Movie review: After Louie

(image via IMDb)

 

For many people, the past is just that – the past.

An influence, a set of memories, a formative influence on who they are but nothing more than that; creatures of the present, however weighed down by what came before to greater or lesser degrees, they exist now, happy to celebrate the fact that they are here, and not there.

Samuel Cooper (Alan Cumming), a chain-smoking New York artist who appears to have long since abandoned his creative best, despite the pleas of art teacher and dear old friend Julian (Everett Quinton) and gallery owner Rhona (Justin Bond), is a gay man for whom the past is very much alive, or crushingly dead, depending on your perspective.

A member of the generation who fought to wake society to the devastating power of the AIDS epidemic, and a founding member of ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), Sam is a man firmly chained to the past, unable, or more likely unwilling, to move into the kind of present his friends from that era Jeffrey (Patrick Breen) and Maggie (Sarita Choudhury) have claimed as their own.

Obsessed with this splicing together video footage of their mutual friend William (David Drake) as he progressed from HIV diagnosis to a harrowing death, one of the multitude that made the ’80s and ’90s such a sorrowful, angering time for many men of Sam’s generation, he is trapped in time, his apartment which he has occupied for 20 years, still looking like it is yet to be unpacked and decorated.

Director and co-writer Vincent Gagliostro (with Anthony Johnston who provides a contemporary perspective), who lived through this harrowing era where funerals and tending to dying friends were ever-present, informs the quietly moving After Louie with a distinct personal tone that resonates clearly, and powerfully at times, in Sam.

 

(photo courtesy After Louie)

 

He is convinced, like many men of his generation, that the current generation, represented by “accidental prostitute” Braeden Devries (Zachary Booth), a young man he meets one night and mistakes for the latest in a long line of twenty-something sex partners, most just for a night, do not adequately appreciate the sacrifice and pain that people like he, Mags and Jeffrey, and most obviously, William, went through.

Though still replete with discrimination and homophobia – the current Trump era is proof enough of this sadly – theirs is a world where HIV is not a death sentence, where it is possible to dream of getting married (something Sam vehemently disparages in one scene as “heteronormativity!”) and moving to a small house to have kids and dog.

It’s what Braeden’s boyfriend Lukas (Anthony Johnston) wants more than anything, and he watches on helplessly but with growing anger as the love of his life seems to become ensnared physically and emotionally in Sam’s emotionally-stunted and past-scarred life.

After Louie beautifully, and with an entirely fresh perspective, examines what happens when the past, and a vital present that will not be denied despite Sam’s best efforts, collide, and a community, of which I am a part, has to think through what it means to be gay when the old mindset, forged of opposition and ceaseless fighting for basic human rights, is heavily informed by being part of the mainstream.

The battle is from over, as Trump proves once again with his regressive move to ban transgender military personnel and Australia demonstrates with its execrable marriage equality postal survey, but it is far more advanced that it ever was in Sam’s day, something Braeden fruitlessly tries to convince Sam of for much of the film.

The film’s intelligent, mostly well-articulated dilemma is – how you move from a past of confrontation and what was essentially a war for hearts and minds to a more inclusive world which largely accepts that the prejudice and bigotry of the past are relics of a bygone era and adjusts attitudes and legislative imperatives to suit?

It’s a precipitous, sharp point on  which to pivot your life, one that Sam, for all his discomfort and eternal sadness and regret – the film is punctuated frequently by footage of Wilson at various points, a reminder that he dominates Sam’s life now just as much as he did then – finds himself powerless to leap from; his friends, though still missing William terribly have done it but Sam remains, lost, adrift and unable to meld a painful past with a more hopeful, progressive present.

 

(photo courtesy After Louie)

 

While to some extent, leaching some vitality from After Louie, which struggles at times to connect a series of emotionally impacting scenes into a coherent narrative whole and arrives at a soul-cleansing ending seemingly out of nowhere – kudos for avoiding a tacky, treacly road to Damascus moment for Sam but where exactly does his new found appreciation for what’s right in front of him come from? You’re never really sure – Sam’s decades-old existential crisis grants the film much of its quiet emotional resonance.

It acknowledges that emotions are a freakishly powerful thing, that much as we would like to cut ourselves free and unambiguously embrace a vibrant present built on the loss, pain and yes, good times of the past, that doing so is easier said than done.

