The Library is alive! Let the amusing chaotic fun begin … (S4 trailer)

(image via IMP Awards)

 

I have longed shows with a quirky, comedic bent that know they’re goofy and over the top and unselfconsciously run with it.

Shows like Warehouse 13 and Eureka gave us punchy, emotionally-engaging storytelling and characters you cared about all bedded down in a wildly and colourfully zany premise, and succeeded spectacularly because they know what they were and made glorious, merry fun with it.

The Librarians, which began as a series of telemovies in the mid-Noughties has more than ably jumped into the void created by the cancellation of these two shows, delivering in its three seasons to date, a deliriously silly, witty but decidedly clever blend of mythology, swashbuckling derringdo and some engaging emotional resonance.

Now, it’s back for season 4 and this time, it’s the Library itself is at the centre of the action as The TV Addict notes:

“But the season-long arc will revolve around the Library itself. With Charlene no longer tethered to the mythical place, one Librarian and one Guardian must tie themselves to the Library so that it can remain grounded to humanity. Jenkins will organize the Tethering Ceremony (which you can get a glimpse of in the video below), which will bond Flynn and Eve to the Library forever and grant them immortality.”

As ever, we will be treated to some creatively outlandish fun plot ideas – Santa’s brother anyone? Perhaps an infestation of Civil War ghosts? – delightful character interactions between the team and a welcoming sense in our current grim and decidedly un-fun world that life can be pretty magical after all.

Or you know, too much in which case, call The Librarians!

The Librarians season 4 premieres with two back-to-back episodes (including a Christmas-themed tale) on 20 December on TNT.

 

Book review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

(cover art courtesy Penguin Books Australia)

 

We are the products of our life experiences.

Even the most empathetic among us is subconsciously influenced by personal worldviews which inform how we interpret everything that anyone says or does to or around us, complicating how we respond to another’s life circumstances that divert greatly from our own.

Quite how true this is becomes apparent well into John Green’s beautifully insightful new novel, Turtles all the Way Down, when the protagonist Aza, an Indianapolis teenager with an almost debilitating case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is sitting with David Pickett, a rich childhood friend whose father, accused of substantial fraud, has just gone missing.

Having grown so close that they are effectively boyfriend and girlfriend – though any confirmation of that status is almost always stymied by Aza’s crippling fear of the germs she will ingest when she kisses the sweetly adorable Davis – and having witnessed Aza’s struggle to not be subsumed by her spiraling, ever-tightening thoughts, you would think that Davis, as understanding as they come, would have come to grips with how his proto-sweetheart sees the world.

“I hadn’t visited the Pickett estate in many years, and it had grown even more majestic. The sand traps of the golf course were newly raked. The cart path we drove on had no cracks or bumps. Newly planted maple trees lined the path. But mostly I just saw endless grass, weedless, freshly mown into a diamond pattern. The Pickett estate was silent, sterile, and endless–like a newly built housing subdivision before actual people move into it. I loved it.” (P. 29)

But it becomes obvious as Aza finds spills on her inability to often rein in her runaway thoughts, that taunt her with horrific possibilities of infection and death, a smorgasboard of nasty “what ifs”, should she fail to comply with their irrational demands, that Davis doesn’t fully comprehend what she’s going through.

It doesn’t make Davis a bad or unsympathetic person of course since none of us can fully put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; what it does illustrate, and in the quietly powerful way that infuses much of Green’s first book since 2012’s The Fault in our Stars, is how difficult it can be to fully understand someone else’s life experience.

Especially when it comes to mental illness, which despite increasing awareness out in the community and the slow dissolution of many taboos, is still poorly understood by many people.

That’s why Turtles All the Way Down, which comes imbued with Green’s own experience of OCD which adds a profoundly richness and authenticity to the story, is such an important novel, quite apart from being an absolutely immersively enjoyable read.

 

 

It takes us into the heart and mind of someone with OCD, granting us as much of a familiarity as we can have with the way the condition plays havoc with someone’s life.

