The greatest movie ever assembled: “The Lego Movie” teaser trailer

(image via iamrogue.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
The 3D animated adventure tells the story of Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared. (source: iamrogue.com)

 

I am still a big kid at heart.

How do I know this?

Why you only have to get me anywhere a LEGO set of any kind, and I am itching to sit down on the carpet, tip the various building blocks out before me, and start assembling whatever the latest feat of block-building imagination that the Danish company has been inspired to create.

The fact that I don’t do this on a regular basis has more to do with all the other exciting activities that have come my way in adulthood – this blog of course being one of them, which happily consumes much otherwise useful LEGO-assembling time – than any disinclination to see where the colourful building blocks and my imagination might take me.

 

Emmet finds himself on an epic adventure for which he is woefully unprepared! (image via cgmeetup.net)

 

When I was a child, and LEGO mainly concentrated releasing packs of blocks rather than elaborate, sometimes mechanised kits that are produced today, I would be hour upon hour creating giant mansions, complete with trees and helicopter landing pads, or recreations of the Robinsons’ spaceship from Lost in Space, the Jupiter 2 which oddly kept crash landing near a small stream by my home.

It consumed my childhood and happily so, and fired my imagination in ways both magical and wonderful.

And now it looks to do so again with the release in 2014 of The LEGO Movie, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, which displays a delightful postmodern sense of fun and a love of witty one liners, along with some breathtakingly colourful, imaginative animation.

I will be counting down the days till its release …

… and who knows I may just sit down and make a LEGO something or other while I wait.

The LEGO Movie opens on 7 February 2014 in USA and on 3 April 2014 in Australia.

 

 

Answer the door! ABBA to release deluxe edition of “Ring Ring”

The Australian cover of “Ring Ring”, ABBA’s debut album (image via eil.com)

 

Happy news today!

After wondering if Universal would ever get around to releasing a deluxe edition of ABBA’s debut album, Ring Ring, along comes news via the official ABBA website, abbasite.com, that just a version will be released on October 14 this year.

It’s 40 years since the album was released, a recording which first officially brought together the singing and songwriting talents of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeusm, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (although I did get to listen to it till it was released in Australia, somewhat belatedly, in 1975).

Unofficially they had been collaborating since the late 1960s with their first official recording together, 1970’s “Hej gamle man!” included as one of the 13 rare bonus tracks on the CD, along with the first Benny and Björn track on which Agnetha contributed vocals of any kind (in this case, those of the backing kind), “There’s A Little Man” (1970) and a 1972 single release for Anni-Frid, “Man vill ju leva lite dessemellan”, which featured her fellow ABBA members on vocals.

 

The re-released international cover for “Ring Ring” (the original cover featured their four separate names, Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Frida, only replaced when the acronym ABBA was coined)

 

In common with previous releases there is also a DVD included which contains rare TV appearances and press reports such as ABBA’s appearances on Swedish and Austrian TV singing “People Need Love” and “Ring Ring” respectively, as well Benny’s appearance on Swedish TV in 2012 explaining how Ring Ring came to be written and recorded.

Once again, the man unofficially referred to, with great affection by ABBA fans worldwide, as “Mr ABBA”, Carl Magnus Palm – who made the announcement via his own site too – has written the liner notes for the deluxe edition.

If past releases are any guide will give rare and valuable insight into the album, which in the words of abbasite.com, sent the fabulous Swedish foursome on their “first steps towards international stardom!”

Ring Ring Deluxe Edition releases 14 October 2013 worldwide and you can read the full announcement on abbasite.com.

 

Can’t wait to see: “Drinking Buddies”

(image via insidemovies.ew.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work together at a craft brewery. They have one of those friendships that feels like it could be something more. But Kate is with Chris (Ron Livingston), and Luke is with Jill (Anna Kendrick). And Jill wants to know if Luke is ready to talk about marriage. The answer to that question becomes crystal clear when Luke and Kate unexpectedly find themselves alone for a weekend. (source: comingsoon.net)

 

Ah the dreaded moment when you realise that your good friend could be more.

So much more.

But for colleagues like Kate and Luke, and indeed for anyone in a relationship who is taking it even remotely seriously, this is a diabolical dilemma of Everest-like proportions.

Do you act on the tempting possibility of what could be, and risk sending the delicately balanced relational house of cards you have carefully constructed down all around you?

Or do you do The Right Thing and leave the stone studiously unturned, fearful of what turning it over may set in motion?

Quite a conundrum and one it takes drinking buddies Kate and Luke a, from all accounts, richly rewarding movie to come up with a suitable answer to.

 

Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson in “Drinking Buddies”, a Magnolia Pictures release. (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.)

 

 Drinking Buddies is widely regarded as a career high for director Joe Swanberg, who has fashioned a well-regarded indie career focusing on, in the words of indiewire.com’s Eric Kohn, “perpetually inelegant people in search of meaning in their lives as they often struggle to find romantic satisfaction”.

