Go nuts with fear: Timur Bekmambetov readies us for a world where Squirrels attack

Mehrad.HM via photopin cc

 

SNAPSHOT
When a young man’s estranged father is killed under suspicious circumstances, he returns home for the first time in years to get to the bottom of the mystery. Hoping to uncover some logical explanation, he instead finds an army of flesh-eating squirrels hellbent on destroying everything in their path. (source: filmdrunk.uproxx.com) 

 

You thought Snakes on a Plane was scary? Pfft!

Sharknado was terrifying? Puh-lease.

Vampire cows from New Zealand? Merely troubling.

It turns out that the animal that should inspire real, visceral, sweaty-palm inducing fear in us is … wait for it … the squirrel.

Yes the SQUIRREL.

It turns out that the very animal that I spent a good hour searching out and photographing in Central Park some years ago – amazing how an animal not native to your country can send you into a tourist frenzy of endless photo taking – should have been the one I was running away from as far as my high school track star legs would take me.

That, at least, is the opinion of Timur Bekmambetov (Day Watch, Night Watch, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) who is convinced the cute skittery nut gatherers are the real demons of the night … and day.

He’s produced a quirky yet oddly terrifying trailer designed to a director and funding onboard for the film Squirrels which he would produce.

 

(image via filmdrunk.uproxx.com)

 

While sfx.co.uk speculates in its report that it could all just be a bit of cinematic malarkey – “We’re still not entirely sure Bekmambetov isn’t just paying some elaborate joke on all of us, though he has been talking about this film for a while now!” – anyone with even a hint of a hankering for post modern off-the-wall crazy animal stories should be praying this makes it to a cinema sooner rather than later.

Cheesy, crazy silliness it may be but with someone like Timur Bekmambetov calling the shots, it could just work.

Just don’t take nuts to snack on during the screening.

You have been warned.

 

 

Can’t wait to see: Dallas Buyers Club

(image via movieweb.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Matthew McConaughey stars in “Dallas Buyers Club” as real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. These were the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and the U.S. was divided over how to combat the virus. Ron, now shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of government-approved effective medicines, decided to take matters in his own hands, tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Bypassing the establishment, the entrepreneurial Woodroof joined forces with an unlikely band of renegades and outcasts – who he once would have shunned – and established a hugely successful “buyers’ club.” Their shared struggle for dignity and acceptance is a uniquely American story of the transformative power of resilience. (source: hypable.com) 

 

Matthew McConaughey has undergone a career resurgence of late, tossing aside the frothy, if fun, roles in films like Sahara, Fool’s Gold and Failure to Launch, that were in danger of pigeonholing him as a lightweight actor of limited range, in favour of weighty parts that showcase the talent of this fine dramatic actor.

Not content to have just one Oscar-worthy movie in the mix, Mud, McConaughey now has a second dramatic role to add to what is shaping up as a very good year for him.

And it’s this latter role that is drawing all sorts of attention to him as hypable has noted:

“Matthew McConaughey is a frontrunner for winning a best actor award at the Academy Awards, and it’s not for his fantastic performance as the titular role in Mud. He could get nominated for that role, but it’d likely only be as a supporting actor.

No, McConaughey is already being predicted to be nominated for his role in his upcoming film Dallas Buyers Club. Not only that, some are predicting that he’ll win the Oscar.”

 

(image via hypable.com)

 

The newly released trailer underscores why he is being talked about as not just an Oscar contender but winner, with McConnaughey displaying both his roguish charm and ability to bring dramatic gravitas to the character he plays Ron Woodroff.

This man, one a devil-may-care ladies man, is transformed by the shadow of death into a vigilante campaigner for the right of the individual to determine their own fate by means fair or foul, legal or illegal.

Granted it was powered by an enormous amount of self-interest but the fact remains that he made a world of difference for all sorts of marginalised people, in the process stimulating a debate on what was then an emerging and little understood disease.

Dallas Buyers Club premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival in September this year with the film opening in USA on 6 December 2013 and UK on 7 February 2014.

 

 

The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we … AGAIN!

The Wombles (image via Facebook.com)

 

The Wombles are back!

Or at least they will be in 2015.

The UK’s Channel 5 has announced that it will be broadcasting 52 eleven-minute CGI-created episodes about everyone’s favourite litter-gathering denizens of Wimbledon Common on their Milkshake channel which is targeted at the pre-schooler set.

