Brrr! Disney releases full trailer for Frozen

(image via tammileetips.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
In Frozen, fearless optimist Anna (voice of Kristen Bell ) teams up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff ) and his loyal reindeer Sven in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom. (source: screenrant.com)

I was overjoyed when I saw the first teaser trailer for Disney’s upcoming release Frozen (check out my first post here).

It looked whimsical, fun and delightfully silly, with a slapstick snowman, goofy reindeer, and the sort of sweet, if overly earnest, relationships between its character that have made Disney cartoons great drawcards for over half a century now.

And the release of the full-length trailer has done nothing to diminish my enthusiasm for Disney’s take on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story The Snow Queen.

While I am at heart a Pixar boy, preferring their more emotionally grounded, substantial tales, I think Frozen shows real promise and will make a lovely addition to my post-Christmas holiday reverie.

Frozen is scheduled for release on 27 November in USA, 6 December in the UK and 26 December in Australia.

 

 

TV review: Revolution (S2, E1 “Born in the USA”)

(image via teaser-trailer.com (c) NBC)

 

Revolution is no longer your grandmother’s apocalyptic drama, my friends.

Somewhere between the nukes being launched, courtesy of soon-to-be-dead patriot Randall Flynn (Colm Feore), from the newly powered up Tower towards the yet-to-be-renamed Monroe Republic, headquartered in Philadelphia, and the Georgia Federation in Atlanta, and the resumption of Revolution‘s post-power tales six months later, everything has gone a whole lot more gritty, darker, and well, suitably apocalyptic.

It makes sense when you think about it.

With the power off again, which was if you recall the only way to try and stop the nukes reaching their destinations – accent on the word  try since we learn very early on that the nightmarish bombs reached their intended targets anyway, proof that the intentions of the rump United States of America, which spent 15 years hiding out in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are anything but benign – the world, as if it needed any more help, has gone to hell in a hand-woven basket.

 

Life is anything but better in the aftermath of the nukes hitting their targets, and it’s Rachel (played to emotionall-nuanced perfection by Elizabeth Mitchell) that is hit hardest, guilt-ridden over her role in destroying the world (image via Facebook (c) NBC)

 

Not surprising really since the only two real bastions of what passes for civilisation, have been turned into smokin’ radioactive ruins by the events of the fateful when Miles (Billy Burke), Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell), daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and Aaron (Zak Orth) turned the power off and almost immediately had to flick it all off, with unseen dire results.

What is left is an almost lawless realm, The Plains Nation, from which rather vicious, and distinctly uncivilised gang-like War Clans sweep into the Nation of Texas where Miles and Rachel (who are flirting with resuming their rather rocky but hard to deny love affair) and Zak with his new love Cynthia (Jessica Collins) are sheltering in the fortified, walled-off town of Willoughby where Rachel’s father, played by Stephen Collins, lives and practises as a doctor.

They may feel safer but Miles is up to his old tricks – he walks bloodied and bruised from a shed that then explodes, no explanation given – Rachel is struggling with PTSD for her part in the further destruction of the world as we know it (still no sign of REM though) and Aaron, happy though he is with his girlfriend, is troubled by the weird changes in nature such as luminously glowing fireflies that mass in the trees in his backyard.

 

 

Safe they may be but happy they most certainly are not in a world that is darker (literally and figuratively), more frightening and far more dangerous.

Just how dangerous is underlined by Charlie, who is out for Monroe’s (David Lyons) rather handsome scalp, and tracks him to New Vegas, a town where the main industries seem to be prostitution, gambling  and organised street boxing, and where there is an unsettling over-abundance of street buskers with badly-tuned guitars (a sign of the apocalypse if ever there was one).

(What was otherwise a fairly intense scene was leavened considerably by, of all things, when a Friends joke, when a spruiker announces that the “last Friend” David Schwimmer is performing inside an adjacent tent.)

While the all new tougher, barkeeper-seducing Charlie more than manages to hold her own, her attempts to get some measure of revenge are dealt a blow when Monroe is kidnapped by forces unseen, forcing Charlie, who well all know is a decent young lady at heart, murderous revenge burning in her soul notwithstanding, who will no doubt set off after him.