As Green tells it, and he tells it against the backdrop of Aza’s growing relationship with Davis, her best friendship with the the talkative, mostly patient Daisy, her loving mum, who’s over protective only because she feels powerless much of the time to meet Aza where she really is, and the travails of high school life, there is a constant battle going on between truth and falsehoods, the rational and the irrational, all powered by the insistent drumbeat of the “what ifs” that, if ignored, will lead to rack and ruin on a possibly life-ending scale.

If you’ve ever wondered why someone with OCD simply doesn’t snap out of it – as someone who has struggled with anxiety issues since childhood, I’m realise how facile a response that is to very real, very dark at times, mental health issues – Turtles All the Way Down, opens the curtain with grace, understanding and the kind of emotional thoughtfulness for which Green has justifiably become renowned.

“‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Yeah, totally. Just want to …’ I was trying to think of what a normal person would say, like maybe if I could just say and do whatever normal people say and do, then he would believe me to be one, or maybe that I could even become one.” (P. 180)

His characters, though young in age, speak with customary Green-esque zeal and intelligence, their ruminations on life, love and all the messy, uncontrollable parts inbetween far above those of mere mortals.

But such is Green’s truthfulness and way of capturing the intensity of teenagerhood, amplified in AZA’s case by her OCD and increasingly desperate desire to be “normal”, that you completely buy into the authenticity of their situation.

Throw in the author’s gift from stories that move along at a brisk rate but never feel rushed – although you could argue it does become a little slowed down and repetitive at some points, though never fatally so – and you have in Turtles All the Way Down, compelling evidence of life’s complicated nature but that there is a way to emerge on the other side.

What is so reassuring to anyone who has ever dealt with mental illness, and those who love them looking on, is that any recovery is never smooth, endlessly upward or Hollywood perfect.

Rather it’s bound to be messy, full of backward steps, mired in self-doubt and a thousand miles so neatly realised but it is possible to solve mysteries – part of the narrative concerns Aza and Daisy’s amateur sleuthing to find Davis’s dad – succeed at school and be a good friend and daughter even when you are battling invasive thoughts that seem to brook no interference.

Green writes so beautifully and with such understanding of what it’s like to be a teenager and deal with mental illness, and what progress really looks and feels like, that you emerge charmed by Aza’s charming honesty, sobered by the enemy she constantly fights within, but ultimately hopeful that there is a way out, even if it’s not the unflawed happily ever after that many of us long for.

Animation Evolution: How CGI profoundly changed the way cartoons tell stories (video essay)

(image (c) Pixar / Disney)

 

SNAPSHOT
When CGI took over animation in the late 1990s, it didn’t just upgrade the visuals of the medium: it helped transform the way animated stories are told. In this video, I trace the progression of American animated films from conservative fairy tales to liberal allegories. (synopsis (c) Just Write)

OOOO

https://io9.gizmodo.com/fascinating-video-explores-how-cgi-might-have-changed-a-1818687370?IR=T

 

Weekend pop art: Thor Ragnarok’s colourful character posters

Thor (image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
In Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok, Thor will arrive in Asgard after hearing about trouble in his home world, and when he arrives he finds Loki’s style of ruling (while impersonating Odin) has led to some lapses in the rules and leads to the freeing of prisoner Hela. Thor and Hela naturally come to blows when they meet, which sees Thor “blasted” to Sakaar, described as “a barbaric planet ruled by the charming but nefarious Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).” There he meets Valkyrie, who is hiding out on the planet, and brings him to the Grandmaster to make him a gladiator, where he meets the most popular competitor in the arena, The Hulk, and loses his trademark hair and hammer.