While the production techniques will be as modern as they come, Mike Batt, who holds the rights to The Wombles promised the new series will hew close to the spirit of the original stop motion series which were produced for the BBC between 1973-1975:

“It will look more like stop motion but with great fur. We believe that there are audiences of new children who missed The Wombles the first time around and will be thrilled to see the brilliant high quality animation and new musical productions.” (source: cultbox.co.uk)

Created by childrens book author Elizabeth Beresford in the 1960s after her daughter Kate charmingly mispronounced Wimbledon Common as “Wombledon Common”, the characters were based on members of the writer’s own family:

“[She] based each Womble on a different member of her own family. At the head of the Womble hierarchy was the highbrow Great Uncle Bulgaria, inspired by her father-in-law. Other characters included Tobermory (based on her brother, an inventor) and Orinoco (her son) while Madame Cholet Coburg-Womble was inspired by her own mother, who was obsessed by royalty.” (source: telegraph.co.uk)

To say that I am excited by the news would be massively understating it.

I was obsessed by The Wombles all through my childhood, lapping every episode of the show, reading all the books that accompanied it, and even writing about them once in a creative writing exercise at school (in which they were all killed; lord knows what was going on in my mind at the time!).

They were a delightfully close-knit family, who cared about each other and were eco-warriors way before it was even fashionable, and the idea that they will be back on television makes me very happy indeed.

 

 

Now this is music 13: Five amazing Swedish artists you should check out

Michael D. Dunn via photopin cc

 

I have been in love with everything Scandinavian for as long as I can remember.

It wasn’t an intentional love affair – although there is so much to love about that part of Europe that you could be forgiven for deliberately seeking out all things Nordic – but rather a step by step seduction, begun by ABBA and later bands like Roxette, Ace of Base and The Cardigans, and fueled by everything from authors like Tove Jansson (The Moomins) and Nils-Olof Franzén (Agaton Sax), and yes even furniture maker IKEA (with the exception of their manuals for which I have no love).

It seemed that everything I loved, really loved, had some kind of Scandinavian connection and so it has continued into the present with many of my favourite current artists hailing from north of Paris like Annie, Robyn, Jonas Oakland, Little Dragon and MØ.

Over a year ago it inspired a series of I Love My Scandipop posts such as this and this, and I thought it high time I returned to glory in the music goodness of this amazing region of the world, focusing particularly this time around on Sweden …

 

ELIN ÖVERFJORD

 

(image via elinoverfjord.com/)

 

Elin Överfjord has managed with just one single, her first, to make members of the music press sit and take notice.

Witness this typically breathless description of her energetic first tilt at pop immortality “Nu” (“Now”), produced by Sebastian Fronda, from one of my favourite music sites in the world, scandipop.co.uk:

“‘Nu’ is an immense exercise in the poppier virtues of electronica. It’s a fierce, up-tempo tune with a cracking great big melody on it. It’s so good that it has a chorus which goes ‘oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh, ooh, oooh, ooooh’, and a post chorus which trills ‘Nuuuuuu-NuuuuUUUuuuu-Nuuuu-uuuuuuu. And you can’t really argue with that.”

And I’m don’t plan to.

They’re absolutely bang on.

Elin is one of those rare talents that seems to come zooming up from nowhere, lighting up then pop culture firmament like New Years’ fireworks.

The reality is of course she’s been singing for years, first in her hometown of Hallstahammar, a town of some 10,000 plus souls in southeast Sweden, where she lent her energetic vocals to baptisms, weddings and any and all family events.

And then all over Sweden touring with her musician father, gaining the sort of experience and attention that allowed her to compete in Lilla Melodifestivalen, the Swedish national final responsible for selecting Sweden’s in the annual Melodi Grand Prix Nordic junior singing competition and to sing in front of thousands of spectators at the 2009 World Cup.

It all culminated in an invitation to appear on Sweden’s version of the Idol franchise which she declined feeling she wasn’t quite ready at that point to share her talents with the world at large.

Two years later she’s obviously changed her mind and “Nu” is her masterful calling card.

You would be wise to answer since it’s unlikely you’ll hear a better debut single this year.

 

 

MONS MONTIS

 

(image via Mons Montis facebook page (c) Ellen Pan)

 

It looks like we have French electronic band M83 to thank for Mons Montis leaping back into the pop music fray.

Long time fans of the group, the three 20 year olds from Uppsala, Sweden, were sufficiently inspired by an M83 performance in 2012, according to repeatbutton.com, to re-form and start making sweet, beautiful dreamy music together.

The result is “Swept”, one of those catchy, chilled tracks that manages to sound attractively fey and melodically robust all at once.

Their sound is drawn from a variety of influences with Britpop bands like Blur and Oasis, and of course M83 proving a formative influence on Herman Båverud Olsson, Viktor Paulsrud and Julia Hjert Ströms, who are aiming  to create music that will transport people far away from the humdrum world of day to day life.

