Movie review: Trumbo

(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)

 

It is a curious quirk of the human condition that passionate devotion to an ideal can so often become fundamentalist zealotry that ultimately ends up trampling across the very belief system it is meant to uphold and protect.

It has happened time and again throughout history but perhaps one of its more extreme modern examples was in the mid-twentieth century when the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), led for much of its investigative life by Senator Joseph McCarthy, instigated what can only be described as a paranoid witch hunt to uncover the communists supposedly lurking everywhere within American society, and especially in Hollywood.

It was the height of the Cold War when paranoid was rampant, evidence backing accusations was scant and it didn’t take much beyond some absurdly-vague patriotic catchphrases to convince a number of influential people and the public that the Soviet Union was behind every film being released into American theatres.

It caught thousands of people in its indiscriminate net, among them well-known larger-than-life screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), who along with nine other close colleagues such as Ian McClellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk), was accused of conspiring to subvert American rights and freedoms with an agenda that his accusers in Congress never fully articulated.

But then they didn’t have to; with paranoia about communist subversion of the American way of life at fever pitch and no real right of appeal, Trumbo and his colleagues, all of whom had had some form of membership of the completely legal Communist Party through the 1930s and ’40s when membership was seen as a patriotic badge of honour, given the alliance with the Soviet Union to fight the threat of Nazi Germany.

Unable, and frankly unwilling to disavow that they had been members of the Communist Party, and brave enough to stand up to the fearmongers of HUAC in a way that many others didn’t dare, Trumbo chief among them, they spent time in jail, only to emerge back into a Hollywood cowed into submission and unwilling to give them work.

 

 

Essentially the members of HUAC, and their Hollywood offshoot the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, headed by John Wayne (David Elliott) and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren,) convinced Hollywood and once close allies of Trumbo and his colleagues, many of whom were composited into the character of Arlen Hird (Louis C. K.) to cast aside their friends under threat of all forms of retribution.

By any measure their tactics were a complete abrogation of the democratic ideals they claimed to stand for, a disconnect so profoundly unjust that Trumbo, though disavowed by close friends such as the actor Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg), fought back through the only means available to him – the black market in Hollywood which was alive and well despite what HUAC and their Tinseltown cronies maintained.

Throughout the 1950s and into the ’60s, Trumbo primarily, wrote script after script, many schlocky numbers such as The Alien and the Farm Girl and Nympho Nuns for King Brothers Productions, headed by feisty everyman Frank King (John Goodman) simply to stay afloat but also to make a point in the only way he had left at his disposal.

He also secretly wrote Oscar-winning movies such as Roman Holiday and The Brave Ones, his authorship an open secret in largely liberal Hollywood that loathed the way Wayne, Hopper et al were subverting the very ideals they claimed to champion by acting like little more than common thugs.

Brave though Trumbo’s stand was, it took a great toll on the man dubbed the “Swimming Pool Soviet” in honour of his mix of communist ideals and bourgeois lifestyle, his friends and family including devoted wife Cleo Fincher Trumbo (Diane Lane) and his three childen.

Director Jay Roach’s John McNamara-penned film Trumbo captures both the stark brutal reality of Trumbo’s almost-unwinnable situation and his unflinching ideals in ways humourously elegant and alarmingly serious, delivering with minimum melodrama and graphic honesty the way in which many innocent men and women suffered during the McCarthy era.

Trumbo fought back largely because he had the means to do, financially, morally and tenaciously, describing his mix of ideals and money as using the “purity of Jesus” and “the cunning of Satan” to fight for his life back.

 

 

The sad part is, of course, that such was the ruination and loss visited upon those HUAC and the Alliance targeted that many never fully recovered, Trumbo almost among them saved by his family and unexpected allies such as Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) and Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) who openly proclaimed Trumbo’s authorship of their movie’s scripts (Spartacus and Exodus respectively) and refused to lie down in the face of groundless threats and intimidation.

The reason why Trumbo works as well as it is, both as the story of one remarkable man but also as a message piece about how noble ideals can so quickly be subverted into tyrannical fundamentalism claiming victims as they go, is that it is content to simply let the story tell itself.

The cruel absurdity of the McCarthyist era becomes patently obvious through Cranston’s mesmerisingly measured performance, that is at turns grimly tenacious and hilariously insubordinate, and the nuanced screenplay which never lags even if it possibly a tad too long, and no histrionic redressing is needed to get the point across.

