple to engage in one of the funniest exchanges of the series.


“…Unless the ‘V’ is like a five or something.”

When Cindy (who took the name Tova after converting to Judaism at the end of the last season) tells Alison “Oh, you and Tova got beef now,” Alison responds: “First of all your name ain’t Tova…black people been naming their kids some crazy shit, but Tova ain’t on the list.

“Unless the ‘V’ is like a five or something.”

Happily, all’s well that ends well between Abdullah and Tova and the pair eventually bond over their shared dislike of Scientology. Go figure.

Seasons 1-4 of Orange is the New Black are available on NetflixThis piece first appeared on The Outmost


Legend of Tarzan/ Maggie’s Plan/ Summertime

Opening the month in muscular style is Legend of Tarzan (July 8) starring the delightful Alexander Skarsgård and a menagerie of CGI creatures.

For those unfamiliar with the story (perhaps you were raised by tree-dwelling mammals?), it centres on the titular Tarzan, (played by True Blood’s viking vampire, Skarsgård) who is raised by gorillas and other a number of other wild beasts after his mother and father perish.

In an new twist on the much-filmed tale, the film begins with Tarzan, now going by John Clayton III/ Lord Greystoke living the gentile life of an English aristocrat. Instead of showing the hackneyed ‘taming of the beast’ story arc, the opening focuses on a very tame Lord Greystoke strutting around London with his spiffing wife Jane (played by Suicide Squad’s Margot Robbie), ten years after leaving the jungle.

After being appointed trade emissary to the Congo by the British Parliament, Lord Tarzan is pitched back into the jungly life he left behind, without realising that he is a pawn in the evil schemes of dastardly villain Captain Rom (played by the always-excellent Christoph Waltz). Can the very ripped Tarzan save Jane, foil Rom’s evil machinations and still have time for Leg Day? Hop the nearest vine down to your local cinema to find out.

Out on the same day is Maggie’s Plan (July 8), which begins as a generic rom-com but turns into a comedic caper.

The story is thus: meticulous teacher Maggie (Greta Gerwig), ever the practical soul, decides that she cannot depend on Mr Right showing up and impregnating her, so she turns to artisanal pickle entrepreneur Guy to help her. Then, as is wont to happen, life throws her a curve ball in the form of hunky, but married John (Ethan Hawke, who only gets cast in rom-coms these days).

Soon enough John leaves his crazy, but brilliant, wife Georgette (Julianne Moore, with a comical Danish accent) for a life with Maggie, and the live happily ever after. Just kidding! After a few years of marriage to John she discovers that he is in fact, a bit of a dick. In a quirky, if not unexpected turn of events, Maggie decides that the best way to unburden herself of John is by foisting him back on his ex-Georgette. Luckily, Georgette is on-board and so, comedic capers ensue. Will she succeed? And will Ethan Hawke ever get cast in a non-rom-com again? Only time will tell!

At the tail end of the month is French indie flick Summertime (La Belle Saison) (July 15). After doing the festival rounds for a while now this quirky coming of age tale is final being granted a cinematic release (though probably not beyond the IFI).

Set in the 1970s, Summertime follows country girl Delphine who leaves her rural home for the bright lights of gay Paris. Once there, she promptly replaces her farmer’s dungarees and piece of chewing straw with a leather jacket and a Gauloises, before joining a radical feminist group.

Before long, Delphine finds herself irresistibly drawn to the group’s charismatic leader Carole, and when it becomes clear that the attraction is mutual, the two connect.

However, when Delphine’s father falls ill (quelle Domage!), a difficult choice presents itself: should she stay in Paris or follow her family’s wishes to remain on the farm and marry the boy next door?


The Movie Hollywood Doesn’t Want You To See

Several months ago while scanning through Youtube I encountered an interesting, if not upsetting, interview with ’80s child star Corey Feldman in which he claimed that the “number one problem in Hollywood was, and is, and always will be, paedophilia”.

“The casting couch even applies to children?” asks the interviewer. “Oh, yeah,” replies Feldman. “Not in the same way – it’s all done under the radar.”