While the initial intention was simply to record “Swept”, the vocals for which were recorded with a microphone designed to broadcast drum sounds rather than the dulcet tones of the human voice (when their original mike proved defective), have some fun over the northern hemisphere summer and be done with it, the fervently enthusiastic reaction to their debut single has convinced them there may be some longevity in their self-described “sommarprojekt”.

To that end, buoyed by the love shown to them by music blogs around the world, they are working towards to recording an EP, to be released at some unspecified point in the future, according to their first ever interview, which appears on Swedish site popmani.se.

“Swept” is an exquisitely gorgeous slice of pop and I can only hope they follow through on this revived interest in making music since its clear they have talent to burn and the world would be a poorer place without their shimmering melodies brightening it up.

 

 

IDA REDIG

 

(image idaredig.com)

 

Hailing from Gothernburg, Sweden, you could be forgiven, if you’re in Sweden at least, for thinking Ida Redig has been around forever.

Just 26 years of age, she has already released an album Standing Here (2010), appeared with well loved artists like Marit Bergman and Titiyo, and performed for all kinds of media in her home country including state broadcaster SVT.

The first thing you notice about this remarkable young talent is the purity and clarity of her voice, which lends itself to the sort of soft, sweeping, sparse instrumentation on display on her cover of Fleetwood’s dreamy “Everywhere”.

It is a beguiling sound, described by hiyome, a member of the last.fm community thus:

“Ida’s voice beautifully complements the guitar and piano arrangements and the occasional strings add a nerve and a soulful depth to the songs. These are tunes for tears, almost cinematic in their moods and harmonies – but the message is one of hope, not of sadness.”

She remains true to a sensibility that dominates much of the music that comes out of Scandinavia – a sense of joy and sadness intermingled, which if you think about it is pretty much life in its essence.

I have every confidence we’ll be hearing a lot more from this young lady who stands every chance of spreading her wings and getting noticed not just in Sweden but right around the world.

 

 

KATE BOY

 

(image via thelineofbestfit.com)

 

Now to the quirky but no less melodically interesting end of the musical spectrum.

Kate Boy, heirs to bands like The Knife, have perfected a unique combination of gothic rock and pretty pop, anchored by the vocals of Australian-born lead singer Kate Akhurst, which are pretty and strong all at once.

She is joined in the quartet by Swedes Markus Dextegen, Oskar Sikow Engström, and Hampus Nordgren Hemlin, who together make up writing/production team Rocket Boy.

According to their entry on last.fm, Kate Boy is the fictional fifth member of the Stockholm-based electropop group, placing the band in a fine tradition of entirely made up musical personas used by such as compatriots as Sally Shapiro.

Best known for songs like “Northern Lights”, “In Your Eyes” and “The Way We Are”, and the proud owners of an EP, also called Northern Lights released in January this year, Kate Boy almost didn’t come into being with Kate only meeting the members of Rocket Boy 48 hours before she was due to leave Sweden.

But like love at first sight, the bond was pretty near instantaneous as Kate tells it, again on last.fm:

“We had this instantaneous connection; we couldn’t even wait until the next day. I felt like I found my people, like, ‘I’ve been waiting all my life for you! I can’t wait another minute.”

Lucky for us the bond has held with the band writing and producing all their songs together and the promise of more music, which in the words of pitchfork is “all white-heat hooks and warping plastic production”, in the offing in the not too distant future.

 

 

NONONO

 

(image via scandipop.co.uk)

 

Made up of producer team Tobias “Astma” Jimson and Michel Rocwell, and singer/songwriter Stina Wäppling, this Stockholm-based trio have proved adept at styling clever offbeat music that is as immediately accessible as it is entrancingly different.

It’s a rare gift to straddle the artistic and the mainstream, and produce pop so arresting and pop that many long time music listeners have had cause to stop and take it all in.

Describing their music as “pristine snippets of joy”, one of the best and most accurate descriptions of anyone’s music I have ever heard, The Quietus interviewed the band recently and discovered that NoNoNo (whose name is drawn from Stina’s life philosophy of saying no to those things that night distract her from what she really wants to do) came together through the musical equivalent of a blind date.

Says Rocwell of their meeting:

“We met through a mutual friend who thought our sound would really fit Stina’s voice, so we thought we’d try it. We loved her voice and her songwriting style. So, we decided to make a session. She came over to the studio and we hit it off straight away.”

