Book review: Night Without Stars by Peter F Hamilton

(image courtesy Pan Macmillan Australia)

 

One of the delights of diving deeply into a Peter F Hamilton novel – and dive deeply you will with many of his expansive efforts reaching the 700-plus page mark with ease – is being reminded once again that pretty much anything is possible.

In a world riven by global warming, war, ethnic divide, rampant extreme nationalism and environmental degradation, it’s all too easy to become pessimistic, believing that the apocalypse is nigh and there is no meaningful way forward.

But Hamilton, in common with the likes of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, dares to believe that humanity, possessed of endless curiosity and the ability to do something meaningful with it, is better than this and can rise above the dark shackles of current peril.

Whether that in fact happens is another matter entirely but in Hamilton’s Commonwealth, which spans a vast gamut of rich, industrialised and verdantly agrarian communities across the great reaches of the galaxy, humanity has fended off the very worst angels of its nature and with a few dramatic hiccups, for what is a good dramatic narrative without one, come out the other end smelling largely of roses.

In Night Without Stars, which continues the story begun in The Abyss Beyond Dreams, however they are seen as the enemy, a threat to the grand authoritarian rule of the relatively new revolution on Bienvenido, a plant spun out of The Void, an artificial alien construct where time and many other physical properties had been distorted by an overlord alien race. ( See The Void Trilogy)

The irony is that the good citizens of Bienvenido, who now reside in an inky black galaxy devoid of stars where The Void casts off all its unwanted inhabitants, down to every last man, woman and child, are the descendants of the Brandt colony ships which crashlanded on the planet 3000 years ago.

But thanks to some accidental Commonwealth meddling in the planet, courtesy of one of the founders of the Commonwealth, Nigel Sheldon – he like pretty much all citizens of the humanity galactic community experience almost endless lifespans thanks to DNA-resequencing which keeps them eternally young – the Commonwealth is persona non grata, at least with the ruling elites.

Hideous though they are, they are no match for The Fallers, an avaricious alien race that colonises a planet by absorbing and mimicking its indigenous sentient beings and flora & fauna until only they remain.

They are the real threat to Bienvenido but in a mirror of our current world where the real threats are subsumed to made-up issues and superficial scaremongering, they are not taken anywhere near as seriously as they should be, and as a result the multi-millenia civilisation is in danger of being lost.

 

 

As with many of Hamilton’s novels, which expertly blend optimism with real world politicking and deep cultural insight, Night Without Stars is in part an allegory of our current predicament here on good old planet Earth.

A totalitarian government, which practises a form of state capitalism such as that enacted by China, is more concerned with perpetuating its rule than readying Bienvenido for the threats it faces.

Yes the Faller threat is taken seriously with rocket missions to destroy the organic spaceships which orbit the planet a high priority, as is the destruction of any Faller life on the surface, but nowhere near as seriously as preserving the status quo which benefits the few but proves a major disservice to the many.

There are those opposing the inevitable Faller Apocalypse, where humanity will be wiped from Bienvenido but they are fighting a losing battle until one of the Commonwealth’s most famous citizens, and no saying who would be a massive spoiler, arrives to shake things up a bit, or as it turns out a lot.

As with all of Hamilton’s intelligently-written and fast-paced novels, there is an appealing balance between expansive, wide-ranging storytelling and intimate character moments, with neither told at the expense of the other.

It’s that ability to be both epic and intimate, page-turnable yet deeply, winningly clever, that makes Hamilton such a giant of the sci-fi genre.

He creates worlds where anything is possible but where it can also be derailed by people with minds or visions too small to seize the true import of the potential at their fingertips.

In other words just like our present day. However, the key difference is that the optimism is never misplaced – humanity, even when it’s millions of light years apart as is the case with Bienvenido and the Commonwealth, always comes through, fulfilling the promise that Hamilton invests it with.

It’s not glib or cheesy optimism that ignores the realities of a cold and cruel galaxy, but grounded and well thought-through, granting his books an immense intellectual, emotional and dramatic richness that draws you in utterly and completely.

