The short and the short of it: The Mountain King learns a giant-sized lesson

(image via Vimeo (c) Brandon Wu)
(image via Vimeo (c) Brandon Wu)

 

Humanity takes a while to learn its lessons and learn them well.

If history has taught us anything, and it’s quite true that those who ignore it are doomed to repeat it to their detriment, it’s that we often misunderstand the fundamental of things like power, wealth and leadership.

More often than not, we allow our understanding of these things to skew to a wholly personal, self-aggrandising perspective, instead of realising that for humanity as a whole to benefit we need to think of the greater good, of the needs of our fellow men and women rather than just our own.

It may sound too much like socialism to some but it’s simply realising that, say, good leaders, the ones who are effective and truly make a difference aren’t the ones strutting about, adjusting their “Emperors’ New Clothes” but instead the ones looking for the welfare of those around them and the environment in which they live.

This kind of humility doesn’t come easily as California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) student Brandon Wu‘s delightfully poignant and insightful film, The Mountain King, demonstrates so beautifully.

Set in a land where peaceful, gentle giants selflessly help those around them as well as nurturing the environment in general, this short film by a fourth year student, it is a deftly-wrought lesson in the perils of assuming power and leadership is all about lording it over others rather than serving them.

Using a minimum of narration and dialogue, this richly-rendered modern fairytale conveys its message without being preachy or polemic, opting instead for showing over telling, emerging all the more powerful for it.

Beautiful art and a subtlely-delivered message? This is exactly why we watch cinema in any form.

I predict Brandon Wu has a rich and much-admired future ahead of him.

 

22 is the new age 80: Netflix redefines “old” in the trailer for Between

(image via Sound on Sight (c) Netflix)
(image via Sound on Sight (c) Netflix)

 

SNAPSHOT
Between is the story of a town under siege from a mysterious disease that has wiped out everybody except those 22 years old and under. The series explores the power vacuum that results when a government has quarantined a 10-mile diameter area and left the inhabitants to fend for themselves. (official synopsis)

Ever get those days when your body feels like it’s wholly made of creaky, painful bones?

Or you strain to remember who played whats-his-name in that really great HBO show um-you-know and come up wanting … repeatedly?

Well worry no more, especially if you’re over 22, and a resident of Pretty Lake, where everyone over the age of 22 – many of the synopses and articles refer to 21 but the trailer quite clearly refers to 22 – has succumbed to a horrible disease that kills quickly and without impunity, leaving children and young adult in an Under the Dome-situation, sealed off from a fearful world.

It all sounds quite intriguing, a mix observes Huffington Post of The Walking Dead meets Children of Men meets Lord of the Flies, with the potential to explore a whole range of pertinent social issues if it’s given the chance.

But there’s the rub.

According to Brian Lowry at Variety, who viewed the first “messy” first episode, it could be a case of Clever Premise, Not So Clever Execution.

“Nevertheless, the general look and tone don’t incubate much of a desire to slip back behind the show’s well-guarded walls. In fact, after one visit to Pretty Lake, there’s a pretty strong inclination to let the fresh-faced inhabitants, as the press release puts it, “fend for themselves.”

And let’s not forget Between‘s Under the Dome implications, not all that reassuring given how underbaked and half-done that show has been since almost its first episode.

Still, a clever premise remains a clever premise until it is not, and with Netflix using this show to depart from its usual bingeing model in favour of releasing an episode each Thursday at a set time, we could be in for an interesting viewing experience over the show’s short-but-potentially-sweet six episode run.

Between premiered 21 May 2015 on Netflix.

 

“In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle”: Listen to A. A. Milne read from When We Were Very Young in this rare recording

When We Were Very Young MAIN
The cover of the copy of When We Were Very Young that I inherited from my mother (and which less than helpfully I drew on with red crayon at some point)

 

Winnie the Pooh, and by obvious extension the man who brought his remarkable adventures to life in The Hundred Acre Wood, Alan Alexander Milne or A. A. Milne, were an integral part of my childhood.

For those of us who delight in reading still about the “Bear of Very Little Brain”, and his dear friends Piglet, Tigger, Owl, Eeyore, Rabbit and others, it seems like he has been around forever, a constant figure in the glowing firmament of British children’s literature, and of course, in our hearts.