In other words, real life people struggling to make sense of their feelings, and not always acting on them in the best way possible.

But that is the very nature of being human isn’t it?

Good theoretical intentions being fashioned into less than elegant real world action by people balancing a curiously messy mix of self-interest and deep regard for someone else.

And that’s why I think I am going to love Drinking Buddies.

Because let’s face it, who of us has ever got it right the first time around?

Drinking Buddies, which premiered at SXSW Film Festival on 13 March 2013, is available on VOD and iTunes on 25 July with wider USA release on 23 August this year. No word on an Australian release date yet.

 

Movie trailer-palooza: “Pacific Rim”, “Jobs”, “Thanks For Sharing”, “The Counsellor”, “The Spectacular Now”

 

There are so many movies on the way to the cinema at any one time, and by extension a dizzying array of  accompanying trailers that you could be forgiven for wondering if you will have to camp out at the cinema with a Coke drip and an endless candy bag (which should by rights be filled up by cute flying monkeys in old time cinema usher uniforms; is anyone at the multiplexes listening?) just to see them all.

But fear not!

It’s unlikely you will have to re-direct your mail to get your movie fix because (a) cinemas generally frown upon you erecting a one man tent and starting a camp fire in the cinema lobby – go figure; something about safety regulations, not burning down the multiplex with people in it blah blah blah – and (b) not all the movies will be any good thus sparing you the time of strapping yourself to a comfy seat, and propping your eyes open with toothpicks which kind of detracts from the viewing experience.

But how do you determine which are good, and yes which are not?

Why trailers of course. Well partly anyway …

If they’re done properly, trailers should beguile and excite you with their narrative possibilities while not giving away the entire movie in 2-3 minutes of fast paced music-backed editing.

So in the interests of everyone remaining in their homes, and not standing in line in their jim-jams with their favourite teddy  bear tucked under their arm (only acceptable at all night movie marathons and then just barely), I have gathered together 5 of the trailers for upcoming movies that may or may not be brilliant entries in the annals of cinema history.

Grab some popcorn – really small handfuls because let’s face it these babies aren’t long – kick off your shoes (again not a cinema friendly practice) and watch and learn and schedule.

You’re welcome.

 

PACIFIC RIM

 

(image via beyondhollywood.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes—a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)—who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

 

Yes I do fear this could be another Battleship with mind-numbing action, derivative plot and cardboard cut out characters but it is directed by Guillermo Del Toro so I have faith it will be a cut above your average fighting-off-the-aliens summer blockbuster.

No honestly I do.

Semi-trust me on this.

Pacific Rim opens 11 July 2013 in Australia and 12 July 2013 in USA.

 

 

JOBS

(image via movienewz.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
We follow Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) from the enthusiasm and self-discovery of his youth through his darkest days, brightest triumphs, and the ultimate power of his drive, his passions, and his undying will to change everything we thought possible. Dark, honest, and uncompromising, “Jobs” plunges into the depths of Steve Jobs’ character, uncovering his driving motivations, his gifts, his flaws, his failures, and his ultimate successes. (source: movienewz.com)

 

Regardless of where you love Apple products or not, and I will confess I do (bar the whole can’t-remove-the-battery thing but let’s not go there right now), Steve Jobs was a fascinating, visionary man who achieved a great deal in his cruelly truncated life.

By all reports, Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher in a much-buzzed about performance, and which received a rapturous response at The Sundance Film Festival in January this year, is a captivating look at a trailblazing man who redefined the way many people deal with technology.

And I will look forward to blogging about it just as soon as my MacBook Air recharges.

Jobs opens 16 August 2013 in USA; no release date has been confirmed for Australia at this time.

 

 

THANKS FOR SHARING

 

(image via sharemovi.es)

 

SNAPSHOT
Three unlikely friends—Adam (Mark Ruffalo), Mike (Tim Robbins) and Neil (Josh Gad)—all come from very different backgrounds. Adam is a young man desperate to win the heart of a beautiful woman (Gwyneth Paltrow), Mike is a sponsor for addicts but he’s debilitated by his own need to be needed by others and Neil is a young doctor whose career suffers because of his repeated lying.

Despite their differences, the three men share one big commonality: they’re all undergoing treatment to recover from their sex addiction so that for the first time in their lives, they can begin to form real, meaningful relationships. (source: tribute.ca)

 

I love a great romantic comedy.

And even more so when it dares to push the boundaries of the genre and give me something clever, smart and funny.

This looks like such a movie with a talented cast, some great oneliners, and some drama accompanying the comedy.

This could be the beginning of a (briefly) beautiful non-sexual friendship.

Thanks For Sharing opens 20 September 2013 in USA (it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2012). No sign of any Australian release at this point.

