Pimp science!

Ladies and gentlemen I’m a mad scientist.
I’ve taken some bad drugs to see if I’m limitless.
The thing is this, I don’t know what they’ll do.
I’ve not checked the effects, from my sex drive to my nervous system.
I don’t have high hopes for my disposition.

But my line of work, it’s all about pushing the boundaries.
I’m a chemical blacksmith and this is my foundry.
They say drugs are bad but I know they’re bound to be.
Because round our street, the place I grew up, we experimented.
I was a terror with test tubes.
Putting every chemical under the sun to best use.
Leaving my subjects a mess ‘cos they expect abuse.

But make no mistake, this is no cruel punishment.
I’m here to astonish those that can stomach it.
Except those on a bad trip that descend into funny fits.
Got the money to pay? Your brain will end up in runny bits.
Or you’ll float and fly.
Take a toke of what I’ve got, don’t be shy.
Get red eye as your pupils dilate, hips gyrate and sense of shame says goodbye.

Fellow scientists tend to love my lab too.
Like kids on a sugar rush playing with test tubes.
They often get burned though.
Trying to steal my secrets I weed out the turncoats.
Those that once showed loyalty end up learning the hard way.
I’ll slip you something on the sly and rewire your DNA.

But don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my work.
The stuff I give people makes them smirk or go beserk.
That’s the risk you take.
I’ll insist you try everything on my list before you bend and break.
There’s always a chance we’ll stumble on a magical formula.
One that’ll warm you up and light up your nebula.

Back in the lab you double drop and become a love fiend.
Your heart stops as seratonin fills your blood stream.
With this ecstasy you can hardly breathe, but go again.
Needles, powder, poppers, they’re all your friends.
God, when did this happen?
I’ve moved from scientist to pimp.
Peddling pills and potions to give punters a thrill explosion I’ve lost my way.
I want to be bad and spend time in my lab but at what cost do I get to play?

It’s time I remembered how to make shit.
Mixing the right drugs I need to get back to basics.
But let’s face it, selling product is amazing.
Some say it’s a lazy phase but I’m awash with cash.
I’ll crush the competition, I’ll get tough and all that jazz.

But as I said at the start, I’m a mad scientist.
Those bad drugs worked but I’m just not limitless.
And the thing is this, the money’s all gone.
I’m all washed up my career down the john.
And there’s heavies at the door ready to collect.
So with my last intellect I spy a way out.
Hurray! A blue pill went astray.
I move fast like a greyhound.
I pop it and go euphoric, all my troubles fade away.
This scientist will live to pimp his wares another day.
At least, that’s what I hope and pray.
Chances are I’ll find out the hard way.

The Theory of Everything: Redmayne and Jones dazzle and delight

And so there was a big bang and then… A brief history of Stephen Hawking came to pass. An as Englishman I sometimes forget that, as a global power, we punch massively above our weight. Particularly when it comes to producing bona fide geniuses.

In recent months The Imitation Game hit the cinemas, charting the life of the brilliant Alan Turing, the man who cracked the enigma device during WWII – expertly played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

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And now we have another Englishman stepping into the ring… Eddie Redmayne. Putting in a very fine performance as Stephen Hawking. Based on the book Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen by his wife Jane Wilde Hawking (Felicity Jones), we cover a lot in this film. From his early beginnings as a student in Cambridge through to worldwide fame and recognition.

Right from the off we delve straight into the main factors that shaped who he was. His professor (David Thewlis) at Cambridge sets the class a task of ten impossible questions, everyone fails except Stephen who, in a bit of a rush, answers nine of them on the back of a train timetable.

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Within the first few minutes of the film we also meet Jane, the woman who becomes the loving constant behind the man. Felicity Jones is yet to put a foot wrong in her career and as Jane she is perfectly cast: elegant, womanly, beautiful and with a bit of an edge. Stephen, like the rest of us, become instantly captivated. And as a couple they suit each other well, as Redmayne and Jones have a very natural and believable chemistry.