Here simply were people egregiously ill-treated who fought back and held on for almost 20 years to fight for the very ideals that their opponents claimed to champion but patently and destructively did not.

If there is a moral to the story, and blessedly neither McNamara nor Roach seek to shove one down our throat, it’s that great evil, even when dressed in red, white and blue patriotism, can only flourish when good men do nothing.

Thankfully for the long term good of American society, people like Dalton Trumbo refused to do nothing and stay silent, and their inspiring true story, which forms the centrepiece of Trumbo‘s remarkably engaging storytelling, is as instructive today as it was when it unfolded over 50 years ago.

 

 

 

You need the bare necessities of life! Jungle Book debuts new poster and trailer

(image via First Showing)
(image via First Showing)

 

SNAPSHOT
The Jungle Book is directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens, Elf, Zathura, Made) and written by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), based on Rudyard Kipling’s classic book of the same name. The film follows a young boy named Mowgli, a man-cub raised in the jungle by a family of wolves, who embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery when he’s forced to abandon the only home he’s ever known. Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o, Christopher Walken, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray voice the animal characters. (synopsis via First Showing)

Here we go again! A much-loved book becomes a much-loved Disney animated movie becomes, almost inevitably in this creatively-cannibalistic age, a live action adaptation and we, who have witnessed it all happen before, often with little to no success, groan in anticipation of the horrors to come.

But then something strange and marvellous happens.

The new live action adaptation, in this case The Jungle Book, turns out, based on the newly-released full-length trailer and Super Bowl TV spot at least, to be pretty damn wonderful, that stakes its own territory while evoking all the sweet, supportive sentiment of the original animated version.

That’s probably not a surprise if you take into account that Jon Favreau, who has shown a knack for movies with a whole lotta heart-and-soul, is in the director’s seat, and Bill Murray brings his trademark whimsy and wit to the crucial role of Baloo, who’s every as warmly caring and quirkily funny as you remember him.

Add in the likes of Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Scarlet Johansson as Kaa, and introducing Neel Sethi as Mowgli, and the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Christopher Walken and you have a stellar cast giving life to a classic life re-imagined for the modern age.

The Jungle Book releases 7 April 2016 in Australia and 15 April USA.

 

 

Book review: The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter (RIP) by Kate Winter

(image courtesy Sphere Books)
(image courtesy Sphere Books)

 

So what’s a young woman like Rosie Potter supposed to do?

One morning she wakes up in her favourite blue flannel pajamas, feeling a little worse for wear – most likely from one of her big nights out in village of Ballycarragh that she calls home – her bedroom trashed, her housemate unresponsive … and ah, dead, yes quite, life-endingly dead.

And worse still, with no memory of how it happened.

Discovering quickly that she is in fact a ghost, one with rather impressive superhuman abilities to speed along through the hills and dales, and a penchant for haunting when necessary, Rosie tries to discern why it is she’s still on this temporal plane.

After all, shouldn’t she walking into a white light or holding hands with an angel or something? Isn’t that how the afterlife is supposed to play out?

Instead she finds herself hanging around the home she shared with her BFF Jenny, watching her rogue of a boyfriend Jack, her beloved parents, her brother Chris and close childhood friend Charles all grieve the loss of their lovely Rosie in their own ways.

It’s beyond weird and unusual and Rosie struggles to understand why she has front row to such this theatre of the macabre and who it was that put her here in the first place?

Part rom-com, part-whodunnit and all charm, good humour and some wicked perspectives on life, love, and the decisions we make, The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter (RIP) by Kate Winter is the kind of book you could speed through if you weren’t stopping to chuckle over a particularly witty oneliner or pausing to think over a melancholy observation or two.

On the surface it’s light, bright, fun stuff – surprisingly for a book about someone waking up dead, thanks to Rosie’s irrepressibly cheery gung-ho approach to life (and after the initial shock wears off, death) the book is rather insanely upbeat for the most part – it also manages to ask some big questions about why we make the decisions we do about life.

In the middle of actually living life, we don’t often stop to ponder why it is we’re doing something; life keeps barrelling on and we hang on grimly for dear life.

But as Rosie discovers, all the chickens of bad decisions, and goods ones too it must be said, come home to boost when something as inconvenient as death gets in the way.