Cummings bring this torn between ages struggle to vivid, compelling life, his at times tortured, other times sweetly reflective Sam who does have a great stake in the present whether he is willing to acknowledge it or not, an engaging standard bearer for many men of his generation.

It also asks some thoughtful, incisive questions, asking us to consider, particularly those of us in a rapidly-mainstreaming gay community, what and who it is we are when we are no longer fighting to be heard, to be validated but are accepted as human beings equally worth of love and rights as the heterosexual majority?

There are no pat answers or cushy theorems in After Louie; simply, and powerfully, a great deal of reflection and rumination and perhaps, a quiet acceptance, that while things do change and progress to a place we might not even recognise, that they are always built on what came before, and that we should remember we are always creatures in transition, made of the past and present in equal, transformative measure.

 

 

Big Mouth: When the hormone monsters strike #Netflix

(poster courtesy Netflix)

 

SNAPSHOT
A surreal animated comedy series from real-life best friends Nick Kroll (Kroll Show, The League) and Andrew Goldberg (Family Guy) that explores teenage adventures in puberty.

The series uses the voice talents of John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, Maya Rudolph, Jason Mantzoukas, Jordan Peele, Fred Armisen, Jenny Slate, and Jessi Klein. Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett serve as screenwriter-directors. (synopsis (c) Netflix / Monkeys Fighting Robots)

Hands up anyone who thinks growing up was super easy, with nary a complication to be seen?

Really? Seriously? You actually think that? For the rest of us, getting through the tricky business of growing up, and specifically, that emotionally tumultuous time that is puberty, was an obstacle course of fearsome proportions, made all the more challenging by the fact that we had no freaking idea, nope not a one, what we were doing.

It’s a messy, chaotic, schmozzly time of life which, of course, made it’s perfect fodder for an animated comedy series that is more than happy to let it like it is.

 

 

And as co-creator Nick Kroll says, it’s a series a longtime in the making:

“Andrew and I have been best friends since 1st grade, so this show is over 30 years in the making. I can’t wait to tell all the stories that make up the glorious nightmare of puberty.” (Coming Soon)

Clearly all that time was well spent with lots of thoughtfulness and insight sitting cosily along some fairly in-your-face (no, don’t go there; oh you did, OK then) humour, all of which beautifully explores what it’s like to find yourself in the foreign land without a language guide that is your body during puberty.

Big Mouth premieres its 10 x 1/2 hour episode run on 29 September.

 

 

Fear the Walking Dead: “La Serpiente” (S3, E11 review)

He may be existentially damaged after years of staring into the darkest parts of the human condition but lordy can Daniel shoot a gun (image courtesy AMC / Photo by Richard Foreman Jr)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND THE BASEST PARTS OF HUMANITY, BOTH COLORECTAL AND OF THE SOUL …

“La Serpiente” was a really shitty episode.

No, I mean, really … shit everywhere as Madison (Kim Dickens), Victor (Colman Domingo) and Qaletaqa Walker (Michael Greyeyes) followed the shhhhh! super-secret squirrel route into the Lola’s kingdom of damned water (again literally; honestly, not being crude just for the sake of it).

Unfortunately for their personal hygiene, sense of self-worth and mounting dry cleaning bills, Victor’s amazingly direct route into Water Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink Land (if you’re the surrounding people of Tijuana who take a while to figure out “Hey we could take the water they give us by force!”) involved crawling through faecal matter and killing a zombie who was blocking a pipe that when cleared … well, honestly you really don’t want to know.

Suffice to say, it was not pretty; so much so, that when they arrived at DamLand, the wettest land of them all, and didn’t get shot by Daniel  (Rubén Blades), one of the first things pretty much everyone demanded was that they wash.

Just another one of the sacrifices you have to make to stay hydrated in a world where all the water engineers and pipe maintenance folk are more interested in some human sushi that practising their craft.

As it turned out, well initially at first, all they got for all of their jeans-soiling trouble was Lola (Lisandra Tena) aka She Who Shall Not Corrupt Her Soul – for the record Madison respects her stance to stay apocalyptically virginal and not kill anyone; thinks it’s massively shortsighted and going to get her killed but respects it … all together now “Awwww” … see ya Lola – refusing to give them a drop off the much-need H 2 and O.