Probably initially because she’s pissed off someone has played the revenge card ahead of her but Revolution has been at pains to be a more nuanced show of late so I daresay the relationship between Monroe and Charlie will grow to be a lot more complicated than it first appears.

 

Tom Neville, with son Jason, searches fruitlessly through the refugee camps of Savannah for any sign that his wife, Julia (Kim Raver) survived the devastation of Atlanta (image via avclub.com (c) NBC)

 

Another character who is struggling mightily with recent events, and almost close to ending it all,gun wearily in hand, is Tom Neville, a man who has changed sides so often, he has pronounced butt bruising from all the doors hitting him on the way out.

But he is no longer the ballsy, swaggering man of old, laid low by the disappearance of his wife Julia (Kim Raver) who may or may not have died in the holocaust that consumed Atlanta.

It’s not made clear whether she lives or not, but after Jason stays his hand from killing himself in the refugee camp they now call home, and the United States government comes sailing into Savannah, charm offensive and all (with the President on his way back to the White House) telling anyone who will listen that the Monroe Republic and Georgia Federation let loose the nukes (a patent lie), Tom gets that old “I’ll git you!” glint back in his eyes, determined to prove the newly arrived “patriots” are anything but.

His declaration?

“I am going to rip them apart from the inside.”

 

Eric Kripke (image via en.wikipedia.org)

 

While I am not entirely convinced that splitting everyone up is the way to go, it certainly does open up some more fronts in a show that is being re-tooled by creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural) into a leaner, meaner, altogether darker and more focused show in the light of what he felt were glaring deficiencies in the first season:

“The problem with Season One was it was too simple. We either ended up treading water, or we ended up throwing drones at the problem. And just spectacle. And the second half of Season One, I’m just watching and I’m like, “Holy shit, there’s a lot of power in this show that has no power!” And then when drones are flying around shooting machine guns at each other, I’m like, “Who am I?” (source: io9.com)

Proof that he means business was an episode that had everyone is almost continuous jeopardy, with pysches and relationships strained, the apocalypse less a rural idyll than a Mad Max-ian tale of the survival of the fittest and most heavily armed.

While season 1 was fuelled by the ongoing need to flick on the switch, season 2 is going to be powered (yes both energy-oriented puns are deliberate and I apologise for nothing) by the overarching twin conspiracies of what has happened to the natural world – Aaron has observed some strange goings on in nature, not the least of which is what happens to him, rather startlingly – and whether the US Government riding back into town is so much the cavalry as it does another band of ne’er do wells with their own untrustworthy agenda.

Both threads are robust and ripe with narrative possibility and suggest that season 2 of Revolution is likely to be a rich treasure trove of post-apocalyptic storytelling, with more stories to tell than it has episodes in which to do it.

Certainly the darker, grittier feel to the show is a welcome change and bodes well for storytelling that will be authentic, and true to the rather down at heels, civilisation-imperiling spirit of the times.

 

 

[All of us] will be here for you: Orphan Black gets a Friends makeover

Images: Orphan Black via omq-squee.com and Friends via screenscribe.tv)

 

Two odder TV bedfellows you could not imagine right?

Which is course precisely the point for the inspired YouTube user SnowBalls3, who put together images from BBC America’s dark conspiracy-rich sci-fi drama Orphan Black, starring the multi-talented Tatiana Maslany, and Friends, one of the most successful sitcoms in TV history which ran from 1994 to 2004.

I discovered this very clever mashup via Trent Moore of blastr.com who did point out that there is at least one tenuous point of commonality between the two:

“The extremely talented Tatiana Maslany plays about a half dozen characters on the breakout BBC America sci-fi series, which makes for a pretty insane sitcom intro once you realize its the same actress over and over again.

“But, much like the series itself — Maslany does such an amazing job with the nuance of each character, you almost forget it’s the same person playing all those roles. Also, we’d kind of like to see a sitcom version now. C’mon, BBC America, lets deconstruct the concept a little bit.”

Orphan Black: The Sitcom – I like the idea!

Until that materialises, sit back, enjoy and marvel at a visual fusing of two shows that otherwise might never have crossed paths.

 

 

 

 

The accidental novelty song: What does The Fox say exactly?

No really … What DOES the Fox Say? (Image via incrediblethings.com)

 

We’re all far too familiar with the novelty song, an insanely catchy song of often dubious artistic value that seems to come out of nowhere, usually from an artist no one has never heard of, and disappears almost as quickly as it comes.