Obviously a meeting of mutually compatible artistic aspirations, the members of the group drawn their musical inspiration from the likes of Martha Wainwright, Wu-Tang Clan, Depeche Mode and the Cure, and have found the process of writing and performing together to be one of those blissfully happy coincidences of life.

In fact so happy do they sound together, that it won’t be long before everyone who cares about interesting, one of a kind music is saying an enthusiastic “Yes” to this thoughtful threesome from Stockholm.

 

 

A marvelous massing of movie trailers #2 – Enough Said, All is Lost, Inside Llewyn Davis, Instructions Not Included, Zaytoun

Adam Foster | Codefor via photopin cc

 

So many trailers, so little time to get the popcorn, hold the soda and recline the comfy cinema chair …

To save you all the effort of scouring the internet for yourselves, I have assembled five trailers for movies I think will be worth the effort going to see with films running the gamut from unconventional rom-coms to intense survival stories, from frothy parent/child bonding comedies to intense portrayals of modern issues.

It’s a cornucopia of cinematic delights so sit back, enjoy … oh and please turn off your cell phone … and don’t talk … and …

 

ENOUGH SAID

 

(image via upcoming-movies.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) is a divorced soon-to-be empty-nester wondering about her next act. Then she meets Marianne (Catherine Keener), the embodiment of her perfect self. Armed with a restored outlook on being middle-aged and single, Eva decides to take a chance on her new love interest Albert (Gandolfini) – a sweet, funny and like-minded man. Things get complicated when Eva discovers that Albert is in fact the dreaded ex–husband of Marianne. This sharp insightful comedy follows Eva as she humorously tries to secretly juggle both relationships and wonders whether her new friend’s disastrous ex can be her cue for happiness. Written & directed by Nicole Holofcener (Please Give).

 

What a delightful pairing – the calm, droll presence of the late masterful actor James Gandolfini in one of his final roles, and the inspired comic energy of Julia Louis Dreyfus in Enough Said, a film that judging by the actors alone looks to have a good shot at upsetting the usual romantic comedy apple cart.

Coming up with a pleasing twist on the much-maligned rom-com tropes is a feat of almost Herculean proportions with many movies of the genre failing to come close to slaying the nine-headed creative hydra.

Enough Said looks to have the goods though if for no other reason than Gandolfini and Dreyfus do not fit the mold of the rom-com actors of choice at the moment, with the look and style of the film, based on the trailer along admittedly, harkening back instead to the golden days of Hepburn and Tracy, Grant and Stewart, with a playful modern twist.

We will find out just how accurately and consistently they nail it when Enough Said debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2013 and in USA on 20 September 2013.

* To see an exclusive clip of the important “meet cute” that is an essential part of any romantic comedy, check out insidemovies.ew.com

 

 

ALL IS LOST

 

(image via flicksided.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Deep into a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, an unnamed man wakes to find his 39-foot yacht taking on water after a collision with a shipping container left floating on the high seas. With his navigation equipment and radio disabled, the man sails unknowingly into the path of a violent storm. Despite his success in patching the breached hull, his mariner’s intuition and a strength that belies his age, the man barely survives the tempest. Using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, he is forced to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane in hopes of hailing a passing vessel. But with the sun unrelenting, sharks circling and his meager supplies dwindling, the ever-resourceful sailor soon finds himself staring his mortality in the face. (source: metacritic.com)

 

I love a survival story against all odds – except for ones where arms must be hacked off with blunt knives which is why I gave 127 Hours a miss despite the presence of James Franco in the lead – with movies like Life of Pi and Castaway capturing the willful determination to survive (along with, of course the importance of taking tigers and volley balls respectively along with you for the journey).

The tenacity of the human spirit is once again on show in All is Lost, with Todd Mccarthy, The Hollywood Reporter‘s chief film critic saying of star Robert Redford’s performance:

“Redford, who can’t avoid exuding charisma, plays this role with utter naturalism and lack of histrionics or self-regard.”

With little to no dialogue used, the film relies almost solely on Redford’s extraordinary ability to convey a man battling against considerable odds with talk already turning to the veteran actor being a real chance at next year’s Oscars.

You can go to sea with All is Lost, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May when it opens in USA on 18 October 2013. 

 

 

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

 

(image via impawards.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Inside Llewyn Davis follows a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is at a crossroads. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles-some of them of his own making. (source: festival-cannes.com)

The Coen Brothers are a talented twosome.

Blessed with a rare ability to create idiosyncratic movies that are also eminently accessible to those who crave more mainstream fare, they have turned out movie after movie that refuses to fit the standard Hollywood mold.