Thor: Ragnarok will feature the return of Chris Hemsworth as the God of Thunder himself, with Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Idris Elba as Heimdall and Sir Anthony Hopkins again portraying Odin. Cate Blanchett plays the mysterious and powerful new villain Hela, Jeff Goldblum stars as the eccentric Grandmaster, Tessa Thompson will bring the classic hero Valkyrie to life, and Karl Urban will add his might to the fray as Skurge. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Everything about Thor: Ragnarok looks way larger than life, not to mention a magnitude of a thousand degrees removed from our place in space and time, and so it makes sense that the character posts would be big, bright and eye-catchingly colourful.

The posters depict the good guys, the bad guys and the morally equivalent guys (here’s looking at you Loki; yeah, yeah you’re the best part of every Thor film and you know it) in all their action-oriented glory, with the air around seeming to part in a blaze of colour and glory.

It will be interesting to see if the epic grandeur of the film matches the overwhelming vivacity of this promotional artwork but somehow I suspect it will, with all the trailers indicating that Thor: Ragnarok will be every bit as big, engrossing and immersive as we’ve been led to expect.

Thor: Ragnarok opens 26 October Australia and 3 November USA.

 

Loki (image via IMP Awards)

 

Hela (image via IMP Awards)

 

Valkyrie (image via IMP Awards)

 

Grandmaster (image via IMP Awards)

 

Heimdall (image via IMP Awards)

 

Odin (image via IMP Awards)

Book review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

(cover art courtesy Harper-Collins Australia)

 

It’s hard not to fall in love with Eleanor Oliphant.

True, at first, she’s socially awkward, judgmental and cleaves to routine like it’s a liferaft in a stormy sea (you soon discover that’s exactly what it is) and is as alone as a person can get.

But as Gail Honeyman’s exquisitely well-told and infinitely heartwarmingly redemptive debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine progresses, you not only discover why she’s locked down so tight no one and nothing (bar copious amounts of vodka) can get in, but that she’s also possessed of a refreshing honesty, a desire for the truth (though that is deeply buried and takes some getting at) and a need, though not a consciously-expressed one, to reinvent herself from her scarred heart all the way up to her very limited wardrobe.

Thirty-one-year-old Eleanor is, in any sense of the phrase, “damaged goods”, the product of a childhood so emotionally-abusive and traumatic that it’s any wonder she survived at all.

But survive she did, and as you come to know and trust me, love, Eleanor Oliphant, you come to understand why it is she is way she is and how survival never really equates to truly living for someone who has gone through that kind of hell growing up.

“Pain is easy; pain is something with which I am familiar. I went into the little white room within my head, the one that’s the colour of clouds. It smells of clean cotton and baby rabbits. The air inside the room is palest almond pink, and the loveliest music plays. Today, it was “Top of the World” by The Carpenters. That beautiful voice … she sounds so blissful, so full of love. Lovely, lucky Karen Carpenter.” (P. 16)

The remarkable thing is that for her dissociation from the usual social norms and life experiences – she’s only been to one dance aged 13, doesn’t understand what it’s like to go out with friends, to be honest because she hasn’t really had friends and completely misinterprets the kind of gift you given someone on a significant birthday, or any birthday really – she is a likable, loveable person who isn’t wantonly cruel with her honest assessments of people and situations; she has been, simply out, walled off from the sorts of things most of us take for granted like family gatherings and touches of affection, and has never really progressed beyond a certain emotional and social point as a result.

But Eleanor, though she doesn’t know it when she gets to know Raymond, the IT guy from her work who’s affable, kindhearted and a little bit slobbish, is ready for change, ready to press play after years on a frigid and life-stultifying, if protective, pause, and eager to get going on the rest of her life.

It takes some time for her, and frankly you’re happy for her to take all the time she needs given the eccentric delight she is to spend time with, to come to grips with the deeply-sealed away pain and an unexpected lust for change and renewal.

But as she does so, and Honeyman stages the renewal in quite authentic, piecemeal-sized moments that ring true and are all the more touching and affecting for that, you realise just how much Eleanor has lost, and yet with Raymond, and the family of the man she and Raymond help one day, now in her life, just how she has to gain.