And even in the afterlife, there’s some accounting to be done, as well as a possible murderer to be found, a man to fall in love with – yep that happens and it’s every bit as idiosyncratically delightful as you might expect – and loose ties to be tied up so those left living can do it properly, long after Rosie has left them all behind.

 

(image via and (c) Rosie Potter RIP Facebook page)
(image via and (c) Rosie Potter RIP Facebook page)

 

What makes The Happy Ever After Life … such a fun read, quite apart from its wholly imaginative, well-used premise, is the way Kate Winter manages to give us both humour and introspection in equal measure.

Far from being a maudlin mope through death, the book gleefully recounts how Rosie, once she’s accustomed to the idea of having shuffled off this mortal coil, sets about looking after her friends and family, seeking justice, and righting wrongs where they may be righted, with the same gusto and joie de vivre she brought to life.

At times, it’s some much fun, so brilliantly upbeat and hilarious that you almost forget Rosie is dead; she’s a very funny young lady, quick with a witty retort, self-deprecating, and willing to take on everyone and everything.

But then you are with her when she witnesses her family processing their grief over her loss, or sees her friend Jenny mired in grief and the overwhelming self-recrimination that comes with it (the source of which Rosie only finds out in death) and you are brought back to reality with a thud.

Rosie is DEAD and she’ll never get to snog the man she truly loves – who post her death finally admits he loves her with all his heart – find out what she could have done with her life, have one more family meal with her New Age mother and calmly-accepting mother, never work another shift in the boisterous surrounds of McMorrows pub and never, ever spend another girls’ night in with Jenny with too much wine, gossip and of course the flannel pajamas.

It’s a hard line to walk but Winter walks it and walks it well.

Granted the book will likely never be up for the Man Booker prize but then I suspect that was never the intent; rather it’s a joyously thoughtful rumination on life with some happy ever after fantasy elements thrown in that is wholly pleasing, very funny and ties up neat as a bow, justice served (such as it needs to be) and life and death continuing on as they should.

You don’t exactly wish to be dead to see if the afterlife plays out just like Winter’s take on it, but when the time comes, and pray it is further off than Rosie’s far too early demise, you can only hope death is as much fun and as satisfying as this remarkably talented Irish author makes it out to be.

 

(image via and (c) Rosie Potter RIP Facebook page)
(image via and (c) Rosie Potter RIP Facebook page)

If only all the Oscar Best Picture nominated films starred Winnie the Pooh! Oh wait now they do

(image via Hypable (c) David Adamek)
(image via Hypable (c) David Adamek)

 

If you have ever wished that someone would give movies nominated for an Academy Award a delightfully Winnie the Pooh twist, then you’re in luck.

Polish film blogger David Adamek has taken up an idea first proposed by Twitter user @dilsexia aka Daniel to give movies caught in Oscars orbit this year a Pooh-esque tweet which affectionately pokes some fun at the film.

Daniel used Winnie the Pooh and Robin to parody the beat attack scene in The Revenant to gloriously mirthful effect, and inspired by this imaginative use of two of the characters from The Hundred Acres Wood, David took it quite a bit further granting The Martian, The Hateful Eight and The Danish Girl, among others, their own moment in the Milne-washed sun.

For more of the posters, check out David Adamek’s blog.

 

(image via Hypable (c) David Adamek)
(image via Hypable (c) David Adamek)

 

(image via Hypable (c) David Adamek)
(image via Hypable (c) David Adamek)

 

(image via Hypable (c) David Adamek)
(image via Hypable (c) David Adamek)

 

(image via Hypable (c) David Adamek)
(image via Hypable (c) David Adamek)

Movie review: The Danish Girl

(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)

 

A sense of identity is intrinsic to what it means to be human.

But all too often our ability to express that in an authentic and meaningful way is subverted or denied, falling victim to societal demands that we behave a certain way in order to meet traditional or religious beliefs.

So much like Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) in The Danish Girl, we are forced to deny who we really are with tragic results.

On the surface, of course, with people being the chameleonic masters of disguise that they are, nothing looks untoward; so it was with Einar, a celebrated landscape painter in his native Denmark who married his art college sweetheart Gerda (Alicia Vikander) and pursued all the accepted trappings of heterosexual masculinity, all the while suppressing that he was in fact Lili Elbe and had been since his youngest days.

He had mentioned this true identity to no one of course, not even his closest childhood friend Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts), all too mindful as anyone who feels “different” knows all too well, that the repercussions would not be pleasant.

