Star Trek Discovery: “Into the Forest I Go” (S1, E9 review)

Michael decided a field trip to the Klingon Ship of the Dead would be just the thing to bring old memories (image courtesy CBS/Netflix)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND KLINGONS BUT HEY YOU KNEW THAT ALREADY RIGHT?

“We are about to face the most difficult challenge we have ever attempted. Today, we stare down the bow of the Ship of the Dead, the very same ship that took thousands of our own at the Battle of the Binary Stars. When I took command of this vessel, you were a crew of polite scientists. Now, I look at you. You are fierce warriors all. No other Federation vessel would have a chance of pulling this off. Just us. Because mark my words: you will look back proudly and tell the world you were there the day the USS Discovery saved Pahvo and ended the Klingon War.” (Gabriel Lorca, addressing the crew of the USS Discovery)

Now that, my friends, is how you inspire the crew of a starship to go all out!

And go all out they do, in an episode that pretty much has it all – deep, percussive emotional resonance, romance and longing, blisteringly intense action sequences (including a big ass Klingon ship explosion – see ya in Sto-vo-kor Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) !), the sense of a crew reunited and one arc ended and another, altogether more mysterious one begun.

“Into the Forest I Go” barely put a foot wrong.

For a start it had all the hallmarks of the kind of ballsy, defy-the-authorities spirit that has always been at the heart of every Star Trek series.

For a franchise committed to idealism and an adherence to a set of core values, it’s captains and yeah pretty everyone onboard its ships are happy to kick the rules to the curb in pursuit of a higher calling which, rules and regs aside, is exactly what the Federation has as it founding philosophy.

Ordered back to Starbase 46, safe with Federation space while the brightest minds available figured out a way to overcome the Klingon’s cloaking technology, Lorca seems to comply, heading back at a sedate Warp 5 which will take a sedate three hours or so.

Giving the appearance of compliance gives Lorca, who let’s face it, is not exactly employee of the month when it comes to blindly toeing the rules – although when it comes to whipping the collective ass of the Klingons, he’s pretty much in a class of his own – and the crew a chance to brainstorm a way to take their enemy’s one big advantage and nullify it.

Which they, quite naturally do, in near-record time but not without a huge amount of risk, of course. (This is not your grandmother’s Star Trek people and actions have some fairly serious consequences; it’s a whole new gritty galaxy out there where the Federation may play nice but no one else really does.)

 

Love is love, now or hundreds of years from now (image courtesy CBS/Netflix)

 

For a start, Stamets (Anthony Rapp) takes some enormously big risks to execute the 133 spore drive micro-jumps needed to get the data required to make the Klingon cloak-killing algorithm, dreamt up by Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Saru (Doug Jones) do it’s potentially war-ending thing.

It’s a huge gamble given how even one or two normal jumps can kill him – not that he’s told his partner and the ship’s doctor Culber (Wilson Cruz) that; poor dear Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is the one who lets the medical cat out of the bag – and just as you think he’s safe and clear, though more than a bit doolally gaga, the last jump to get the Discovery home safe leaves him a babbling, “I can see it all” rambling mess.

His ill-health is rendered even more poignant by his exchange with Culber, which includes the aforementioned kiss and some lovely plans to listen to opera once all the fighting is done and dusted (a big commitment by Stamets who hates the stuff but loves Culber); quite apart from the emotional impact of that beautiful shard moment, it was so refreshing, particularly as a gay man looking on, to see love between two men portrayed so naturally.

There was no fuss, no trotting out of tired old tropes, no sensationalism and definitely no glitter – just a good old-fashioned kiss between two people who desperately love each other in a galaxy where the chance to live it out is hanging in the balance.

It won’t surprise you to know that Burnham was another person who out once-besmirched life on the line.

Initially rebuffed by Lorca when she asked to transport to Kol’s ship with Tyler (Shazad Latif), she ended up on the mission after arguing passionately for the chance to prove her worth and have a reason for being there, and Lorca being a man who knows a thing or two about defying the odds, acquiesced.

You could forgive her though for wondering if returning to the ship where she lost her captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) – although she got back Georgiou’s combadge from a disrespectful Kol so huzzah! – and her career was such a good idea when in quick succession, they were waylaid by rescuing Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook), Tyler went into horrific PTSD shock after seeing L’Rell (Mary Chieffo), shutting down in mute-nightmare-wracked silence and ended up in a fight with Kol after going to the bridge to plant one or two triangulation devices.