But in fact he only appeared just over 90 years ago, as Maria Popova, from the exquisitely interesting site Brain Pickings points out:

“On February 13, 1924, Punch magazine published a short poem titled “Teddy Bear” by Alan Alexander Milne, one of the magazine’s editors and a frequent contributor. The poem, inspired by the stuffed teddy bear so dearly beloved by Milne’s four-year-old son Christopher Robin, was included in Milne’s collection of children’s verses, When We Were Very Young, illustrated by Punch staff cartoonist E. H. Shepard and published later that year. But the bear’s very first appearance in Punch was the birth of Winnie-the-Pooh, which Milne released two years later and which went on to become one of the most timeless children’s books ever written.”

Set against the vast span of time, and all the many “smackerels of honey” that would have been consumed through those many years, it’s not that long at all really, a reminder of just great an impact Milne’s few books have had on the world.

Rarer still though is A. A. Milne, or any early twentieth century author reading from their books, but thanks to recordings made by Dominion Grammophone Company in 1929 we have the pleasure of listening to this most clever and sweetly sentimental of men reading aloud from the third chapter of When We Were Very Young, “In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle,” an experience Brain Pickings notes “made all the more delightful by his enchantingly melodic voice”.

And who knows, as you’re carried away hearing A. A. Milne read about his marvellous creations you may find, like Piglet himself, that even though you have “a Very Small Heart, it [can] hold a rather large amount of Gratitude” for the genius of this wonderful of authors …

 

 

After Avengers: Age of Ultron, we really don’t need another hero [curated opinion piece]

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

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron is the biggest movie in the world right now and like it or not – I quite liked it though I felt I had seen it all before – Alastair Blanshard from The University of Queensland raises some interesting points in this article from The Conversation about why we love superheroes and whether they do us more harm than good …

There was a time when we used to worry about how the world began. Few debates were as furious as the argument over whether it was God or the Big Bang that we should thank for creation. These days we only seem to care about how the world will end.

The potential causes for our demise are numerous. Global warming, viral pandemic, zombie apocalypse. Or, as the latest episode in the Marvel Avengers franchise would have it, our greatest threat comes from psychotic robots with faulty programming. The Millennium Bug is back, only this time it’s armed with pulsar cannons.

Under the direction of Joss Whedon, Avengers: Age of Ultron – which opens today – reunites Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow to fight against a rogue Artificial Intelligence called Ultron. The action is fast-paced, but the title feels like a misnomer.

Although it is difficult to work out the actual length of events, partly because the film is in love with slow-motion cinematography, the “age” of Ultron can’t have lasted longer than a couple of weeks in real time. Still with a running time of two hours and 22 minutes, audiences will be grateful that the rule of Ultron wasn’t longer.

Avengers: Age of Ultron.
© Marvel

The length of the film is a response to the needs of juggling so many characters. In addition to all of the Avengers, the film introduces a pair of twins, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. The boy, Quicksilver, has the power of superhuman speed and the girl, Scarlet Witch, gets practically ever other superpower that’s left. It is a good thing that Quicksilver never stops running, because if he paused to think, he might develop a severe case of sibling envy.

Just when you think the Scarlet Witch has shown all that she can do, she pulls out another trick. As if this cast size wasn’t large enough, three-quarters of the way through the film another major character emerges. In this case, quite literally Deus ex Machina, God from a Machine.

Too many heroes

Ensemble casts are difficult. It is hard to balance so many competing points of focus. From the earliest Greek myths, we have traditionally preferred our heroes as solitary figures. One of the epithets for Hercules was “monoikos”, “the one who lives alone”. The modern town of Monaco takes its name from a local cult to this aspect of Hercules.

We love stories with a central hero. Achilles gets star billing in the Iliad. Similarly Odysseus in the Odyssey. In the ancient world, only the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece involved a team of heroes, and it is perhaps no accident that the retelling of their exploits, the Argonautica, has proven to be history’s least favourite epic.

Complicating the problem of ensuring that every hero gets a fair share of screentime is the requirement that every hero now needs a fatal flaw and a tragic backstory. These golden boys and girls all have feet of clay.

The trend for the tormented hero has been growing ever since 19th-century Romanticism taught us that there was something heroic about suffering. The Greeks would not have understood it. All they demanded from their heroes was the ability to be spectacular.