As a modern society while we may speak in lofty terms of allowing people to be themselves as if it is a hallowed ideal that should be followed come what may, the reality is that difference is still viewed a little suspiciously; the effect was even more pronounced in mid-’20s Denmark where men were to be men, women to be women, and neither the twain should ever meet.

It was telling that even in the artistic community of Copenhagen where attitudes to gender and sexuality were famously more relaxed and fluid than was the case in wider society, that Wegener felt a heavy pressure to preserve the facade of his false-masculine identity.

But finally, following a session one day where he poses in ballet attire one day for Gerda who was painting a portrait of their good friend and bon vivant Ulla (Amber Heard), his true self could no longer be denied, and bit by bit and then in a rush and a storm, Lili came bursting forth and the world of the Wegeners was, understandably, never the same again.

 

 

What so powerfully defines The Danish Girl is that it doesn’t seek to represent Lili Elbe’s much-delated emergence in isolation; rather it tackles the issues of identity and its expression as a reality that, in this instance, affected both Einar and Gerda, who loved each profoundly and completely, equally.

And it goes beyond the obvious, the idea that one partner declaring their true gender identity at last would naturally disrupt (how could it not?) their relationship as a man and wife.

Instead, it sensitively and with great understanding, grants us insight into the great changes that Gerda also has to undergo as she struggles to accept, despite her best intentions to love her partner regardless of state or circumstance, Lili’s place in their relationship.

It results in a complex, nuanced story that carefully relates Einar’s journey from Lili with all the elation, uncertainty and dislocation that necessarily involves, but also Gerda’s difficult though willing transition from wife to staunch supporter and friend.

There is no attempt to present the story of these two remarkable people in a simplistically triumphant fashion where all the pieces fall easily into place; rather it is given its due, recognising that choosing to be who you really are is never an easy road even when the path ahead is clear and the decision to walk down it is unequivocally and firmly taken.

And Lili didn’t hesitate once it became clear to her that her false identity as a man was no longer even remotely an option but nor did her resolute decision to push ahead and undergo one of the first gender reassignments on record, by Kurt Warnerkros (Sebastian Koch) come without considerable cost, whether that was physically or in her relationship with Gerda.

The Danish Girl succeeds because it recognises that being true to yourself, in a society where that is a laudable ideal but in reality a tacit taboo, is never easy and comes with serious ramifications.

 

 

As anyone who has ever stood inside the fence of acceptability and pondered how they could ever scale its intimidating heights to freedom will understand, claiming your true identity, your real sense of self, is fraught in ways that many people will never understand.

But as the intensely and yet gently moving writer of The Danish Girl, Lucinda Coxon, and director Tom Hooper understand and articulates beautifully and with understanding and care, understanding that arduous climb and coming down the other side is never not an option and often has to be pursued in ways so vigorous and forthright that you risk alienating others and disrupting and losing people you care deeply about.

One of the great strengths of this film, whose every scene resembles a vivid artwork sprung to life, whether its the streetscapes of Copenhagen or the interior of the couple’s temporary Parisian apartment, thanks to cinematographer Danny Cohen, is that it doesn’t attempt to represent either Einar/Lili or Gerda as perfect people.

Lili often comes as narcissistically self-involved, oblivious to the effect she is having on her “dear Gerda” – though this is understandable in large part when you appreciate the considerable forces against which she had to fought and the length of time she had denied her true identity to great cost; she couldn’t dare yield, even a little, to going backwards again – while Gerda appears lost in a sea of emotional uncertainty, lashing out and being tender in turn.

It’s refreshing that these two people are given to us warts and all; there’s no attempt to sugarcoat them as perfect people unfalteringly following a quite then-unorthodox path in life.

Rather, it’s simple the story of one person Lili resolutely pursuing her true identity and of her partner and then close friend Gerda attempting to stand strongly behind her, and not always doing it perfectly but determined, how flawed and less-than-ideal its execution, regardless of society’s disapproval.

The great strength of The Danish Girl is that it doesn’t make too much of a histrionic or politically-correct fuss of Lili or her fight to assume her rightful place in the world; hers is a life presented simply and without bald, manipulative agenda as one like any other, albeit a gamely pioneering one, that simply asked to be allowed out to live out its time on its own terms without censure, as is anyone’s right.

