Weekend pop art: What if every TV show starred cats?

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

 

 

Cats are natural born actors.

Sure much of the time they pit their prodigious talents one side in favour of living a boldly authentic life, one which includes turning up their noses at the cat food they normally devour in one sitting and demanding to be out the back door – and only the back door thank you very much! – only to turn on their paws when said door is opened in favour of staying right where they are.

Perhaps that is method acting of the highest order but frankly it seems to be more about cats being cats, long may they live.

But when they do decide to switch on their inner Meowyl Streep or Ryan Gosling-For-Dinner, they are actors of the highest calibre, able to convince us with a few well-aimed plaintive mews or a strategic rubbing of the leg that we must get up and serve them NOW because, well … adorableness.

Thankfully one talented artist, Seattle, Washington, USA-based Cassie Murphy has recognised their innate talent for thespianism and drawn felines as they might appear if someone had simply chosen wisely and cast them in hit shows like Games of Thrones (Game of Sits), Orange is the New Black (Orange is the New Cat) and Orphan Black (Orphan Cat).

It goes without saying that they are Emmy-worthy with the only remaining question being – would casting a show full of cats essentially feel like herding cats, with all its attendant, implied difficulties?

While you’re pondering that, you should go and buy prints of this marvellous artwork from Kitty Cassandra’s Etsy store.

 

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

 

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

 

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

 

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

 

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

Back in The Flash! Everyone’s favourite speedster is returning soon with season 3

Kid Flash joins the speed brigade in the upcoming season of The Flash (image via Den of Geek (c) CW)
Kid Flash joins the speed brigade in the upcoming season of The Flash (image via Den of Geek (c) CW)

 

Oh what a tangled web we weave huh Barry?

When last left everyone’s favourite speedster – although that status could be in danger given how rash he has become of late, his spontaneous, hotheaded decisions causing no end of chaos – he had raced back in time (again), saved – SPOILER ALERT!! – his mum from death at the hands of Zoom (motivated to be fair, in part, by just witnessing his father’s death), and assumed, somewhat erroneously as it turns out, that everything was now well with his world.

Think again Baz.

In fact, the only thing right about the timeline is that his mother is now alive in it; otherwise, everything about his life to this point has been MASSIVELY altered with Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is now the richest man in America, Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher) is behind bars naming the new timeline as Flashpoint, and Wally West is now Kid Flash.

Not only that but Barry’s surrogate dad, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) doesn’t know him, and the great love of his life, Iris (Candice Patton) barely know him.

That’s a whole lotta messing around with the timeline and peoples’ lives and you can only hope that, should he able to undo his latest time-meddling blunder – he’s warned in the Comic-Con trailer that he needs to otherwise Bad Things Will Happen – that he’ll have finally learned his lesson.

No doubt things will end up happily – they’ll always seem to in The Flash which is one of the reasons it’s such an appealing show; gritty yes but warm and fuzzy too – but getting to that happy place, and trust me Barry will come to the point where he realises his current happiness is a fabricated illusion, could be real messy.

We find out just how messy when The Flash season 3 premieres on 4 October on CW.

 

 

Mars: National Geographic takes us on a breathtakingly expansive journey

(image via YouTube (c) National Geographic)
(image via YouTube (c) National Geographic)

 

SNAPSHOT
The year is 2033, and mankind’s first manned mission to Mars is about to become reality. This is the story of how we make Mars home, told by the pioneers making it possible. (synopsis via YouTube)

There are a lot of people trying to get to Mars at the moment.

Not immediately of course but eventually NASA, Mars One and SpaceX all want to get people to Mars, to live, work, explore and push the boundaries of human possibility.

The aim of course is to make an multi-planetary species, freed from the bonds of Earth alone – though to be fair it has been very good to us; we however in return haven’t exactly returned the favour – and ready to fulfill a potential that has been us zip from ground-dwelling monkeys to cave dwellers to iPad-tapping 21st century denizens of the cyber world.

Who knows where we will eventually end up?

For now National Geographic, in partnership with Ron Howard and Brian Glazer, are content to take us to Mars, with a six part miniseries that wonders what an expedition to the red planet might look like in 2033.

Blending documentary and sci-fi drama to stunning effect, Mars gives us an imaginative look at what a trip of this magnitude and ambition might look like with input from a bevy of current experts including Neil DeGrasse Tyson, The Martian author Andy Weir and Elon Musk.