“The number one problem in Hollywood was, and always will be, paedophilia.” [ABC]

I was reminded of the subject of child sexual exploitation in Hollywood this week after comments by Elijah Wood caused an international shitstorm.

Wood, who had evidently just watched ‘An Open Secret’, told a journalist that the sexual abuse conducted by Jimmy Saville in the UK had parallels in Hollywood.

“Clearly something major was going on in Hollywood. It was all organised. There are a lot of vipers in this industry – people who only have their own interests in mind.”

“There is darkness in the underbelly,” he added. “If you can imagine it, it’s probably happened.”

Woods later clarified that he had not experienced abuse first hand – citing his mother’s constant presence on set and her refusal to let him attend Hollywood parties – but said many of his peers had been victimised.


Little House on the Prairie’s Alison Arngrim once told a reporter that “everyone knew that the two Coreys were just being passed around.”

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in the wake of Wood’s comments this week, Feldman revealed that best friend and fellow ’80s child star Corey Haim was subjected to “more direct abuse” than he was.

“With me, there were some molestations, and it did come from several hands, so to speak, but with Corey, his was direct rape, whereas mine was not actual rape. And his also occurred when he was 11.”

He cited this abuse as the primary cause of Haim’s drug-fuelled death last year. “There is one person to blame in the death of Corey Haim, and that person happens to be a Hollywood mogul — and that person needs to be exposed but unfortunately I can’t be the one to do it.”

Despite the claims, Feldman refuses name his abuser(s) or the “mogul” he claimed abused Haim, telling HR that the statute of limitations on the crime has expired and if he named those responsible, he would be subject to litigation, not the alleged perpetrators.

California law allows litigation for accusers aged 26 and younger, or three years from the date they discover their trauma.

Feldman did, however, say that at least one of his alleged abusers is still “prominently in the business” to this day.


All of this leads us to the catalyst for the recent interest in the topic Hollywood paedophilia: 2015 documentary An Open Secret, which has recently appeared on Vimeo.

Directed by Deliver Us From Evil‘s Amy Berg, An Open Secret tells the story of 4 young men who say they were abused by men connect to a powerful network of influential Hollywood predators. Successful talent agents, directors, investors and casting agents are all named as being part of the paedophile ring.

Much of the alleged abuse catalogued in An Open Secret centres on an early web TV company called Digital Entertainment Network (DEN) and its owners Marc Collins-Rector, Chad Shackley and Brock Pierce.

An Open Secret Capture-large.JPG

DEN co-founder and convicted sex-offender, Mark Collins-Rector

Entertainment moguls David Geffen, Michael Huffington and others invested $150 million into the company which aimed to create content target at the “global youth audience”. Collins-Rector had made millions with early internet ventures in the ’90s.

Collins-Rector lived with DEN co-founder and boyfriend Shackley, whom he met as a 15 year-old, together with former child star Pierce, in a sprawling mansion – called the M&C Ranch (Marc and Chad) in Encino, California. This is where the paedophile parties, where DEN’s teenage stars were passed between older men, are alleged to have take place.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 14.23.17.png

Brock Pierce, DEN co-founder and housemate of Collins-Rector and Shackley

DEN, it appears, was little more than a front for the procurement and abuse of boys.

Described in the documentary as a proto-Netflix, DEN intended to generate unique programming for dispersal on its site. However, it was doomed to fail since the early internet did not have the capability to fulfil streaming requirements for such an admittedly forward-thinking project.

One such programme mentioned in the documentary was 1998’s ‘Chad’s World’. Co-written by Collins-Rector, produced by Pierce, and loosely based on Shackley’s life, the show followed a sexually confused boy who goes to live with his wealthy older brother and his rich boyfriend.


Chad’s World (which features American Pie’s Seann Williams Scott as the character apparently based on Collins-Rector) which was also filmed at the M&C mansion, is described as “art imitating life”.

Three men speak out about their abuse on camera, while the story of another who was allegedly abused is discussed by his parents.

