Now this is music #8 – My 5 fave songs right now: Natasha Kmeto, Still Parade, Little Children, Zemmy, Röyksopp

 

It’s time for more amazing, stirring, captivating music!

And this week we have chosen from a range of established artists and some artists just beginning to make their presence felt, and they’re all, naturally enough, iPod-worthy and then some!

So slip on the headphones, power up the listening device of your choice, and sit back and enjoy.

 

“Idiot Proof” by Natasha Kmeto

 

Natasha Kmeto (image via pigeonsandplanes.com)

 

Natasha Kmeto is a startlingly original artist.

Drawing on influences as diverse as dance, pop and R’n’B, and utilising well a voice that is languorous, rich and nuanced, the talented Portland-based singer/songwriter/vocalist creates songs that aren’t easily pigeonholed into a particular genre.

And that is no doubt why I have found her music and in particular her latest track, “Idiot Proof”, which is the forerunner to her second LP Crisis due on 18 June, such a delight.

One of my all time favourite music blogs PigeonsandPlanes described this sensuous song best when they wrote:

“… the track builds from a gyroscopic synth base, slowly adding a skittery synth jolt and then floods her jazzy, thick vocals over the top.”

It is utterly unique, the sort of song that you don’t forget easily.

And if you’re anything like I am with new songs I adore, one you don’t stop playing in a hurry either.

 

 

 

“Actors” by Still Parade

 

Still Parade (image via earmilk.com)

 

There is a certain sense of enigma to this band which I find refreshing.

While I am the first one to admit that I love finding out about the artist behind the music and digging up anything and everything I can read about them, it’s also oddly compelling when not a lot is known about a group of musicians beyond the fact that they produce sublimely beautiful music.

Quite why they have chosen to be so oblique in an age of information overload is uncertain although it does lend them a sort of mysterious cachet lacking with the usual-over exposed PR style so beloved of many artists today.

And that might be just what sets them apart, quote apart from superlative songs like “Actors” which apparently was inspired by this Oscar Wilde quote:

“Actors are so fortunate. They can choose whether they will appear in tragedy or in comedy, whether they will suffer or make merry, laugh or shed tears.” — Oscar Wilde (source: Pigeonsandplanes.com)

The song builds slowly but surely through from the softly strumming folk guitar of the opening bars through to the warm, perfectly balanced harmonies of the three band members, with a wispy alt-country vibe percolating gently throughout.

It is chilled, laid back and the most divine musical accompaniment to the flickering embers of 3am fireplace musings.

 

 

“Falling” by Little Children

 

Little Children (image via 123people.se)

 

Unless you have been trapped under the crushing weight of an IKEA flack pack of late, you will know about my great and abiding predilection for Scandinavian pop in all its many pleasing forms.

One country in particular that I have along and abiding fascination with is Sweden which most famously gave the world ABBA but has since produced inspiring artists of the calibre of Lykke Li, Robyn, Swedish House Mafia, Andreas Lundstedt and last year’s Eurovision winner, Loreen.

You can now add Little Children, a band led by 29 year old Linus Lutti, to that illustrious, and woefully incomplete list.

With a sound reminiscent of Bon Iver and Loney Dear, the Stockholm-based artist’s music, and “Falling” in particular, which is the lead single off their upcoming EP of the same name due out 4 June, is lushly melodic, a pleasing meld of burbling folk and pop overlaid by Lutti’s remote, otherworldly vocals that nonetheless lend the song a warm accessibility.

There is a playful joy to the music that sits quite comfortably alongside the darker threads of melancholy, all of which come together to produce music that works just as well as the soundtrack to tranquil ruminations on life as it does as music to explore the world by.

 

 

“Brittle Pieces” by Zemmy

 

Zemmy (image via bellanaija.com)

 

Oh my lord there is emotion in Zemmy’s music.

Gloriously good, deep, soulful expressions of emotions that give her songs, and “Brittle Pieces” especially, a raw immediacy that you simply can’t fake.

Bare-your-soul honesty seems to be London-based singer/ songwriter Zemmy’s very much welcome stock in trade, a sign that she is not an artist who is simply going to write songs for the sake of writing them or tickling someone’s ears.

No, her songs are authentic outpourings of who she is and how she sees life.

And how thankful am I that she is willing to wear her heart on her sleeve, and squeeze every last drop of soul-scarred emotional honesty into her trembling but assured husky voice and world-weary but accepting lyrics.

And pair them with music as frail and yet robust and beautifully melodic as that which graces “Brittle Pieces”.

You could just float away from the world on this song, hopefully to a new and better place.

 

 

“Daddy’s Groove” by Röyksopp

 

Röyksopp (image via electronicrumors.com)

 

The boys from Tromsø, Norway are back!

Included as a song of new music on their curation of the latest in the UK Late Night Tales mix tape compilations that asks bands to draw together all the songs that they love or that have inspired them, “Daddy’s Groove” possesses that languid melodiousness and removed electronically-caressed voices that have become the Norwegian electronica band’s trademarks.

I have been listening to it on almost endless repeat for a couple of days, and in a sign of the song’s strength and Röyksopp’s undeniable talent, I have yet to tire of it.

This quietly happy song bubbles along taking you with it, not in any great hurry to get anywhere which is fine with me because it’s the sort of song you just want to soak all the happiness up from for as long as you can.

You can listen to the track here.