It’s unlikely that very many of us will make the actual trip to Mars but through this inventive, creative take on what it might be like – Ron Howard has remarked the aim was to “bring it to life in a really dramatic and cinematic way”; mission accomplished by the looks of things – we get a taste of what lies ahead for some lucky members of the human race.

Mars screens throughout November on National Geographic in 171 countries and 45 languages around the world.

(source: io9)

 

The short and the short of it: A Love Story that urges us to cultivate a better world

(image via YouTube (c) Chipotle)
(image via YouTube (c) Chipotle)

 

I am not usually a fan of promoting brand campaigns since creative though they might be, they are still, in the end, an ad designed to sell product.

But there is something about this ad for Chipotle, which frankly could use all the help it can get in the light of recent rolling food safety issues, that is ridiculously, sweet, touching and just plain adorable.

And it’s part of a deliberate campaign to mention Chipotle without actually mentioning Chipotle, according to their director of brand marketing, Mark Shambura (quoted on Mashable).

“If we can create entertainment without a ton of branding, and we can integrate our values into it rather than making it about Chipotle, we believe people will…pay attention to it more.”

This delightful short film ultimately celebrates love sweet love and shows that in the end, all that matters is ensuring the purity of your passion, both for people and life callings, is preserved.

Watch it and be reminded of what’s important … and oh yeah, Chipotle may possible sorta kinda maybe wants you to go buy a burrito too.

 

Comics review: Wacky Raceland (issues 1 & 2)

(image courtesy DC Comics)
(image courtesy DC Comics)

 

The apocalypse is upon us once again, bringing it with a radically different take, not to mention three-headed mutants, on Hanna-Barbera’s classic late ’60s road race, Wacky Races.

The somewhat still-playful title aside, this is a considerably darker take on the cartoon series which featured 11 cars, 23 characters (and some rather bold unsportsmanlike behaviour), all of whom were racing for some ill-defined reason which spurred them on to risk everything to get to the finish line first.

There’s no such mystery in Wacky Raceland, which takes place on a ruined Earth, a scorched radioactive wasteland beset by the aforementioned zombie-esque mutants with a taste for human flesh, nanite dust storms that strip you bare faster than a swarm of piranhas and an environment so bespoiled that no amount of weekend working bees by the neighbours will restore it.

Into this accursed world, a hidden controlling entity called The Announcer, calls all the shots, plucking the 11 cars, all of whom are now AI-sentient, and their drivers and passengers from situations where death was certain and solutions perilously thin on the ground.

That’s not to say that being “saved” by The Announcer, who is rumoured to be a lot of things including a twisted murderous Führer of some kind, is any kind of blessing; not in the long-term at least.

Yes you are saved from certain death and your car becomes its own class of souped-up self-aware being but your survival beyond that rests on winning a series of races and gaining entry to Utopia, a blissful world which is the last bastion of humanity in a world long ago left in ruins at its hands.

So the racers, all of whom retain their names if not their looks, which now have a decidedly Mad Max-ian edge, and their ruthlessness to win – if you recall, everyone went to a great deal of trouble to win in the Wacky Races with some fairly cutthroat tactics employed; it’s not as squeaky clean and cute as you remember – and their quirky names.

Dick Dastardly and Muttley naturally are front and centre, still unable to win a race (most of the time) to save themselves (literally), with Penelope Pitstop, a ruggedly though pink-accented feminist with no need for anyone and a huge amount of bioneural augmentation, often racing ahead and holding her own in a bar fight thank you very much.

We also encounter everyone from a transgender Sergeant Blast still with Private Meekly, a mutant-lloking Ant Hill Mob and a very angry Ant Hill Mob with everyone present and accounted for, and liable to be consumed by Africanized Battlejackets on the whim of The Announcer.

It’s the apocalypse with race cars and aggrieved survivors and no one is looking to make friends or influence people; kill them perhaps but not befriend them with every phrase uttered either a defiant declaration of warlike aggression or a rallying cry to violence.

 

(image courtesy DC Comics)
(image courtesy DC Comics)

 

Though Wacky Raceland may sound a million miles form its goofy predecessor of almost 50 years before, it retains quite a bit of the tropes and narrative momentum that made the show a whole lot of (repetitive) fun to watch.