In heartbreaking archival footage shot during the time of the abuse, the misery is plain on the face of one victim (‘Nick S’) who nonetheless tells the camera how “wonderful” an experience working with DEN is. His expression is that of a child in conflict.


Nick S, in archival footage from DEN

“It was as though they were from the industrial home for the blind…”

Lending credence to claims of a powerfully connected paedophile network is the fact that attempts to enact safeguards which would protect child actors have been met with resistance.

When a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Young Performers committee responsible proposed circulating a memo asking if any of their members had been abused by acting coach Bob Villard (convinced of child sex offences in 2005), one member, Michael Harrah, “vehemently” opposed the move.

Harrah, a ‘child talent manager’ explains his opposition to Berg – and unwittingly articulates a singularly significant factor in the silence surround abuse – by claiming: “I don’t know that we’ve “hidden” them [abuse claims]. I would think you would want to…not hide it, but you would want to protect the child whose identity is going to come out. A situation like this never helps anybody and, yes, the sooner we can get it under control the better, but the less the child has to live with the stigma of it having happened I think it’s better for them not only career-wise, but personally.”


In the documentary, victim Joey C confronts former Child Talent agent Harrah about his attempt to molest him as a child

In this at least, Harrah is correct: at the very least a child who speaks out about abuse can kiss their career goodbye. In prison “snitches get stitches”, in Hollywood “snitches” who speak out against their abusers get blacklisted.

Until as recently as 2012, managers, photographers, acting coaches and other professionals in the entertainment industry that represent minors were not required to prove that they were not sex offenders.

Even when victims do come forward, studios work hard to quash stories. The story of Brian Peck, an acting coach and friend of Bryan Singer, is held up as an example.

Peck, who coached on many Nickelodeon’s shows, was accused of abuse by one of the network’s major child stars. The anonymous child filed charges against Peck, to which he almost immediately pled guilty.

Clearly he, or the studio, did not want an investigation to continue. The victim remained anonymous in order to protect their career.


Berg and Evan H, one of the few victims to have successfully prosecuted his abuser, Marty Weiss

Citing the fact that not a single child star has spoken out about their abuse and continued to work afterwards, Ann Henry, co-founder of BizParentz, a non-profit corporation providing education, advocacy, and charitable support to parents and children engaged in the entertainment industry, tells Berg: “A kid that wants to speak out and say what happened to them beyond their family, would truly have to give up their career.

“It’s very sad that that’s the case but it’s the reality.” Peck, according to the documentary, continues to work on children’s TV shows, despite having been convicted of a child sex-offence.

But Peck is just the tip of the iceberg, says Henry, the bulk of which remains hidden as so many overwhelmingly powerful forces prevail upon it.

With the exception of Collins-Rector, Shackley, who now runs a computer shop and Pierce, who is a Bit Coin investor, many of the other alleged abusers: Brian Peck, Marty Weiss, Bryan Singer continue to work in the entertainment industry.

Their victims, whose lives are littered with alcohol, mental health and substance abuse issues, do not.


Michael Egan

Strangely, director Berg refused almost all requests for interviews promoting the movie, which led to her being sued last year by producers. (One rare interview Berg gave about the movie can be found here.) She was accused of not only refusing to help market the film, but also of delivering the movie late and “in poor shape.”

One reason for Berg’s refusal to participate in post-release publicity could centre around alleged changes made to the movie by producers – without Berg’s consent – after the veracity of one of the abuse victims, Michael Egan, was called into question.

Scenes in which Egan had named Bryan Singer as one of his abusers were removed after Egan’s case against Singer collapsed.


Director Amy Berg

Berg had earlier stated that she found it difficult to secure a distributer for the movie and that even small independent movie festivals weren’t willing to screen ‘An Open Secret’.

Whatever the truth, it is a sad fact that wherever there are children there will be those willing to prey on them and unfortunately Hollywood – much like the Catholic Church in Berg’s excellent Deliver Us From Evil – offers fertile ground for such abuse.