Theirs is usually a brief, bright, explosive trajectory through the pop culture firmament, with its disappearance greeted with relief by the fickle masses who just nanoseconds were welcoming it with rapturous delight.

Well everyone except me.

You see I have a dirty little secret – I love novelty songs.

Yes I hold songs like “Shaddap Your Face” (Joe Dolce), “The Macarena” (Los Del Rio), “Who Let the Dogs Out?” (Baha Men) and “Gangnam Style” (PSY) close to my musical bosom, and while I don’t hold them up obviously as pinnacles of musical perfection, I am not afraid to acknowledge that they are catchy as hell and yes, conceived by some very talented people.

Which means of course that I love the latest novelty song to sweep the globe, “The Fox” by Ylvis, a Norwegian duo who didn’t set out to have a viral hit at all, but got one anyway, racking up tens of millions of YouTube views in the process.

Yep, calculated though it may look, “The Fox” is an accidental novelty song.

 

 

Yes, an accident.

Appearing on The Ellen Show a few days ago, the comedy duo brothers behind Ylvis, Bård (the blond one) and Vegard Ylvisåker,who produced the song in conjunction with Norwegian hitmaker Stargate, the man behind Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and Rita Ora’s “RIP” among many others, admitted “The Fox” began life as a joke, a way to promote the third season of their highly successful chat show.

Formed in 2000, they have found great success with everything from a string of variety shows, radio shows, and yes even music videos.

But “The Fox”, delightfully inane lyrics and all, has garnered them the sort of attention they could only have dreamed of, and while they are grateful for it on one level, both brothers seemed bemused by all the fuss, with Bård admitting that their joke had “backfired”.

Still, if this is what backfired looks like, I don’t think they should be overly worried.

Just ask PSY.

Since “Gangnam Style” took over the collective consciousness of humanity in 2012, or at least appeared to, the Korean singer has become a household name worldwide.

Whether Ylvis follow suit, or even want to, is uncertain but one thing for sure – “The Fox” is maddeningly catchy and while the backlash can only be a matter of days or even hours away, I am happy to proclaim here and now that I really like the song.

Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!

 

 

And naturally, as is the way of things in the digital age, “The Fox” has attracted a slew of imitators including the following Abercrombie and Fitch effort, which I am featuring not because I like the brand (Frankly I don’t; their values appal me) but because it’s stuffed full of hot, shirtless men. (source: time.com)

Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff!

 

 

Can’t wait to see: A Case of You

(image via insidemovies.ew.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Young writer Sam (Justin Long) has a crush on Birdie (Evan Rachel Wood), a cute and quirky barista. When his conventional attempts to woo her crash and burn, he takes his efforts online, creating an Internet profile embellished with all of the details that make him Birdie’s dream guy. When the scheme is a surprise success and Birdie falls for his alter ego, Sam must keep up the act or lose his dream girl. Peter Dinklage, Brendan Fraser, Sam Rockwell, Vince Vaughn and Sienna Miller also star in the film directed by Kat Coiro (Life Happens) (source: firstshowing.net)

 

Let’s be honest.

Falling love, despite all the rose-hued romantic tropes, is kinda scary.

OK very scary.

It is, of course, also all kinds of wonderful – candlelit dinner dates, silly jokes, stolen moments, kisses in the dark, a camaraderie of souls – and no one in their right mind would trade away all those butterflies-in-the-stomach feelings and giddy Mary Tyler Moore spinning on the spot while you throw your hat in the air for anything in the world.

But it’s still scary.

There you are, naked and vulnerable, emotional putty in someone else’s hands, wondering if who you are is good enough.

All that confidence you had that you have it all totally together?

Gone with one dreamy look into your beloved’s eyes, along with any sense you have what it takes to make it work.

 

Sam falls for Birdie but has Birdie fallen for the real Sam? Therein lies the horns of this romantic dilemma (image via mubi.com)

 

But most of plunge on regardless, hoping we can make it up as we go.

And that’s why I’ve fallen in love with A Case of You, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April this year, before I have barely seen it.

I can totally identify with Sam (Justin Long who co-wrote the film with Wedding Crashers star Keir O’Donnell and his brother Christian Long), who does everything in his power to make himself good enough for Birdie.