Now, we require our heroes to be haunted by their past or terrified by their future. We love to watch a set of rippling muscles, but we demand that the heart they encase is fragile. If you’re going to be a super-solider, you also need to be a wallflower at the Victory Day dance.

All action in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
© Marvel

Ultron wants to destroy the Avengers because he regards them as a danger to stability and growth. It is hard not to have sympathy with his logic. Golf has been described as a game in which people try to get a ball in a hole using implements ill-adapted for the purpose. Watching the Avengers achieve world peace feels a lot like watching a round of golf.

Equipped with razor-sharp throwing-shields, exploding arrows, and the ability to command lightening bolts, the Avengers make odd advocates for tranquillity. The movie transports our heroes around the world leaving mayhem in their wake. Just when you thought downtown traffic in Johannesburg couldn’t get any worse, along comes the Hulk.

The superheroes we need

Ultron sees the Avengers as emblematic of the worst excesses of humanities desires and, in a sense, he’s right. If we really do lust after world peace, why aren’t we inventing heroes with the superpower to erase the gap between rich and poor or, at the very least, get Google to pay tax?

Iron Man can scatter the earth with incendiary devices, but he can’t compulsorily vaccinate children. In the movie, the Scarlet Witch has been genetically enhanced so that she can mess with people’s minds. Why don’t geneticists ever work on enhancing the ability to make people feel comfortable about their lifestyle choices?

Perhaps this is the real appeal of heroes. They provide us with an enjoyable sound-and-light show that distracts us from facing up to just how hard it is to make a real difference.

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation.

Read the original article.

Weekend pop art: Iconic Star Wars moments come alive in Cut Scene exhibition

Lit in startling red and cut from a single piece of paper Princess Leia and Artoo are free-ze-framed in one of the first of many iconic scenes from Star wars: A New Hope (image via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)
Lit in startling red and cut from a single piece of paper Princess Leia and Artoo are free-ze-framed in one of the first of many iconic scenes from Star Wars: A New Hope (image via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)

 

Now here’s something fantastically creative, firmly of the zeitgeist and worthy of your time and your money.

Talented London-based Kirigami artist, Marc Hagan-Guirey aka Paper Dandy is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for an exhibition featuring iconic scenes from Star Wars rendered from a single piece of paper.

While they may look inordinately complex and stunningly beautiful, and they most certainly are, the scenes are skillfully cut from just one piece of paper which by some artistic wizardry becomes something far greater than the flat piece of dried cellulose pulp with which it began.

And it all springs, as so many ambitious artistic expressions from a deep love of the source material as Hagan-Guirey explains on Kickstarter:

“As a life long fan of the Star Wars saga, it’s Marc’s ambition to continue working in the realm of film culture. He aims to create a body of work inspired by scenes from their legendary narratives via his craft of kirigami. Like his previous exhibition ‘Horrorgami’ the work will be presented within light boxes.”

If you need any more proof of Hagan-Guiorey’s immense talent or his eye for a colourfully arresting image, then check out his work Horrorgami, a series of kirigami works “based on in famous haunted locations from Film and TV.”

By all means, glory in the beauty of his artwork, sourced from a hell of a lot closer than a “galaxy far, far away”, but then jump in your cyber-landspeeder to Kickstarter and support the amazing exhibition that will blast forth from all this impressively beautiful work.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

On the forest moon of Endor, the Empire is doing it darndest to revive its Death Star technology (image via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)
On the forest moon of Endor, the Empire is doing it darndest to revive its Death Star technology (image via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)

 

On Hoth, the ongoing war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance rages on in all its icy fury (image via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)
On Hoth, the ongoing war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance rages on in all its icy fury (image via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)

 

The uber-talented man himself Marc Hagan-Guirey aka Paper Dandy (image via Laughing squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)
The uber-talented man himself Marc Hagan-Guirey aka Paper Dandy (image via Laughing squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)

 

Atop the sand dunes of Tatooine, Jabbe the Hutt's barge cruises to the Sarlac pits (image via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)
Atop the sand dunes of Tatooine, Jabbe the Hutt’s barge cruises to the Sarlac pits (image via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)

 

It's a carbonite tomb for Han Solo, one of the saddest points in the original trilogy (image via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)
It’s a carbonite tomb for Han Solo, one of the saddest points in the original trilogy (image via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Hagan-Guirey)

 

RIP Forever: 5 wonderful things I loved about the show

(image via IMDb (c) ABC network)
(image via IMDb (c) ABC network)

 

I am heartbroken once again.