 

(cover art courtesy Harper Collins)

 

What stops Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine from being a treacle-laden tale of overly-romanticised twee – not that it is, at any point you can rest assured, in any danger of that thanks to Honeyman’s confident and assured writing that beautifully balances the harsh realities of life with its softer, more hopeful and recently-unveiled moments – is the way Eleanor changes by degree, not in some overly-unrealistic road to Damascus moment, coming, step-by-step to grips with the many coping mechanisms, delusions and childhood constructs that are inhibiting the more adult expression of her life.

As she and Raymond draw closer as friends and a range of hitherto unknown social and emotional experiences reawaken Eleanor to the magical possibilities of life – even public transport takes on a rosier, less judgmental glow – she comes to appreciate that to get to where she now wants to go, she is going to have to go back and reacquaint much of the harrowing past that shut her down in the first place.

It’s those dark parts of her never-discussed past, the stinging reminders of which fill her pain anew every time she talks to her mother, who appears to be in some sort of institution and rings her daughter every Wednesday to torment and revile her just as she’s done all her life (she’s a wicked creation on every level), that shape the final half of the book when all of Eleanor’s progress is stymied by pain, grief and anger that at that point, has no discernible source.

“She [his mum] looked at him [Raymond] with so much love that I had to turn away. At least I know what love looks like, I told myself. That’s something. No one ever looked at me like that, but I’d be able to recognise if they ever did.” (P. 106)

But after reaching rock bottom and coming close to losing everything, Eleanor, helped along by the indefatigable friendship, and possible love of Raymond – it’s his friendship that means the world to our progtagonist who has never known that kind of companionship – slowly but surely and with consummate bravery and tenacity and some moments of deftly-placed black humour, begins to rebuild a life that was, until now, held together by routine, vodka and an iron will for survival.

Lest you think Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – spoiler alert: she’s actually not; we know that, of course but it takes a while for Eleanor to come to the party (quite literally on two instances) – is a dark and drudgerous trudge through one person’s horrific past, there is quite a lot of laugh out loud humour threaded throughout, much of it derived from Eleanor’s confronting honesty with others, and later on, herself.

Having stared existential hell in the face, and somehow survived – you realise what a remarkable achievement that is as her story unravels and is put back together again – Eleanor, better than anyone, knows how wasteful it is to expend energy on pointless tasks and social interactions.

But she also learns that it’s many of those social interactions, those emotional touchpoints that inform and enrich life, and you will fall in love with Eleanor each and every time she finds something new in life, something reinvigorates and reawakens her and in turn reassures her that there is more to life than simply getting through it.

If you have ever suffered any kind of trauma in life, and shut down to cope with it only to find you’ve lost a great deal doing so – as a child horrifically bullied all my life at school, I can well understand Eleanor’s desire to screen out the more brutal, nightmarish qualities of life – you will find much to identify with and love about this book.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a joy – a fun, vibrant all-too-real, weirdly unusual, deliriously funny and superbly well-written nuanced joy – that introduces us to the befores and afters of one sadly-damaged but ultimately good, quirky, sweet, funny, honest person, and reminds us in ways both hilarious and sobering that life may, at some points, take a great deal from us, but that it can, in time, also give a great deal back, and leave us unexpectedly transformed in the process.

 

Coco: How did Pixar’s next masterpiece come to be? (featurette + clip)

(image via IMP Awards)

 

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

If there is one thing you can be absolutely sure of when you see a Pixar film – OK there’s definitely more than one; think brilliantly-realised characters, catchy music, emotional resonance, captivating narratives and honestly you could go on and on,and if you let me, I will – it’s how passion is poured into each and very film.

It’s damn near palpable on the screen.

You get the feeling as movies like Inside Out and Toy Story tell their enchanting and gently instructive tales that their creators have gone to enormous trouble to make every last detail as authentic, rich and real as possible, even if the world the film inhabits has been created from scratch.