Inside Llewyn Davis,  loosely based on Dave Van Ronk’s posthumously published 2005 memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street (s0urce: wikipedia) fits perfectly into their oeuvre, evoking the spirit of a long gone era and peopled with characters both intense and quirkily unusual with John Goodman particularly good as jazz-loving, folk-hating Roland Turner and Drive‘s Oscar Isaac nailing it as a Dylan-esque chasing the big time all the way to Chicago and back.

The film also makes liberal use of soundtrack producer T-Bone Burnett’s gift for assembling just the right mix of music from a particular period, which the Coen Brothers have used before most effectively in their film O Brother Where Art Thou?

You can get your guitars a-twangin’ with Inside Llewyn Davis when the film, which premieres in the USA at the New York Film Festival on 28 September 2013 (its worldwide premiere was at Cannes in May) before opening in general wide release on 20 December. 

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED

 

(image via movieinsider.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Valentin (Eugenio Derbez) is Acapulco’s resident playboy–until a former fling leaves a baby on his doorstep and takes off without a trace. Valentin leaves Mexico for Los Angeles to find the baby’s mother, but only ends up finding a new home for himself and his newfound daughter, Maggie (Loreto Peralta). An unlikely father figure, Valentin raises Maggie for six years, while also establishing himself as one of Hollywood’s top stuntmen to pay the bills, with Maggie acting as his on-set coach. As Valentin raises Maggie, she forces him to grow up too. But their unique and offbeat family is threatened when Maggie’s birth mom shows up out of the blue, and Valentin realizes he’s in danger of losing his daughter- and his best friend. (source: movieinsider.com)

 

Yes I know the plot of Instructions Not Included has been done a thousand times before but there is something about the physicality of star Eugenio Derbez and the utter naturalness of the girl who plays his daughter, Loreto Peralta, that won me over, and fast.

It has equal measures of comedy and drama, and if the trailer is any accurate guide (let’s hope it is since it’s one annoying quality is it pretty much gives the whole story away, a failing of many modern shorts), just enough sentimentality to be touching without inducing a nasty case of nausea.

The trick will be making sure all those narratively combustible qualities stay in perfect balance throughout the movie.

Instructions Not Included  opens in USA on 30 August 2013.

 

 

ZAYTOUN

 

(image via impawards.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
In 1982, amid the Lebanese Civil War, Israeli pilot Yoni (Stephen Dorff) is shot down over Beirut and is taken prisoner by inhabitants of a Palestinian refugee camp. Among the captors is ten-year-old Fahed, whose father obsessively tends to his prized, but sickly olive tree, refusing to replant it until they return to their ancestral land. Despite his deep-rooted hatred for Yoni, Fahed realizes he can use him to get past the border and into “Palestine” to plant his father’s olive tree. The two embark on a harrowing and dangerous journey – one that tests the very boundaries of humanity. ZAYTOUN is a story of survival, reconciliation and friendship. (source: metacritic.com) 

 

Zaytoun tells another searing story of survival but one that rests entirely on one of the most trenchant political, cultural and geographic divides – the ongoing conflict between the nation of Israel and the Palestinian diaspora.

Making use of one of the most unusual combinations I have ever seen in a movie, that of a downed Israeli pilot understandably desperate to return home, and a young Palestinian boy on a mission to make his family’s return to Israel a reality (if only figuratively), it is at turns gripping, emotionally-wrenching and heartwarming without once looking like it resorts to easy cliches.

A parable of reconciliation, Zaytoun elicits stand out performances from both Stephen Dorff and Abdallah El Akal and gives every indication of being a finely nuances portrayal of the relationships borne out of necessity but nurtured by a resulting real connection.

Zaytoun opens on limited US release on 27 September 2013 after premiering at a number of film festivals worldwide over the last 12 months.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – new promo images + a LEGO trailer

(image via bleedingcool.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
After successfully crossing over (and under) the Misty Mountains, Thorin and Company must seek aid from a powerful stranger before taking on the dangers of Mirkwood Forest–without their Wizard. If they reach the human settlement of Lake-town it will be time for the hobbit Bilbo Baggins to fulfill his contract with the dwarves. The party must complete the journey to Lonely Mountain and burglar Baggins must seek out the Secret Door that will give them access to the hoard of the dragon Smaug. And, where has Gandalf got off to? And what is his secret business to the south? Written by Otaku-sempai (source: imdb.com)

 

If you recall when last we left the brave company of Thorin’s dwarves and Bilbo Baggins at the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, they had been carried to within sight of Erebor, the Lonely Mountain within which lies Smaug the dragon and a fathomless pile of gold which he zealously guards.