In fact, so absorbed will you be by Night Without Stars and its weighty predecessors that setting aside days at a time is the only way to truly do them justice. Trust me, it’s worth your while if only to be reassured by one of the most gifted writers out there that optimism is not the pursuit of fools and morons but rather of the dreamers and the unbounded, both of whom our world is very much in need of in the current day.

 

Weekend pop art: Say hello to a Doctor Who-fied time-travelling Snoopy!

(image via Laughing Squid (c) Albo)

 

In his day, and it’s been a thoroughly successful 67 years and counting so far, Snoopy has been many things – an aspiring author, a hip rock ‘n’ roll-loving college student named Joe Cool and a dashing World War 1 flying ace, always on the hunt for the Red Baron, to name but a few.

It’s all part of a robust fantasy life that Charles M. Schulz, who created Snoopy and the entire Peanust gang, told Comics Journal in 1997 was an attempt to spice up what might otherwise a fairly pedestrian canine existence.

“He has to retreat into his fanciful world in order to survive. Otherwise, he leads kind of a dull, miserable life. I don’t envy dogs the lives they have to live.”

Now you can time-travelling Gallifreyan to the list thanks to talented artist Albo who has given Charlie Brown’s eccentric beagle the chance to travel wherever he wishes in space and time.

You can be a part of Snoopy’s latest grand adventure by going to TEEPUBLIC where you can purchase all 12 Dogtors on all kind of cool products (and check all of Albo’s other brilliantly fun designs).

You never know – even The Round-Headed Kid may wants some!

(Source: Laughing Squid)

Now this is music #81: Maggie Rogers, Ama Lou, Grandtheft/Delaney Jane, Tanukichan, Tom Misch

now-this-is-music-81-main

 

Life can feel like SO MUCH sometimes.

It’s hard to catch your breath, to stop and think and take a good look around and think about what’s happening to you, what it all means and where it might take you.

That’s why we have artists like the beguiling five featured in this post.

They do the stopping for us, helping usher us to a place where life can be look at from above and below, where all the things we miss in our pell-mell existence are visible and appreciated.

It’s music for the soul as much as the ears and you should take the time to listen and let it reach right down into you.

 

“Alaska” by Maggie Rogers

 

Maggie Rogers (image courtesy official Maggie Rogers Facebook page / Photo by Katia Temkin
Edit by Nick Das)

 

Describing herself rather playfully as ” a banjo player from the Eastern Shore of Maryland”, Maggie Rogers is also a hiker, an environmentalist, and apparently a loud optimist.

She is also one of the most consummately enthralling new music talents to emerge in the last year with songs like “Alaska”, and latest single “On + Off” confirming her as that rare person who can move seamlessly between genres and still have every song like it belongs to a cohesive, gloriously listenable whole.

“Alaska” kicks off with a light, bouncy beats that sound like sonic raindrops dancing on and off the ground, ushering in a song that makes good sense of deliciously stripped-back melodies, and light, heartfelt vocals that sing about “walking off you” and then “I walked off an old me.”

It’s a song that speaks of things finishing but ironically, in a very good way, it has been the start of her career, one given a viral boost by one Pharrell Williams.

You can see why he was enraptured – “Alaska” is a dreamy, emotionally-rich soundscape that you will want to visit again and again.

 

“TBC” by Ama Lou
Ama Lou (Image courtesy official Ama Lou Facebook page)

 

There is an atmospheric ethereal quality to both the music and the evocative vocals in Ama Lou’s “TBC” which sustains through its beguiling almost four minute run.

But don’t mistake an enticing laid-back vibe for lack of lyrical muscularity.

In an article on Nylon, Lou describes the song as “as a take on ‘current events and historical issues experienced by the minorities of the world.'”

She goes on to say:

‘”I write both from primary and observatory points of view. The verses portray a sense of group and togetherness, standing together and fighting against archaic societal rules opposed by modern feminism and the millennial generation. The pre-chorus references the infamous last words ‘I can’t breathe,’ uttered by Eric Garner, the Staten Island New Yorker choked to death by police in July 2014.'”

It’s a powerful message that sits comfortably in its melodically minimalist musical home.