 

+ special mention: “Skirt” by Kylie Minogue

 

Kylie Minogue (image via livelearnshineon.blogspot.com)

 

You have to love it when it’s someone’s birthday and they’re the one giving out the presents.

Businesses of course do it all the time on TV, replete with cheesy adverts and booming announcers voices, but everyone else? Not so much.

But this week, evergreen pop princess Kylie Minogue, who marked 25 years in the music biz last year, decided that she would be the one giving out the gifts on her 45th birthday.

Well sort of.

 

(image via rmx.com)

 

Chris Lake, was the one who actually dropped Kylie’s new track “Skirt”, which is all jangly dubstep, sighs and moans, during a set he performed at Pacha Ibiza, but it quickly went viral, notching up thousands of plays on Soundcloud.com within hours of its release.

While the song, produced by Scottish dance wunderkind Nom De Strip, and written with The-Dream, the hit-making factory who have crafted pop gems for Beyonce and Rihanna,  hasn’t been confirmed as an actual single, or even a track on Kylie’s new album due later this year, it is nonetheless a look into the new musical direction Kylie promised she would be taking as part of her deal Roc Nation (the management company helmed by Jay-Z).

And what an exciting look it is.

Bold, experimental and compelling, it has a lush melody running throughout, coupled with Kylie’s breathy vocals, and promises, regardless of the form it eventually takes, to be a standout song in Kylie’s already considerable repertoire.

 

Movie review: “The Place Beyond the Pines”

(image via screenslam.com)

 

Thwarted expectations lie at the heart of The Place Beyond the Pines, Derek Cianfrance’s almost Shakespearianly-epic tale of two distinctly different men struggling to reconcile two implacably opposed extremes – what they believe life will bring to them and what it actually ends up delivering.

Both Ryan Gosling as Luke Glanton – reunited with Cianfrance after they first worked together on 2010’s emotionally-eviscerating My Blue Valentine – and Bradley Cooper as Avery Cross, deliver stellar performances illuminating in stark detail the often messy collision between hopes and dreams, and the cold, hard hand of reality.

Neither man emerges unscathed from the encounters, with both paying a high price for the decisions they make, consequences that are played out in the third act of this stirring drama, a fitting, if overly tidy, finale to the two epic acts that precede it.

 

Neither Luke (Ryan Gosling) and Romina (Eva Mendes) quite manages to bridge the yawning gap between aspiration and reality with any real success (image via pastemagazine.com)

 

In the bleak, emotionally raw first part of the film, Luke Glanton, a motorcycle stunt rider with an act that travels the state fair circuit, a lifestyle that suits perfectly a man of limited expectations drawn from a lifetime of emotional neglect, discovers he has a son with Romina (Eva Mendes, in another powerfully understated performance), a woman with whom he had an almost-forgotten fling.

After almost immediately quitting his job as a stuntman, and securing a minimum wage job working for auto repair shop owner Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) in order to be near his son, Luke is a man reborn, seized by an almost evangelical zeal to be the best father he can be and by so doing craft the sort of family life denied to him so far in life.

However, despite doing everything he can to provide for his son, including teaming up with Robin for a series of increasingly daring, and ultimately, ill-advised bank robberies, he is unable to bridge the daunting gap between his idealistic expectations of the perfect life, and the reality of a world where Romina, happy with her new partner Kofi (Mahershala Ali), and unwilling to allow Luke to use her to play out his domestic fantasies, ends up wanting nothing to do with him, initial flirtations notwithstanding.

His quixotic quest to create the life denied him, ends, much as you might expect, in tragedy – of what kind I cannot say  exactly since The Place Beyond the Pines depends for its dramatic gravitas on one major consequential decision after another, none of which can be revealed without compromising the overall viewing experience, so finely intertwined are all the acts – and the end of any hope that reality may bend enough to grant him the realisation of expectations he realises all too late were simply fanciful, doomed-to-failure dreams.

 

Not even the fierce and overpowering love he has for his son is enough to ward off Luke’s dawning realisation that real life is not kind to hopes and dreams, no matter how deeply felt (image via slate.com)

 

Avery Cross by contrast is a man who seems to have been given every chance of bringing even the most grandiose of his dreams to fruition.

Raised as the son of a Supreme Court judge, Al (Harris Yulin), and  a law school graduate whose connections would have ensured him a plumb job at the big end of town (and an eventual run at political office if his father had his way), Avery instead opts to join the Schenectady, New York police department with high hopes of enforcing justice rather than simply talking about it as he did at university.

But dig beneath the shiny gloss of a privileged upbringing and idealistic career ambitions in law enforcement, and Avery is just another man with expectations that don’t quite pan out as he thought they would.

 

One pivotal moment in his life, just a year into his career as a police officer, profoundly changes Avery Cross (Bradley Cross) altering his expectations for the way will play out (image via justjared.com)

 

While his stratospheric rise through the political ranks in the intense second act, culminating in a run at the New York Attorney General’s job, goes pretty much as he expects, it is his career as a police officer, where he encounters on an epic, almost untameable scale, and his personal life that is found wanting as both his marriage and his relationship with his son, AJ (Emory Cohen) falter in the face of reality’s unrelenting glare.

Try as he might to patch up these holes in his life, especially his relationship with AJ who is spinning rapidly into an abyss of chronic alcohol and drug use at the age of 17, he finds time and again that his expectations are never quite met, and in fact, fall far short almost every time.

Both Avery and Luke, though inhabiting, at first glance, vastly different worlds, and connected only by one profoundly impacting event that changes the course of both men’s lives forever, are united in their inability to bend the contrary will of reality to their needs and desires.