The characters are, of course, all present and accounted for and still raring to win; granted they’re are now considerably more apt to annihilate rather than waylay their competitors since life itself is at stake, but the spirit of competition is much the same.

So too is Dick Dastardly willingness to do whatever it takes to win and his failure to make good on that intent.

While his do-or-die, ethically-free motivation to win at all costs which powered him throughthe original series is now that of all his competitors, rendering him less clearly marked out as a class-A baddy, he is an existential mess, saddled with the terrible guilt of watching his wife and son die while he lived safe and sound inside the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.

Penelope Pitstop too still have some of her girlish charm but that’s mostly employed as a way of disarming her enemies who assume a women couldn’t possibly pose any kind of threat.

Think again everyone – Pitstop wants to get to Utopia as badly as anyone and will do whatever it takes to get there.

The freeze frames that marked the cartoon series, which provided you with a chance to see who was placed where in the race, are given a loving nod of the head too, with the lavish artistic renderings by Leonardo Manco matched by writer Ken Pontac cheeky, ballsy commentary.

The series is marked by rather frequent, jagged back and forth action between the past, present and future, each instalment told with the same sort of breathless, messy excitement that marks the comics as a whole.

This is not your childhood cartoon creations reborn so much as obliterated by a nuclear blast and remade from the ground-up, disillusioned, Darwinian to the core and ruthless to the end, and despite scepticism that such a radical departure couldn’t possibly work in light of the fey campness of the original, it does and spectacularly so.

You realise as you’re reading it that if you strip away all the hilarious commentary by, yes an announcer, and the comic set pieces that dotted each episode, Wacky Races and Wacky Raceland share a sizeable amount of storytelling DNA and attitude.

It’s still all about winning the race, although in this new darker, nastier, more brutal though still camp as hell iteration, the stakes are way higher and losing is not something you want to Muttley-snigger about lest you never rise again.

 

Book review: Resistance is Futile by Jenny T. Colgan

(cover image courtesy Hachette Books Australia)
(cover image courtesy Hachette Books Australia)

 

Love can find you in the most unexpected of places.

Even so, if you’re Connie MacAdair, a mathematics prodigy who has spent her entire life in love with numbers and theorems, and reviled in certain quarters as a hopeless nerd as a result, it’s a fair bet you’re not even looking for it.

Not even with old one night stand Sé, who wanted far, far more but fumbled, among the company of top mathematical minds gathered together at the University of Cambridge to solve a riddle so fiendishly difficult that it has stumped even the esteemed astrophysics department and other brilliant minds.

And certainly not when the prestigious scholarship that Connie thought was hers and her alone turning out to be a group prize shared between Sé, Evelyn, Arnold, Ranjit and a distinctly but handsome and strangely appealing man Luke Beith who insists on referring to Connie, possessor of lustrous ginger locks as, naturally enough, “Hair”.

Luke was lying stretched out on his back, staring at the sky. 
“Luke?”
“Hair,” he said dreamily, as if half asleep, not turning his head. He had taken off his glasses, and again those large eyes were dark shadows on his face. Connie followed his gaze. He was staring intently at the clear sky, the stars overshadowed by the moonlight. (P. 36)

The socially-awkward mathematician has far more on her mind that making herself a target for Cupid’s arrows particularly when the data she and her new colleagues-then-friends have to work through then interpret with paper and pen – no computers allowed in a project run by the most secret of the UK’s secret organisations, headed by the dapper, devoted-to-his-cause Nigel – turns out to herald the possible imminent arrival of an alien species from the distant Kepler-186f.

Not that anyone is admitting to that and certainly in front of anyone not cleared for that kind of information.

As Connie and her new friends continue their work in sealed, windowless rooms, and sometimes at their reasonably lavish accommodation on campus, she begins to suspect that they know far more than the authorities around them, that they are the lynchpins of the project and quite possibly, if the aliens turn out to be real and of blow-up-the-White-House-Independence Day variety, the ones who will be instrumental in saving its butt.

But first things first what is she to do with Luke, who delights in pushing grand pianos down narrow corridors, whose room is suspiciously bare of any personal effects and whose gawky, ill-at-ease demeanour only finds some peace when he’s lying out in the fields in the dead of night staring up at the full panoply of the night sky?