 

 

“Easy Go” by Grandtheft and Delaney Jane

 

Grandtheft and Delaney Jane (image via official Facebook pages for both artists)

 

Fellow music artists from Toronto, Canada, DJ/Producer Grandtheft and “singer/songwriter/wild child” Delaney Jane spent a year crafting ” Easy Go”, a funkily danceable song that speaks of the way life goes from one reality to another in an instant.

In this case, it’s the seismic shift from single life with its freewheeling whatever mindset to a life intertwined with a lover, where you forsake the “easy come, easy go” imperative that drove your life for something altogether more committed and stable.

It’s always a euphoric transition and “Easy Go” celebrates it beautifully, talking raptly about the joy of taking it slow with someone you’re growing to love.

The music is warm, rich, and deliciously beat-catchy, capturing that loping sense of life changing by degrees on a minute-by-minute and the joy that brings.

 

 

“Enough” by Tanukichan

 

Tanukichan (image courtesy official Tanukichan Facebook page / photo by Anya Kamenskaya)

 

There’s a compelling discordant dreaminess to Tanukichan’s “Enough” which wafts dreamily and haphazardly along its utterly beguiling path.

Tanukichan aka Oakland, California-based singer/songwriter Hannah van Loon sings, has this to say about the reason she creates her hypnotically-arresting music:

““mostly I want to convey an emotion or a state of mind, and not necessarily a specific story.” (source: Company Record Love)

In this instance, her wonderfully-expressive voice laments how taking everything you can is not always enough, no matter how much you feel like it might push you onto where you want to go.

It’s rich, insightful pop augmented by vocals that convey a deep sense of being weary and hopeful all at once and reverb guitars, all of which grant the song a sense of being removed but still very much in your face.

 

 

“Dance With Me” by Tom Misch

 

Tom Misch (image courtesy official Tom Misch Facebook page)

 

There is an appealing melancholic longing to the opening bars of London-based singer/songwriter/DJ/producer Tom Misch‘s “Watch Me Dance” that does weigh you down for a second; rather it loosens your bonds and let your spirit begin to float free.

It’s that kind of music; stripped back folk pop that grooves along at little more than a lo-fi beat but which captures you immediately, a pleasing vice-like grip that doesn’t let go till the end, helped along by Misch’s graceful, emotive vocals.

A prolific musician who made a name for himself releasing a song a week on the internet, he is an assuming guy for whom the music is king and everything that follows is simply icing on the cake.

You can see the value of that music-centric approach on “Watch Me Dance” which is intricately-woven together in a way that marks as the work of someone who loves every part of the creation of new music.

It’s easy to listen to sure but there’s so much more going on with Tom Misch and you owe it to yourself to listen along and see where it all takes him, and you.

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

In exciting news for fans of the Space Cowboy, Jamiroquai, it’s been announced that not only will a new album, Automaton, be forthcoming sometime in 2017, the first since Rock Dust Light Star in 2010, but that the band, headed by lead singer Jay Kay, would be embarking on a tour of Asia and Europe.

The announcement made on Jamiroquai’s Facebook page via this characteristically quirky teaser video.

 

 

 

Delightful pixelated cartoon madness: Rick and Morty get an 8-bit intro

(image courtesy Adult Swim)

 

Rick and Morty, the titular stars of the epic cartoon series created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, are no strangers to zipping to the past, present or future, here on Earth, far out in space or in weird alternate dimensions populated by hilariously crazy, odd creatures, many of whom want them dead or to eat them.

So it makes perfect sense that their episode intros would be redone in 8-bit style since that’s the kind of thing Rick would do in a wubba lubba dubs dubs heartbeat.

Or would he? He could just as easily belch, dismiss it as stuff and nonsense and jump off to some daring new, ill-thought out adventure that endangers his grandson Morty and yet miraculously ends well.

But having watched this inspired 8-bit re-do of the series introduction, created by Paul Robertson and Ivan Dixon, and released by Adult Swim who screens the series, I can’t help but think that he and Morty would approve.

It’s makes all the witty craziness look that much goofier, and while that kind of hilarious animated insanity is not in short supply on the show, I can’t help but think it makes things even wackier.