 

 

THE COUNSELLOR

 

(image via stupiddope.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Ridley Scott joins forces with the legendary novelist Cormac McCarthy(The Road) for this drug smuggling thriller starring the likes of Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz.  Fassbender is a lawyer looking for extra cash who turns to a shady world of drugs for extra income and gets more than he bargained for.  Pitt and Bardem look like they have juicy supporting roles and the ladies are perfect foils. (source: film-addict.com)

 

Its a small indie-scale tale writ large under the assured hand of Ridley Scott so it’s reasonably sure bet it’s going to be a very good movie.

The fact that it stars Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem is a major plus too.

Film-addict.com pointed out, quite rightly I think, that “this has the look of a Coen Brothers production”.

So many pluses with a morality tale of sorts wrapped in.

Count me excited!

 

 

THE SPECTACULAR NOW

 

(image via hypable.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) lives in the now. It’s a good place for him. A high school senior, charming and self-possessed, he’s the life of the party, loves his job at a men’s clothing store, and has no plans for the future. A budding alcoholic, he’s never far from his supersized, whisky-fortified Thirst Master cup. But after being dumped by his girlfriend, Sutter gets drunk and wakes up on a lawn with Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley) hovering over him. She’s different: the “nice girl” who reads science fiction and doesn’t have a boyfriend. While Aimee has dreams of a future, Sutter lives in the impressive delusion of a spectacular now, yet somehow, they’re drawn together. (source: wikipedia)

 

The meeting of opposites.

Will it end in tragedy or happily ever after?

Given it’s based on a book of the same name by Tim Tharp, a book in which the protagonist does not a fairytale transformation make, it could go either way.

The trick will be whether the producers have resisted the urge to Hollywood-ise the ending.

Not that I want a miserable ending but you don’t everything to always end up in squeaky-clean happy-clappy land.

I loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower and this looks like it could be in a similar vein.

Super size my Coke please.

 

 

Which of these movies has you excited about its release?

Now this is music #9: My 5 favourite songs right now – Grouplove, The High Wire, Laura Welsh, Hot Chip, Icona Pop

Stéfan via photopin cc

 

Hark! What’s that’s sound?

Why it’s five new gloriously good songs that I have come across recently on my travels through the virtual highways and byways of the internet, five songs that have lodged themselves in my earworm and refuse to be dislodged.

So I am letting them stay put, content to hear them over and over and over again … hopefully you will feel much the same about them.

Here they are for your listening pleasure!

 

“Ways To Go” by Grouplove

 

Grouplove (image via hypetrak.com)

 

Hailing from both coasts of the USA, and the UK, the members of Grouplove came together during an artists residency in, of all places, Crete.

Launching their career in 2011 with their debut album Never Trust a Happy Song, the band met with almost universal acclaim and fan-lovin’, appearing at festivals like Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and Sasquatch! Music Festival, and selling out tours in Australia, Europe and the UK.

In short, this indie band who knows their way around an infectious, intelligently written pop song hit success pretty much straight out the gates and it’s not hard to see why.

Co-lead singers Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi, who kicked the whole thing off when they met the week Hooper was heading to that fateful artists residency sing with a passioned but playful urgency, with the rest of the band Sean Gadd (bass, vocals), Andrew Wessen (guitar, vocals), and Ryan Rabin (drums) driving the songs forward with skilled musicianship and the same fevered passion.

Clearly these are musicians love what they do, and it’s clearly evident in the lead single of their new album Spreading Rumours (bows September 17), “Ways To Go”, a gloriously upbeat bouncy song that celebrates the impassioned longing of two people to be with each other (and which I have been playing almost non stop for the better part of two weeks at least).

It’s quirky, fun, with a hook as big as Christmas, and the sort of meaty, melodic synth hooks that make you want to get up and dance … and drive all night to be with the one you love.

Playing “Ways To Go” on perpetual repeat, of course.

 

 

“LNOE” by The High Wire

 

High Wire (image via themusebox.net)

 

Starting off the song with strings and the almost-anthemic, gorgeously-harmonised minor key vocals of members Tim Crompton, Ross Forrest, and Alexia Hagen, “LNOE (Last Night on Earth)” marks High Wire, a new band from the UK as one to watch.

Recording in the Coldplay’s studio in London, “LNOE” – clearly the recording budget was tight or something, thus necessitating the abbreviation of the song title – the dreamy pop song with an undercurrent of urgency borne of time ticking down fast, contemplates the end of the world with lush sweeping orchestral movements and an insistent beautiful melody.

You can see why they caught the attention of Coldplay’s Christ Martin, just weeks after they had started playing gigs together.

It’s almost immediately-compelling pop that has a real depth and richness to it without sacrificing a gram of accessibility, and you could imagine this being played equally well to enthusiastic stadium audiences, or in an intimate club with a whisper-quiet acoustic rendition.

I predict great things for High Wire in the years to come.