Yes, in a pattern that repeats itself over and over when I fall headlong in love with a TV series, and not enough other people do, another TV I had come to really, really love, in contravention of all expectations (I thought I was done with the often banal nature of shows of this genre), has drawn its last breath.

The show in question is, of course, Forever, the black sheep of the police procedural family – it centred on the chief medical examiner in New York City, Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffud) who because of a quirk of fate was immortal – because of its willingness to add a supernatural element to proceedings, was cancelled by ABC, the only freshman drama on the Disney-owned network to feel the cold chill of rejection.

Ironic isn’t it given the title.

Star Ioan Gruffudd, obviously shaken, was, like those viewers who embraced the idiosyncratic show, had only thanks for those who had hung in there to watch Forever:

“Tonight, as you all now know, I received a phone call that I was hoping not to receive, and to be honest I really wasn’t expecting it. I knew the numbers hadn’t been great, but I also knew the studio and the network both loved the show, and of course that it had an incredible fan base…so I thought we were in with a pretty good chance.

“Watching the interaction of the FOREVER fans come together and share their love for the show has been breath-taking. It was you guys who held me up when I thought I could no longer go on. (Those days were LONG!) You made me smile when you pointed out the little things I did on screen that I thought had gone unnoticed. You gave me confidence when I accidentally found myself reading less than shining reviews. You were always with me, every step of the way, waving your flags, shouting your support for the show. It’s been an incredible, wonderful year, one that I will never, ever forget.

“And guess what? The memories belong to us. We get to keep them ‘forever!’ Thanks again a million times for your unwavering support. Stay strong, be brave, and show kindness as often as you can!
Ioan xxx”

(you can read the full text at Deadline)

So in honour of a show that offered far more than a simple humdrum case of the week to be solved inbetween ad breaks, here are the 5 things I loved about a show I really wished could have gone on Forever … or at least for a few more seasons than it did.

 

 

1. The relationships
In a show where the lead character is 250 years old and guaranteed to outlive all those near and dear and close to him including his adopted son Abe (Judd Hersch) who he saved along with his deceased wife Abigail (MacKenzie Mauzy) from a concentration camp at the end of WW2, and his police partner of sorts (and potential love interest) Detective Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza), there’s is going to be a poignancy to all of Henry’s interactions.

Inclined to keep people at arm’s length, Henry could only truly be himself with his son, who looks about 30 years older than him in the show, the only person who need the big secret of his immortality.

But even with that dynamic in play, there was a richness, and even a mischievous element, to his relationships with Abe and Jo (who was only let into the secret in the final episode, off camera), the police commanding officer Lt. Joanna Reese (Lorraine Toussaint) and his sidekick in the Medical Examiner’s office, Lucas (Joel David Moore) that gave the show far more emotional heft than it might otherwise have had.

2. The flashbacks
250 years in a long time full of many life lessons, regrets and fond memories, and each episode came packed with flashbacks to a part of Henry’s life that either gave him insights into the case at hand, or more importantly, spoke to the inner turmoil of a man condemned to live while others die, culture changes and the world re-invents itself over and over.

The flashbacks were never clunky or overstayed their welcome and augmented the plot at hand perfectly in a way that many other shows could learn from.

 

 

3. An overarching conspiracy
What show worth its salt doesn’t have a wider conspiracy at play underneath the week-to-week shenanigans.

Well, most, if not all police procedurals usually.

Forever was different with Henry being variously taunted, helped and yes even killed – only ever temporarily; he would always awake seconds later, naked, in water, often in embarrassingly-exposed conditions – by a fellow immortal Adam aka Lewis Farber (Burn Gorman), a man who it emerged right at the end had died in 44BC right when Julius Caesar had breathed his last, 23 knife wounds puncturing his body.

It was never really confirmed if he was the other big J.C. of history, especially after Henry incapacitated him in the final episode, but he was a worthy adversary, desperate to find a way to actually die, and triggered many of Henry’s epiphanies, all of which made him a better man.

4. The Immortality
It certainly gave Henry an edge.

He could be killed by serial killers, almost killed by suspects and place himself in mortal danger to find a elucidate a clue or find some important evidence, and as long as no one saw him die, he could simply pop after he’d resurrected and solve, or at least, advance the case.