This was largely because Efraín Morales (Jesse Borego), one of the Lola’s true believers – well mostly; he was all for “release the river! God will get us more water!” – ratted on Daniel shooting at the rioting villagers as the retreat, leaking water tank in tow.

Not exactly a team player now are we Daniel? (His performance appraisal was beginning to look more than a little shabby; no water bonuses for you, angry old man.)

 

Poor zombies – always on the outside looking in (image courtesy AMC / Photo by Richard Foreman Jr)

 

Lola sided with Efraín at first, believing Daniel was about to leave her to run back to The Ranch to see Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) who is alive and well and poisoning people en masse – BIG mistake by Walker was proudly boasting to Daniel that he’d turned his daughter into the killer Dad never wanted her to be; strike one against father-in-law/son-in-law harmony and friction-free apocalyptic festive events – and only decided to give Madison 10,000 gallons a week (ever the cockroach of measurement systems, imperial even survives the end of the world) until the rains come.

Why? Glad you asked!

Because “La Serpiente”of the episode’s title, that would be Victor who never met a situation he couldn’t turn (mostly) to his own advantage, figured out a water for The Ranch to get their water, Daniel to bolster his position and for everyone, bar the water tanker attendants who ended up rather undead and on fire, and perversely wet through at the same time, to get what they want.

Right on cue, as Walker stomped off all upset a little too early that they weren’t getting water, and Madison was a mean lady and he would have to kick off The Ranch and he hated himself etc etc tantrum-tantrum-tantrum, the angry villagers arrived sans pitchforks and torches (honestly does no one respect the classics anymore?) to back up Daniel’s claims that Lola was being was too sweet and naive and that Victor, serpent-brain and all, was a cleverly-manipulative so-and-so.

It was some rather clever politicking and realpolitik strategising that saw two of the wiliest people in the show, Victor and Daniel, achieve a two-birds-one-stone goal while leaving Madison looking as lustrously above the fray as ever.

It was masterful work, and proof once again that Fear the Walking Dead is a great deal more intelligent and nuanced in its storytelling than its rather more blatant parent.

It also nicely examined, once again, how hard it can be to hang onto your humanity when every facet of this hard, cold, cruel and shit-covered (again, literally) new world cried out for parking your humanity, killing as needed and then trying to be warm and cuddly again if you can.

Madison, as much as anyone, appreciates there’s no way to kill and finagle your way to getting what you want and need then shove those necessity is the mother of ruthless invention back in their holes and carry on as if you’re not two steps beyond serial killer status.

Lola, at least, for now, remains largely shielded from that thanks to the willingness of the Victors and Daniels of this world (and Madison who damn well knew what was going on, and find it freaking hilarious thank you very much; later on, not in front of Lola, because no one has timing that bad OK?) to do the dirty work for her and keep her believing she can stay pure as the dam water before her.

 

Why, if only one of the tankers would explode so we could convince Lola she’s being naive and … oh, there it goes! (image courtesy AMC / Photo by Richard Foreman Jr)

 

And so, after a few heart-to-hearts where Daniel said he’s stay with Lola because he knew Ofelia was safe and didn’t have to see her – Lola arranged for him to see her anyway; once again awwwww she’s so dead – Victor and Madison had a lovely moment of friendship where the former demonstrated he does have a beating heart down there somewhere, and Daniel and Victor affirmed they get, I mean really get each other, water flowed back to The Ranch, Walker got picked up on the side of the highway in a smiling Murder She Wrote end of episode kind of way (where was a zombie Jessica Fletcher? Where?!) and everyone, for one more episode at least, lived happily ever after.

The reality, of course, as with any somewhat happy ending in the apocalypse is that the neat tying up of loose ends is not a permanent state of affairs, merely a temporary stay of execution, and trouble awaits pretty much everyone involved.

Lola can only hold off the water-starved hordes for so long without becoming The Damned Queen of the Water, soaked in as much blood as aqua, Madison and Walker, despite the knowing smirks are cruising to a fighting for The Ranch bruising, and Victor’s mind, the “La Serpiente”of the episode is still conniving, plotting and planning and, yes and, heading back to The Ranch where all that Machiavellian self-interest is going to result in the singing of “Kumbayah” around the camp fire with S’mores.

The world has ended, the rule of law and unsullied humanity with it, and no one, no one at all, gets to emerge unscathed, including those, like Lola who would most like to do so.