But what if, and here’s a thought, he’s good enough already?

A Case of You opens 6 November 2013 in USA.

 

 

The Undead News: The latest from the apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead

Love this artwork! (Image via tvafterdarkonline.com)

 

We are so close to the premiere of season 4 of The Walking Dead on October 13 that I can almost taste it.

(Naturally of course I won’t be since (a) Zombies have major hygiene and ongoing health issues and (b) contrary to what you’ve been told they don’t taste like chicken.)

So to keep the fevered anticipation as high as possible (not that it really needs any help), I have gathered together all kinds of fun and newsy things about The Walking Dead which I present to you now in HD Decay-O-Vision …

First up, we know, yes we know, what caused the apocalypse.

No really, we do!

While the creator of the comic book series (with artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard) upon which the TV series is based, Robert Kirkman (who also acts as one of the executive producers on the show) has always played mum on the cause of the zombie apocalypse, preferring, understandably, to focus on its devastating aftermath, it now emerges that another major TV character was behind the whole thing.

Yes my friends, according to the wonderful, inspired folk at College Humor, you can link the start of the virus-infested decline of civilisation to one Walter White of Breaking Bad whose purest of the pure crystal meth may not have been as squeaky clean as he thought.

Titled Breaking Dead, it’s an hilarious mashup between the recently ended Breaking Bad and still very much alive, if undead, The Walking Dead and comes with the tagline “And you thought Heisenberg was a monster.”

So sit back, be entertained and yes, informed.

(source: blastr.com via laughing squid.com)

 

And if you’re wishing you could see some new amazing The Walking Dead webisodes in the lead up to the season 4 premiere, you are in luck!

According to variety.com, a three-episode series directed by Greg Nicotero called The Oath will be available from 1 October.

With each instalment running for 7-10 minutes, they’ll give another insight into the zombie-ravaged world that the scarred remnants of humanity now call home, and features Ashley Bell (Exorcism 2), Wyatt Russell and Ellen Greene.

Nicotero had this to say about the series in the press release:

“The webisodes give us a unique opportunity to see other parts of the ravaged world of The Walking Dead while weaving in and out of our show.

“The crossover between The Oath and The Walking Dead ties in one of the most iconic images from the series, and gives us insights and history to yet another timeline.”

And oh yes, we’ve seen it before but here again is the extended trailer for the series which is all kinds of chilling …

 

 

It appears that we will soon have more than one zombie show to keep us alternately hiding behind blankets in fear (you all do that right? Right?) and utterly absorbed in the knife edge drama with news that a spinoff from The Walking Dead is in the works.

While there are scant details available at the moment, we do know the 2015-debuting series will take place in another part of the universe created by Robert Kirkman (who joins with executive producers Gail Ann Hurd and Dave Alpert) and feature brand new brand new characters.

This is what Kirkman had to say about this exciting new venture:

“After 10 years of writing the comic book series and being so close to the debut of our fourth, and in my opinion, best season of the TV series, I couldn’t be more thrilled about getting the chance to create a new corner of The Walking Dead universe. The opportunity to make a show that isn’t tethered by the events of the comic book, and is truly a blank page, has set my creativity racing.”

True it will be a long wait but I daresay very much worth it when it finally makes it to the screen.

(source: hollywoodreporter.com)

And that, apart from the news that Alanna Masterson has been cast as a recurring character in season 4, possibly playing Tara Chalmers who was introduced in the Rise of the Governor novels, is that.

May you run fast and sure of foot from the zombies as you await their soon and very soon return.

The Walking Dead season 4 premieres 13 October 2013 on AMC.

TV review: Big School (S1, E1)

(image via rapidmoviez.com (c) BBC)

 

It seems, if the press reports are anything to go by, that David Walliams and I have something in common.

No, you may  be surprised to learn it’s not a stellar career as a BAFTA Award-winning comedian (thanks to his work on Little Britain with co-creator Matt Lucas) nor as an author responsible for five children’s book including The Boy in the Dress and Gangsta Granny nor as a judge on Britain’s Got Talent since 2012.

What we share in common is a love of good old fashioned British TV humour.