Such is most definitely the case with Coco, as the warm and information-rich featurette and an accompanying clip convey, with the production team behind what must surely be Pixar’s next cinematic masterpiece, talking about how much effort was expanded in ensuring that the world of Coco and its beguiling characters is as true to life as possible.

Coco opens 22 November USA and 26 December Australia.

 

 

Now this is music #98: courtship., TOULOUSE, DENM, What’s So Not, R3hab and Quintino, Siobhan Sainte

 

Harmonies. Attitude. Intensity. Euphoric escape.

They may not seem to have much in common but all of them talk of life, of distilling the part of it that you are at that moment in time and living it, breathing it, being it.

In other words, having a pulse.

All five of these amazing artists have immense talent, a gift for marrying melody and message to compelling effect, in the process reminding you that your heart is still beating and you are alive.

Who doesn’t want that from the music they listen to?

 

“Tell Me Tell Me” by courtship.

 

courtship. (image courtesy official courtship. Facebook page)

 

Hailing from the sunny climes of Los Angeles, Eli and Micah, who rather creatively eschew capitalisation of their first names in their Facebook info, have a gift for crafting insanely infectious pop tunes.

Song after song lodging itself tenaciously in your earworm with “Tell Me, Tell Me” another entry in their growing catalogue of lushly addictive tracks that draw on tight knit harmonies, beguiling insistent melodies and an otherworldly sense that their songs could very well take you away to somewhere a good while away from the everyday.

“Tell Me, Tell Me” especially possesses a lovely tropical lilt, a vibe that suggests balmy evenings on the seashore, lights festooned above you, wine and beers flowing freely and the companionship and laughter of good friends.

It’s perfect world removed from your own music, the perfect accompaniment to those moments when your usual reality is paused and you go somewhere altogether different, just for the night.

 

 

“Man From Pennsylvania” by TOULOUSE

 

TOULOUSE 9image courtesy official TOULOUSE Facebook page)

 

Pssst! Have I got a secret for you.

Well actually TOULOUSE, the Nigerian-born, New York City-based singer-songwriter and producer, does and he’s wrapped it up in the most deliciously sublime piece of pop you’ve heard in a while.

Zipping around the US from Pennsylvania to Chicago to Monterey to waitresses standing in the rain, this is a song that grants gossip a fair bit of condemnatory opprobrium all laid over some gorgeous mid-tempo soul.

We Are: The Guard describes it “soul with a social conscience” and it’s all that and more, the perfect mix of substance and soul beauty that will have you grooving along in no time.

 

 

“Bless Your Heart” by DENM

 

DENM (photo courtesy official DENM Facebook page)

 

Santa Barbara’s own DENM continues to gift with songs possessed of rich melody, abiding humanity and what We Are: The Guard calls a mix of “beach pop and dance music”.

“Bless Your Heart” also serves up some deeply romantic longings with the artist making a determinedly upbeat pitch for the heart of a girl who’s nothing like all the people around her which works out perfectly since DENM says he’s a breed apart to you.

Sure there’s some playful confidence at work in the loping bright slice of pop but can you blame the guy? He’s trying to woo the girl of his dreams and if he’s going to succeed some bold overreaching is just what St Valentine ordered.

Honestly if I was the object of his affection, this song alone would be reason to say a great big, non-regretful “YES”.

 

 

“I Just Can’t” by R3HAB and Quintino

 

R3HAB and Quintino (image courtesy HulkShare)

 

Bouncing in with some effervescently staccato notes that speak of giddy escapist fun in just a bar or two, “I Just Can’t”, blending the talents of Dutch DJs R3hab (Fadil El Ghoul) and Quintino (Quinten van den Berg) to usher a song that is the perfect soundtrack to an Aussie summer.

Or if you’re in the northern hemisphere, a way to recall the heady drays of summer as you head into winter.

The song is lush, danceable pop that captures a whole lot of wonderful in a very short, snappy song, as Dancing Astronaut notes:

“‘I Just Can’t’ is introduced with a tropical summer vibe. Cunning, silky smooth, and warm vocals enhance this sure-fire anthem, whose drop also features relaxing synths and pads that pulsate to superbly chopped vocal samples. ‘I Just Can’t’ captures the season perfectly, allowing for an easy transition into fall.”