The apocalypse is a nasty piece of work people and Fear the Walking Dead did a masterful job once again of demonstrating just why that’s the case and how only the canny and the clever will ever get ahead (and get a glass of water and clean clothes).

  • Next week on Fear the Walking Dead … death, guns, zombies and much shooting … in other words pretty much what the apocalyptic doctor ordered and Lola, most certainly, did not …

 

Deck the modern festive halls: The Man Who Invented Christmas (trailer)

(image via YouTube (c) Parallel Films, Rhombus Media)

 

If you have paid but a moment’s notice to this blog, it will be patently obvious that I love Christmas.

LOVE. IT.

The songs. The tree. The lights. The bonhomie and goodwill. The presents. The spirit of giving. It all adds to what the song joyfully describes as “the most wonderful time of the year” and much of it can be attributed to Charles Dickens and his iconic book A Christmas Carol.

While, as Bleeding Cool notes, Dickens didn’t necessarily invent many of the modern elements of Christmas, he was crucial to spreading their adoption through society in the mid-nineteenth century:

“… the fundamental elements were largely in the air in America before A Christmas Carol was published here in 1844. Most notably, Washington Irving‘s The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent [which] in turn inspired Clement Clarke Moore, whose 1822 poem An Account of a Visit from St Nicholas defines much of our modern notion of Santa … and his surrounding mythology of a sleigh, eight reindeer, and the idea of heading down the chimney with toys for children, with ‘Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.’

“All of which is not to diminish A Christmas Carol, which is of course a key part of Dickens’s toweringly important body of work. Thanks in part to Dickens’s stature as one of the few literary rock stars of his era, A Christmas Carol road the rising waves of American popular culture in the decade that followed the Civil War, and did indeed help redefine the holiday tradition for generations to come.”

 

 

Now Dickens role in defining and popularising the defining elements of the modern festive season will be told in The Man Who Invented Christmas:

The Man Who Invented Christmas tells of the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.” (Coming Soon)

While much of it, if not all, will be pure conjecture, anyone who has ever written anything desperately important to a deadline, and A Christmas Carol was a make-or-break proposition for Dickens at the time, will recognise that horrifying limbo between great inspiration and harrowing desperation.

That this pivotal moment for his career gave us such a classic, clever piece of literature goes to show how important these do-or-die moments can be for any writer.

And how, without it, we may not have Christmas as we know it today, something that doesn’t even bear thinking about it.

The Man Who Invented Christmas opens 22 November in USA and 30 November in Australia.

Planting potatoes and dreaming: New Moomins animated series arrives 2019

Ah the beauty of Moominland (image (c) Gutsy)

 

The Moomins, Finn Tove Jansson’s delightfully philosophical creations who have been making our lives infinitely richer since 1945, will be given a new animated lease on life courtesy of an overwhelmingly oversubscribed Indiegogo campaign by Finnish company Gutsy Animation.

The pitch, which aims to deliver 13 new 22-minute mixed CGI/hand-drawn episodes by the first half of 2019, was wildly successful, attracting 127% of its stated goal of $USD 200,000, a reflection no doubt of how much the Moomins are treasured by legions of people young and old. (You can count me in that number, a fan since my earliest days, entranced by their peaceful, perfect world where people were valued and difference was not a dirty word.)

It’s not surprising that they have remained popular with their message of love, inclusiveness and respect for nature and others resonating still, especially in a world as riven by hatred and extremism as ours unfortunately seems to be.

The Indiegogo even made reference to this message when they wrote about the history of the Moomins and how relevant they are all these years later:

“In 1945 The Moomins and the Great Flood was published in Finland by the Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jansson. Inspired by the fantastical adventures she read as a child, by the likes of Jules Verne, it first introduced the world to the Moomins – a curious, friendly type of troll. Their ancestors supposedly lived behind the round, tall ceramic stoves typical in the Nordic countries. The Moomin family settles in an idyllic valley – a magical and exciting place, it is their whole world. Eight further Moomin novels were to follow, along with four picture books and a long-running comic strip. In the decades since, the growing worldwide popularity of the Moomins has spawned plays, theme parks, merchandise, TV series and films. Today the Moomins are more popular than ever, and their core values of courage, respect for nature, good humour and tolerance have never been more vital.”