 

Literally on his knees, Avery Cross realises that sheer force of will isn’t enough to make life wholly in his imagined image (image via bywayofbeauty.com)

 

It is a lesson learnt early by the next generation when an almost too neat set but nevertheless narratively useful of circumstances brings Luke’s now adult son Jason (Dane DeHaan) into contact with Avery’s problematic son AJ.

Bonded by their disaffection with the state of their lives, their outsider status at school and their liberal drug use, they form a close if at times adversarial relationship that is tested very early on when they are arrested for drug possession.

Freed thanks to Avery’s now considerable political clout, they move back and forth uneasily in each other’s orbit till a set of cascading developments send them, and those closest to them on a collision course with the brutality of life expressed in its crudest, most unyielding form.

While the third act which is largely devoted to them, and their near-destructive love/hate relationship, is wrapped up almost a little too easily, it succeeds in drawing together, with powerful dramatic force, the events of the entire film.

 

Life often feels like it is ripe with limitless possibilities and for most people it is. The big trap as the characters in “The Place Beyond the Pines” discover is whether it will lead you where you expect to go (Image via voraciousfilmgoer.blogspot.com)

 

Granted the film does falter a little in its closing third, unsure at times how this generation-spanning drama should conclude itself, but it remains throughout, buoyed by a confident script, first-rate performances all around, and a distinctive almost film noir-visual style that exposes the bleak underbelly of the American dream in its physical form, a movie that balances raw, human, and at times explosive drama with the larger questions of what it means to find life wanting.

Or at least our expectations of it.

 

 

“World War Z” goes downunder + new movie poster

Brad Pitt watches New York go up in flames (image via impawards.com)

 

SYNOPSIS
The film, a loose adaptation of Max Brooks’s bestseller World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, is directed by Marc Forster.  Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a United Nations researcher who must leave his family in the care of the military and go on a globe-trotting quest to trace the origins of the pandemic turning humanity into reanimated flesh-eaters.  It’s a race against time to get to the bottom of the disease before our whole species is overtaken. (source: iamrogue.com)

 

There has been a slew of new posters and banners released for World War Z in the last week or so, most notably in the last 24 hours or so when a series of international banners showing destruction in various world cities hit the internet along with the following new poster for international audiences:

 

(image via iamrogue.com.au)

 

This latest poster is quite telling.

It’s the first time we see Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family right in the midst of the apocalypse itself.

Granted the trailer does show them running in panic through the streets of New York in the early stages of the disaster but you don’t see any zombies hot on their heels at that stage, and then later on they are usually far below them, with the threat visible but not close and menacing.

But here they are very close, they are very menacing, and it underscores that no one is safe, not even Gerry’s family as the US Commander on board the aircraft carrier makes abundantly clear to him.

 

So much for the isolation factor of being an island! (image via gizmodo.com)

 

No one is safe indeed.

Any thoughts I had that Australia might be relatively safe thanks to its isolation – an isolation that has been admittedly whittled down to pretty much nothing by jet travel and the internet – have been ripped to fast-moving zombie-ripping shreds by the banner above which shows my beloved home city of Sydney in flames, and awash in fleeing crowds and hungry pestilent undead.

Quite apart from making the nightly commute far more problematic than usual – although you could well argue that the herd mentality of most commuters surging up and down the stairs at rail stations in peak hour is not that different to a zombie horde – it means that any hopes I had that we’d escape unscathed are gone, baby, gone.

The same goes for Rome …

 

So much for doing some touristing in the Eternal City (image via iamrogue.com)

 

And Berlin …

 

They always said Berlin was a ragingly good place to spend some time but I doubt they meant this (image via iamrogue.com)

 

I think the editor of gizmodo.com, , had the right idea when he said:

“… one assumes that if the zombie apocalypse comes to Sydney, your editor will be locked up inside with a shotgun and a bottle of scotch.”

Got room for one more? I think my train may be a little delayed …

 

Zoom! “Planes” gets ready to take off with new trailer

(image via dis411.net)

 

SYNOPSIS
Dusty (Dane Cook) is a cropdusting plane who dreams of competing in a famous aerial race. The problem? He is hopelessly afraid of heights. With the support of his mentor Skipper (Stacey Keach) and a host of new friends, Dusty sets off to make his dreams come true. (source: imdb.com)

 

One more to the franchise dear anthropomorphic mechanical beings, once more!

After the amazing success of Pixar’s commercially, if not critically, successful Cars series, Disney have decided to, ahem, drive the brand just that little bit further.

Or in this case, up into the clouds and beyond (no, not that franchise).

Taking place in the same universe occupied by Cars, but produced by film studio sibling DisneyToon Studios rather than Pixar itself (whose last release as 2005’s Pooh’s Heffalump Movie), Planes tells the endearing story of Dusty Crophopper, a crop dusting plane with a debilitating fear of heights.

Yes, heights.

Kinda bites when you’re a plane and you want to compete in an prestigious air race.

 

Will Dusty conquer his fears and take to the sky like a natural? You bet he will (image via w3rkshop.com)

 

So of course Dusty, voiced by comedian Dane Cook, with the help of Skipper (Stacey Keach) has to beat his inner fear-of-heights demons – assuming characters in a kids movie are even allowed to have such things; nah, probably not … let’s just say he has fears to overcome shall we kiddies? – if he is going to soar like he is, of course, destined to do.