 

 

The short and the short of it: The touching stages of life in After You

(image via YouTube (c) Damien O'Connor)
(image via YouTube (c) Damien O’Connor)

 

SNAPSHOT
In 2013, Irish filmmaker Damien O’Connor of Brown Bag Films created “After you“, a short animated film that tells the incredibly touching story of a Dublin hotel doorman throughout his career – his first day, his first door opened, his fear of the revolving door and his ability to keep doing his job long after he’d departed his mortal coil. (synopsis via and (c) Laughing Squid)

Life moves quickly we all know that.

But for pretty much all of us, the speed at which the years go by is almost imperceptible; if you asked us to measure it or quantify it we couldn’t do it.

Just one day we’re young and then quite suddenly, it seems, we’re not.

What is so beautiful about After You, crafted by Damien O’Connor with a rare appreciation for the human condition, is that shows those passing years in exquisitely meaningful detail.

You understand the unnamed Dublin doorman loves his job so much, and why the advent of revolving doors puts him, ahem, cough, in such a spin.

Innocuous to the rest of us these endlessly moving banshees represent the possible of everything he holds dear.

But fear not for even in death, he finds a way to keep fulfilling the calling that defined his life, an afterlife of sorts that adds a sweet poignancy to a wholly affecting short film.

 

Ouch! Star Wars The Force Awakens and steps on an hilarious LEGO parody trailer

BB8 speeds along until, well, he does not (image via YouTube (c) LEGO/Disney)
BB-8 speeds along until, well, he does not (image via YouTube (c) LEGO/Disney)

 

SNAPSHOT
The No. 1 LEGO® series triumphantly returns with a fun-filled, humorous journey based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The game also features exclusive playable content that bridges the story gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. (official synopsis via Laughing Squid)

Let’s face it – while Star Wars: The Force Awakens has way more humour in it than you might expect (thank you Finn and BB-8 for the most part), it is not really a comedic tour de force.

Fair enough. It was never meant to be, what with the dark side of the Force rising up again, a villain way more layered, unstable and hence more scary than Darth Vader in the offing, and all sorts of dramatic goings-on that cannot be revealed lest the Spoiler Police come and fetch me.

But that doesn’t mean to say you can’t have SOME fun with it, and fun is most definitely what LEGO has, throwing in all sorts of visual gags in the trailer for the new LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens video game.

The trailer is quite simply a Millenium Falcon-sized hoot and half featuring everything from BB-8 coming a-cropper on the sand and Rey speeding into town on a landspeeder with a “BB-8 onboard sticker” slapped to the side.

It’s an hilarious parody of the first trailer released for the film, proving that while the movie itself is deservedly a largely serious business, that it is possible to have some fun with it all too.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens releases 28 June 2016 on all major platforms.

 

Five fab animation trailers: Kubo and the Two Strings, Trolls, The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia, Finding Dory

Five fab animation trailers MAIN

 

Let’s get animated!

Or perhaps let a whole lot of fabulous characters in some wonderful looking animated movies do their thing. There’s certainly a lot to choose from with some beautiful looking, and just plain quirky, silly fun animated films coming up in 2016.

As is the way of the interwebs, where it never rains but it pours trailers-wise, I’ve grouped five of them together for your viewing pleasure.

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

 

(image via Laughing Squid)
(image via Laughing Squid)

 

SNAPSHOT
Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Hashi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and Kamekichi (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara) to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family and fulfill his heroic destiny. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Laika’s animation is exquisite.

If Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls (one of my favourite films of 2014) have shown us anything, it’s that Laika has a real gift for pairing breathtakingly imaginative stop motion animation with richly-written stories and characters you want to spend all time in the world with … or at least the length of a feature film (who are we kidding? We’ll have it on repeat!).

With that kind of enviable track record, there’s every expectation that Kubo and the Two Strings will be another triumph for the groundbreaking independent animation company

Kubo and the Two Strings opens 19 August, 2016.

 

 

Trolls

 

(image via Screen Relish)
(image via Screen Relish)

 

SNAPSHOT
DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls” is an irreverent comedy extravaganza with incredible music! From the genius creators of “Shrek,” “Trolls” stars Anna Kendrick as Poppy, the optimistic leader of the Trolls, and her polar opposite, Branch, played by Justin Timberlake. Together, this unlikely pair of Trolls must embark on an adventure that takes them far beyond the only world they’ve ever known. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Gotta say – I see a troll and all I can think of is Mimi from The Drew Carey Show who not only collected them by the desk full but also emulated them in her idiosyncratic dress style.