And it’s a great way to fill in time while we’re waiting for series to bow sometime this year.

 

 

If you’d like to see the actual intro next to the 8-bit version, you’re in luck! YouTube user Song Comparisons has neatly lined them up side-by-side …

 

Movie review: The Edge of Seventeen

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Childhood is often presented as some sort of unfettered idyll, a time of adventurous questioning and exploration unburdened the shoulder-sagging demands of adulthood.

But the reality is that for all the depictions of untroubled starry-eyed blissful innocence, that growing hard is damn sight harder than it’s often made out to be.

One film that’s happy to acknowledge the sorts of truisms that any teenager will attest to is The Edge of Seventeen, written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, which gleefully and with razor sharp wit wrapped around some brilliantly-articulated hard and fast cold realities takes an axe to any idea that being a teenager is a Ferris wheel to giddy abandon.

The lead character and bitingly-sarcastic emotional centre of gravity of the film is, you guessed it, 17 year old junior high school student Nadine Franklin (Hailee Steinfeld in a gripping performance that’s equal parts comically bold and authentically vulnerable) who doesn’t particularly like herself, anyone around her or the fact that she’s stuck with herself for the rest of her life.

A loner since childhood, her only real friend is Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) who has been staunch and true since the second grade but who throws a massive spanner into Nadine’s easily-disturbed and angst-ridden works when she starts going out with Darian (Blake Jenner), Nadine’s older brother and senior high school heartthrob.

Nadine’s relationship with Darian is fractious but you get the sense there is an underlying bond between the siblings, borne of a family tragedy some four years earlier and the flaky kidult-ness of their mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) who relies too heavily on her son to cope with the sort of things most adults would take breezily in their stride.

She and Nadine, both of whom believe life is an unending misery of epic proportions – the main difference being that Nadine openly admits to it while Mona, meltdowns aside, does what most adults does and pretends it isn’t all that bad (her actions suggest otherwise) – are often at loggerheads, a process that began in childhood and one that usually only mitigated by the calming actions of Nadine’s dad (Eric Keenleyside).

 

 

As Nadine sees it life is an ordeal that must be endured, and it can only be broken up by her romantic flights of fancy about Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert), who is impossibly handsome, too cool for school and the sort of brooding douchebag that any achingly disillusioned young woman would be best to avoid.

So enamoured is Nadine with Nick, whom she hasn’t actually met – when she does, the circumstances are so direly awkward that she desperately begins to wish she hadn’t; the sound you hear is a huge, long-nurtured fantasy bubble blowing apart – that she misses, repeatedly, the adorkably awkward approaches of budding animator Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto), her history classmate and would be boyfriend.

Every scene she shares with Erwin is brilliantly amusing and touching too, with both actors enjoy the sort of strong chemistry that makes their on again/off again dance to romance an absolute delight to behold. (Erwin’s verbal dances of awkwardness with Madine are one of the many delights of this wickedly clever, funny film.)

In the middle of the emotional muddled maelstrom that is Nadine’s much-loathed life stands one sane voice of reason, teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), although his utterances are often cloaked in the weary tone of someone who has seen in his 23 years of teaching and wishes he hadn’t.

Despite his palpable reluctance (although this shown to be somewhat of an act later in the film when circumstances require Nadine to call on him for help in the midst of an actual, not imagined or manufactured, crisis), he is the sole rock upon which Nadine’s often-tumultuous world rests and the source of some of the wittier, more biting exchanges in the film.

 

 

Looking at it from the point of view of adulthood, much of the narrative in The Edge of Seventeen might seem like a storm in a hormonally-charged teacup.

But the brilliance of the film is that it doesn’t at any point demean Nadine’s struggles to find her way through the messiness of teenage life to something approaching a more adult understanding of what it means to be human.

That she gets there in the end, or rather begins to get there by the final act grants the film the air of a happy ending but the reality is that Nadine has had to fight hard to get there, mostly against her own wounded ego, flawed perspectives and savagely-enacted, if hilariously witty, defense mechanisms.

You could argue that she is her own worst enemy but the truth is we all are to some degree, and some of us really never past the self-loathing and uncertainty of growing up.