 

An idyllic scene from Gutsy’s gorgeous take on the Moomins (image (c) Gutsy)

 

The return of Jansson’s idyllic Moomins to TV follows a series of books, a comic strip, films, animated TV shows from the ’80s and ’90s with Gutsy promising “innovative new television animation, which will help bring Moomin to a new generation …with each episode is based on an original storyline or incident from the novels and comic strips.”

The writing and production is in stellar hands with Oscar winner Steve Box serving as director and head writer, Emmy winners Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler as co-head writers and BAFTA-winner John Woolley as the producer.

The voices of Moominpappa, Moominmamma and Moomintroll will be courtesy of the equally impressive line-up of Matt Berry, Rosamund Pike and Taron Egerton respectively, with Richard Ayoade as The Ghost and Kate Winslet as “spick and span” Mrs Fillyjonk, and Warwick Davis, Will Self and Akiya Henry also joining the cast.

The entire looks and sounds absolutely delightful, particular since the company, with the involvement of Jansson’s estate, aren’t shying away from the complexity of Jansson’s work which talked about some fairly substantial issues, informed by the author living through the barbarity and immoral senselessness of World War Two.

The Moomins were designed as an idealistic counterpoint to this dark period in human’s chequered history and while they live in an idealised peaceful world, it is one that is not untouched by the problems of our own.

The sad part is that the world is once more spiralling into extremism and hatred, but at least the Moomins are with us now to remind us that there is an alternative, a rich, wonderful tolerant, caring alternative to that horrible trend, a reminder that will only grow ever stronger when the new TV series arrives.

(sources: Digital Spy, NME)

 

Book review: The Town by Shaun Prescott

(cover art courtesy English Books)

 

In so many crucial ways, people are defined by where they live.

It’s not necessarily a conscious thing, although there’s strong evidence that many people gravitate to a particular place such as hippies in northern New South Wales and deliberately let it inform who they are, but it is integral to their character, beliefs, worldview and a host of other things.

So what happens, argues Shaun Prescott’s The Town, when the place where you live begins disappearing around you? It may have been in decline for quite some time but when that process accelerates, and with the addition of some magical reality actually starts to blink from existence in a shimmering maelstrom of nothingness, how does it affect who you are?

Do you still belong there? Do you belong nowhere? Can you go somewhere else entirely, or will you, as the unnamed protagonist and his friend Ciara discover, be stuck in a geographical and mindset limbo forevermore?

“The town was just there and that was that. It was a bunch of people living in houses who all just got by. I should just get by, she said.” (P. 130)

Informed by Prescott’s keen understanding of the all-consuming vagaries of country life, The Town examines how people who are from nowhere else at all, and never have been – even the new arrivals like our nameless protagonist can’t remember where they come from – handle the disappearance of the only home they have ever known.

Using the device of a book-wthin-a-book – the protagonist is writing a book on “the disappearing towns in the Central West region of News South Wales” which eventually grinds to a halt when he realises the towns that would have featured have all but gone, making research and feedback from locals problematic to non-existent – The Town takes an unflinching look at small town rural life.

Everything from the annual town disco, where long-running feuds find violent, physical form to the main street-eviscerating domination of the two shopping plazas with their preponderance of big name brand stores that have no geographical allegiance of identity, the book seamlessly explores how identity is shaped by location.

There is no sentimentality to this exploration; in fact, everyone from the acerbic town publican Jenny to the bus driver Tom who drives around town on an endless route to nowhere really with no passengers to Ciara’s radio show with no listeners and no real point, seems passionately disinterested in where the town came from (save for defending the bigness of the 1930s drought), where it is going and whether they care much about it at all.

 

Shaun Prescott (image courtesy The Lifted Brow)

 

Unfortunately, replete though The Town is with some really compelling ideas and some delicious quirkiness, as a reader you may be left with much the same ambivalence.

Lacking chapters, a standard narrative or sense of momentum – save for the final 30-40 pages when matters come to a head – and any sense of emotional connection with the characters, it is a struggle to really care too much about what happens to the town or its inhabitants.

Granted, there is a deep Kafka-esque existential crisis threading its way through the whole book which accounts for the weariness of the soul vibe that suffuses the book from start, but this turns what could have been a very clever, engaging book with some very clever writing – the observational writing beautifully highlights the absurdities of country, and later, city life – into one long slog.

There’s no real lightness, no humour, no sense of anything other than unremitting existential gloom; everyone is disengaged, disenchanted, angry, ambivalent or sad; that’s great for distilling how a place can warp the soul, the central thesis of the book, but not so great if you want to feel even remotely connected to the characters in any kind of meaningful way.