Not quite a dream away mission but seriously when are they ever?

In the end, Burnham, triumphs, Tyler and Cornwell are saved and L’Rell is captured and they find a find to detect a Klingon cloaked ship, in this case, Kol’s Sarcophagus, which blows up like Fourth of July fireworks, not quite ending the war but coming pretty damn close.

 

Tilly has been an absolute delight from start to finish and while she has only a small role in this episode, her inherent kindness and humanity shine through once again (image courtesy CBS/Netflix)

 

What worked so well in this episode was the pleasing balance between big, brash action sequences, all-in-crew set pieces and some very tenderly intimate moments such as when Burnham and Tyler share some very real, laying-it-all-out confessions in the wake of Tyler’s traumatic breakdown on the Klingon ship.

It also drew on the darker tones that have become quite the hallmark of this grittier, very 21st Century iteration of Star Trek – the idea that while the ideals that sustain the Federation and Starfleet are uplifting, warm-and-fuzzy pieces of goodness, the people executing them are as flawed as they’ve ever been, not to mention the aliens outside of the camp who are as realpolitik-y and brutally pragmatic as they’ve ever been.

Deep Space Nine doffed its hat to that idea back in the day but Star Trek Discovery has run with it and then some, delivering up a galaxy full to brimming with inspiring idealism true but war, rampant lust for power, torture and loss.

So real life in other words; Discovery has managed in nine all-too-short episodes to set up a beguiling, involving narrative that has a finely-wrought, layered protagonist at its centre, a supporting cast of equally well-formed characters, a worldbuild that feels familiar and yet rife with all kinds of mysterious possibilities …

… and now the possibility that they have journeyed to one of those alternate parallel dimensions that Lorca and Stamets rather prophetically discussed earlier in the episode.

It’s exciting, it’s thrilling, substantial and very clever and if you’re going to go on a mid-season hiatus, and Star Trek: Discovery is, then “Into the Forest I Go” (with excellent use of tropes!) is emphatically, and brilliantly, the way to do it.

  • And the next episode is … 7 January next year! What what? Yep you’ll have months, months I tell you to boldly go etc etc … OK weeks, lots of weeks but still there’s a cliffhanger to resolve! Pass me the Tribble snacks will ya?

 

Bright: take a dive into the dark side of things (featurette + trailer)

Will Smith and Joel Edgerton star as initially mismatched partners who end up having a lot more in common than they realise (image courtesy Netflix)

 

SNAPSHOT
Set in an alternate present-day where humans, orcs, elves and fairies have been coexisting since the beginning of time, this action-thriller directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad, End of Watch, writer of Training Day) follows two cops from very different backgrounds. Ward, a human (Will Smith), and Jakoby, an orc (Joel Edgerton), embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it. Battling both their own personal differences as well as an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a young female elf and a thought-to-be-forgotten relic, which in the wrong hands could destroy everything. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

What’s a Bright world look like?

It’s L.A. as you know it but with orcs and elves standing in for the normal racial mix, lending a whole different look and feel to the tale but still with many of the same tensions that afflict our less fantastical world.

Throw into this familiar yet otherworldy alternate vision of society the search for a wand that could change the world as we don’t know it (but kinda do at the same time), two men from different races discovering they may have more in common than they realise and you have a heady, engrossing narrative that looks equal parts action thriller and incisive societal commentary if this recently-realised featurette and trailer are any guide.

It’s a clever way of exploring our world in all its fractured hellish glory and maybe the perfect accompaniment to a festive season that is taking place in a world where the message of peace and joy to everyone is needed now more than ever.

As naturally are elves’ wands.

Bright premieres on Netflix on 22 December.

(source: io9)

 

Book review: The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne

 

When you think about characters as beloved as Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore and the rest of the residents of the Hundred-Acre Wood, it’s easy to assume that everything to do with them must be equally as bucolic and paradisaical as they are.

After all, in the four books by A. A. Milne, they inhabit a world where love and acceptance reign, where mistakes can be made and recovered from, where problems arise but find a solution somewhere down the road, perhaps after a smackerel of honey.