Not so much the innuendo-laden jokes so beloved of 70s comic veterans like Benny Hill and Dick Emery, both of whom figured to some degree in my childhood too, but the sort of sitcoms that reigned supreme in the 70s such as Only Fools and HorsesUp Pompeii and Are You Being Served? that established Britain as the comic powerhouse of its time.

They all look a little cheesy now of course but they were tour de forces of farce, and double entendre, outwardly innocent but wickedly funny to the core, and the most hilarious things I had ever seen in my then short life.

 

 

So with that commonality of affection for UK sitcom humour of old in mind, I was expecting a great deal from David Walliams first comedy outing in some time in Big School where he plays a disillusioned chemistry teacher Keith Church, a man in love with science but ill at ease with his colleagues, the students, and it seems life generally.

Always on the cusp of resigning, and in the habit of loudly proclaiming to a disinterested staff room that he is about to do so, he is man with very little going for him.

That is until Miss Sarah Postern (Catherine Tate, who I normally find ridiculously amusing), the new French teacher turns up for her first day at school – a replacement for the old teacher Miss Kent who died, apparently hilariously from anaphylactic shock from eating Nutella, and whose funeral Keith missed thanks to text messaging inattentiveness – and he is instantly smitten.

Not that anyone really cares, including Miss Postern unfortunately, who though she recognises a man desperately in lust with her, is smitten with her own attractiveness, and who is just as likely to flirt with the out of shape PE teacher Trevor Gunn (Philip Glenister), a lecherous tracksuit wearing sleaze who takes pride in living at home with his mum, as entertain Mr Church’s clumsy advances.

But Mr Church, who like his colleagues has to battle ambivalent students who pretty rule the place, and a headmistress, Ms Baron (70s comedy veteran Frances de la Tour who shines in the role) whose sole joy lies in sarcastically belittling her staff and drinking confiscated alcohol, is not deterred offering Moss Postern a lift home which doesn’t quite go to plan.

It’s all supposed to be insanely, side-slappingly funny but it left me sadly cold.

 

Everyone smile! How I wish I could (image via rynostv.com (c) BBC)

 

You could see what Walliams was aiming for.

Disaffected, idiosyncratic flawed staff, a dysfunctional school and unrequited love that will struggle to get its voice heard given Church’s lack of confidence in just about everything but the power of science to change lives.

Ripe with possibility, endless guffaws in the making right?

Not quite, alas.

It all looks quite promising at the beginning in a scene where Church is excitedly getting ready to unleash an experiment in class – it’s almost touching how much he is looking forward to his students love of learning coming alive as 1000 ping pong balls explode all over the classroom – only to have it not work as planned until his bored students are wandering out of the room, the end of period bell shrilly shrieking to an almost deafening degree.

Its funny, touching and you almost get the feeling that Keith Church could be a likable, sympathetic character.

 

Catherine Tate can pretty much say anything usually and I fall about laughing. Alas not so this time (image via bbc.co.uk (c) BBC)

 

Unfortunately that’s not sustained through the episode, and while the characters are undoubtedly wacky and social dysfunctional, they aren’t the sort of people you’d really want to spend a sustained amount of time with.

Contrast that with Green Wing, an off the wall show set in that other great home of TV comedies and dramas, the hospital, where the characters are just as flawed but thanks to snappy dialogue and an inherent absurdist bent, are eminently appealing.

Big School is one of those unfortunate misfires in TV – all the right ingredients in place, the recipe laid out ready to be followed to the letter but with no inherent rhythm or personality, too over thought to be spontaneously its own comic creature.

Bravo to David Walliams for trying to bring back some old style British sitcom humour.

As a fellow enthusiast I appreciate his efforts.

Unfortunately all he has given us is a classic sitcom in appearance only, one which lacks the warmth and good humour that sustained the old shows he, and I, still love so much.

Big School, I can fairly confidently say, won’t be joining them.

Music review: Tales of Us by Goldfrapp

(image via josepvinaixa.com)

 

There is a haunting, almost confessional tone to Goldfrapp’s new album Tales of Us, as if you are dipping into an intimate, ongoing conversation between two old friends.

Or perhaps that is, many old friends, acquaintances and ex-lovers, or those you might wander past on the street and wish you could talk to, if only for a moment.

The sense that you are eavesdropping at a cafe over a steaming hot cup of coffee owes a great deal to the fact that Alison Goldfrapp, one half of the English electronic music duo along with Will Gregory, purrs her way through many of the songs in the same way that many of us would whisper conspiratorial secrets to another.