For a while it looks like Nadine might not manage this either but circumstances conspire to help her realise that traumatic though much of teenage life is, that there are good many more silver linings in the grey clouds of her existence than she’s willing to admit to, or initially at least, is capable of seeing.

The Edge of Seventeen is an enormously intelligent, hilarious and heartfelt film that dares to argue, and very successfully into the bargain, that the trials and travails of teenage life matter a great deal, trivial though they may seem to adult eyes, because they are the key way we all form our ideas of who we are and how we will be and act as adults.

It’s a crucial, exhausting time of life, with no real outside references to draw on, and the film, and Hailee Steinfeld in particular, does an extraordinarily funny, insightful and engaging job of helping all of us to value how hard it is to get to a point where we hopefully like ourselves and life, which short though it might seem at times, is long enough that some accommodation, beyond simply grinning and bearing it, is needed.

 

 

The world is ending AGAIN: The 100 season 4 trailer

(image courtesy CW/Warner Bros via official The 100 Facebook page)

 

The radiation is coming my friends and trust us it won’t be pretty!

Now granted you might have thought that the threat from other people might be a bigger issue for the likes of Skaikru and the Grounders, neither of whom seem too inclined to engage in any kind of rapprochement or constructive pulling together for the human race as a whole.

But no, despite the threats in this trailer from one side or the other, the bigger issue is the looming nuclear apocalypse mark II, caused by the slow but deadly breakdown of nuclear power plants across the world.

Of course, at this stage only Clarke (Eliza Taylor) knows the full extent of the peril at hand although as the trailer shows, a growing pile of bodybags is hard to miss and pretty much begins to give the game away.

Even so, petty bloodthirsty exchanges wait for no person, not even the soon-to-be-irradiated and The 100, which has never shown itself to be averse to wanton death and destruction, has death aplenty afoot at the hands of people like Octavia (Maria Avgeropoulos) who is still bent on some post-Lincoln (Ricky Whittle) vengeance.

There is also some goofiness from Jasper (Devon Bostick), who deserves to smile after a tumultuously rough couple of seasons, some wariness from a still grieving Monty (Christopher Larkin) and some screaming from Bellamy (Bob Morley) who is none too happy about something.

So as The 100 heads into a hard and heavy season 4 – as if it would be any other way, c’mon! – death, betrayal and loss look to be the only constant which makes sense on an apocalyptic Earth where it seems humanity still hasn’t learnt its lesson.

The 100 season 4 debuts on CW on 1 February.

 

The Boy on the Bridge: M. R. Carey’s sequel to The Girl With All the Gifts

(image via Sci-Fi Now)

 

SNAPSHOT
“Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.
The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.
To where the monsters lived.” (source: Sci-Fi Now)

You could be forgiven for thinking that the apocalyptic zombie genre has been done to un-death.

And in the hands of lesser creative talents that’s most likely true.

But when you’re talking M. R. Carey, a British writer of comic books.screenplays and novels, who has shown an extraordinary ability to invest well worn scenarios with renewed freshness and vitality, there’s a lot of life left in tales of the shambling undead.

So much in fact that the author, who has already graced us with superlative storytelling in The Girl With All the Gifts and Fellside, has returned to the world he created in that first book to tell another extraordinary story, The Boy on the Bridge, about humanity dealing with the most unimaginable of horrors.

What is impressive about Carey’s vividly-engrossing writing, apart from its sheer poetic brilliance, is the way he finds extraordinary ways to illuminate small raw and yes even beautiful moments of humanity in a world where that has long ceased to be a viable commodity.

His central thesis seems to be that who we are as people may grow and change but that the innate humanity of our species endures, even if it takes a radically different form.

 

The Boy on the Bridge appears to very much follow in that vein if the excerpt previewed on IO9 is any indication:

The bucks have all been passed and the arguments thrashed out until they don’t even bleed any more. Finally, after a hundred false starts, the Rosalind Franklin begins her northward journey – from Beacon on the south coast of England all the way to the wilds of the Scottish Highlands. There aren’t many who think she’ll make it that far, but they wave her off with bands and garlands all the same. They cheer the bare possibility.