Sure it was a gimmick but a well-used gimmick that added to the richness and complexity of Henry’s character and have the show that extra layer of substance and intrigue.

 

 

5.Clever cases of the week
These are the bread and butter of police procedurals and could have easily been the same old thing week after week but Forever, under the stewardship of creator Matt Miller did a mighty fine job of adding a suitable number of twists and turns and ensuring that no two cases were ever the same.

Some cases, in fact many, linked back in some way to Henry and Abe, including one in which they finally discovered what had happened to Abigail, who’d left Henry in her ’70s to start a new life, unable to deal with the great immoral/mortal divide that both bonded and separated them in equal measure.

It may not have had quite the revolutionary police procedural renewal power of Grimm, but it came close, giving us the comfort of justice served but with a tantalising reminder that life is never really that clean and tidy.

It had intelligence, freshness, wit and real human insight, a remarkably different take on a genre not known for taking chances of any kind.

True love never dies (but you wish it would) in Burying the Ex (poster + trailer)

(image via IMDb)
(image via IMDb)

 

SNAPSHOT
The film follows Max (Anton Yelchin) and Evelyn (Ashley Greene) as their relationship takes a nose dive once they move in together. Max discovers how controlling and manipulative Evelyn is but he’s too scared to break up with her. When fate steps in and Evelyn dies in a freak accident, newly-single Max prepares to move on with Olivia (Alexandra Daddario). His romantic life becomes complicated when Evelyn rises from the grave and sets out to get her boyfriend back, even if that means turning him into one of the undead. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

People like love A LOT.

The Bible waxes lyrical about its many virtues, there’s a whole movie genre devoted to its comedic and romantic possibilities, not to mention an entire arm of the publishing industry given over to the fantasy of its perfect embodiment and we even give up one of our precious 365 days of the days to celebrate it, sustaining the flower, restaurant and chocolate industries in the process.

We seriously LOVE love.

But we’re not keen, and understandably so, when it turns into disinterest, control freakiness, convenience or a thousand and one other lacklustre emotions that mark the end of what might have once been a flourishing piece of Cupid’s handiwork.

Which is why when things get that bad, and look unsalvageable, we generally tend to throw the romantic baby out with the bathwater and call it a (Valentine’s) day and move on to greener pastures o’ love, lust and passion.

But what would you do if the love you had left behind, a love that had incidentally both metaphorically and literally died by the way, came back from the grave and proceeded to make all that moving on you were doing infinitely and horrifically more complicated.

Why you’d be in the equivalent of Romancing the Walking Dead – which is not a show but totally should be; although I imagine the date parts of the night would be fairly uncommunicative, swift and bloody – OR in Joe Dante’s new horror comedy film Burying the Ex.

A remake of a 2008 short film by Alan Trezza, who handed the story and the helming of its longer feature cousin to Dante, best known for Gremlins and The ‘Burbs (incidentally the only movie I’ve ever walked out on; sorry Joe, I was younger and sillier then), it looks like one of those classic so-bad-its-good films that are delight to watch, even if they are little cheesy and over the top.

We get to find out just how love’s much-vaunted cred suffers when Burying the Ex opens on 19 June 2015 in USA.

 

Movie review: Spy

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

 

If you were looking for a quick and easy way to describe director Paul Feig’s latest comedy blockbuster, Spy, and who doesn’t like a pithy tagline, you could do worse than calling it a reverse Get Smart.

Embodying much of the spirit of Mel Brooks’ 1960s sitcom satirisation of the hitherto deadly serious business of espionage, Spy, once again starring Feig’s partner in comedy crime, Melissa McCarthy as spy-in-waiting Susan Cooper, is a joyously silly romp across the capitals of Europe with all the gently mocked 007 tropes you could possibly want.

Beginning as it clearly means to go on, the film opens with an extended action scene in which a bumbling male spy, Bradley Fine (Jude Law) – his gender will become important later on – a man who is more enamoured of his tailored suits and witty repartee than his ability to successfully prosecute a mission, successfully evades the nefarious forces of an organised crime lord.

So far, so brilliantly Bond-like.

To this affectionately over the top homage to spy movies past and present, you can add a theme song sung with delicious Goldfinger excess by a Shirley Bassey soundalike, and title sequences that evoke any and all of the opening credits for 007’s many cinematic adventures.