Laid over the sort of mystical ethereal trip-hop tones that first gained the duo prominence on their debut, Felt Mountain, in 2000, a sound they have become known for along with their more glam rock and synthpop tendencies on releases like Supernature (2005) and Head First (2010), Alison sings with a quiet, singular urgency.

You quickly want to know who it is she is singing about with such profound conviction.

After all, many of these songs, nine of out of which are named after people (the one exception is “Stranger”), have a dramatically bold storytelling quality to them, a sense that you are learning vital, important facts about peoople who might otherwise remain anonymous.

 

 

“Annabel”, based on the evocative 2011 novel by Kathleen Winter, for instance relates the tale of William/Annabel, an intersex child born in  1968 who is raised as a boy, a gender chosen by his father who disregards his wife’s willingness to recognise “the girl curled up inside him” (she names him Annabel in secret).

Goldfrapp’s delicate guitar work and soft whispered vocals capture perfectly the alienation and loneliness of this child out in the wilds of Canada who “when she dreams, only dreams she’s Annabel.”

The song comes complete with a film by her partner Lisa Gunning that evokes all the powerful, if quietly expressed emotions of the song.

Its images of soft dragonfly-buzzing and walks along a sun-dappled creek leading to a secret feminine idyll where the young boy can indulge his other neglected self, add to the dramatic intent of Goldfrapp herself.

It’s a beautiful marriage of the visual and the aural and testament to the great creativity Goldfrapp have brought to this most epic of musical excursions.

“Clay”, which begins with strings and softly-voiced almost Kate Bush-esque melody, is a thing of beauty too, describing the war time romance between two soldiers who find love with each other on a muddy, scarred battlefield.

It speaks of the exquisite joy of finding something so precious amidst death and destruction, and the fear that they will never recover it once they are separated.

“We wanted only to love
How will I find you again
Fate or chance.”

You ache for these two men even as you celebrate the love they have found gazing into the “ancient stars” of each other’s eyes.

 

 

“Drew” is a similarly evocative recounting of time spent with people who profoundly change your outlook and your perceptions of life, drenched in languid melodies and melancholic bliss.

“You’re not there for the stay
When I will wish you could
Wish that you were there
You could.”

These warm, narratively-rich songs have all been influenced by Alison Goldfrapp’s self-confessed love of European music, films by such imaginative cinematic auteurs as David Lynch and Ingmar Bergman and the novels of Patricia Highsmith, all filtered through the lens of a great and enduring love of storytelling.

Married with music that is at turns haunting, starkly beautiful and sorrowfully sweet, Tales of Us is the sort of album that you are absorbed into, much like an endless early morning conversation with good friends, and those who you are yet to get to know well.

And I suspect that unlike these intimate pre dawn reveries that you want to last forever but which wither with the rising of the sun, this album and its rich emotional resonance and gorgeous melodies will stay with you long after the last confessional word and note has sounded.

 

 

Drive, he said: Joel McHale and Neil Patrick Harris/Rainn Wilson get their autos on

Joel McHale (image via eonline.com), Rainn Wilson (image via fanpop.com) and Neil Patrick Harris (Image via tvrage.com)

 

I am not a car person.

It’s true.

While others dream of screaming down the highway in a streamlined red car, or daydream of meandering drives in the country just because (What? Without an actual destination? Madness!), I see the cars in my life as purely utilitarian devices, designed to get me from A to B with a side trip to Z if the weather is good, the shopping even better and there’s lunch somewhere in there.

Yes I have been known to use the phrase “high octane” once or twice (my friend Warren is always keen to remind me of the fact!), and I don’t particularly want to perpetuate the stereotype of gay man as car-loving free zones, but I don’t … love … cars.

Well that was until I saw the following two clips.

One features Joel McHale (Community, The Soup), the reigning king of the humourous snarky quip and self-confessed car nut, touring Belfast, Northern Ireland in a Back to the Future DeLorean DMC-12 for the premiere episode of a new Esquire Network program The Getaway.

Produced by Anthony Bourdain, the series features 10 celebrities including Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation), Josh Gad (Thanks For Sharing) and Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) giving their own unique perspective on a chosen city.