Rosie is an awesome thing to behold, a land leviathan, but she’s not by any means the biggest thing that ever rolled. In the years before the Breakdown, the most luxurious motor homes, the class A diesel-pushers, were a good sixteen or seventeen metres long. Rosie is smaller than that: she has to be because her armour plating is extremely thick and there’s a limit to the weight her treads will carry. In order to accommodate a crew of twelve, certain luxuries have had to be sacrificed. There’s a single shower and a single latrine, with a rota that’s rigorously maintained. The only private space is in the bunks, which are tiered three-high like a Tokyo coffin hotel.

The going is slow, a pilgrimage through a world that turned its back on humankind the best part of a decade ago. Dr Fournier, in an inspirational speech, likens the crew to the wise men in the Bible who followed a star. Nobody else in the crew finds the analogy plausible or appealing. There are twelve of them, for one thing – more like the apostles than the wise men, if they were in the Jesus business in the first place, and they are not in any sense following a star. They’re following the trail blazed a year before by another team in an armoured vehicle exactly like their own – a trail planned out by a panel of fractious experts, through every terrain that mainland Britain has to offer. Fields and meadows, woodland and hills, the peat bogs of Norfolk and the Yorkshire moors.

You can read the full excerpt at IO9 and the book itself when it releases 2 May from Hachette.

Hey Mad Max! Meet Happy Feet … you’re welcome

(image via YouTube)

 

I am betting, and yes I have been known to partake in games of chance and gambling on occasion – OK once, ONCE, and as a result my great aunt decided I had a chronic gambling addiction – that none of you have ever thought to combine the sweet, uplifting lilt of Happy Feet with the grim, apocalyptic earthiness of Mad Max: Fury Road.

But thankfully for those of us unwilling or unable to think so widely outside the cinematic box, YouTube user PaganMin has blended the two seemingly disparate properties – the only connection being that both were made by screenwriter/producer/director George Miller – and done a superb job of it.

Honestly, odd as it might sound to say so, it’s hard to believe the two films haven’t always belonged together; in fact, surely after this brilliant piece of editing, an apocalyptic penguin can’t be too far off?

Throw in some zombies and an alien invasion and I am totally there.

 

Movie review: Rosalie Blum

(image via Cinebel.be)

 

One of the great joys and strengths of French cinema is its ability, gifted from a thoroughly unique cultural perspective, to look at the great issues of life in a way that differs markedly from that of Hollywood’s.

Films like Rosalie Blum, written and directed by Julien Rappeneau and based on the series of popular graphic novels by Camille Jourdy, defy the idea that life can be neatly packaged and hermetically sealed in perfectly arrived-at happy ever-afters without humanity, real,, aching, disillusioned lost humanity making its presence felt.

Granted the film, which tells the story of three people adrift in life, all marred by the twists and turns of family and fate to some degree or another, does neatly tie things up in a heartwarming bow; but it’s the getting there, delivered with the sort of quirky appreciation for life’s more unexpected moments that has long given French cinema a mischievous joie de vivre, that marks Rosalie Blum out as something special.

For a start, the character we meet first, hairdresser Vincent Mallot (Kyan Khojandi) is a stalker; not intentionally of course and not with any malice or intent for grievous bodily harm.

No, his stalking of the titular character, small convenience store owner Rosalie (Noémie Lvovsky), is one driven by a sense of deja vu, a feeling that she has a connection to his life that he can’t quite place.

In an American romantic comedy his following after her to low-lit music club, arthouse cinemas and even to a prison – obviously here he can go no further, her mission there unknown – would be marked by growing romantic entanglement, hilarious complications and pratfalls and perhaps a sense that it’s all just a little creepy.

But Vincent is not that kind of guy and Rosalie Blum is not that kind of movie, and so instead we are gifted with one lonely man following a lonely, melancholic woman who appears to live a full life but is clearly marked by grief for events past, someone who nonetheless Vincent is desperate to connect with, even if it is from afar.