 

(cover image courtesy Orbit Books)
(cover image courtesy Orbit Books)

 

To all intents and purposes, at least at first, Resistance is Futile, which reads as a wholly satisfying bridge between the “chick lit” Jenny T. Colgan (aka Jenny Colgan) is perhaps best known for, and the sci-fi novels such as the 2012 Doctor Who tie-in novel Dark Horizons reads as the kind of girl-meets-boy-meets-weird-soul story that is her favoured genre stock in trade.

Nothing wrong with that of course since Colgan’s stories burst forth with wit, charm, clever observational humour and a willingness to have some fun while telling a thoroughly satisfying story.

But then she begins to infuse the science fiction elements which are also her great passion – she is a dedicated Whovian and her deep affection for this genre is on display in glorious detail throughout the book – into Resistance is Futile and we have on our hands an altogether different literary animal.

Time seemed to slow. Connie looked on, her heart full of confusion. What if it was a trick or a mistake or simply not true? What if she had been wrong; that she had been taken in by his odd charm, and by the strange things that appeared to be happening; that were undeniably happening all around them? That they were all having some kind of collective hysterical breakdown brought on by the death of their boss and the alien signal? (P. 113)

One that deftly and pleasingly combines love sweet unexpectedly transcendant love with some beautifully-realised science fiction elements, giving us a narrative with robust momentum, real heart and some thoughtfully-arrived at ruminations on the nature of the species and our propensity for both love and war, a characteristic that it turns out may be more universal than we give it credit for.

As hybrids go, Resistance is Futile is a joy (and heartbreaking at times), a book that combines an all-abiding love story, one that does not end as you might want or expect but which makes sense and stirs the heart, some staunchly quirky elements which fit perfectly given the nerdy characters assembled, and some near-to Earth-transcending action that reminds you of the commonality of all things.

Those who sneer at the idea of chick lit, as it is rather condescendingly known, and science fiction in isolation will no doubt have a catatonic fit at the idea of them joining forces, but if you’re a fan of either or both genres, and you should be, you will marvel at the sure way Colgan combines the two, giving us a rich, sweet, delightful, and intensely moving and thoughtful, fast-moving story that you will fall in love with just as profoundly as Connie falls for the very odd but possessed of unimagined depths Luke.

Who’s Your Daddy? The Blacklist gears up for a full-on 4th season

    (image via Spoiler TV)(image via Spoiler TV)

 

In recent years I have increasingly stopped watching a lot of the network shows I used to favour such as Law and Order and CSI in favour of the much more nuanced fare available on the cable providers who tend to be far more adventurous, imaginative and interested in really creative storytelling and character interactions.

It was not in any way a snobbish choice – the network shows have their place and are absolutely enjoyable in their own way; they simply didn’t keep pace with my increasing need to watch television that matched the cleverness and narrative complexity of the books and movies I routinely read and watch.
One show, The Blacklist, has however bucked this trend despite its often formulaic tropes.

Granted it has the whole villain-of-the-week, existentially-challenged protagonist (Liz Keen played by Megan Boone) and mysterious antagonist/protagonist in the form of Raymond “Red” Reddington play with enthusiastic joie de vivre by the incomparable James Spader, but there is also a depth to it, a willingness to tell a far more expansive long-term story arc that grants it far more complexity than most other network shows.

 

 

And over its three seasons to date, it has only grown more daring, more willing to push the narrative boundaries and play havoc with the once-calmly-ordered fate of its characters.

At the end of season 3 – SPOILER ALERT! – we found out that Alexander Kirk (Ulrich Thomsen) might be Liz’s dad Constantin Rostov – c’mon just because he says he is doesn’t mean it’s true – saw Red uncharacteristically a step or two behind the main game, and witnessed Tom (Ryan Eggold) being reunited with his mother Scottie Hargrave (Famke Janssen), although neither person knew had happened or recognise the other (a backdoor pilot of sorts to spinoff show The Blacklist: Redemption).

And so to season 4 where Tom and Agnes are missing, Red will maintain Kirk isn’t the father, Liz won’t believe him because, let’s face it, after all his lies and omissions he has a massive credibility deficit and yet somewhere, somehow, Liz and Red will grow closer as she comes to appreciate, so says the show’s creator Jon Bokenkamp, just how deep their connections goes.

Yet for all that and the fact that Red comes riding to the rescue, there’s a big pall hanging over their relationship – the deception that led her to – SPOILER ALERT! – fake her own death in season 3, a conspiracy that went as far as including Mr. Kaplan (Susan Blommaert), one of Red’s most trusted accomplices (not so much anymore).