And action-packed though there journey to that point was, with the last part carried aloft by the giant Eagles of Manwë no less, it looks like things are only going to get more action-packed from hereon in if this newly released pic is any indication.

 

Thorin and his company having a barrel of laughs … well at least a barrel (image via bleedingcool.com)

 

Here’s what bleedingcool.com had to say about the image:

“As noted by the Tolkieniacs [I love this term!] at The One Ring, this promo image of Dwarfs in barrels suggests some changes from the original Hobbit novel. For one thing, they’re not all on the verge of throwing up. For another, there’s the exciting promise of arrows embedded in the wood, as though they’ve come under fire. This means “action set piece” and Jackson tends to be very good at these, going right back to when he played every character in the fight scene himself.

No wonder ever expected that the trip to Erebor would be a walk in the park but it looks like it’s going to involve quite a bit more fighting till they reach their goal.

Quite how much fighting will be involved will only become clear when The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in the USA and UK on 13 December 2013 and Australia on 26 December.

* To tide you over till that day, here’s a LEGO version of the teaser trailer (discovered via my Triberr mate Eoghann Irving’s site eoghann.com) that debuted back in June this year. It’s inspired, clever and a whole lot of fun and I’ve included the original trailer below it so you can contrast, compare, and squee with joy as needed …

 

 

 

“Warehouse 13”: Review of season 4 finale “The Truth Hurts”

There is much to be shocked about in ‘The Truth Hurts’, a finale truly deserving of the name that is filled to overflowing with “Warehouse 13” goodness (image via warehouse13.wikia.com (c) syfy

 

“THIS IS MY HO– USE NOW!”

With that thundering statement, Paracelsus (Anthony Head), Warehouse 13‘s latest 500 year old mad scientists uber-baddy, takes control of the world’s weirdest major holding place of strange and dangerous artifacts – OK the world’s only holding major place of strange and dangerous artifacts – with plans to use his supposedly unfettered power to unleash his nefarious plans upon an unsuspecting world.

This underhanded and momentous changing of the guard at Warehouse 13 – which is challenged, naturally enough, by Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) who decides to fight Paracelsus as if she is the Caretaker, a role that no longer rests with Mrs Frederick (C. C. H. Pounder) who has to be disconnected from it to save her life, with only nanoseconds to spare – occurs at the end of a plot-rich, if not necessarily action-packed, episode in which the team succeed in:

  • capturing Paracelsus in San Francisco after he callously sucking the remaining life force out of dying patients at a number of hospitals; a particularly close to the bone storyline given Myka’s cancer
  • unsuccessfully re-bronze him (he invented the process and can thus thwart it) and opt for placing him in the suspension chamber instead
  • from which he is then released by Pete (Eddie McClintock) who, desperate to save a cancer-stricken Myka (Joanne Kelly) buys the line that the latest Warehouse 13 villain will act in the interest of someone other than himself and save Pete’s much-cared for partner if only he is freed
  • at which point he gathers all the artifacts he asked Pete to assemble (ostensibly to be used to cure Myka) to assume the sort of control that no one with his overly narcissistic tendencies should have … EVER.

 

“Pete, I am your father!” No, just kidding but Paracelsus is almost as manipulative as that leading a desperate Pete to believe he will cast aside his rampant self-interest to save Myka (image via tvrage.com (c) syfy)

 

It’s an up, down, edge-of -your-seat narrative rush to the finish line, spurred on no doubt by the fact that Warehouse 13 now has only six episodes – lord knows what possesses syfy (apart from a cold, hard look at the bottom line) to truncate healthy, promising series which on any other network would live on for years more – and more ideas than time.

And they certainly go hell for leather in this episode, with the clever script by Drew Z Greenberg (Buffy, Firefly) centering the action for the most part in the warehouse itself where all sorts of revelations unfold and the personal relationship,s which are the beating heart of this imaginative show, came to the fore.

For a start the bond between Pete and Myka, always strong and impervious to any and all outside influences, grew stronger still as Myka faced the reality of her cancer and Pete faced up to the fact that he could lose her, a particularly scary development for anyone bit even more so for a man who lose his much-loved dad at an early age.

He doesn’t want Myka to leave him, can’t bear the thought of being without her, and it’s this child-like fear that drives him to act in a way counter to all the years of sober, logical training instilled in him.

You can hardly blame Pete for being taken in by Paracelsus who is a past master of the smooth, convincing patter, and repugnantly adept at identifying emotional vulnerabilities in people and exploiting them to his own advantage.