It is, by any estimation, an idealised world, but in Christopher Milne’s account of what it was like to be Christopher Robin when Winnie the Pooh’s popularity went almost immediately ballistic in the 1920s – the books were published before 1924 and 1928 when Milne junior was four to eight years old – you come to realise that life removed from A. A. Milne’s imagination was not as perfect as it was in the books.

“There are two sorts of writer. There is the writer who is basically a reporter and there is the creative writer. The one draws on his experiences, the other on his dreams. My father was a creative writer and so it was precisely because he was not able to play with his small son that his longings sought and found satisfaction in another direction. He wrote about him instead.” (P. 36)

It wasn’t horrible either, but as Milne explains, the success of the books brought both unrelenting attention on a young boy who was happily content to spend his days exploring the Milne home in Sussex, Cotchford Farm, and a sense of being defined by the character of Christopher Robin, whom Milne admits, was partly him and partly his father’s distillation of the perfect son.

A son, it must be noted, with whom he was not overly familiar thanks to Christopher Robin’s nanny effectively assuming parenting duties during his childhood; it was only at age 9, when he went off to first day school then boarding school that father and son really got to know each other.

When they did, they got on extremely well, although as Milne admits, his father, a noted playwright and writer of short stories whose career came to be defined almost solely by Winnie the Pooh, this only really lasted until the time Christopher Robin turned 18, at which point he began to diverge away from his father once again.

To hear Milne tell it, and he writes in an easy, light and disarmingly honest way, the father-son dynamic came to be defined by Christopher Robin, in ways big and small with Milne the younger going from quite liking the attention he received as a child to wanting to distance himself from his fictional namesake as he grew into adulthood.

 

Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh (image via Mashable)

 

Not so different to most people, but then very few of us have had to grapple with fame at a age when we barely even know what it is; indeed as Milne admits, like any child, his world began and ended with his family and his home, and imagining anything beyond that such as Pooh’s stratospheric fame, was simply beyond anything he could conceive. (He was in many years one of the first modern child stars, a concept that has become commonplace today but which was in the 1920s, a relatively new development.)

Granted he was interviewed from time to time with some experiences being positive, others not so much – one was so bad, with his words twisted out of all recognition by a reporter, that it poisoned him against giving any kind of fuel to the Pooh bonfire of fame from that point on – but that was usually the extent of it, with his father the one left to grapple with a writing career overshadowed by one small part of it.

Christopher Milne does note though that he was, by and large, happy with his relationship with the fictional Christopher Robin save for a period in his late twenties when he was unable to find employment and came to resent the way his life remained tied to his childhood in a way most adults don’t experience. (His father, as noted, went through something similar, unable to escape Pooh’s considerable shadow.)

“My father’s heart remained buttoned up all through his life, and I wouldn’t want now to attempt to unbutton it, to write about things he never spoke about. All I hope to do is to catch some of the overflow that came bubbling out and get it on to the page before it runs to waste. No more than that.” (P. 103)

 The Enchanted Places is a delightful read, giving us alternately a recounting of how the various toys he was given as a child came to be come the characters in his father’s wildly-popular books, and what life was life for a child in the 1920s and 1930s, in the fallow period between the two great wars that came to define he and father’s lives.

There is a whimsy and fun to some chapters as a result but always, always, a clear demarcation between what we think life was like for him as Christopher Milne and Christopher Robin – he publishes a letter from one young fan who can’t imagine why you wouldn’t love every moment of being the inspiration for Pooh’s companion, demonstrating the divergence between fandom’s perception and reality – and a firm countering of any idea that life as Milne’s son, of the fame that came with it, must have been nothing but sunshine and roses.

Again, Milne is careful not to paint his life as something he had to endure, happily acknowledging that much of his life was as wonderful as you might imagine it to be.

But he was not, and could never be, Christopher Robin since he existed solely in his father’s imagination and then in the books we all love so much, and expecting the real Christopher Robin to be that person was simply never going to deliver anything but disappointment.

As pulling back of the curtains go, it’s hardly revelatory – even at his most honest, Milne is rarely nasty or bitter and always balanced – but The Enchanted Places provides a fascinating look at what it was like to grow up with Christopher Robin as your constant companion, an insight that could well prove quite illuminating when Goodbye Christopher Robin opens later this year.