Granted not the most expansive of narratives, and I suspect from watching the trailer that it lacks many of the hip pop culture references and in jokes that made Shrek and the many knowing post-modern-influences kids flicks that followed so bearable for the adults taking their children to the movies, but who doesn’t enjoy a stirring tale of a sweet-natured but determined underdog overcoming his fears and making good on his dreams (completed with some zippy one liners to boot)?

No one, bar the most entrenched cynics among us, which is why I suspect Planes will do very nicely indeed thank you.

(Note to self: make sure niece and nephew are free around the release date.)

Planes opens in USA on 9 August 2013, followed by Australia on 19 September (just in time for school holidays).

 

Ellen Degeneres gets together with some of her “Friends”

(image via thestrokes.com)

 

If you’re a pop culture junkie like me, there is nothing more exciting than the reunion of the cast from one of your favourite TV shows.

(OK perhaps there is – if Ryan Reynolds called and asked if he come over and watch said reunion with me, I would barley be able to concentrate on much else. But I digress …)

And the excitement factor is ramped up just that little bit further if it’s a gathering together of some of the cast of iconic sitcom Friends, orchestrated for the purposes of general hilarity and The Ellen Show promotion by none other than the hilariously funny Ellen Degeneres herself.

 

Ellen Degeneres with good friend and frequent interviewee and onetime co-host, the lovely Jennifer Aniston (image via ellendegeneresworld.com)

 

I daresay there is hardly a Friends star who hasn’t been on The Ellen Show at one time or another and since they are by all accounts a fun-loving, grounded bunch of people it makes perfect sense that Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry would be willing to have some fun at their own expense and help Ellen out in the process.

So without further ado, here’s the segment which was posted on the YouTube channel of The Ellen Show with the following introduction:

“To get ready for her big co-hosting gig with Ellen, Jennifer Aniston visited her friend Matthew Perry to get some advice. What happened after that, you’ll have to see to believe.”

 

 

Judging a book by its cover #3: “The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi

(image via windupstories.com)

 

The object of this series, which I am running in conjunction with my wonderful friend, Elle, who blogs at Inkproductions.org (well-written, entertaining and thoughtful articles on all things writing and blogging-oriented) is to grab a long-neglected unread book off our shelves, speculate on what we think the book’s about based solely on its cover and then – ta dah! – reveal what the book is really trying to say.

Is it unfair to judge a book by its cover? We’re about to find out!

WHAT I THINK THE BOOK IS ABOUT
In the far future , where the only animals left alive are elephants, and the only activity left to an idle city bound humanity, freed from endless drudgery by ceaseless technological advancement, is walking these large animals, one lone girl, who some say simply fell from a passing airship, decides that there must be more to life than holding onto tusks and leading elephants beneath the endless skyscrapers.

Deciding to literally throw a spanner in the works, she journeys to the heart of the city, the Absolutely Ginormous Computer Thingummybob, where her expert tool-throwing skills bring the technological core of human civilisation to a grinding halt, forcing people to once again fend for themselves.

Alas, just as humanity is off re-discovering what it means to be truly alive (and just how long it takes to really make a good moist frittata) she suddenly stops, unaware she is a windup doll.

All alone with no one to wind her up again, she ends up as dead as the computer that is now her tomb.

 

Beautiful “The Windup Girl” art from artist Sharksden at deviantart.com (image (c) Sharksden)

 

WHAT THE BOOK IS REALLY ABOUT
“The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi is a critically acclaimed science fiction novel about thirty-third century Thailand where food production and distribution is controlled through mega corporations. The novel focuses on the events leading up to a civil war, specifically how Emiko, a windup girl created in Japan, provides a reason by assassinating one of the most important men in the Kingdom. “The Windup Girl” is a fascinating tale of this future society. (source: BookRags.com)

Coming to a TV near you: 5 promising new season sitcoms #1

 

It’s that time of the year again!

The current TV season is coming to a close and as the shows we know and love wrap it up for another year, some of them never to be seen again, a jostling crop of hopefuls is waiting in the wings ready to take their place.

The shows were revealed recently during what is known as the “Upfronts” where all five of the networks reveal all their new shows, and programming schedules for the new season, to advertisers and the media.

As always, there’s a fairly healthy crop of sitcoms in the pack, and so it made sense to start my review of what’s on offer come September with five of the shows that I think have enough appeal to be worth your time checking out when they premiere.

So grab your favourite TV snacks, tape your sides with Duct tape so that they won’t explode from all the laughing and enjoy five very promising sitcoms that deserve your viewing loving …

 

THE CRAZY ONES (CBS)

 

“Crazy Ones” (image via screeninvasion.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Academy Award winner Robin Williams returns to series television in THE CRAZY ONES, a single-camera workplace comedy about a larger-than-life advertising genius whose unorthodox methods and unpredictable behavior would get him fired…if he weren’t the boss. (source: CBS YouTube channel)

 

I have adored Robin Williams ever since I saw him in his breakthrough role on Mork and Mindy.

It was immediately obvious to anyone who watched the show just how gifted a comic he was.

He managed to elevate what was in most respects a reasonably run-of-the-mill sitcom with his spontaneous wit, rapid fire delivery and facial expressions that four seasons, longer than you might have expected it to survive.

And now he has returned to his roots in Crazy Ones, with Sara Michelle Gellar playing the straight-laced Type A daughter to his manic, one-of-a-kind advertising executive who refuses to play by the rules.