The real joke in Spy though is that male agents like Fine, and his hyperbolically-inclined fellow agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham in fantastically daffy form), whose tales of solo macho derring-do get ever more fanciful and overblown as the movie goes on, only succeed because of the support given to them by female backroom operators like Susan Cooper, and best friend Nancy (Miranda Hart in sparkling, self-depracating form) who toil away, largely unnoticed, in the depths of the CIA’s mouse and bat-infested basement (itself the source of much of the visual humour throughout).

Theirs is a largely thankless role, treated by Fine and co. as one more closely resembling that of a executive assistant rather than the work of the accomplished espionage professionals these woman actually are.

 

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

 

Cooper, who topped her class in every imaginable proficiency from computing to physically taking on the bad guys, is simultaneously in love with the dashing Fine, and yet frustrated that for all her success in keeping him alive and doing his job far better than would otherwise be the case, she is overlooked by all the “real” spies out in the field and her boss, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney).

Her always-the-backroom-operator-never-the-spy days appears to be over though when events necessitate that she go into the field to track and report on attempts by the now dead crime lord’s daughter, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne who steals pretty every scene she’s in) to sell a handily-portable nuclear device to the highest bidder.

What starts out as a simple mission to keep tabs on the would-be master terrorist enabler, one accompanied it must be pointed out by outfits so hilariously unflattering that McCarthy spends much of her time looking, in her words, “like someone’s homophobic aunt”, soon inevitably becomes a chance for the frustrated agent to prove her mettle.

And prove it she does, over and over, in a series of very funny set pieces that are every bit as gripping as anything you’ll find in a Bond or Bourne movie, with the added silliness of preening CIA agents and bad guys and women who think they are far more dangerous and capable than they actually are.

The masterstroke by Feig, who also wrote the well-paced screenplay, is that Cooper emerges from each and every of these scenes as an accomplished professional and not the butt of the jokes (vomiting on recently-despatched baddies from a great height aside).

In that respect, the Police Squad!-esque antics of those around her simply add visual and verbal humour to what are in every other respect, quintessential scenes from any spy movie you could name.

 

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

 

In that respect, Spy shares much of its spy spoof DNA with Kingsman – The Secret Service, both films that though employing differing styles of comedy, keep the essential soul of the espionage action thriller very much alive and close to hand.

Granted the storyline does get sillier and sillier as time goes on, but many of the stunts, such as a mid-air helicopter tête-à-tête, could just as easily be done by Bond or Bourne as Cooper, who is allowed to succeed on the strength of her talent and abilities while the world goes to engaging silliness around her.

You would be doing the film a disservice to describe it as some kind of comedy masterpiece – it is, at heart, simply a highly amusing piece of lighter-than-air (helium?) fun – but it does manage to speak with more substance than you might otherwise expect from a movie of its ilk.

If too, like many people, you find McCarthy’s sometimes uncomfortably brash, scatologically-inclined rage swearing persona a little too much to stomach, rest assured that it is employed sparingly, in favour of a far more well-rounded character who is given a chance to stand out for traits other than the judiciously-employed use of various swear words.

Spy the film may not necessarily save the world but by giving us an accomplished, deftly-realised new spy hero in Susan Cooper, engrossingly over the top action sequences and a lot of very silly, reasonably funny humour it’s given us something to laugh about in a world desperately in a good, soul-cleansing guffaw.

 

 

“Do some goddamn magic!” Syfy debuts the trailer for The Magicians

(image via Goodreads (c) Lev Grossman)
The cover of the book series upon which the new syfy series is based (image via Goodreads (c) Lev Grossman)

 

SNAPSHOT
Based upon Grossman’s books— the first of which was published in 2009 — The Magicians stars Jason Ralph (A Most Violent Year) as Quentin Coldwater, a brilliant grad student who enrolls in Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, a secret upstate New York university specializing in magic. He and his twentysomething friends soon discover that the magical fantasy world they read about as children is all too real — and poses a grave danger to humanity. Stella Maeve (Chicago P.D.), Hale Appleman (Teeth), Arjun Gupta (Nurse Jackie) and Summer Bishil (Towelhead) also star in the one-hour drama. (Synopsis via io9)

You’ve got to hand it to Syfy.

When they said they wanted to substantially ramp up the number of original scripted dramas on the channel, particularly those of a more magical or sci-fi nature in keeping with its founding raison d’être, they weren’t kidding.