Quite how Trolls will make the leap from toy to film isn’t clear from this incredibly brief teaser in which – GASP! – a troll becomes someone’s snack, but at least it kind of looks like it could be fun.

I’ll reserve judgement until there’s more to go on.

Trolls releases late 2016.

 

The Secret Life of Pets
(image via Subscene)
(image via Subscene)

 

SNAPSHOT
For one bustling Manhattan apartment building, the real day starts after the folks on two legs leave for work and school. That’s when the pets of every stripe, fur and feather begin their own nine-to-five routine: hanging out with each other, trading humiliating stories about their owners, or auditioning adorable looks to get better snacks. The building’s top dog, Max (voiced by Louis C.K.), a quick-witted terrier rescue who’s convinced he sits at the center of his owner’s universe, finds his pampered life rocked when she brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a sloppy, massive mess of a mongrel with zero interpersonal skills. When this reluctant canine duo finds themselves out on the mean streets of New York, they have to set aside their differences and unite against a fluffy-yet-cunning bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart), who’s building an army of Ex-Pets abandoned by their owners and out to turn the tables on humanity…all before dinnertime. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

I LOVE the look of this movie. My animal-adoring niece LOVES the look of this movie. And together there’s a mighty fine chance, nay a certainty, that we’ll be in a cinema on release day to watch this fun-filled movie that has already made quite the promo splash with its hilarious teaser trailers.

The new trailer for The Secret Life of Pets, directed by Chris Renaud fleshes out the storyline much more than earlier efforts and it looks like it’s going to be equal part heartwarming lessons learnt and laughs aplenty.

And if you can’t find something funny about a small chihuahua jumping up and down on a couch in time to heavy metal music, then you’re dead … dead I tell you!

The Secret Life of Pets releases 8 July 2016 in USA and 8 September in Australia.

 

 

Zootopia

 

(image via We Got This Covered)
(image via We Got This Covered)

 

SNAPSHOT
The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when optimistic Officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Sporting an impressive premise – that all the animals of the world live in one city made of all kinds of different environments in relative peace and harmony – and a substantial wit, Zootopia or Zootropolis, depending on where in the world you are, looks like all kinds of fun!

Chock full of all kinds of social commentary, some brilliantly-realised sight gags and a great mismatched buddy relationship at its heart, Zootopia looks like being one of the most original animated movies to come along in a while.

Zootopia opens 4 March 2016 in USA and 17 March in Australia.

 

 

Finding Dory

 

(image via Moviebaba)
(image via Moviebaba)

 

SNAPSHOT
Finding Dory reunites Dory with friends Nemo and Marlin on a search for answers about her past. What can she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak Whale? (synopsis via Coming Soon)

It make absolute sense that a Finding Nemo sequel would focus on the adorably forgetful, befuddled Dory.

Voiced by Ellen Degeneres, the film looks to be every bit as whimsical and sweet as you’d imagine it to be; granted we’ve had the teasingest of teaser trailers to go on but these brief glimpses promise a movie with silliness, heart-and-soul and whale-speaking lessons.

Who’d want to see that?

Finding Dory opens 16 June 2016 in Australia and 17 June in USA.

 

Movie review: Brooklyn

(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)

 

Have you ever asked yourself what home feels like?

Not the physical building as such; rather than sense of belonging that comes with a particular place and time where the people that matter to you are present, you have a sense of purpose and direction and your life feels fully lived in a way that nowhere else can provide.

Brooklyn, based on the novel by Colm Tóibín and directed by John Crowley from a screenplay by Nick Hornby asks us to consider what home feels like and how we know when we’re there.

It’s a question that vexes Irish immigrant to bustling New York City in the early 1950s Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) who discovers that discerning where you truly belong is not as easy as you might think.

Arriving in the gateway to the promised land of the United States as part of a flood of postwar immigration from a still-recovering from the Second World War Europe, Ellis finds herself swamped by an overwhelming sense that if there is a place she is most at home, it most certainly isn’t here.

But though she pines for life back in Enniscorthy, a small town in southeastern Ireland where she has grown up with her mother (Jane Brennan) and beloved sister Rose (Fiona Glascott), opportunities for advancement are few so she accepts an offer by Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), a New York-based Irish priest to live and work in the USA.