 

He’s a genius! Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Tad travels to Las Vegas to see his friend Sara’s latest discovery: a papyrus that proves the existence of King Midas, who turned everything he touched into gold thanks to the power of a magical necklace. But the happy encounter between Tad and Sara is disrupted when the evil Jack Rackham steals the papyrus and kidnaps Sara to force her to find the necklace, a source of infinite wealth. (synopsis via HeyUGuys)

I have somehow managed to miss the very existence of Tad the Explorer.

According to the good folks at Wikipedia, Tad is a Spanish bricklayer living in Chicago with long held dreams of being a professional archaeologist who, through luck and happenstance, ends up getting to live the dream (albeit as the clumsy doppelganger of Indiana Jones).

Kicking off his adventures in a 2014 short film Tadeo Jones by Enrique Gato and continuing them in its sequel Tadeo Jones and the Basement of Doom, Tad has really come into his own with Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas which looks absolutely, hilariously delightful.

Even though it appears to be packed full of many of the inept characters and sassy oneliners we’ve come to expect from modern animation features, the film very much has its own personality and you can see why Paramount signed the team behind the character to a two film worldwide distribution agreement.

That explains why this instalment of the hapless but well-meaning Tad’s adventures are attracting so much more attention than they once did, and why this will be one of the animated films to look out for whenever it wends itself your way.

Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas opens in UK 25 February 2018 with US and Australian dates to be advised.

 

Comics review: Angelic (issues 1 & 2)

(cover art courtesy Image Comics)

 

It is said we stand on the shoulders of those came before us, and in so far as belief systems persist, physical reminders of their presence persist, culture, arts and political discourse are informed by their antecedents, that’s true.

But what happens when all you have is fragments? A pottery shard here? A hidden, half-lost wall-painting?

Or in the case of Angelic, a breathtakingly original take on a future without humanity but full of our handiwork, in ruins and otherwise, by Eisner nominee SIMON SPURRIER (The Spire, CRY HAVOC, X-Men Legacy) and rising-star CASPAR WIJNGAARD (LIMBO, Dark Souls, Assassin’s Creed), species upon species of advanced, tech-augmented animals?

Think religiously-obsessed flying monkeys (and yes, there is, rather pleasingly, a Wizard of Oz reference tucked in there), rocket-propelled dolphins with a killer bent, quantum-powered cats who just want to be friends, and manatees in gravity-defying pods and Why Fy.

All these animals, and the whales and other animals that abound, all with humanity’s lost technology turning them into something Mother Nature never envisaged, in a world full of ruined, decaying cities, shards of memory and a remnant AI system – known in the pigeon tongue of the day as AY, another example of the slivers of memory and understanding treated as fulsome fact – and only a partial appreciation of why they are there at all.

In such a vacuum, like the people before them who fled an AI uprising by taking to the stars, or so the legend, repeated as religious invocations, goes, the little is sown into a lot, what is known added to by core belief and supposition until what is left is a dogma, rock hard orthodoxy (known as “lore”) that cannot be challenged and suffocates any attempts to get to the truth of the matter.

Such is the case for Qora, one of the monkey monks, the keepers of a sacred religion which venerates the “Mans” with a fervency and ferocious purity of belief that aggressively stymies any attempt to ask “why?”, a perfectly reasonable question for any inquisitive soul, but one usually met with virulent opposition.

The world of Qora’s tribe, ruled by the autocratic Alfer, is one of unthinking obedience, punitive instruction and adherence without question to rituals such as the removal of females’ wings when they come of age, and a patriarchal system of rule that relegates the females to child-rearing and the kitchen and the males to fighting and protection.

Try as she might to adhere to these long-held, centuries in fact, beliefs, Qora constantly finds herself butting heads against orthodoxy, dogma and the iron fist rule of Alfer until one day when she breaks free, encouraged by the beatific manatees who track her down, sensing either a kindred spirit or an idealist who can be manipulated, to go on a quest with one of their own in search of a missing piece of their “God”, AY.

Adherents of science, and with a murky agenda of their own – you soon realise that Qora is one of the few creatures left with any kind of mind of her own or purity of soul – the manatees are persuasive, sweetly but determinedly so, convincing Qora to venture into the “tox”, ignoring her “lore” which forbids it (that, and many other things such as flying too high) in search of the missing of AY, with only her religious texts, which the manatees believe contains enough fact to be useful in her quest, to guide her.

 

(cover art courtesy Image Comics)

 

From literally the first page, Angelic comes alive with some of the most immediate and arresting worldbuilding I’ve seen in any medium.