But as Bokencamp told Deadline, the relationship between Red and Liz is The Blacklist and long will it endure:

“Here’s what I love about this arc and her death — our fans, the really die hard fans, they were pissed when Liz died! They’re smart enough to know that Red and Liz are the show. The questions of who Red is to her, why he cares so deeply for her, what he wants from her — that’s all that ultimately really matters, and when we took Liz away from them the fans were rightfully upset. Hopefully, they see we’re not going to abandon that relationship, no matter how strained it becomes. And believe me — it will be strained. But that relationship is everything.”

The Blacklist season 4 premieres 22 September on NBC.

 

Fear the Walking Dead: “Grotesque” (S2, E8 review)

There's nothing like a good brisk cross-Mexico to clear the mind during a zombie apocalypse ... right Nick? (image courtesy AMC)
There’s nothing like a good brisk cross-Mexico to clear the mind during a zombie apocalypse … right Nick? (image courtesy AMC)

 

*SPOILERS AHEAD! AND A REMINDER THAT CACTI SHOULD NOT FORM A STANDARD PART OF YOUR POST-APOCALYPTIC DIET*

#Roadtrip #You’redoingitwrong

In the first episode of the back half of Fear the Walking Dead season 2, we went with Nick (Frank Dillane) on a cross country trek across, or rather up northern Mexico, in search of people just like Celia (Marlene Forté) who venerate the ambulatory undead as some twisted iteration of living humans.

It’s an entirely bizarre reaction to a bizarre set of circumstances, something that most normal people would eschew in a second, but entirely consistent with the sort of decision Nick, who was described by Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead universe, in this background intel, would do:

“Madison’s screwed up teenage son. He’s too old to stay home, too scared to flee…pretty much a parent’s worst nightmare. He has flunked out of college, had a lot of trouble, got mixed up in some bad elements, and is definitely the problem child. And it’s exacerbated for him to be next to this perfect sister who seemingly doesn’t have anything going on in her life that is negative.”

So much might have changed in the zombie apocalypse but not Nick who sets off from a way station, covered in his customary blood, with a member of Celia’s extended family Sofia (Diana Lein) who’s heading in the opposite direction with Juan, a ten year old possibly orphaned boy who’s father may still be alive down south.

It’s pretty clear pretty quickly that road trips have changed … and not for the better.

Gone are the days of stocking up on a sandwiches and candy, mapping out your route, and setting the stereo to full volume with a killer Spotify playlist lending a soundtrack to hours and hours of hopefully fun-filled, laughter and conversation-punctuated driving.

Now? Well let’s just say that the candy option is well and truly out for starters.

 

Having a few friends over for dinner during the zombie apocalypse is a good way to keep some normalcy in an abnormal situation (image courtesy AMC)
Having a few friends over for dinner during the zombie apocalypse is a good way to keep some normalcy in an abnormal situation (image courtesy AMC)

 

In this sometimes tense, often meditative episode, which featured Nick and no one but Nick – an interesting choice given the usual ensemble nature of the mid-seasoners but hardly unprecedented in The Walking Dead franchise – everyone’s favourite recovered/not recovered drug addict, who abandoned his mum Madison (Kim Dickens) and sister Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) back at the burning compound once home to Victor (Colman Domingo) and Celia, went on quite the journey during which …

  • He lost and water at the hands of an understandably frightened, baseball-bat swinging woman who found Nick sleeping in the shell of her home.
  • Encountered Las Mansa, or The Hands, wild, lawless man who, as Sofia notes, finally have a world that suits them and their capriciously violent ways, who shot at him before asking a single question.
  • He was ambushed by a couple of hungrily aggressive dogs, one of which bites him before he can scrabble up onto a rusted wreck of a car.
  • Where he is promptly surrounded by a herd of zombies who are only distracted by the sound of car horns and gunfire from the distance.
  • Giving Nick enough time to find a hobbled zombie, grab his belt and fashion a tourniquet for himself (he’s nothing if not resourceful although the decision to eat cactus pulp didn’t exactly meet with his body’s digestive approval).
  • Giving him enough support to stagger on to Tijuana “where the dead aren’t monsters” – um yes they are and pretending they are otherwise is going to help his cause – but not before eating the meat off the carcass of one of the dogs who found in the zombie herd a foe they couldn’t growl and bark into submission.
  • He experienced flashbacks to pre-apocalypse days with Gloria (Lexi Johnson), his then drug-taking partner in crime who was with him in rehab when news came of his father’s death – this is only time we see another cast member when mum Madison delivers the awful news – and who shot up with him the night before the apocalypse becoming the likely first zombie in L.A. when she overdosed.