It looks promising, largely thanks to the Odd Couple-riffing that happens between Williams and Gellar and the fact that the show’s producers have wisely decided to surround the comedy legend with other actors capable of keeping up with him.

That should ensure that while he will obviously be the centre of the show that he doesn’t swamp everyone else and turn what could be a clever, engaging ensemble into a season-long stand up routine. (Not that that would be a bad thing but it would kind of go against the point of having a full show in the first place.)

If this is what crazy looks like, then strap me into a strait jacket. I’m in!

 

 

 

MOM (CBS)

 

“Mom” (image via hitfix.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
MOM is a comedy from executive producer Chuck Lorre starring Anna Faris as a newly sober single mom raising two children in a world full of temptations and pitfalls, and multiple Emmy Award winner Allison Janney as her critical, estranged mother. (source: CBS YouTube channel)

 

Speaking of exceptionally talented actors elevating a relatively standard premise, Mom owes a great deal to the combined talents of Anna Faris and Allison Janney.

Making use of one of the oldest sitcom premises in the book – the prodigal child starting afresh – Mom will rise or fall I suspect on the talents of these two remarkable women.

Helping it along, of course, will be the fact that it is coming from the house of Chuck Lorre, a man who has a proven track record for delivering sitcoms that attract eyeballs and keep them there for seasons at a time.

I am hoping that the show’s writer’s will given Faris and Janney all the clever, witty lines in the world.

Certainly their characters – Faris’s recovering alcoholic single mother and Janney’s utterly unconventional overly-critical recovering alcoholic mother and the complicated dysfunctional relationship that binds them – are ripe for all manner of witty repartee as are the plethora of fantastically dysfunctional characters in their orbit.

Played properly, Mom has every chance of developing into one of those character-driven, laugh-out-loud comedies that Lorre has a knack for bringing to the screen.

 

 

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE (Fox)

 

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (image via variety.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Detective JAKE PERALTA (Samberg) is a good enough cop that he’s never had to work that hard or follow the rules too closely. Perhaps because he has the best arrest record among his colleagues, he’s been enabled – if not indulged – throughout his entire career. That is, until the precinct gets a new commanding officer, Captain RAY HOLT (Braugher), who reminds this hotshot cop to respect the badge. (source: aceshowbiz.com)

 

OK yes it’s a goofball premise that could easily sink under the weight of cheap and easy jokes.

That is a real fear, not completely allayed by a trailer that, while funny, trades on frat boy humour a little bit too much.

However the fact that it stars Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live) as the comic centre of the precinct, and Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street) as his newly-installed straight-man captain, and is written and produced by Emmy Award-winning Dan Goor and Michael Schur of Parks and Recreation fame gives me great hope that the show has the goods for comic longevity.

Certainly the location of what is essentially a workplace comedy gives the show all sorts of scope for a revolving cast of oddball characters, and the cast of close, if dysfunctional police officers and detectives who spend as much time together drinking beer and singing karaoke as they do solving crime, sometimes rather badly, at work, promises that Brooklyn Nine-Nine should never be short of material.

So despite a rather hit-and-miss trailer, that is nonetheless replete with some fine jokes and spot-on comic acting, I have high hopes for this sitcom, if only because it reminds me just little, just a little, of Leslie Neilsen’s Police Squad!

And that can’t be a bad thing.

 

 

THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW (NBC)

 

“Michael J. Fox Show” (image via masslive.com)

 

Michael J. Fox is back!

Well technically he never really went away, with much-admired guest starring roles on Rescue Me (2009) and The Good Wife (2012-13) the latest in a long line of acting credits.

But he’s back in his very own sitcom, his natural home (Family Ties, Spin City) and while the premise may not be overly inspired, what the show’s producers plan to do with it looks very much that way.

For one thing, the show gleefully tackles Michael J Fox’s Parkinsons disease head on, with what would be regarded as highly politically incorrect jokes about the condition except for the fact (a) they are ridiculously funny and (b) Michael J. Fox wasn’t the main star all too ready to poke fun at and be brutally honest (as his biography shows only too well) about what ails him.

It’s this very honesty, and Michael’s deadpan delivery that will set this sitcom apart, the only great variable being whether the writing will be strong enough to match the hilarious premise.

I certainly hope so because I want this talented actor to be on my TV screen again for as long as humanly possible.

 

 

US AND THEM (Fox)

 

“Us & Them” (image via snarkerati.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Based on an award-winning BBC series and starring Emmy Award nominee Jason Ritter (Parenthood) and Alexis Bledel (Mad Men, Gilmore Girls), US & THEM is a new single-camera ensemble comedy about a young couple, whose path to happily-ever-after is complicated by the screwed-up circus of people closest to them. (source: Fox Youtube.com channel)

 

This sitcom has the lot.

Witty dialogue, a more than healthy pedigree – it is based on the much-awarded and loved BBC series Gavin and Stacey – palpable, charming chemistry between the leads Jason Ritter (Gavin) and Alexis Bledel (Stacey), and a coterie of utterly idiosyncratic friends and family, including the gifted Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle, Whitney) as Gavin’s mother Pam, armed with the sort of zingy one-liners that will have pausing your PVR over and over till it goes up in smoke.

Produced by Sony Pictures Television and BBC Worldwide Productions, Us & Them, a single-camera comedy, revolves around the idea that no man, or woman, is an island, and that whiel love is a grand and wonderful thing, it is often held hostage to the often dysfunctional tribes that each party brings with them.