Want to get away, lose yourself in some transcendental, exuberantly upbeat music? Power up “I Just Can’t” and go wherever the euphoric muse takes you.

 

 

“Burn it Down” by Siobhan Sainte

 

Siobhan Sainte (image courtesy official Siobhan Sainte Facebook page)

 

Jumping away from giddy upbeat escapism, “Burn it Down” by New Zealander Siobhan Sainte which is all intensely, slo-mo propelled pop, punctuated by a insistent beats and some attractive attitude that burrows its way through the song with appealing brio.

Possessing a powerhouse voice that deftly moves from belting it out to growling swear word-laced menace, Sainte imbues the song with an immersive menace that is a thousand kinds of sultry, burning moody intoxicating grunginess.

Redolent with the sense of someone taking no prisoners and more than ably standing up for themselves, the song is suffused to the rafters with a trippy, quirky melody that ducks and weaves, jumps out, pull itself back in, always keep an air of jagged moodiness percolating through it.

It’s a darkly addictive song that gets under your skin and trust me, you won’t be seeking to dislodge it anytime soon.

 

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

One of my favourite 80s bands is a-Ha, a Norwegian group who rose to fame on the pop wonderment of “Take on Me”. Now they have recorded the iconic song, along with a number of others, for a new album of acoustic version, MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice, which released 13 October. (source: Laughing Squid)

 

 

The loss of Robin Williams three years ago was a great loss for many people. While nothing can really make up for his all-too-early departure from the world, gems like this footage from a tribute to legendary music promoter Bill Graham can take us back, if only for a moment to a world inhabited and filled with Williams’ gift for rapid-fire insanely hilarious humour.

You can watch his superlative performance at Paste Magazine.

The short and the short of it: Eddie, a darkly clever tale of a zombie lab test subject

(artwork (c) John Lynch)

 

SNAPSHOT
Deep underground, a second-rate scientist mans a discarded research facility struggling to cope with extreme boredom, a desperate voiceless companion and a mystery he’d really rather not have to solve…

Directed by John Lynch, and written by Jon Williams-Nobbs & John Lynch, Eddie is a proof-of-concept short for a feature project set in the same universe. (synopsis via Vimeo)

Eddie is proof positive that just when you think the modern zombie genre has said everything original it can say, that it finds a way to surprise you.

Set at a decommissioned research facility of in the bleak wastes of nowheresville, the short film, which is intended to be the harbinger of a feature film to come, examines what happens to the human psyche when it’s you, a lone undead subject of study and no contact with the outside world.

Funny and profoundly disturbing in equal measure, it explores the limits of humanity in ways that are quite clever, insightful and emotionally resonant, anchored by fine performances by Alan Mandel as Eddie, and Johnny Vivash as the scientists who grows slowly and dramatically mad as the existential pointlessness of the task at hand becomes increasing hard to cope with.

It is part of a fine tradition of zombie storytelling that acknowledges and runs with the idea that the arrival of the undead says as much about those living as it does about hordes of animated corpses coming to feast on them.

Every book, movie and TV show, of which there are many in the zombie genre, ultimately has as it focus an exploration of the human condition and Eddie is no different, giving us an impressively original examination of what happens when the living and the dead come together.

Spoiler alert: It’s everything you expect and nothing at all, gloriously compelling right to its thoroughly unexpected end.

For a full review, check out UK Film review

 

Comics review: I Hate Fairyland

(image courtesy Image Comics)

 

Gertrude is one sick, twisted, murderously-narcissistic individual.

But then the odds are pretty good that you would be too if you’d tumbled into the sugar-drenched delights of Fairyland, where fauns and Giggle Giants and sentient moons and stars romp, at the age of 6 and spent 30 years trying to get the hell back out, with the magic key that could make escape possible proving maddeningly elusive.