 

“Claudia, I am your father!” Ah just kidding again but in lots of way Artie is as close to a father as Claudia has which makes the information he shares with her all the more shocking (Image via backlot.com (c) syfy)

 

It is but one of Paracelsus’s many less than like-able qualities – he killed his own sister-in-law Charlotte (Polly Walker) for god’s sake leaving his brother Sutton (James Marsters) and nephew Nicolas (Josh Blaylock) to pick up the familial pieces – and it falls to Claudia to remain inside the warehouse, with which she has a powerful pre-Caretaker bond, to battle him but not before Artie (Saul Rubinek) drops a bombshell that her sister Claire lives.

Understandably angry that this information has been withheld from her – information only shared by the way after Jinx (Aaron Ashmore), who is chronically underused in this episode, threatens to spill the beans himself – she unleashes her fury at Artie, only pausing for breath when in desperation he tells the woman he loves like a daughter:

“Your sister is an incredibly dangerous woman!”

That stops her in her tracks, but before she or Artie can truly talk it out any further, events escalate and Claudia is forced to step into the breach to take on Paracelsus, by virtue of her unique bond with the warehouse, leaving Artie (who she forgives; possible death has a way of concentrating the mind), Jinx (who she tearfully farewells with a hurried wave), Pete and Mrs Frederick to flee to the outside where they will continue the fight.

Busy it might have been, and a little overstuffed with plot developments but it was at all times emotionally resonant and true to the spirit of the show which has never let the gee-whizz post modern mashing together of all sorts of myths, legends and historical oddities which is its storytelling bread and butter overshadow the enduring, heartfelt relationships that exist between all the characters.

An episode of this quality bodes well for Warehouse 13‘s much-shortened final season and you can get some sense of what lies ahead from these revealing interviews with Joanne Kelly first and then Eddie McClintock …

 

 

Break out the Boom Boom! “Girls” season 3 teaser trailer debuts

(image via chatelaine.com (c) HBO)

 

Though it may seem like an eon away – one TV viewing month is equal to at least 6-8 actual months in my estimation – the third season of HBO’s Girls, which is set to bow in January 2014 will be here before we know it.

In anticipation of its impending arrival, HBO have released a teaser trailer of the Lena Dunham created-and-helmed show set to Robert ToTeras’ “Break Out the Boom Boom”, a song which provides just the right tempo and mood for the gloriously messy jumble of Instragram-ish shots which punctuate the trailer like the witty bon mots that seem to fly effortlessly and often out of the mouths of all the characters in this funny, insightful show.

Admittedly it’s more conceptually-driven than narratively-focused with precious little in the way of plot given away – but we do get to see the return of Elijah (Andrew Rannells) who plays the now gay ex of Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) and no sign of Charlie (Christopher Abbott) who won’t be appearing in season 3 after Abbott’s expected but nonetheless sudden departure.

That last unwelcome character development does leave the Charlie/Marnie (Allison Williams) coupling kind of flapping in the breeze, and it’s going to take some snappy clever writing to explain away his absence when the couple were getting on so well at the end of season 2 after reconciling.

Fortunately Lena Dunham has proved herself time and again one of the smartest writers out there – she deservedly won the Primetime Emmy in 2012 for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series after all – and I have every confidence she will make sense of Charlie going AWOL.

 

 

Season 3 will see the introduction of a slew of actors in guest roles including Sarah Steele (The To-Do List), Felicity Jones (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and Michael Zegen who will reunited with his Francis Ha co-star Adam Driver (who plays Adam Sackler).

It’s shaping up to be one heck of a new season with all the hilarious neuroses, poor decisions and self-absorption we have come to expect from Hannah, Marnie, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and the similarly-screwed up but working on it men in their lives, and just enough character growth to make it all believable and heartfelt.

I can’t wait for the Girls to keep on kind of trying to sort of get it altogether when the dramedy returns in January next year.

 

 

Book review: “Shift” by Hugh Howey

(image via bitethebook.com)

 

Mankind is a contrarily unique species.

Armed with ferocious intelligence, tenacity, ambition, and the ability to remold the world, for better or worse, we hold both the seeds of our uplifting and our downfall in our often overly confident hands.

Peter may build up, but Paul will tear down, and caught up in the hubris of the next great progress-defining accomplishment, we often to fail to see what we have done to ourselves until it is too late.

It is a constant theme in dystopian, apocalyptic literature, but never more so than in Shift, the recently-released prequel to Hugh Howey’s spectacularly successful Wool.

Like Wool, Shift was released as a series of e-books – in this case three (as opposed to Wool‘s five) First Shift- Legacy, Second Shift – Order, Third Shift – Pact – before making it into print, part of a new trend of publishing houses watching what succeeds in the virtual publishing world before offering deals to do a “real world” print run.