 

(image via NZ French Film Festival)

 

The other characters in the film might doubt Vincent’s intent – contrary to appearances, Rosalie does twig to the fact that Vincent is following her and co-opts her niece Aude (Alice Isaaz), with whom she is newly reconnecting, to in turn follow her stalker around – but the audience, safe in the knowledge that Vincent is a sweet if ineffectual guy, does not.

Like Rosalie and Aude, who is unemployed and directionless, uncertain if anything in life interests her anymore, Vincent has lost faith in his personal relationships, his job or his social outings, which are few, to provide him with any real pleasure.

And it’s not surprising, He works in the hairdressing salon he inherited from his deceased father, listening to the same tired conversations day after after day, he lives downstairs from his self-involved bullying mother who loves him but is manifestly unable to show it, and he has no girlfriend and a womanising cousin, Laurent (Nicolas Bridet) as his only real friend.

His horizons aren’t so much small, as next-to-near diminished and so when Rosalie offers him the opportunity to expand his horizons, in ways he can only guess at, he leaps at the chance, his face lighting up as he encounters avant garde Japanese cinema, beautiful indie music in a trendy club and realises that maybe life isn’t done with him yet.

None of this is overplayed of course and there is no road to Damascus moment when epiphany pile up upon epiphany and his life is forever altered for the better.

In fact, thanks to Rosalie and Aude’s counter-stalking, which comes a-cropper when it’s obvious they have unintentionally hurt Vincent – they work out pretty quickly that he’s harmless – things actually get more complicated and difficult for Vincent, at least in the short term.

 

(image via Palace Films)

 

But this is a romantic comedy, even a French one, and so the road to true love does go forth unimpeded and everyone ends up happily ever after.

The real joy, as noted, is how they get there.

Rosalie Blum doesn’t pretend for a moment that life can be fixed with a golden bullet of any kind; it acknowledges in ways big and small that we’re all weighed down with baggage of many different shapes and sizes.

Vincent is forever marked by his mother’s bullying, Rosalie by significant past bad choices and Aude by an overbearing family, and the film doesn’t try to pretend otherwise, mixing some very sobering moments in with the goofiness and quirkiness that many French films have in spades (Aude’s performance artist housemate Kolocataire played by Philippe Rebbot is the source of much goofy silliness as is Cécile (Sara Giraudeau) who is clearly a frustrated spy).

It doesn’t even begin to suggest that life is magically, perfectly transformed by love and connection; what it does do, in a most uplifting yet grounded way, is demonstrate how much difference being connected to people that matter to you and that to whom you matter can make to your life.

Everything isn’t turned around but it is changed in ways sublime and wonderful and as Rosalie Blum ends, you are gently but powerfully reminded that life is never a known, fixed beast and that, just like that, it can change markedly and delightfully, and take you along with it.

 

Weekend pop art: Comic strips meets TV in creative mashups

(image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)
Peanuts meets The Walking Dead (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)

 

Have you wondered what Linus would look like as a zombie? Or Pigpen as Daryl (he’s the one Peanuts character who’d be untroubled by the ablution-challenged environs of the zombie apocalypse).

Or perhaps you think Game of Thrones could do with a dose of Calvin and Hobbes whimsicality? (Let’s face it, sleigh rides that delight you rather than kill you are always the better option.)

Would Dilbert and Silicon Valley be corporate-sceptical soulmates? Or how would Cathy handle the morally-challenged, logic-averse surrounds of VEEP‘s Selina Meyer’s White House?

Wherever your TV – comic strips mashups mind may wander, there’s a very good chance that DirecTV have got there first and the results are absolutely delightful, as well as definitively nailing how Charlie Brown might fare in Negan’s bloodthirsty universe or Garfield‘s Jon Arbuckle might find the gritty, morally-ambiguous world of Mr Robot.

To find out more about how the creators of these mashups envisage the two worlds colliding, go to Direct Deals.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

Game of Thrones meets Calvin and Hobbes (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)
Game of Thrones meets Calvin and Hobbes (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)

 

VEEP meets Cathy (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)
VEEP meets Cathy (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)

 

Silicon Valley meets Dilbert (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)
Silicon Valley meets Dilbert (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)

 

Mr Robot meets Garfield (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)
Mr Robot meets Garfield (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)