As Stephen’s condition (motor neuron disease) worsens, Jane becomes the driving force of the narrative, caring for both Stephen and their growing brood of young children (apparently sexual organs are unaffected by the disease as they operate using a completely different system).

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Together, the writer Anthony McCarten and director James Marsh weave the story together well. It trots along at a good pace and we’re not overwhelmed by the science and maths of it all. Like Interstellar a few months ago, science serves the story. Indeed, the consultant on that film, Kip Thorne, gets a mention here, as someone with whom Stephen has a bet. The prize being a subscription to Penthouse magazine. This point is telling as we get an insight into Stephen’s character, as he has quite a devilish sense of humour. All the more heartwarming given his condition.

It might seem trite to say but Redmayne really transforms himself, going full Verbal Kint and then some. To give a performance where for half the movie you have to greatly limit the way you speak must have been tough. In some ways it’s like actors who have to wear a mask that covers all or part of their face; in that you have to find other ways to convey the emotions of your character to the audience. And Redmayne does just that, bookish, shy, inquisitive and intelligent and at times intense, yet disarmingly likeable. Characters are drawn to him. This is evident with his fans and admirers, but more specifically with those closer to him: his speech therapist, his professor and old Cambridge friends and, obviously, his wife Jane.

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This is where Marsh treads a masterful balancing act as director, blending together the relationship and affection Stephen and Jane have for each other, whilst at the same time keeping the audience drawn into Stephen’s rise as a world-renowned theoretical physicist.

As far as biopics – and indeed films in general – go it’s spirited, heartfelt, tragic and engaging; part love story part think piece. It’s one of those that will have the words ‘feel good’ and ‘life-affirming’ plastered all over the marketing material. But for once, without sounding cynical, that’s spot on.

Masters of Sex: season one review

Episode 101Like all good seductions, the buildup is slow. Starting a new TV show in this day and age is hard – partly because the bar has been raised so high. We’re living in a golden age of TV and, as viewers, our demands are great.

And so, what new show Masters of Sex has done so brilliantly over its first season, is tread that fine line between giving us what we want and what we need: developing characters slowly in a most pleasing way. For those that missed the boat, the story is based on Thomas Maier’s biography Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love. Hats off to writer/producer Michelle Ashford for creating this show – one of the TV treats of the year.

So there’s the platform. All you need at this point are actors who can bring your vision to life. Step forward Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. Sheen, as we know, is an A-list actor. And like many actors of the big screen, lately he’s returning to TV (although, to be fair, Sheen is one of those who likes to dip in and out of both big and small screen).Episode 106

For Caplan, this marks a career high point. That’s not a disparaging remark – up to now she’s had notable film parts in Cloverfield and Mean Girls and numerous TV roles, including a stint in True Blood – however, here she is front and centre as ambitious secretary-turned-researcher Virginia Johnson, going deliciously toe-to-toe with Sheen’s Dr. William Masters.

Indeed, what makes this show work so brilliantly – aside from the compelling script and plot – is the chemistry between Johnson and Masters. Not obvious at first, but as the story progresses through the season, their intricate relationship begins to take shape. A lot lies under the surface with furtive looks and glances belying hidden intent; plaudits to Caplan and Sheen for luring us in – making us want to spend more time with these characters.

Masters-of-Sex-101That said, it’s not just their show, the supporting cast were also a joy, particularly Provost Barton Scully (Beau Bridges) and his wife Margaret (played by the brilliant Allison Janney). Rather than provide filler for downtime from the main characters (as many shows tend to do), they added meat to the bones of the overall story; each bringing a new element along the way.

So, hurrah I say, for this new show. An unexpected treat. A second season has already been signed off, so more of this tale to follow. If you missed it first time round, there’s a million ways to catch up these days, which I urge you to do. Ignore lazy Mad Men comparisons and just focus on the characters and story they have to tell. You’ll be pleasantly rewarded.