The reluctance towards acknowledging the extent of the problem, coupled with an apathy around naming and punishing perpetrators is worrying.

It is for these reasons that ‘An Open Secret’ is a worthwhile, if not troubling, piece of work.

*Update October 2017: In light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal the makers of An Open Secret have posted the movie on Vimeo for free for a limited time. Catch it while you can.


Preacher: Top 5 Moments

Preacher debuted in fine style on AMC this Sunday night and since by now the whole world’s had a chance to stream it, here’s 5 of my favourite (and one least favourite) aspects.

“Be brave, Tell her the truth, Open Your Heart”open that heart.png

When our titular Preacher, Jesse Custer, tells a needy, mother-obsessed parishioner to ‘Be brave, tell her the truth and open your heart’ to his overbearing mother, anyone familiar with the comic series knew immediately what the outcome of this command was going to be.

The Word (as Jesse’s mysterious power is referred to in the comic series) causes those who hear it to follow its commands in a literal sense. Tell someone to go fuck themselves and the next thing they’re performing a phallectomy and inserting in like a suppository (spoiler alert. Maybe. If it follows the source material!) So when Mr Needy performs manual open heart surgery it’s especially satisfying.

ArsefaceScreen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.58.29.png

Perennially optimist Eugene Root, aka Arseface (or in his words, ‘Uhfuh)’, was always going to be a tough one. In the comics, Eugene is a bullied, Nirvana-loving loser, who attempts to copycat Kurt Cobain’s suicide by shooting himself in the face with a shotgun. He survives but is left hideously disfigured by the event.

This origin story will obviously have to be update for this modern retelling, but so far suh gud. Actor Ian Colletti accurately conveys Arseface’s vulnerability and endearing optimism. He is given his unfortunate, though fitting, moniker by Cassidy.

How’d Ya Like These Tulips?ss kicking.png

I prefer TV Tulip to comic Tulip. There I said it. I never felt that Tulip’s alleged ass-kickery ever really came across in the comic; she was only ass-kicking until she hooks up with Jesse and then becomes a shambolic wreck.

TV Tulip channels her dismay and bitterness at her failed relationship with Jesse into becoming a one-woman, moonshine-powered, bazooka-rigging A Team. Also, Ruth Negga’s performance was great. Her Tulip is self contained and a more than a little crazy. Ass kickery incarnate!

Redneck Rodeo"what did I do?".png
Jesse is very black and white, both literally and figuratively. Thus, a wife-beater who threatens his own child while dressed as Confederate general must be pummelled unmercifully before having his arm snapped. No Hail Marys required.

The beating itself was all thick, quick punches and jagged camera angles. The scene was cartoonish in its simplicity but Jesse is NOT one for nuance. There’s a reason John Wayne is his idol, after all.

ForeshadowingScreen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.46.20.png

Lots of it here: The booze bottles all carry a logo which bears an uncanny similarity to the Saint of Killers; a reoccurring flashback appears to include Jesse’s dad as a preacher – this is quite a divergence from the source material; we catch a glimpse of Quincannon Meat and Power, run by Odin Quincannon (to be played by Jackie Earle Haley!), reportedly season one’s ‘big bad’. When will we get to see Ms Oatlash, and more importantly, the meat locker?

However, there was one thing that was notably not awesome…

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.25.28.png

Let’s talk about accents for a moment, shall we? Dominic Cooper is no Andrew Lincoln in the ‘convincing accent’ department. No amount of quiet talking can disguise his inconsistencies. Let’s hope he gets better with practice, but he probably won’t and since Americans never seem to notice these things, it’s unlikely to matter.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.25.48.png

And while we’re on the subject, Cassidy’s accent is downright bizarre. Whereabouts in Ireland is he supposed to be from exactly? I’ve never heard an accent like his outside of ‘Travellers and Tiaras’ and I’ve lived here FOREVER. Still, Joe Gilgun is a fantastic actor capable of perfectly balancing pathos and psychosis so perhaps that will help take the edge of that awful Oirish accent, boyo.