You can get a dramatic understanding of the world in which Qora lives, a world with shadows and ghosts of humanity haunting the landscape, in which the whispers of what was have become the shouted declarative statements of current dogma.

On pages two and three of the first issue, we are treated to a gorgeous double-page spread in which Spurrier’s story comes alive with crackling dialogue, a sense of how the world looks and behaves, as the weaponised dolphins, who kill the monkeys for sports, speed with enthusiastic haste to have some sporting fun.

“Speak truly, my fine fellows: Are you not perky? Do you not tremble for the chase?
“Why — I seethe! I effervesce! I must have sport!”
“Indeed, I too have prayed for prey! But — good sirs! — Look there! My eyes behold satisfaction!”

Every single word is deliciously, beguilingly poetic, conveying as much religious fervour as delirious enthusiasm, every scintillating, immersive word overlaid on a lavishly illustrated ruined cityscape, courtesy of WijNgaard (letters and design by Jim Campbell and Emma Price respectively).

The quality of both narrative, dialogue and art does not waver through the first two issues available, with every group of animals, and the world they inhabit coming luxuriously alive with eye-popping fervour.

For a world so removed from our own, and able to only guess at what we were like, it bears some uncanny, exquisitely well-realised corollaries with the present day.

For one thing, each group is almost intrinsically diametrically opposed to the other, inherently suspicious of their motives, their dogma, their lifestyle, with no one willing to seriously entertain that the others may have a valid point of view.

It explains why Qora, who is questioning her beliefs but still very much wants to remain a part of the monkey monks, is immediately suspicious of the manatees, their reasons for calling on her, their mission and even their belief system which they don’t hesitate to proselytise, meeting almost word they say with “blasphemy”.

It’s hardly an aggressive response from Qora, belying the fact that she is wavering in her beliefs, purely because she is never allowed to question them, but it does show how divided this world is and how Qora’s acquiesce to venture into the “Tox” is such a big deal.

Everything about Angelic is deeply, brilliantly impressive, with everything from the narrative to the artwork, dialogue to deep philosophising to worldbuilding absolutely, stunningly top rate, demonstarating again and again that this is one series worth staying with for the duration, no matter what you might believe.

 

(cover art courtesy Image Comics)

 

Watch it all come to life with this beautiful introductory video …

 

Weekend pop art: My favourite Star Wars posters

(image via Digital Spy (c) Lucasfilm)

 

40 years ago this year, somewhere around the 27 October to be precise, I saw Star Wars: A New Hope (then just plain old Star Wars) – to be fair I highly doubt my mother took me to the small one room cinema in Ballina on opening day or more to the point that the film has even reached a small town on the far north coast of NSW, Australia until quite a while later – and my small hitherto non-spacey world was blown apart.

(Much like the Death Star although the Force stubbornly resisted my attempts to tap into it, a situation which annoyingly persists to this day.)

Now four decades later – let’s say that quickly so I don’t collapse from shock – I was as excited as I was when I was 11, excitedly awaiting the release of episode 8, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which premieres in Australia on 14 December.

To mark the imminent arrival of the new film, Digital Spy has gathered together 17 of the most distinctive posters issued for the franchise, all of which are visually striking and intensely evocative in their own way.

Some went the distance, some were recalled and some were for one-off conventions, but all of whom recall the thrill and excitement off heading to a galaxy far, far away a long time ago and how it never dims no matter how much time may pass by.

 

(image via Digital Spy (c) 20th Century Fox)

 

(image via Digital Spy (c) 20th Century Fox)

 

(image via Digital Spy (c) 20th Century Fox)

 

(image via Digital Spy (c) Disney)

 

(image via Digital Spy (c) Disney)

 

(image via Digital Spy (c) Lucasfilm)

 

(image via Digital Spy (c) 20th Century Fox)

 

(image via Digital Spy (c) 20th Century Fox)

Now these are beguiling beats: Millie Turner, BAYNK, Oliver, Satin Jackets, RAYE

(image courtesy Unsplash (c) Alessio Lin)

 

Let’s face it – life gets knda boring with just the one beat keeping you company all day everyday.

It’s good to mix things up, keeping a multitude of beats coming and going – and no, before any of you go that way, this is not an encouraging to rampant promiscuity; I’m talking rather about getting stuck in a one-note rut and staying there for the duration – and keep things interesting.