 

 

“Cold Front” by Laura Welsh

 

Laura Welsh (image via musicbrokemybones.co.uk)

 

Stripped back bluesy soul pop suffuses this pop gem from Laura Welsh.

Her elegantly seductive but powerful vocals propel the song forward with the sort of chilled vibe common to intimate late night trendy bars without sacrificing one ounce of warmth or beauty.

At heart, minimalist electro “art-pop”, it is one of those intriguingly clever songs that sounds simplistic at first but upon further listens reveals layer upon layer of rich melody, subtle passion hand in hand with intense longing, and a complexity borne of real artistry.

It is a Trojan horse song, hiding more than it initially reveals.

A child of the social media age, Welsh has garnered quite a following already, unafraid to make her flawless voice heard over the cacophony of a thousand other wannabes clamouring for attention.

Welsh possesses a near-flawless voice, an ear for an exquisite, perfectly articulate melody, and a knack for infusing her songs with real, raw emotion that speaks of person not simply singing but living their songs.

All of which marks Laura Welsh as someone with the talent to go the distance, and continue to impress every step of the way.

 

 

“Dark & Stormy” by Hot Chip

 

Hot Chip (image via secret-sounds.com.au)

 

They’re back and I am happy!

With five studio albums behind them, and the respect of their peers, and the undying love of fans firmly in hand, the electronic music darlings from the UK have lost their ability to craft a catchy pop tune.

“Dark and Stormy” comes complete with their quirky discordant but harmonised vocals, an otherworldly vibe driven by strings and synth and a bouncy, eminently danceable vibe throughout.

It encases everything I have come to love about this endlessly inventive band without slavishly repeating what has come before, a sign that the band is willing to play to its musical strengths but not at the expense of mindlessly regurgitating them.

“Dark and Stormy” is a rich, dark foray into dance music that isn’t afraid to have some fun as it lyrically delves into less than sunny territory.

This balancing act between light and dark, bright and poppy, and dark and introspective works brilliantly, underlining that there is creative life aplenty left in this veteran band yet.

 

 

“Girlfriend” by Icona Pop

 

Icona Pop (Image via consequenceofsound.net)

 

Drawing on a raft of influences including punk, indie pop and electro house, Icona Pop, formed in 2009, ripped right into the public consciousness with the driving pop of last year’s #1 poptastic song of gleeful revenge “I Love It”.

Racing with the sort of speed reserved for end of year sales and creamy rich desserts to the top of the charts in just about any country you could care to name, the song stamped Icona Pop, made up DJs Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, as a talented pop duo capable of crafting pop songs that mix the highs and lows of life with alacrity.

And “Girlfriend” is another tick in the Insanely Talented box, coalescing anthemic, almost fierce declarations of defiance to life’s endless vicissitudes with danceable, never-stop-for-a-moment pop that will have the dance floors filled once again from Sydney to Stockholm and all points in-between.

So throw the convertible top down, find an empty, very empty stretch of highway somewhere and gun the car with “Girlfriend” blaring out at high ear-deafening volume.

It is the perfect soundtrack for sticking it to life (if you need to), or simple revelling in the strength and fun of being with someone who you care about deeply and who has your back.

Hit the accelerator people – Icona Pop are ready to celebrate living life come what may and you better be ready to go along for the ride!

 

 

GOLDFRAPP announcment

 

Goldfrapp (image via prettymuchamazing.com)

 

In exciting news for anyone who’s a fan of interesting, rarely ordinary electropop, Goldfrapp has announced the title and song list for its next album, Tales of Us, due out September 10 this year.

Here’s the song list:

01 Jo
02 Annabel
03 Drew
04 Ulla
05 Alvar
06 Thea
07 Simone
08 Stranger
09 Laurel
10 Clay

… and the trailer for the upcoming release which gives us tantalising snippets of songs that suggest a move to the softer end of their musical spectrum (Seventh Tree and Felt Mountain) rather the more upbeat flavour of Supernature.

 

 

“Falling Skies” review: ‘At All Costs’ (Episode 4, season 3)

Lt. Catherine Fisher (Luvia Peterson, Tom Mason (Noah Wylie) and Colonel Dan Weaver (Will Patton) (image via geek-news.mtv.com (c) TNT)

 

* Spoilers ahead … and a few antsy Volm no doubt ready to shoot you down *

It was a case of up, up and away if you were human or Volm in the blistering return-to-form fourth episode of the third season of TNT’s Falling Skies

Or if you were one of the alien invaders, the Espheni, down, down, DOWN at the hands of superior Volm weaponry.

Or alas also down if you were Tom Mason (Noah Wylie), John Pope (Colin Cunningham) and General Bressler (Matt Frewer) as they, rather unsuccessfully, tried to evade pursuing Espheni ships, after a likely tip off from the mole pursuing them on a mad dash chase away from the newly discovered President Hathaway’s camp.