Literally maddening.

The demented, green-haired protagonist of Skottie Young’s deliciously-warped excursion into the suspect delights of wonderment and storytelling merrymaking, I Hate Fairyland, Gertrude has been sent loudly and viciously mad (no such thing in her lexicon of daily, spleen-venting fury) by an inability to find the key that will open the door that will take her back to her pink rug-adorned, plush animal scattered bedroom where at the tender age of 6 she wished she could be in Fairyland forever.

Be careful what you wish for huh Gertrude?

For now, Gertrude, ostensibly a “guest” in Fairyland, is a 37 year old trapped in a kid’s body, all violence, aggression and murderous intent who only wants to get home, a prospect complicated now by the fact that she doesn’t even know what home will be like.

Will she revert to being a 6 year old? Will she stay as she is in which watch out parents? Or will she, as seems increasingly likely, never get there at all, rendering all that fevered conjecture moot?

It’s enough to do anyone’s head, and Gertrude’s is well and truly done in and showing no signs of recovery any time soo, if ever, much to the dismay of her jaded Fairyland companion Larry Wentsworth III, who is bound to her until she finds her way home, and Queen Cloudia, the ruler of Fairyland who rightly views Gertrude’s psychopathic murderous rampages as a threat to Fairyland’s general candy-coloured bonhonie and bliss.

 

(image courtesy Image Comics)

 

If this all sounds weirdly bleak and a tad too dark for you, Young manages to make it all hilarious, dementedly, fantastically funny.

So funny in fact that when you come across zombie fauns – yep it’s The Walking Dead meets cute pan-pipe playing half-human, half-goats and it’s brilliantly over the top twisted as you might expect – or cute pink teddy bear-like creatures ripped the hearts of our fearsome dragons, you can’t help but laugh out loud at the imaginative absurdity of it all.

What makes the take of a violent psychopathic 6 year old/not 6 year old so profoundly entertaining is the way Young perfectly balances out-and-out technicolour insanity with some good old fashioned heart and soul.

Not too much mind since this is a grand postmodern fairyale-subverting pic that rightly calls into question many of the sweeter-than-sweet qualities we have ascribed to Fairyland in the post-Disney era, many, if not all of which were not present in Grimm’s dark, all-too-real tales of life in more magical times.

In fact, in playing an epic game of subvert the hell out of fairytale tropes, writer/artist Young, ably assisted by colourist Nate Piekos, gleefully puts many of these squeaky clean “Wish upon a star” (too late – they’re all dead now) to a timely death, injecting some good old fashioned bleakness back into all those happy tales of fairies and lands made of icecream and sherbert and teddy bears gamboling along.

The world of I Hate Fairyland very much looks the part, with trippy, imaginative lands and colourful, garrulous creatures, but as Gertrude continues her blood-soaked path home, and even for a time sits upon the throne (how is best not revealed her but suffice to say it works out badly for our diminutive psychopath as most things do), you realise that beneath all that eye-searing colour and sugar-coated utopian idyll lies a dark, beating heart.

Could it be that it’s not only Gertrude who’s on the far side of reasonable, kind humanity but a whole lot of other, ostensibly lovely denizens of Fairyland? Could the good, luminously bright characters of Fairyland be the ones who corrupted the young girl in the first place?

It’s all a bit chicken and the egg but oh what fun Young has with his incredibly rich premise, taking us from cute to nasty to fluffy to a thousand kinds of cruel, often on the same page and always with winning, crowd-pleasing effect.

It may not be your grandmother’s idea of a fairytale, but there’s a fair bit you’re great-great-great-great grandmother would have totally got with the life is ferociously nasty/salutary lesson/humourous vibe of I Hate Fairyland.

 

(image courtesy Image Comics)

 

The trick with any postmodern subversion of much-loved tropes is making it as entertaining as the original.