“It took most of the night to walk to Ciara’s parents’ home. The holes had eaten large swathes of terrain. Whole intersections were impossible to traverse, and the roads in the old part of town could not be navigated at all. We crept through sleeping properties, some houses now skeletal, our torches aimed down at the grass in case of holes.” (P. 193)

In the end The Town, full to bursting with great ideas, observational weirdness and moments of quite poetic writing, becomes bogged under the weight of its own existential musings.

One long stream of consciousness, peppered with some quirky characters who, apart from Ciara, and man child Rick and Tom to a less extent, never quite get any traction, the book is become a turgid marathon that comes close to engaging on occasion but never quite seals the deal.

It’s by no means an awful read, but it never really fires, rambling on and on with prose so inwardly dense and naval-gazing that any observations about time and place and how it shapes our identities, are almost lost.

Almost; there’s enough cleverness and insightfulness to get you to the end of the book.

Alas, too often it feels like you’re hanging in out of sheer stubbornness, rather than any great love for the story or the characters who leave you feeling almost as weighed down and heavyhearted as the town itself.

Weekend pop art: Posters for every Star Trek Next Generation episode

(artwork (c) Juan Ortiz via Gizmodo)

 

Back in the glory of days yore when TV series ran for multiple seasons and came with burgeoning episode counts, they made a lot of TV.

I mean, a LOT of TV.

Which is how Star Trek: Next Generation, which brought Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future back to the small screen in 1987 after a gap of some 18 years (Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) finished its 3 year run on 3 June, 1969) came to have 176 episodes under its belt by the time it finished its run in 1994.

That’s a lot of TV and hence a lot of work fro artist Juan Ortiz, who has created visually-arresting posters for every single last episode. Yep, very last one! (He did the same thing, to similarly impressive effect, for TOS.)

They’ve all been released in the book Star Trek The Next Generation: The Art of Juan Ortiz which was inspired, so the press release says by “indie-film and black-light posters, comics and rock/punk culture.”

They are absolutely amazing to look at and  a beautiful visual accompaniment to the series, all packaged in a book that looks eye-catchingly good in its own right.

(source: io9 Gizmodo

 

(artwork (c) Juan Ortiz via Gizmodo)

 

(artwork (c) Juan Ortiz via Gizmodo)

 

(artwork (c) Juan Ortiz via Gizmodo)

 

(artwork (c) Juan Ortiz via Gizmodo)

 

 

Get going! It’s time for Asterix and the Chariot Race

(artwork (c) Hachette)

 

Growing up, I was exposed, whether by design or accident – I suspect a mix of both – to a wide range of reading material from right across the globe.

The inclination to read this widely came from both my parents but particuarly my dad, borne of a belief that cut across from travel to food and beyond that you should explore fully and widely and take in everything life had to offer.

So it was that I ended up reading Tintin, Agaton Sax, the Moomins and of course, Asterix, along with the usual English-centric books like Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and so on.

My favourite, I think because it was so clever and just plain silly in equal measure was Asterix, originally written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo, which told the story of an rebellious village in Gaul (now France) that refused to bow down and be nice pliable Roman citizens.

Emboldened by a fighting spirit and a potion that gave them superhuman strength, Asterix, best pal Obelix and co. fought their way out and back into their indomitable village more times than I can count, always successfully, always hilariously and with a witty eye on history, geopolitics and a damn good pun.

 

(artwork (c) Hachette)

 

Unlike many other properties which finish when their creators pass away (or retire, Uderzo is still alive at age 90), Asterix has continued on, with its new team since 2013, writer Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrator Didier Conrad, working under the watchful eye of co-creator Uderzo and Gosciny’s daughter Anne, which is how, to my great delight, there is a new title due for release, Asterix and the Chariot Race, due for release on 19 October.

As the synopsis gleefully details, it appears that the heartland of the Roman Empire may have its own recalcitrant citizens, people right up the same alley as our eponymous hero:

“The year is 50 BC. Italy is entirely under Rome’s control, well, not entirely… Though Caesar dreams of a united Italy, the peninsula is made up of various fiercely independent regions.