In a dramatic episode that propelled action forward on just about every front, including the less than satisfactory Look Who’s Talking: Satan baby Alexis thread, and the GoodHal/EvHal and Maggie saga, it was a case of a few spectacular steps forward, and a gigantic one downwards.

On balance though, if you put aside crashing in the middle of nowhere as Mason and Pope did  – no sign of Bressler in the trailer for episode 5 “Search and Recovery” so sadly fate unknown – humanity did rather well in this episode starting with a rousing Volm-assisted defeat of the intense battle that started “At All Costs” off with a literal bang.

Several in fact, until Volm snipers took down the incoming Espheni “beamers” that were threatening to wipe Charleston off the map.

(Quite why they weren’t in place BEFORE the attack which they could have easily prevented is another question entirely and one best answered I supposed by narrative necessity.)

 

Tector Murphy (Ryan Robbins) and Maggie (Sarah Carter) play their part in trying to fend off a brutal, almost overwhelmingly strong attack by the Espheni who throw everything they have at Charleston (image via assignmentx.com (c) TNT)

 

This impressive display by humanity’s new allies, who may or may not be the anti-Espheni freedom fighters they claim to be, was enough to convince a hitherto hostile Lt. Catherine Fisher that it was worth contacting “Big Dog”, not as you might think a rather animated if mute character in a children’s TV show but rather President Benjamin Hathaway who, if Fisher is to be believed, lives.

Alas not next door but a plane ride away in an old military airfield that one might assume would be heavily monitored by the Espheni for any activity whatsoever.

Not so it seems.

Maybe it was the Skitters’ day off – surely they have them; looking after all those damn harnessed kids must take its toll – but the 1935 Lockheed Electra, which Pope owns, and had somehow kept hidden in the rubble of Charleston, landed without incident, carrying Mason, Fisher, Pope, Bressler and Cochise (Doug Jones), leader of the Volm, to a meeting with US President Hathaway (Monsters vs Aliens anyone?), played with all the gravitas you would expect by the always excellent Stephen Collins.

It was not the warmest of welcomes, especially since their arrival was expected, and grew frostier still when Cochise stepped out of the plane sending the assembled, guns-raised military escort around the President into a frenzy.

But once Cochise, with his assent but with blatant disregard by Hathaway’s forces for Tom’s strident objections, was taken away under guard, Hathaway and Mason sat down to a semi-friendly chit chat which ran something along the lines of “We’re all this great stuff” (Tom) vs. “Don’t believe you, don’t believe you … wait maybe I do … a little bit” (Hathaway), with a highly suspicious General Donovan (Michael Hogan, channeling Col. Saul Tigh the character he played in Battlestar Galactica), Hathaway’s chief aide, glowering close by.

 

POTUS Benjamin Hathaway and General Donovan listen somewhat sceptically to Tom’s tales of rebel Skitters and beneficent Volm allies (image via tvfilmnews.com (c) TNT)

 

Tom was convincing enough to persuade a clearly, and understandably sceptical, President Hathaway – who it turns out had cobbled together a connected alliance of resistance groups who communicated via a system that was more “Pony Express than … Federal Express” – to meet with Cochise who won the US President over with a heartwarming tale of the Katerus, a flower that grows on the home world he has never seen which was lost long ago to the Espheni, and his long dead brother who never got to see the “green, green (or possibly red or purple) grass of home”.

It was all very Hallmark and touching, and sounded like a genuine tale of a man fighting to reclaim much of which has been taken from him and his people, with Cochise adding that at least humanity was able to fight for their continued existence on their planet.

Quite where this convincing PR presentation by Cochise would have led wasn’t certain since they had barely exited the building holding the Volm leader when the Espheni, no doubt tipped off by the mole – given that everyone including Anna Glass (Moon Bloodgood) knew Tom etc were on a secret mission, the mole would only have had to go to the post-apocalyptic equivalent of Twitter to see what was going on – swept in sending everyone off in their planes …

… and Tom, Pope and Bressler to their aforementioned, unexpected meeting with the hard forested earth they were flying over when the “beamers” hit their mark.

While not terribly conclusive, it did successfully widen the scope of humanity’s resistance to their planet’s usurpers and opened another dramatic front that I hope will get explored further as season three progresses.

 

“Hello Mr President, we’re as requested and OK … guns! Right, didn’t expect that” (image via rickey.org (c) TNT)

 

Mean while back at Charleston, Anne Glass, still freaked out that her daughter Alexis might some bizarre human/alien hybrid convinced a perpetually rattled Dr Kadar (Sean Leonard), down in his rat-infested, bubbling-tube filled basement to run some DNA tests on 12 kids who had been de-harnessed.

One of them of course was Alexis, who it turns out has enough alien DNA in her to qualify as the human/alien hybrid Glass feared she might be (but she loves her mummy; she told her so in a comically creepy way).