There’s no point in being clevely subversive if all you succeed in doing is being unremittingly bleak and negative; once your limited array of sniping jokes is depleted, people quickly turn away, repelled by what is essentially a thoroughly-disagreeable one trick parody pony.

Where I Hate Fairyland succeeds, and succeeds brilliantly, is the way it manages to make this alternate take on the fairytales we know and love, and many we don’t but wish we did, such a gloriously entertaining entity in its own right.

The depth and breadth of the various lands and characters in Fairyland is such that even when Gertude, in another of her murderous fits of pique, lays waste to this group of people or this picturesque village, you’re rapt with wonder and beguiled by the shared transportive colourful fun of it all.

Sure there’s a dark undercurrent, and not just when Gertrude is out and about, but all around is a world so lushly pretty and fairy floss beaitful that you can well understand why other kids like perpetually-upbeat Joy and dragon-garbed Duncan find falling into Fairyland, initially at least, as such a giddy departure from their earthbound realities.

In other words, Fairyland may be dark and flawed and more than a little broken, but it’s also freaking delightful, colourful and blissfully eye-appealing and that makes all the darkly subversive, bleakly twisted moments work like a charm.

It’s clear that Young’s masterful approach has struck a chord with the first issue attracting a 8.6/10 from 21 critics at Comic Book Roundup and subsequent issues selling every bit as strongly, with the third collection of Gertrude’s viciously comical adventure out this last week.

Not everyone will want their fairytales with a side order of bile and a banquet of death and mayhem, but if you’re willing to play with convention, all while gloriously embracing it in a wry and amusing way, you’ll find a great deal to love and laugh about I Hate Fairyland, the tale of one little girl, a place that has more going on than meets the gaudiness-assaulted eye and which is the perfect balance between who we are, who it might be fun to be and that awkward place in the middle where most of us end up, like it or not.

 

(image courtesy Image Comics)

Shada: Tom Baker’s Doctor Who has been lost for a long, long time

(image courtesy official Doctor Who Online Twitter account)

 

SNAPSHOT
“Shada” finds the Doctor in Cambridge working alongside companion Romana and retired Time Lord, Professor Chronotis, to defeat the evil alien Skagra who is attempting to steal the secrets to the prison planet, “Shada”.

You would be hard pressed to disagree with the fact that Douglas Adams, the much lamented and greatly missed author of legedarily iconic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Doctor Who are both giants of the pop culturesphere. (Yes that is now a thing, and yes, you may refer to it as such as whim takes you.)

So the idea of joining them together, especially when my second favourite Doctor Who ever, #4 played by Tom Baker – sorry good sir but I cannot deny the considerable charms of Tenth Doctor David Tennant – was firmly ensconsed in the TARDIS makes brilliant sense. I mean who could disagree with a such a sublimely imaginative combination?

Precisely no one, of course; alas, circumstances conspired back in November 1979 when a BBC strike meant that the studio filming needed to complete the episode, intended as the celebratory finale of the 17th series, was never completed as Tom Baker relates:

“‘Shada’ was one of my favourite Doctor Who stories. I have many fond memories of shooting the location scenes in Cambridge, and it was disappointing not to finish the story in studio. I’m so glad that BBC Worldwide have found a way to bring fans a complete visual version.” (Doctor Who Online)

 

 

In a bid to bring give the Douglas Adams-penned episode the release it deserves, the team who gave us the lost Doctor Who episode, “The Power of the Daleks” and lost Dad’s Army episode “A Stripe For Frazer” are hard at work restoring “Shada” to its originally-intended glory, using the voices of the original actors:

“The team have had access to nearly seven hours of raw footage from the original 1979 Shada shoot from which they are editing the new production from scratch, with all the original film negatives re-scanned in full HD and digitally remastered.” (Doctor Who Online)

This augurs well for a stunning telling of this story, bringing Douglas Adams and everyone’s favourite Time Lord together at last for everyone to see.

‘Shada’ will be available as a digital download on 24 November, and on DVD and Bluray on 4 December.