So yeah not exactly a riotously fun-filled road trip guaranteed to generate fond and wonderful memories.

In fact, were it not for Luciana (Danay Garcia) and two men from La Colonia in Tijuana, a walled-off encampment up on a plateau overlooking the city where market stalls and kids playing soccer abound, who rescue him from a looted store, he would most likely have died wandering the great empty terrain of Mexico, one man against a series of enemies, some human, others undead and most fearsomely geographic.

 

The dating app said she was a "take no prisoners" kinda gal but it appeared she might have lied on her profile (image courtesy AMC)
The dating app said she was a “take no prisoners” kinda gal but it appeared she might have lied on her profile (image courtesy AMC)

 

“Grotesque” is an epic episode in a lot of senses, pitting one survivor, who turns out to be quite a bit more adaptable than you might have expected – although his capacity to survive his own demons and the life-threatening places they take him is testament to his ability to survive the kind of travails that might fell most other people – against a revolving door of adversaries, all of which he must beat or surmount if he is to survive.

It recalls the kinds of epic hero quests that are the stuff of many works of fiction, a one man against the world scenario that distills in microcosm the realities of life in the zombie apocalypse where survival is not a given and sheer determination to survive isn’t always enough.

That someone as resourceful as Nick comes close to dying underlines how precarious existence is in this new dog-eat-dog world (in this case, quite literally almost), “Grotesque” becoming a salutary lesson in the dark mechanics of living and dying in the apocalypse.

Nick then is the archetype, the one who represents what everyone else in this fearful new world is encountering; in his case his enemies are vast and his assets, bar those he resourcefully conjures up are few, and survival is not even remotely a given.

It makes perfect sense that this single-character episode would usher in the second part of Fear the Walking Dead‘s sophomore season since the group is now, for the first time, split up into three – possibly four if you think Daniel (Rubén Blades) which is doubtful but not impossible – entirely disparate groups who can rely on the whole strength-in-numbers maxim.

Nick’s situation is, by his own decision, the most extreme of the lot, an emblematic representation of what life is like in the new world of the zombie apocalypse, and the perilously shorts anyone has of surviving it, especially alone.

  • If you ever think things are going to get better in next week’s episode Los Muertos”, think again. Apart from the title translating as “The Dead”, no one looks like they’re having a good time of it with survival a precarious proposition for all concerned …

 

 

Hollywood or Bus! reminds us to never take public transport with Hollywood stars

(image courtesy 20th Century Fox)
(image courtesy 20th Century Fox)

 

Generally when you bring two things you like together the result is usually quite wonderful.

Peanut butter and honey (or jelly if you’re American). Wine and Friday nights. Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Buses and Hollywood stars.

Wait what?

Well think about it, we like buses. They us places we want to go and the wheels go round and round and … you get the idea.

And Hollywood stars for the most part are lots of fun – especially of course Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves who found fame, fittingly enough, in the 1994 film Speed where they were IN a bus.

Ah yes, but if you remember that wasn’t exactly the most relaxed of bus trips and both of their characters could be forgiven if they never set foot on a bus ever again.

So you could well understand why London filmmaker Steve Ramsden put together a video mashup called Hollywood or Bus! that features a number of actors from like Speed, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Graduate and quite possibly many more.

Who knows who else is lurking in the back of the bus?

Pretty much everyone. Just don’t get on the bus with them.

You have been warned.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

Movie review: Sausage Party

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

 

Prepare to see your kitchen as a killing field, the supermarket as a place of crushed and broken dreams and takeaway pizza as an exercise in violent dismemberment.

For Sausage Party, Seth Rogen’s gloriously foulmouthed, absolutely hilarious tale of relgiously-devoted sentient food that discover their faith may have more holes in it than Swiss Cheese, is upon us.

And trust me, you don’t want any sides with that.

In fact, if the food in Sausage Party has its way, and by the end of the film’s fantastically over the top near x-rated finale, they most certainly do, then you won’t be having appetisers, desserts, mains or snacks of any kind for the foreseeable future.