Kadar rather indelicately said the alien DNA was like a vine strangling her human DNA which frankly was a pretty poor example of doctorly bedside manner and did nothing to settle the increasingly frayed nerves of Glass, earning Kadar an unconscious-inducing spanner to the head and triggering a rather hurried mother/daughter flight from Charleston, but only after drugging Lourdes with some supposedly celebratory wine (Seychelle Gabriel).

But our rather frayed at the edges doctor doesn’t get far before she is confronted by  a harnessed child and a Skitter, who unnervingly greet Alexis with some familiarity, and EvHal, who has displaced GoodHal for much of the episode, and is intent on having some fun with the man he is controlling.

 

So Alexis is a crazy alien hybrid after all and not Glass isn’t crazy? Hurrah! I think … (image via threeifbyspace.net (c) TNT)

 

Frankly it was an even toss up for silliest sub-plot this week.

While the Demon Alien Spawn Alexis storyline, and GoodHal/EvHal fight to the death saga both had their silly moments this week – an emotionally exhausted GoodHal’s angry yelling match with EvHal via a mirror was clearly intended as a Great Dramatic Moment but instead descended into almost comic farce; even so you can tell Drew Roy is having a ball playing a villain, however crudely drawn – the award for most pointless subplot this week would have to go talking Alexis and her rattled mother.

The only good thing that could be said for either subplot as it played out in rather “Behind you!” Vaudevillian style was that at least both storylines seemed to get somewhere.

Not somewhere great but at least somewhere.

Which is enough for now since at least there is a modicum of dramatic possibilities now which is far more than could be said previously.

 

Alexis, clearly intended as an evil alien/human hybrid demon spawn baby, instead comes across as the evil cousin to the kids in “Look Who’s Talking” (image via seriable.com)

 

Oh and Ben Mason (Connor Jessup) and his fighting buddy/nascent love interest Deni (Megan Danso) were given a rather cursory throwaway subplot that could have been so much more if it had been given room to breath.

Given the chance to remove their spikes safely, they chose to keep them in, reasoning what they had gained in strength, agility, insight  and usefulness (Ben particularly felt he had grown too much to let it all go and return to his ineffectual pre-invasion self) more than outweighed what they had lost (long life span for one).

The conversations between the two close friends was as touching and heartfelt as the brief narrative flash-in-the-pan allowed them to be and I can only hope they get a little bit more of a look in successive episodes, with or without their spikes.

WRAP-UP: A vast improvement on the becalmed at sea debacle of last week’s episode but still hamstrung two sub plot lines that need to start delivering soon, and very soon lest they start to detract from the good meaty stories like this week’s meeting between Tom Mason and President Hathaway.

 

 

Let’s go to “Camp” this summer!

(image via web.poptower.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Still reeling from her recent divorce, Mackenzie is ready for a fresh start. She is running things on her own for the first time and scrambling to keep the cash-strapped Little Otter from going under. She considers a buyout offer from Roger Shepard (Rodger Corser, Underbelly), the arrogant but sexy owner of the upscale camp across the lake. Despite her better judgment, their love-hate relationship quickly escalates. Meanwhile, she begins to realize that her charming but much younger handyman, Cole (Nikolai Nikolaeff, Sea Patrol), might be interested in more than just a professional relationship.

In the midst of all this, Mackenzie is struggling to be a single parent to her son Buzz (Charles Grounds), a counselor-in-training at Little Otter this year. A brash, exuberant oddball, Buzz commits himself to losing his virginity by the end of the summer. He makes fast friends with Kip Wampler (Thom Green, Dance Academy), a more reserved fellow CIT who is hiding a secret. Kip has fallen hard for Marina Barker (Lily Sullivan, Mental), a gorgeous, misunderstood CIT who has come to camp to reinvent herself.

Senior counselors Robbie Matthews (Tim Pocock, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and Sarah Brennen (Dena Kaplan, Dance Academy) met as youngsters at Little Otter and have fallen in love over the years. The two pick up every summer where they left off, but when the sexy, older writer of Sarah’s favorite book moves in across the lake, their relationship suddenly gets a lot more complicated. (source: blog.zap2it.com)

 

Way back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and I was trying to work out what grand and worthwhile endeavours I should commit my budding life to, the thought of whisking myself off to the USA for a summer of camp counselling in the backwoods of Georgia or North Carolina came to mind.

Seized with the enthralling idea of imparting my near non-existent knowledge of knot tying or campfire songs to eager young minds, I went so far as to enquire about the possibility of jetting off to the land of mom and apple pie for what I was sure would be the best 3-6 months of my life (they have extremely long summers there apparently).

Alas circumstance did not favour my temporary moment of boldness and I was left wondering what a life of canoeing, craft-making and games amidst the pine tree copses would have been like.

Well, I shall no longer have to wonder what might have been.