At first, she finds herself utterly adrift despite the support of her traditionalist but kindly landlady, Madge Kehoe (Julie Walters) and Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) and wonders if she has made a monumental mistake hitching her wagon to this brave new world, which bears no resemblance to the life she has left behind.

Home it most certainly is not.

But little bit by little bit as she begins to attend bookkeeping classes – she wants to follow in the footsteps of Rose, with whom she is close, and become an accountant – and meets a man with whom she falls in love, Anthony “Tony” Fiorello (Emory Cohen), New York begins to feel like it could possibly be a place she could call home.

 

 

But as she is pulled back to Ireland by a family emergency, and meets a man Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) who could provide the means for a comfortable life in the place she has grown up in and loves, her allegiance to her new home, to which she has far firmer ties that she is willing to admit, is tested.

It’s a situation that anyone who has journey far from home and upended their once well-defined life can relate to and Nick Hornby does a stellar job of capturing the sense of dislocation and loss and then re-discovery of a sense of place and belonging that guarantees these turning points in our lives.

From the moment you meet Ellis, a shy quiet girl who works weekends in the shop of the ferociously nasty, gossip-monger Miss Kelly (Brid Brennan), you are drawn wholly and completely into her world, which is realised every step of the way through all its many permutations with a minimum of melodrama.

So completely does Roinan inhabit the role of Ellis, her expressive eyes expressing all the emotions of the moment in deeply affecting, relatable ways that leave you feeling as if you living through all the changes with her, that you drawn into every twist and turn of her saga.

Hers is the story of every person who has ever struck out on their own, whether through choice or necessity, who has left home uncertain of what awaits but knows there is not enough for them from whence they came, and every step of that archetypal journey finds an authentic echo in Ellis’s life.

What is so refreshing about the tale is that even though Brooklyn contains a dramatic lightbulb moment where Ellis has an epiphany where she knows exactly where home is and must hurry there urgently, this is simply one moment in a carefully-developed transition from smalltown Irish girl to big city dweller and possibly back again … or not.

It doesn’t jar or feel tacked on in some emotionally-manipulative way; rather, it feels like a natural organic part of her new life which can’t quite un-entangle itself, at least for a while, from her old life, enough that she can tell where her heart now really lies.

 

 

Complicated though the problem of discerning where home really is might be, Brooklyn makes it feel like a natural part of anyone’s life experience.

It’s difficult and traumatic at times sure, and you often question your sanity and good judgement but if you stay true to course, things usually work themselves out in ways you might never have envisaged when you were in the depths of homesickness and loss.

In fact, Father Flood assures Ellis at one of her lowest points that homesickness is like a disease – it afflicts you for a while and makes your life a misery before moving on to someone else.

And so it is for Ellis, and as she sorts through what she’s feeling and how much validity those feelings have in the light of all the changes in her life, you are swept gently along with her, relating to her every downcast moment, her every moment of seemingly crushing indecision, the joy when home finally and belatedly reveals itself at last.

Brooklyn is a film for anyone who has wondered, in the light of a move big or small, whether they will ever feel as sense of belonging again or whether home as they knew it, or once hoped it might be, is an elusive creature they will never find.

The film assures us through the life of one passionate young women in a time of great change and upheaval that if you’re patient and can weather the storm, that home, with all the love, security and belonging will find you and you will have to wonder no more about where you truly should be.

 

 

Weekend pop art: Disney characters go whimsically dark in Tim Burton-esque illustrations

(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)
(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)

 

Gifted, idiosyncratic director and creative visionary Tim Burton is no stranger to Disney.

He has after all, in the last few years alone, directed or produced Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) for the home of Mickey Mouse so it makes perfect sense that artist Andrew Tarusov would lend Burton’s distinctively whimsical Gothic style to a succession of Disney characters and films.

And much as you might not think the characters and artwork style would go together, they meld perfectly, lending Dumbo, The Lion King, Pinocchio and The Little Mermaid an extra layer of depth and otherworldiness.

They are quite arresting too, revealing another level of soulfulness to characters who actually endure their fair share of loss or melancholy on the way to their happy endings; Disney has never shied away from combining heartache and happy endings and Tarusov’s impressive artwork brings out this side of the legendary studio beautifully.

You can glory in Tarusov’s gorgeously Gothic artwork at both his Facebook page, and portfolio site, where you can download high-res pictures for a small donation through Patreon.

 

(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)
(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)

 

(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)
(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)

 

(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)
(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)

 

(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)
(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)