Set in Shopwell’s, the very epitome of a modern supermarket with fresh food, packaged food and non-perishables sitting side-by-side in manically over-marketed aisles, this very grown-up animated film opens with the food singing an ode to “The Gods” aka the shoppers who are regarded as deeply beneficent beings whose sole aim is to take their purchases to a blissful life in the euphemistically-titled Great Beyond.

Since food very rarely returns to the shelves from which it came, this hardwired belief system prevails in perpetuity with all the food convinced that zipping across the barcode scanner is their ticket to life everlasting.

Naturally that isn’t the case at all, and when a jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) – which hilariously is regarded as a suspect consumable since no one can decide if it’s honey or mustard – returns with barely-articulated but fearful tales of horror from the kitchen, no one wants to believe that their hopes and dreams are all teeth-crunching lies.

That includes Frank (Seth Rogen), a frankfurter who along with Barry (Michael Cera) and 6 other of their kin sit cheek by jowl with packaged buns,  one packet of which contains Frank’s curvaceous and morally-vexed girlfriend Brenda who is fearful of offending The Gods in any way.

In the lead-up to the 4th of July when both the frankfurters and the buns will likely be whisked off to their eternal glory, no one wants to believe that their sustaining system of beliefs is rooted in lies and misinformation.

 

 

But the more Frank thinks about it, the more he begins to see holes big enough to slide he and his fellow frankfurters into and a schism slowly creeps in between Frank, and his fellow journeyers back to the shelves after a shopping trolley mishap sends a number of them crashing to the floor in a scene that recalls, if you can believe it, the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan (watch for the spaghetti can).

Resembling the odyssey home that filled Inside Out with so much delight, Sausage party is however not your average animated film.

It is, in fact, much like the sort of film you would expect if Pixar grew up, got a drug habit, a raging libido and a host of anger management issues; not to mention a mouth so potty that not swearing is an oddity.

Yes fellow animation consumers this is not your grandmother’s cartoon in any way shape or form; it is fact, thematically and linguistically at least the anti-Pixar, kicking off with innuendo and swear-laden dialogues and rarely letting up for even a second.

You could be forgiven at times for thinking it resembles a Toy Story instalment with its cast of eccentrically, mismatched characters such as Kareem Adbul Lavash (David Krumholtz) and Sammy Bagel Jr (Edward Norton) and Terese del Taco (Salma Hayek), a lesbian taco with designs on Brenda, all doing their best to return home and comically failing, initially at least, to make that happen.

But the visual and character cues are pretty much where the Pixar DNA leaves and Rogen’s brand of in-your-face vengeful food insanity takes over.

It’s full-on but in the best possible way, with an underlying intelligence sufficiently well-developed that jokes can be made about Middle Eastern race relations for instance with chortles more than gasps the appropriate response.

It goes close of course to going too far more than once, with a number of the jokes particularly about the German Mustard and their hatred of Juice (think about it) skirting very close to the wind, but by and large the jokes land, they make some incisive social commentary and Sausage Party rolls briskly on like two escaping carrots who, um, never mind …

 

 

Sausage Party illustrates both the advantages and disadvantages of Seth Rogen’s frenetic approach – he co-wrote the screenplay with Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir – with a go-hard-or-go-home approach that works much of the same but comes close to derailing in the last manic third of the film which has to be seen to be believed.

For the most part though Sausage Party works and works extremely well.

It manages to retain enough heart – though not, it must be said, as its more emotionally-nuanced Pixar compatriots – to keep you rooting for Frank and Brenda to get their happily-ever-after, and for the faith-in-crisis foodstuffs, their spiritual crisis egged on by non-perishables such as Firewater (Bill Hader) and Mr. Grits (Craig Robinson) who have seen it all, to find some answers to their existential questions.

And it has a villain, Douche (Nick Kroll), a female hygiene product with a broken nozzle who blames Frank and Brenda for his failure to reach the hallowed kitchens of the great beyond.

To be honest, he is more annoying than anything but he adds some spice to the narrative as he rants and rails and grows ever stronger and more demented on a diet of juice and tequila.

But by and large Sausage Party, in all its enjoyably foulmouthed, sexually-obsessed glory, is the story of Frank and Brenda and their fellow foodstuffs’ attempts to discover the truth of their existence, and to seize control of their destiny, one innuendo-laden, swear word stacked aisle at a time.