All these artists know this to be true, with each of them bringing some truly unique and different beats, and with them perspectives on life, to the table.

Listen and it’s unlikely you’ll stay listening to just one beat ever again.

 

“Underwater” by Millie Turner

 

Millie Turner (image courtesy official Millie Turner Facebook page)

 

There’s something hauntingly captivating about 17 yer old London, UK-resident Millie Turner’s debut single “Underwater”, a heady mix of thoughtful folk and gently pounding electronic beats that Line of Best Fit describes this way:

“Pairing Turner’s youthful lyricism with production from David Turley, ‘Underwater’ is a dizzying cut that defies categorisation by genre. At its core, the song is a heartfelt ballad with a folk-inspired feel accompanying seashore motifs throughout, but Turley’s beats and blips elevate the track to another plane altogether.”

Turley discovered Turner singing at a mutual friend’s house and convinced her to turn her emotionally-resonant voice to pop music.

It’s a good thing he prevailed since the new artist has the kind of voice that infuses real emotion into a song and looks destined for great things if she continues to work with people and material as good as that which went into the sublime delights of “Underwater”.

 

 

 

“Come Home” by BAYNK (feat. Shallou)

 

BAYNK (image courtesy official BAYNK Facebook page)

 

The odds are pretty good that you’ve heard songs by Auckland-producer BAYNK such as “Poolside” and “What You Need” who has, according to the good people who know music at We Are: The Guard, racked up 13 million plays on Spotify and counting.

One listen to the inestimable delights of “Come Home”, featuring the vocal beauty of Chicago singer/producer Shallou, the stage name of Joe Boston, and you will understand why his songs have proved to be such addictive streaming catnip.

The song is an ethereal daydream of a song, all wafty moments and looping beats that surges and falls back with Shallou’s langorously intimate vocals keeping perfect pace.

It’s an immersively engaging song possessed of gossamer-light pop delights that belie a song with robust pop substance that grabs your attention and never lets it go.

Be prepared to hit “replay” ad infinitum.

 

 

“Chemicals (feat. MNDR)” by Oliver

 

Oliver (image courtesy official Oliver Facebook page)

 

MNDR is one of those rare artists that seizes your attention and ardour utterly and completely from the word go and remains firmly in your musical sights everafter.

She has a unique vocal style and sensibility to her airy, emotive voice, making her the perfect choice for “Chemicals” by L.A. production duo Oliver (Oliver “Oligee” Goldstein and Vaughn “U-Tern” Oliver) which slides smoothly into aural view, makes you immediately sit up and take notice, rightly refuses to relinquish its grip on your musical consciousness.

Thanks to a collaboration with De La Soul, “Chemicals” and many of the tracks on oliver’s album Full Circle, which is out now, carry hints of disco, soul and even a little ’70s glam rock.

How can you resist? Spoiler alert: YOU CAN’T.

 

 

“Northern Lights (feat. David Harks)” by Satin Jackets

 

Satin Jackets (image courtesy official Satin Jackets Facebook page)

 

The very best kind of travel is that which leave an indelible mark on you.

One artist who can attest to this truth is Melbourne-Australia-based producer Satin Jackets, known, no doubt fondly, to his parents as Tim Bernhardt, who found himself in Scandinavia, enthralled, as happens to pretty much everybody who sees them by the Northern Lights. So powerful was the experience that it led him to upend his schedule and just glory in all that beauty:

“After experiencing a world known for its Northern Lights, I wanted to take that concept and run with it, asking myself how we could reflect this phenomena in music. Despite a busy schedule, I couldn’t help but take a day off and go on a trip exploring the country and the depths and beauty of one of the Fjords in the area. It was absolutely breath-taking.” (source: CLASH)

With the vocals of Englishman David Hark and production, appropriately enough by Norwegian Carl Louis, thrown into the mix, song “Northern Lights” came into being, a much more impressive trip souvenir than a T-shirt and a keyring.

The song’s dreamy air beautifully evokes the feeling that takes you over when you see nature in all its majesty and glory, with Satin Jackets gives us the perect soundtrack for those special moments.

 

 

“Shhh” by RAYE

 

RAYE (image courtesy official RAYE Facebook page)

 

There is brilliant, seductive playfulness to “Shh” which belies its serious, deadly serious emotional epicentre.