“Yes – it turns out the inhabitants of Ancient Italy are not all Romans, much to Obelix’s dismay. The Italians want to keep their independence and take a dim view of Julius Caesar and his legions’ plans for total domination – and life isn’t easy for the garrisons of Roman legionaries charged with keeping an eye on them all!”

It’s book #37 in the long-running series – the first book, Asterix the Gaul, was published in 1961 – and the third by the new team and as Bleeding Cool, it’s set to be a smash hit, proof that Asterix is still as popular as ever.

“Welcome to the best-selling comic book of 2017, and it’s not out for months yet. The upcoming new Asterix comic book, Asterix And The Chariot Race, has just set its first print run of five million. That’s two million for the French, two million for the Germans, and one million for everybody else.

“With just its first printing, which sells out fast and goes to a second, lickety split, it is expected to be the biggest selling book of all in France and Germany and the UK in 2017, and certainly the best-selling comic in the world. And is likely to double that, if not more, with subsequent printings.”

Which is good because my inner Asterix-loving child is just as much in love with the mischievious Gaul and his friends as ever and can’t wait to read the new book!

Bring on October and please let there be enough copies left for Australia …

 

(artwork (c) Hachette)

Coco: A colourfully lush reminder that family and music is everything

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Coco has given every impression up to this point of being a grand and epic colourful exploration of love, belonging and family set in both our world and that of the dead.

Now the new trailer for Coco has confirmed just how lavish and expansive the storytelling of Pixar’s latest original animated film is, with an extended look at Miguel’s time in the Land of the Dead and how high the stakes are for our music-loving protagonist.

In fact, the stakes are so high that there is a real sense of a ticking clock to the film, with deadlines looming in a world which, if you think about it, doesn’t usually have to worry about such things.

This immersively tense storyline is set against some of the most vivid and gorgeously colourful landscapes that Pixar has ever delivered, which is saying something when you consider the imaginative power of their work to date.

The characters look absolutely delightful, with real humour and emotional resonance at play; this is lush, visually eye-popping animation combined with a substantial affecting narrative, and frankly, while I love Christmas and want it to last forever, I can’t wait to get to Boxing Day and join’s Miguel’s brilliantly bright and meaningful adventure.

Coco opens 22 November in USA and 26 December in Australia.

 

 

Hamfam: A trippy porcine ride into a comic post-apocalyptic wasteland

Back from the dead! (artwork via Kickstarter (c) Hamfam)

 

SNAPSHOT
Hamfam – a 25 page digital comic set within a dark, dangerous wasteland – following the exploits of a surreal and quirky pig!

The World has ended, but the party has just begun!Hamfam is more than a pig, more than a place – it’s a way of life. ​ Hamfam, a humanoid pig with eyes in his nose – balances his public personna as a general within a dystopian heirachy, with the need to continuously party. He shares this self-imposed mission with best friends Xeno and Dred, with an ever growing following of misfits and deviants.

Happiness is a creator with an off-the-wall imagination, quirky outlook and a willingness to push various artistic envelopes and seeing which way they bend, and how much fun we all have in the process.

Even better when this person/people, say the British team behind comic Hamfam about a partying militaristic pig, get crazy creative with a familiar premise such as a near-dystopian future, and then throw in some hilarious offbeat characters and storylines that dare you to take them seriously.

That’s near-nirvana if you’re looking for something that’s so out of the box it’s likely orbiting Saturn and so you can understand why I think I’m in love with the idiosyncratic, madcap brio of Hamfam.

 

Get ready to rumble! (artwork via Kickstarter (c) Hamfam)

 

While the creators, who currently have a Kickstarter out and about to get some backing for their bold creation, don’t give much away, the better to whet our jaded pop culture appetites for something completely different, they have dropped these snippets:

• Hamfam must walk a fine line between his role of strict authoritarian, within The Don’s New Nation and his messiah-like following as head of resistance. ​

• A powerful artefact, which legend has it is the lost disc to the greatest game never released has been located. However acquiring it will require a series of ever complicating trades within the lawless Skyscraper Metropolis. ​

• The God’s of the Damaged Realm are un-happy with the small village of Hamfam. Its inhabitants must fight to instill moral apathy, so their debaucherous way of life may continue.

Think this is right up your alley of off-the-wallness porcine fun? Then you support Hamfam’s Kickstarter and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

And hope that if dystopia ever descends upon us, that it’s as clever and gloriously silly as Hamfam’s beguilingly strange world.