It joins, notes io9, a lot of other shows already in development on the newly resurgent syfy:

The Magicians joins Syfy’s roster of scripted and development projects, including the upcoming 10-part series The Expanse, starring Thomas Jane; Arthur C. Clarke miniseries Childhood’s End, also set to premiere this December; Gale Anne Hurd’s 13-episode thriller Hunters; David Goyer’s Superman prequel Krypton; and Incorporated, a thriller pilot from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.”

Part of this push to be less Sharknado and more Battlestar Galactica – there had been a proliferation in recent years of schlocky B-grade telemovies and an associated drop in the sort of quality dramas they’d once been known for – is the new 12 part series, which begins filming this US summer, The Magicians, based on Lev Grossman’s books, which have been lovingly referred to as “Harry Potter for grown-ups”.

And certainly the first trailer for The Magicians, which features the immortal line “Do some goddamn magic!” – the faculty has what you might refer to as a rather muscular teaching style that pushes for results – and some rather acrobat sexual machinations, is world’s away from the innocence of Harry and his cohorts (although as time went on Hogwarts lost a great deal of its innocent glow too; such is the nature of growing up, I suppose).

Io9 reports that Grossman, as most authors would be, is pretty happy to finally see his books, which have been in a mild development hell of sorts since 2012 finally make it on to the small but increasingly influential screen:

“Ever since The Magicians was published, I’ve wanted to see this story onscreen. The people, the school, the other worlds, the magic. I’m so thrilled that it’s finally happening, and I’m beyond thrilled that we found the right people to do it.”

No word yet on exactly when The Magicians will burst onto our screens but look for it sometime in 2016.

 

Every legend has a beginning: New Pan movie trailer is a visual delight

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

 

SNAPSHOT
From director Joe Wright comes “Pan,” a live-action feature presenting a wholly original adventure about the beginnings of the beloved characters created by J.M. Barrie.Peter (Levi Miller) is a mischievous 12-year-old boy with an irrepressible rebellious streak, but in the bleak London orphanage where he has lived his whole life those qualities do not exactly fly. Then one incredible night, Peter is whisked away from the orphanage and spirited off to a fantastical world of pirates, warriors and fairies called Neverland. There, he finds amazing adventures and fights life-or-death battles while trying to uncover the secret of his mother, who left him at the orphanage so long ago, and his rightful place in this magical land. Teamed with the warrior Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and a new friend named James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), Peter must defeat the ruthless pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) to save Neverland and discover his true destiny—to become the hero who will forever be known as Peter Pan. (synopsis via Movieweb)

There is something utterly alluring about someone, anyone, discovering their manifest destiny.

It’s becomes an even more compelling story when the person in question has come from humble beginnings with not much in the way of prospects, only to find out they are indeed someone of great import and value.

Think Harry Potter, Jupiter Jones (Jupiter Ascending) and now Peter Pan, a boy writ large in fantasy lore.

While we know him well from his adventures with Wendy, the Lost Boys, mermaids, pirates and fairies – all drawn from the 1911 novel by J. M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy (in turn inspired by his 1904 play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up) – we haven’t really seen too much of how Peter Pan came to be Peter Pan.

 

 

Well, now thanks to director Joe Wright (Atonement, Anna Karenina), working from a screenplay by Jason Fuchs, we are going to see where Peter Pan came from, and how a small orphan boy from a decrepit orphanage in London came to be the true hero of Neverland.

Starring newcomer Levi Miller as Pan, along with Hugh Jackman as his arch nemesis Blackbird, Garrett Hedlund as Hook (in the prequel they are friends) and Rooney Mara as Tiger Lilly, Pan has just had a new lush trailer released which gives little away in terms of plot – essentially Pan is the Chosen One of Neverland come to vanquish the tyranny of Blackbeard – but much in the way of Neverland itself which is shown to be quite magical, immersively vast and visually striking.

We are witness to mermaids, malleable transparent giant globes of water full of fish floating in the sky, ships travelling through the stars,a giant crocodile, colour, movement, celebration and the promise of great battles to come.

This is a world to lose yourself in, and if the story is every bit as good as the visuals, Pan is going to be an immensely rich viewing experience indeed.

Pan opens in Australia on 10 September 2015, USA on 9 October and UK on 16 October.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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