If a budding relationship can survive all the associated baggage, mayhem and chaos, then it can pretty much survive anything.

And have us laughing right along with it I would wager.

 

 

Weekend Pop Art #4: Zombies are everywhere

The Corpse Wars (image (c) Matt Busch via neatoshop.com)

 

These days you could be forgiven for thinking that zombies are everywhere.

So prevalent have the post-apocalytic undead become that they are starting to pop up in movies that never featured them in the first place and it’s thanks in part to the imaginative brilliance of one Matt Busch.

A talented artist and illustrator who has contributed art to official Star Wars releases since 1994, and who has worked on movies such as Con-Air, The Matrix, and Lord of the Rings, Matt is held in high regard, Matt has one of those out-of-the-box perspectives that makes him a compelling chronicler of pop culture.

 

Who Maimed Roger Rabid? (image (c) Matt Busch via neatoshop.com)

 

And if we needed any more of an indication that his finger is firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist, he has a released a brilliant series of posters that perfectly merge all sorts of great cinematic masterpieces with our favourite monsters de jour – zombies.

Admire, enjoy and if you want a print of your very own, they’re on sale at Matt’s neatoshop.com store.

 

The Princess Died (image (c) Matt Busch via neatoshop.com)

 

Come join the “Revolution” My current thoughts on a show I once spurned

(image via dougtvreview.com)

 

Way back when J. J. Abrams’ latest hit TV series, Revolution, debuted in October 2012, I was initially underwhelmed by a show that, though armed with an imaginative, promising premise, seemed uncertain how best to execute on it.

The pilot episode, which introduced us to a world where electricity had simply vanished in a split second throwing civilisation into chaos, wasn’t a failure by any means introducing just enough tension and drama and “what ifs” to keep me watching till the end.

But it wasn’t compelling enough to make tune in for the second episode nor to reconsider my decision not to watch any further episodes even when I read about its blockbuster ratings in the US which were partly responsible for dragging last place network NBC briefly back to the top of the ratings.

In retrospect I probably should have given it another chance since shows like Fringe and Stargate SG1, which I now consider to be some of the best TV I have ever watched, didn’t grab me by the proverbial short ‘n’ curlies at the start of their debut seasons.

But I persevered with them, journeying with the makers of the TV till they found their storytelling rhythm and began delivering on the exciting premises they had outlined at the beginning of their shows’ runs.

For reasons I can’t explain but which likely has to do with the surfeit of exceedingly good TV on offer at the moment making it all too easy to dismiss a show that doesn’t wow you at the get-go, I never offered Revolution the second chance I gave to these other shows.

 

Some of the main players in “Revolution” L-R: Aaron Pittman (Zak Orth), Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell), Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos) , Miles Matheson (Billy Burke), Jason Neville (JD Pardo) and major Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) (image via nbcrevolution.tumblr.com)

 

And after having finally heeded my house mate’s urgings and watched all of the episodes in the series telecast so far, I am happy to admit that I shouldn’t have been so hasty.

Revolution has indeed found it sweet storytelling spot, and is delivering, week after week, consistently good episodes that have me actively anticipating the next instalment in its apocalyptic tale.

And here’s the five things I love about a show that has carved out its own distinctive portion of the post-apocalpse genre which as we all know is swarming with more shows that a group of survivors overwhelmed by a fast moving zombie pack.

(1) Brilliant execution on a tantalising premise
After a hesitant start when it seemed unsure of the best way forward, Revolution has parlayed a great idea into a well told, fulsomely-articulated story.

I was a more than a little concerned by the quick, almost unseemly hurry that the series displayed in hurrying through the events of the apocalypse itself in the sort of “nothing to see here, move on” style displayed by the Battlestar Galactica mini-series (which of course became one of the defining shows of the Noughties), with the electricity pretty much off before the opening credits on the pilots had fully rolled.

But by taking advantage of a narrative much loved by Lost, another of Abrams’ superbly successful TV efforts, the intermittent backstory, it hasn’t just fleshed out the backgrounds of the characters but of the world itself and the conspiracy of misguided scientific endeavour that plunged humanity back into the agrarian age.

Revolution has wisely not over used this device, doling out the backstory revelations in easy to digest portions that never detract from the present tale they are trying to tell.

By so doing, they have delivered handsomely and then some on all that initial promise.

 

It’s not just the maps that have changed beyond recognition. The world has changed dramatically with brute force and realpolitik replacing the niceties of civilisation (image via revolutiontvshow.net)

 

(2) They are providing answers and lots of them
Yes we all love a good mystery.

Nothing makes us keeping watching a show that a well turned “Why” or “What if?” but keeping the carrot dangling for too long with no chance of ever catching it and viewers may well conclude there is a better narrative meal to be had elsewhere.

The makers of Revolution have wisely worked that out – it’s likely that the lessons of Lost and sundry other shows since where the reveals came at a glacial pace in the hope of keeping the tension just so have  not just been learnt but acted upon – and have given us insights at a regular, but not overwhelming rate, into why electricity came to disappear from the face of the Earth and the role the various players had in making that happen, or reshaping the world that followed in its wake.

They have magically managed to keep the balance between the grand theatrical reveal and mystery of what is unknown taut and steady and as a consequence watching has become a must-see event since you may miss out on something important should you miss an episode.