For this song by up-and-coming, London-based R&B singer RAYE is all about the messy, horrible end of a relationship where all the excuses and justifications in the end world by the guilty party mean NOT A DAMN THING.

So don’t say them right? Alas the perpetrator persists leading to RAYE, over tremulous but meaty pop/funk/soul beats and dark musical undercurrents, to suggest they shut the hell up.

“Shhh” may sound light and innocent but it’s anything but, all defiant and justifable putting of someone in their place with some brilliantly-evocative production burnishing the air of the end of all things and the emotional turmoil in which it takes place.

 

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

The hero DCEU doesn’t deserve: Wonder Woman Honest Trailer

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Wonder Woman, this year’s superhero smash hit, was a breath of cinematic fresh air.

Featuring a kickass female hero who was capable and strong and yet demonstrably human (while, yes, still being a literal god), the film, directed by Patty Jenkins, who now has the gig for Wonder Woman 2, put a woman front and centre and was all the stronger for it.

As the latest Honest Trailer, humourously and yet quite insightfully points out, Wonder Woman may be flawed but it still stands head and shoulders above many of the films starring male superheroes, proof that Hollywood needs to make films that reflect all of society, not just one narrow subsection of it.

The brilliance of these Honest Trailers, from the humourously incisive minds of Screen Junkies, is that they make the kind of points that they need to be made in a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down kind of way.

Watch it, laugh and find yourself nodding your head in agreement pretty much all the way through.

 

Finally watched: Schitt’s Creek

(image courtesy CBC)

 

If you were to look at Schitt’s Creek‘s premise in isolation, you might be tempted to wonder if we haven’t been down this folksy, poorly-bitumenised road before.

That’s hardly a crime of course since most TV shows owes some debt of gratitude, large or small, to their broadcast antecedents, and to be fair, if it’s done well, the idea of pampered rich folks ending up living considerably down on their luck in a middle of nowhere, unadorned small town (which they own; it’s their sole remaining asset), can actually prove quite entertaining.

But it hardly screams originality as a lovely little narrative proposition on paper which is why its taken me three years, and a Netflix-subscription to give it the time of day.

The upshot of all this much-delayed viewing, with 39 episodes over three seasons tucked away in the binge-worthy bank, is that the hackneyed premise has been a whole new, uproariously funny lease on life by Eugene and Dan Levy, the father & son team who star in the show as fallen video store magnate Johnny Rose and his pampered son David respectively.

Joined by the inimical Catherine O’Hara as Sunset Boulevard-ish daytime soap actress Moira and Annie Murphy as daughter Alexis who has a thing for rich heirs named Stavros, the Levys, who are joined on the show by Sarah Levy as Twyla Sands, have come up with a fish-out-of-water sitcom that actually generates more than a few laughs per 20 minute running time.

Much of that has to do with the trouble they’ve obviously taken to craft characters who actually make sense; sure they’re trope-heavy to some extent, an almost inevitable outcome given the history of the genre and the needs for oddball personalities to serve the great machine of idiosyncratic comedy; but they’re also real, sweet, genuine people who have a life beyond the next punchline.

 

(image courtesy CBC)

 

Take the Roses themselves.

Johnny is actually a decent, in-touch kinda guy; yes, he’s taken aback by his change in fortune, precipitated by his business manager failing to pay taxes and absconding with all their money to a tax haven somewhere, and wishes things were different, but he’s also grounded enough to realise that he and his family have little choice but to knuckle down and make the most of things.

The rest of the family are not quite so together with Moira convinced that her acting as a spokeswoman for a local fruit wine company may presage a theatrical comeback, one that might derailed by her descents into weirdly disconnected of melancholy and professional regret, David, given to wearing designer clothes and a pansexual, glamorous lifestyle, not quite understanding he may need to work for a living, and Alexis struggling with the idea that her pool of status-climbing would-be husbands has dwindled to the depth of a small pool during the African dry season.

It’s their sense of dislocation and unwillingness to accept their new fate – made all the funnier by Moira constantly riffing on the idea of being in an internment camp or wishing that they all die before they wake up, patent overreactions that reflect how horrified the whole family by their new status in life – that drives much of the humour in the show.

But the Levys, backed by a crack team of writers, have gone to enormous trouble to move the family way beyond the realm of one-trick, oneliner ponies.