 

Charles Grounds as Buzz Granger and Rachel Griffiths as Mackenzie Greenfield are a mother and son doing their best to get on with their lives in the middle of the summer camp she owns (image via lohud.com)

 

For NBC have given me the promising delights of Camp, a promising new 10 episode dramedy, for it does appear to be a fun mix of comedy and drama, the premiere episode of which goes to air on July 10, appropriately enough at the height of the US summer.

This is what NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke was quoted as saying about the series on hollywoodreporter.com:

“In our desire to make summer an exciting place at NBC along with our signature unscripted shows like America’s Got Talent, The Voice and American Ninja Warrior, we developed a scripted dramedy we love with BermanBraun that has rich and dysfunctional characters in that great setting where millions of families and young people go each summer: camp. Most of us have had great experiences at camp, and this show … is sophisticated, funny and emotional, and we think it will be the ideal summer series for us.”

The trailer certainly seems to back that description of the show, with the presence of Rachel Griffiths at least guaranteeing Camp will have a nuanced, strong emotional centre.

So while I may never learn how to tie a winning slip knot, or make a beaded bracelet to the strains of a badly sung rendition of “Kum Ba Yah”, thanks to NBC I will at least get a small glimpse into a world that could have been mine.

 

 

TV review: “Under the Dome” premiere episode

Deputy Linda Esquivel, Joe McAlister, Police Chief Howard “Duke” Perkins abd Dale “Barbie” Barbara get their bearings in the brand new world of “Under the Dome” (image via examiner.com)

 

I am not quite sure when the realisation hit.

It could have been when a cow came off second best in the bovine vs dome battle that gruesomely punctuated the arrival of the transparent, impervious to sound curved shield that descended without much warning, bar some earthquake-like shaking and high winds, onto the quintessential small American town of Chester’s Mill, sealing it off completely from the outside world.

Or it could have been when I realised that everyone, and I mean everyone, came loaded with more secrets than a catalogue from Victoria.

Or was it when Junior Rennie (Alexander Koch), son of would-be town dictator and now lone councilman, James “Big Jim” Rennie emotionally snapped like a brittle twig underfoot when his would-be girlfriend Angie McAllister (Britt Robertson), consumed by dreams of fleeing banal small town life, leapt off him when he said he loved her?

Honestly, I can’t really recall when the realisation hit that Under The Dome, hyped by CBS (and Channel 10, which is showing it in Australia) to within an inch of its 10 episode life, and based on Stephen King’s 2009 novel of the same name, was as cheesy as an overstocked dairy farmers’ market.

But as the episode went on, I began to realise more and more that the latest televisual feast from Stephen Spielberg, while compelling television with all the right boxes ticked that admittedly had me watching till the credits rolled, was the love child of a gruyere fondue and a Lush handmade soap store.

 

The joke alas is on Angie. Desperate to escape small town life, she instead finds herself trapped in more ways than one after the dome falls over Chester Mill (image via io9.com (c) CBS)

 

It makes sense that it would be like a nice big, hard-to-miss sudsy slab of camembert.

After all look at the the genre it occupies.

The ordinary-people-caught-extraordinary-circumstances oeuvre includes all manner of odd bed buddies such as giant exploding volcanoes, errant comets plunging towards Earth, and gigantic tsunamis sweeping in on unsuspecting coastal communities.

Given the larger than life scenarios that populate the genre like the rapidly multiplying threats that give it a reason for being, it is nigh but impossible to avoid the stock standard tropes it embraces with gusto like an overwrought sense of foreboding, characters with more agendas (and secrets) than a political party convention, and the slow but steady breakdown of civilisation in favour of some Lord of the Flies behaviour from some, and inspiring Hallmark movie-inspiring actions from others.

Under the Dome had them all in large, heapin’ helpings of sudsy drama.

I am not sure why I didn’t see that coming since no matter how well you write a show like this, it is going to veer into guilty pleasure-viewing territory almost immediately.

It is almost impossible to avoid it.

 

Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre), editor of the town newspaper, The Independent, spends much of the episode wandering around looking a little lost (image via io9.com (c) CBS)

 

But here’s the thing.

While it’s not spectacularly good, leaning towards good solid, if predictable drama rather than the sort of cutting edge feel of a HBO or AMC series, it is actually quite well done for what it is.

For a start while it is chock full of cardboard cut out characters such as the ambitious politician on the rise “Big Jim” who wastes no time seizing the chance to start wielding unfettered power the dome falls, the stranger in town Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel), an Army veteran with secrets galore and actual bodies buried nearby, and the well meaning, if ambitious policewoman, Deputy Linda Equivel (Natalie Martinez), it manages to somehow, in the brief slivers of screen time allotted to each in the pilot, to transcend these limited characterisations.

“Barbie” for instance is introduced in the opening frames of Under the Dome, hurriedly burying a body in a forest on the edge of town.