 

Not just a decorative device, these lockets, first seen in the hands of Ben Matheson in the rushed lead up to the end of civilisation as we know it, can actually summon power when needed giving key players including Sebastian “Bass” Monroe, unhinged dictator of the Monroe Republic, an advantage denied to much of the population (image via maskedheroes.co.uk)

 

(3) Characters that are more than 2D cardboard cutouts
Giving all your characters sufficient breadth and depth, especially when you are dealing with an epic ensemble show like Revolution can be a challenge of exhausting proportions.

But bit by bit through finely wrought conversation, selective flashbacks, and narrative twists that have caused various characters to reveal, willingly or unwillingly, their true often-flawed colours,  the show has introduced us to people who have a real reason for being there and aren’t simply superficially-generated slaves of narrative momentum.

When your characters are as instrumental in moving the story forward as your plot, you have constructed a sophisticated well rounded show that isn’t in danger of running out of storytelling grunt any time soon.

And characters that we will want to spend time with for as long as the show is around.

UPDATE 29/5: Here’s a great opinion piece on the strength of Revolution’s characters by Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun.

 

The ever closer relationship between one time Monroe republic bigwig Miles and his niece Charlie is the emotional heart and soul of the show but there are so many relationships that come a close second such as that between Miles and Nora or Rachel and Aaron that you know you have a show that knows its characters are every bit as important as its setting and plot (image via anythinghorror.com)

 

(4) Death is a real and present danger … as is pain and sorrow
One of the great downfalls of any show in a scarred, post-apocalyptic landscape is rendering your characters essentially bulletproof. (Dark Angel, an early-Noughties drama from James Cameron, is one series that fell into just such a trap.)

In other words, even though they are living a precariously balanced life in a dog-eat-eat world, the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune seem to slide right off them like they’re covered in some sort of human-sized teflon coat.

Alas in the real world that’s never the case and while losing any character we care about is tough, it does lend credibility to a show, especially one that wants us to believe, as Revolution does that it’s telling a harrowing story of a world where the value of human life only extends as far as its usefulness to someone else.

We may  be emotionally shellshocked, and loudly lament the passing of the character, such as when Danny Matheson, beloved brother of Charlie, and long separated son of Rachel died heroically defending the rebels from an aerial attack from the newly energised forces of General Monroe, but we respect the show for staying true to its core idea that the world they represent is a dangerous one and survival is never a given.

I am impressed that Revolution is willing to kill off key characters and expose those left behind, as well as those watching the show, to the inevitable pain and sorrow that follows.

 

Danny’s death was a real shock and as emotionally harrowing as a character’s death can be, but it lent “Revolution” credibility as a show willing to give its post-apocalyptic world the sort of realness it needs to come across as truly authentic (image via revolutionison.blogspot.com)

 

(5) It is willing to possibly completely re-shape its premise if needs be
Now this is where I venture, rather riskily I might add, into the realm of supposition and conjecture.

From the way the show is tracking at the moment – the most recent episode “Clue” had Monroe and his forces including the dastardly Randall Flynn (Colm Feore) poised to enter the mysterious “The Tower” in Colorado, which can turn the power back on for everyone, with Rachel and Aaron hot on their heels, and a mysterious group watching from inside – it is highly possible that the original premise of the show, that there is no electricity, could be turned on its head by one flick of the switch.

It would not be the first time a show has done this with Once Upon a Time ending its first season with the lifting of the curse which had sent all the fairytale characters hurtling into our flawed world, ripped from the moorings of their magical land.

 

“Once Upon a Time” completely altered the fundamentals of the show at the end of season 1, a brave decision that sent the show off on a wholly new, rewarding trajectory (image via mission2mum.co.uk)

 

While you might think that pulling the rug of the original premise out from under a show might send it into a calamitous death spiral, quite the opposite happened.

Once Upon a Time built upon this momentous change, which still left the characters with both the consequences of the curse being enacted and then lifted, and took the narrative in an even more muscular, engaging direction.

I suspect much the same would happen with Revolution.

The world has changed forever and won’t simply revert back like a magic wand has been waved to its original pre-apocalyptic state.

The juice may be flowing again but the world is still monumentally messed up and there is still a great deal of drama to be had.

 

Or maybe not so forever after all. But even if the power comes back on, our world is changed forever and nothing will ever be the same again (image via 15991471.wwww.fanpop.com)

 

So yes I was wrong to dismiss Revolution so quickly.

It has grown into a startlingly good show and one that I am sure will come back from the summer break – its finale airs on June 3 in the US – bigger and better than ever.

Now this is music #7: My 5 favourite songs of the week – Lindsey Stirling, Godwolf, Jagwar Ma, Emma Louise, Haerts

Much as I have loved my time in Eurovision-land, it is time to dive right back into the gloriously unceasing flow of music cascading past my ears on a daily basis.

Some might all that new music a little overwhelming; I find it ridiculously exciting. a chance to discover new and amazing artists that might otherwise pass me by.

All hail the digital revolution, the music it brings my way, and of course, these five songs in particular.

Enjoy, and groove away on public transport when you think everybody’s looking … go on! I dare you …

 

Halo Theme by Lindsey Stirling and William Joseph

 

Lindsey Stirling and William Joseph (image via youtube.com)

 

Lindsey Stirling is a very talented, and one can only conclude from her list of creative pursuits and achievements, a very busy young lady.

A quarter-finalist on America’s Got Talent in 2010, where apparently she was known as the Hip Hop Violinist, she is an “American violinist, dancer, performance artist, and composer” (source: Wikipedia), who also keeps her own uber-successful YouTube channel with legions of fans humming along, and I am sure, as a result she must never have time to sleep!