As time goes on, it turns Moira, who is not exactly mother of the year, does have a heart and a capacity for adapting, David finds out that perhaps there is a place for him in the most unexpected of places and Alexis discovers that not all her romantic prospects have to own expensive yachts and attend Diddy’s White Parties (in fact, frankly, it’s better if they don’t).

In other words, they’re fleshed out as fully-formed people who have inestimable quirks yes and a burning desire to get back to their old lifestyle but also authentically, realistically human, meaning the humour is less about the same old obvious jokes all the time and more about where the characters take it.

The same applies to almost every other character including mayor Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott; his name delights my inner five year old no end), his high school teacher wife Jocelyn (Jennifer Robertson), motel clerk-then-owner Stevie (Emily Hampshire), the unrequited object of Alexis’s affection Mutt (Tim Rozen) and girlfriend Twyla, and honestly just about everybody of nay note in the show.

 

(image courtesy CBC)

 

This comedy-boosting attention to detailed characterisation pays off bigtime, as does the willingness of Schitt’s Creek to treat everyone with the requisite amount of respect.

So committed to the cause is the show that at one point, when Moira, fresh from getting the same hairstyle of every other woman in town at the local salon, laments once again being in Schitt’s Creek at all.

She’s immediately picked up by Jocelyn who acknowledges that there is a lot the town doesn’t have but that it has a great deal to offer even so and it’s her defense of the show that forces Moira to reconsider her constant carping and explain to Jocelyn why she puts things down so often.

It grounds and humanises both characters, affirms that Schitt’s Creek may be quirky and less-than-ideal in certain ways but that’s still somewhere worth living; neither party is maligned, there’s enough left in the premise to fuel the comedy (which is largely character-driven anyway) and the show moves beyond cheap-and-cheerful set-ups to something far more sophisticated.

And, it must be said, very, very , VERY funny.

If you’ve reached the point with many sitcoms, such as The Big Bang Theory (I love it but it is well past its prime) where your reactions are measured less in uncontrolled guffawing and persistent ringing laughter than the occasional titter and half-baked smile, you’ll delight in the ability of Schitt’s Creek to make you laugh, and laugh hard.

Constantly. Persistently. Episode to exquisitely well-wrought episode.

It rarely drops the comedic baton, takes well-worn narrative and character tropes and spins them in a whole new light, engrossingly hilarious light, gives a damn about the longevity of its characters and understands that good comedy must have some humanity and substances to it if it’s going to have kind of longevity (three seasons and counting).

It’s not always absolutely perfect but what show is, and it gets it rights, and hilariously so, far more than many other sitcoms on air at the moment, proof that you can indeed teach an old genre new tricks and make it funny into the bargain,.

 

 

 

Radius: Don’t come near me or you’ll die (trailer)

(poster courtesy official Radius Facebook page)

 

SNAPSHOT
Co-directed by filmmakers Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard, Radius is about a guy who wakes up from an accident with no memory and an unfortunate power: if anyone ventures too close to him, they die instantly. (synopsis (c) Gizmodo)

With the current deluge of superhero films showing no signs of abating, audiences have become well used to people from diverse walks of life being gifted with all kinds of extraordinary power.

Spiderman? Once good old Pete Parker, now web-slinger extraordinaire. The Atom (Ray Palmer) inherited the ability to change his size after some experiments with matter compression. And The Fantastic Four? One trip to space and they’re nothing like the people they once were.

 

 

But the protagonist in Radius, played with trademark taciturn vulnerability by Diego Klattenhoff (Homeland, The Blacklist, Pacific Rim), has no such luck – though to be fair, none of the aforementioned superheroes were quite sure what to do with their powers at first either; still at least they were mortally wounding to anyone around them so there’s that – ending up with a shellshocked memory and a field around him that kills anyone who gets too close.

It’s frightening, horrifically disorienting, and comes with all manner of nightmarish implications.

According to Gizmodo, “the buzz from festival screenings hasn’t been great” but it’s such a clever, out there premise with kinds of existentially angsty implications, that you really hope everyone who saw it was just having a really bad day.

Not as bad as the Radius guy, of course but then honestly, who is?

Radius has so far screened at Fantasia Film Festival (Canada), Horror Channel FrightFest (UK) and Fantastic Fest (USA); no mainstream release details are currently available.