Working quickly but methodically, it is clear he needs to bury the evidence and fast, with a subsequent phone call by him to an unknown person leading to the all-too-quick conclusion that he is a criminal of some kind and the dead man a poorly calculating thuggish foe who came off second best.

But in the panic and confusion following the dome’s arrival, “Barbie” saves the life of Joe McAlister, a whippet smart farm boy (and sister of Angie) from the falling debris of a light plane that explodes when it hits the all-but-invisible shield, successfully warns oncoming road traffic to stop before they hit the barrier and rushes a woman to the hospital whose hand has been cleanly amputated when she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, displaying all the bravery and strength of character that you would expect of a man who had represented his country.

In other words, he is reasonably nuanced and it’s made clear, possibly too clear, that he is at heart a Good Guy.

 

 

And some thought has also been given to fleshing out the characters of Deputy Linda Equivel, Joe McAlister, who along with passing-through-town teenage girl Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz) collapses uttering the mysterious words “The stars, the stars are all in line”, and to a limited extent, journalist Julia Shumway (whose surname makes me think of ALF every damn time I read it).

To be fair, the show’s producers, which include the man who developed the show brian K Vaughan, and Spielberg and King, only had 45 minutes to set the scene, introduce to a sprawling ensemble of a cast, which includes townspeople and those just passing through like Norrie’s mums, Carolyn Hill (Aisha Hinds) and Alice Calvert (Samantha Mathis), and throw a few rather obviously telegraphed narrative ooh aahs our way and to a great extent they succeeded.

I kept watching all the way to the end didn’t I?

 

Big Jim is a Bad Man. We know this because he looks Bad and Shifty much of the time. The only time he softens somewhat is around his pathologically-inclined son (image via bloody-disgusting.com)

 

But while it was good as far it went, it lacked that certain special dramatic impact, that elusive “x factor”, that made me crave coming back to watch the second episode.

While there is every chance it will evolve into a more complex, finely nuanced drama, which is why I am returning next week for another helping, it will need to do something about its clunky dialogue, all too obvious advertised narrative jumps, and characters drawn with a great big red crayon whose secrets are writ so large, it’s a wonder they don’t have their own Tumblr page.

Almost everything about it is too obvious, and clumsily wrought to inspire the sort of water cooler speculative chats viewers should rush to engage in after an episode.

Good, gripping drama, yes.

Great drama worthy of an unqualified commitment to keep watching? Not yet.

 

Judging a book by its cover #5: “Existence” by David Brin

(image via mybiochemicalsky.wordpress.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
A French philosopher, alone in his tiny Montmartre apartment and trapped in an unending loop of existential crises, finds himself  unable to express his pain through a wordy poem or lengthy impassioned treatise.

Expressionistically-constipated (almost as painful as the physical ailment but without a creatively-targeted Metamucil-equivalent to relieve the symptoms), he begins to agonise over whether there is any colour left in the world and if he will ever see it again.

Deeply agonised, and mistakenly believing his sense of monochrome isolation to be indicative of the state of the outside world, he unwittingly draw all colour to himself, draining the Earth of all its vibrancy, its creativity, and its ample stocks of cheaply-printed art prints on sale at souvenir kiosks everywhere.

As he drowns in his tiny apartment, now full to bursting with paints, crayons, rich textiles and Dulux colour charts, the Earth, bereft of even a gaily-decorated postcard, sinks into monochrome blandness, barely visible against the cloying blackness of space. (Although that doesn’t stop the endless queue of aliens seeking to invade us, who find us just fine.)

 

 

WHAT IT IS ACTUALLY ABOUT
Gerald Livingston is an orbital garbage collector. For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and someone has to clean it up. But there’s something spinning a little bit higher than he expects, something that isn’t on the decades’ old orbital maps. An hour after he grabs it and brings it in, rumors fill Earth’s infomesh about an “alien artifact.” 

Thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide shared experience, the Artifact is a game-changer. A message in a bottle; an alien capsule that wants to communicate. The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity.

A magical look at the before and after VFX of “The Great Gatsby”

(image via impawards.com)

 

Whatever your views on the merits or otherwise of Baz Luhrmann’s much-ballyhooed adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic, era-defining novel The Great Gatsby – just for the record I am a fan – one thing is for sure – the man knows his way around sumptuous visuals.

His lavish vision for a novel which is all about excess and indulgence, and the eventual price paid for both, was brought to vivid life by Chris Godfrey who was the VFX (Visual Effects) Supervisor on the film.

With Baz Luhrmann’s permission, he posted a video showcasing the film’s VFX on Vimeo.

It is an awe-inspiring look at the great art that goes into making a movie of this nature, all backed by Lana Del Ray’s hauntingly evocative contribution to the movie’s soundtrack, “Will You Still Love Me?”

The Great Gatsby is still showing in theatres nationwide.