While it was released after the book that made Hugh Howey’s name, it functions as a prequel and frighteningly chilling one at that.

Never was a blurb on a book cover more accurate:

“An epic feat of imagination. You will live in this world.” Justin Cronin, The Passage

From almost the word go, you are drawn completely and absolutely into the world of the silos, bouncing backwards and forwards through time between 2049 when planning for these last stands of humanity began through to 2110 when a character called Troy awakens from the deep sleep that occupies many of the workers in the Silo 1 in between their six month long shifts through to 2345 when a much-delayed bittersweet resolution of sorts take place.

Hugh Howey succeeds where many fail in creating a world that made sense to me.

From its origins in the murky world of power politics and international relations through to its slowly-unfolding breakdown centuries later, where both the material and social decay becomes too obvious to ignore, Shift is a world that exists with a life of its own, populated by characters whose motivations are understandable and real.

And that I think is what it so chilling and prescient.

 

 

Told from the point of view of protagonist Donald, a freshmen congressman in Washington DC in 2049 who is seconded to a top secret project by home state patriarch and skilled political operator, Senator Thurman, ostensibly being constructed to hold nuclear waste deep underground in the hills outside Atlanta, Georgia, only to find there is much more at stake than managing the poisonous detritus of civilisation, Shift is a searing morality tale.

It asks the question, a deeply unsettling question – Is it worth saving the human race if everything that defined us as a people up to that point has to be erased to make it possible?

Many would argue yes if the pure act of survival, of staying alive, is the only thing that matters.

But for a great many others including me, and Donald who ends up in the main silo when the engineered apocalypse arrives (drawing on the old twisted Vietnam War-era idea that to save the village you must destroy it) and is increasingly troubled when the drugs meant to keep old memories at bay fail to do their job, the answer is increasingly a negative one as the book goes on.

Yes humanity has survived but at what cost?

Much of its collective memory has been wiped, personal memories are held at bay by a cocktail of drugs to which some are immune for reasons unknown, and mankind has been forced underground into silos run on an almost feudal scale by people who assume this is the only way it has always been.

The most frightening aspect of this “re-building” of civilisation is that it is built on the dust of lost people, subsumed memories and death, both physical and emotional, and real though it is, it has come at too great a cost.

What has been saved exactly?

It may all sound like a rather slow-moving tale of existential angst and its true that the book does suffer from some slowly unfolding passages populated by characters who fail to truly come alive (though Mission and Solo’s tales were compelling enough to keep me reading), but for the most part it is a carefully-constructed, well told and engaging narrative of a civilisation struggling to build a future on the shakiest of bases – a made-up, lied-about past.

It is a world that resonates with many of the qualities that define us as a species, qualities such as greed, ambition, lust for power, desire for a better life and the tight bonds of love and family, and Shift does an excellent job of reminding us that all the behind the scenes maneuvering, and mind wiping in the world cannot dislodge the innate humanity that in the end will always undo the carefully-laid, if morally-suspect, plans of man.

Human nature, in all its messy, contradictory glory will always out, and Shift reminds us throughout including in its rather cliffhanger-type ending, that we had better be ready when it does.

Shhh! Be vewy, vewy qwiet … Neil Patrick Harris has made a silent movie

(image via funnyordie.com)

 

Is there nothing that Neil Patrick Harris can’t do and do spectacularly well?

I say no! My proof?

He hosts the Tonys, performs magic like a pro, is a star on How I Met Your Mother, has two of the most adorable children with his partner, David Burtka … and is down to earth, funny and great on Ellen!

And now, NOW, he has made a silent short movie, posted on funnyordie.com, announced via Twitter:

“I’m channeling my inner Buster Keaton in a new @FunnyOrDie video exclusive”

Picture of Love, as it’s titled, is funny, poignant and touching and the most wonderful homage to two silent greats, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton (who apparently never smiled in his films, something I failed to notice sadly), that I have seen in many a long day.

Blog.zap2it.com, who brought the film to my attention, describe it perfectly:

“The film shows a mostly sad-faced Harris sitting alone at a table. In order to get some company, he places the photo of a woman — apparently beloved — on the table as well. Alas, it’s not enough for the flesh-and-blood man.

“There is, fortunately, a solution. Harris grabs another photo, this one of himself, and sets it up on the table next to the first. Happy at last, the hero can walk away.”

It’s a beautiful tribute to the power of love and yet more evidence that Neil Patrick Harris or NPH is THE renaissance man of our time.

Your arguments to the contrary thus are not valid.