If she is sleep-deprived she gives no indication of it on her after-clip soundbites where she is as unfailingly bright, upbeat and as great to listen to as her music.

Ah yes … the music.

I was first put onto it by a good friend in my writing group, and frankly she was a revelation.

Melding classical influences, modern pop, and an almost retro throwback to the classical/pop fusion sounds of the 70s and 80s, her instrumental pieces are full of life, grand melody, and soaring emotion.

“Halo Theme” is no different, at times majestic, sometime contemplative but always deliciously, richly melodic and as with all her tunes, accompanied by an imaginatively-themed and shot clip.

If you’re looking for something totally different, you need to check out her music.

 

 

“Alone” by Godwolf

 

Godwolf (image via Facebook.com)

 

With a name that actually has some deep meaning for the band behind it – “We like the idea of blending the ethereal with the vicious: the ambient with the aggressive: the God with the Wolf.” (source: triplejunearthed) – Godwolf were formed to create music that is a mix of the contemplative and calm with the rampantly full and aggressive.

And they have succeeded very nicely thank you.

“Alone”, which is the first single from their EP Throw An Ocean, is a beautiful mix of the serene and the chaotic, best described one of my favourite music blogs Your Music Radar as “honey and silk to the ears”.

They got it absolutely right.

It’s that sublime mix of slowly building guitar and synth that gathers pace note by note, with a beat that sounds not unlike a galloping horse tapping away in the background accompanied by soft, perfectly-harmonised vocals, before exploding into a passionate wall-shaking dancefloor-worthy  track.

It shifts back and forth between these two ear-pleasing extremes creating a fabulous middle ground of listening pleasure.

These guys are going to go far.

 

 

“Man I Need” by Jagwar Ma

 

Jagwar Ma (image via thefourohfive.com)

 

Keeping it local, Jagwar Ma, who describe themselves as “Sydney-born, Pan Pacific-raised”, are an experimental duo with a nice line in haunting, emotion-laden vocals, quirky animated video clips and trippy blissed out groove.

“Man I Need” is a follow up to their previously-released songs “Come Save Me” and “The Throw” and it’s a lush, almost ethereal-sounding track that comes armed with a beat that won’t let go and a delightfully offbeat sensibility.

Their fresh, bright sound promises that their album Howlin’, recorded in Sydney, Berlin and France – it appears they have extended their pan Pacific travels to the entire world – and set to be released on 10 June will be one to check out if you want a sound that is a hypnotic mix of pop and otherworldly bliss.

While they have recently had some setbacks due to the illness of Jono Ma, who is effectively Jagwar Ma, along with the vocals of Gabriel Winterfield from Ghostwood, I can’t see any way that Jagwar Ma won’t be all the man we need for quite some time to come.

 

 

“Mirrors” by Emma Louise

 

Emma Louise (image via theripe.tv)

 

Hailing from Cairns in far North Queensland, Emma Louise is crafting the sort of meaningful, beautiful music that is already endearing her to a great many people who know a talented singer/songwriter when they hear one.

Thankfully she has eschewed the temptation to simply keep writing copycat versions of her first big hit, the glorious “Jungle”, her first release and an instant hit on radio garnering her lots of unexpected attention, in favour of writing what she feels and knows, an attitude which indicates she is in it for the long haul and considers her artistry every bit as important as chart success.

It’s a refreshing attitude, especially with the pressure to keep getting yourself noticed in today’s crowded, nosy digital marketplace and comes from a well thought out place as she told Kayla Clobborn at the brag.com:

“I didn’t even expect [‘Jungle’] to get on the radio at all. I was very lucky and I’m very grateful. It was a bit of a – I don’t want to say the word ‘fluke’, but it definitely put the pressure on. A lot of people were asking what the next ‘Jungle’ would be, and there were people talking over my other songs at my shows. It kind of scared me a bit. I had a choice to write more songs like ‘Jungle’ and get on the radio, but then I wouldn’t have been fulfilled. So I chose to stick with what I was feeling.”

I’m glad she did.

“Mirrors” is a sublimely beautiful, rich, almost haunting piece of work giving her gorgeous voice the chance to soar and whisper in equal measure, and a clear sign that even if she keeps turning heads musically and she will, that she will remain an artist first and foremost.

 

 

“All the Days” by Haerts

 

Haerts (image via pigeonsandplanes.com)

 

One of those bands that proves the world is a small and ever shrinking place, Haerts (and no I am not misspelling on a grand scale; that is how you spell the band’s name) hail from Germany, the United States and UK – the members are Nini Fabi, Ben Gebert, Garrett Ienner, Derek McWilliams, and Jonathan Schmidt – and now call Brooklyn home.

With the release of their debut album looming ever closer, it’s not hard to see why there is such anticipation for the five piece band’s release.

“All the Days” is one of those utterly distinctive songs that stays with you long after you’ve heard it, thanks largely to Nini Fabi’s haunting vocals and a melody that will not be denied.

Pigeonsandplanes.com described their sound best I think when they said:

“Dreamy vocals flow over triumphant, pulsing drums, and of course a little bit of synth for good measure.”

It’s exactly the sort of one-of-a-kind sound that an artist needs to cut through all the cacophony of a tsunami of new music and I would wager will keep them riding high in the public consciousness for some time to come.

 

 

* So what’s your favourite tune?