McHale auto-enhanced adventures in Belfast are reason enough for this car-ambivalent guy to take stock and reconsider his position.

Just a little anyway.

 

 

The other clip is an entirely different animal.

An ad for the 2014 Honda Odyssey, which comes with a built-in vacuum, it features Neil Patrick Harris (who can apparently do EVERYTHING including hosting this week’s Primetime Emmy Awards) and Rainn Wilson (The Office) as a green Gummy Bear and a ball of talkative lint respectively.

You don’t actually see them of course but you do hear them and they make candy and dust balls suddenly look and sound ridiculously attractive.

OK, not that attractive, but both they, and yes the Honda Odyssey both come off looking rather good.

Yes I know I appreciated a car.

What is the world coming to?

 

 

Movie review: Thanks For Sharing

(image via upcoming-movies.com)

 

Contrary to what you might think, making an engaging movie about sexual addiction, an issue replete with all the misunderstanding and innuendo in the world, is not the slam dunk easy proposition you might imagine it to be.

One goofy step to the right and you’re fair and square in Something About Mary laugh track heavy tits-and-titter territory, your main demographic devolved down to gawking teenage boys who think there’s something hilariously appealing about being unable to control the need to sexual pleasure yourself in whatever form it takes.

One prurient, indie-serious step to the left and you are suffocating under the weight of so much worthiness and self-aware introspection that the very act of getting up for breakfast seems like an existential act of great portent.

To my great relief, Thanks For Sharing, directed and co-written by Stuart Blumberg (along with Matt Winston), one of the writers on one of the best dramas of 2010, The Kids Are All Right, doesn’t take either route, preferring a deft meld of weighty consideration, raw emotional journeys and a pleasingly light rom-com air.

Mixing all three ingredients together could have gone horribly wrong at any point, but the balance is maintained throughout, only threatening to come undone in the final act when the self-control so clearly cemented in place for two of the three main characters threatens to spectacularly and damagingly unravel.

Testament to Blumberg’s well-considered touch, what could have a melodramatic denouement to otherwise skillfully calibrated proceedings doesn’t go down the expected route, though neither does it quite end up where you think it’s going to.

At least for one of the characters anyway.

It is this fittingly relevant directorial control that most impressed me about Thanks For Sharing, a movie which purports to show the real struggles people go through trying to uphold sobriety of the sexual kind (though references are made to drug and alcohol addiction), and the damage done when they fail to achieve the desired mastery over their destructive desires.

 

Adam (Mark Ruffalo) and Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) seemed destined for rom-com happiness until the weight of their shared emotional baggage threatens to sink the good ship BlissFul New Love (image via hollywood.com)

 

Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is the first of our character studies, a man who, on first glance, looks to be in need of very little in the way of aggressive self mastery.

A consummate professional and green activist of the business kind, who lands clients like the US Postal Service while the rest of us struggle to get our coffee order right at Starbucks, he has the funky, lavish apartment and lifestyle of a man who has it all together, and then some.

Only of course he doesn’t.

Beneath the bright, breezy personality, good looks and slick businessman presentation, he is a man riven by desires so powerful that one trigger too many can render him completely captive to compulsions that can cause him to act out in ways that don’t sit easily with the man he wants to be.

Sober for five years, and active in the sort of self-help groups that provide the sort of support many people need to avoid having to “white knuckle” it (go it alone), he values his newly in-control life which is tested when fitness fanatic Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), who it turns out has issues of her own, pops up at one of the gourmand dinner nights he participates in.

With sparks flying like a romantic Fourth of July, and love, real love in the offing, and with the support of his mentor Mike (Tim Robbins) he gathers the confidence to leave his starkly sober comfort zone, and see where this relationship will take him.

That it doesn’t quite finish up where you think it might speaks volumes about Blumberg and Winston’s ability to craft a tale that defies expectations, even if it’s just a tweak here and there.

 

A guru of the sexual self help scene, Mike (Tim Robbins) is not as together as he likes to think he is (image via slumz.boxden.com)

 

Mike (Tim Robbins), Adam’s mentor, who’s seemingly happily married to the endlessly patient Katie (Joely Richardson), is on the other hand, pretty much everything you’d expect a long standing member of the sexually sober community to be.

He is worldly-wise with pat phrases for any and all situations, a yoga practitioner (who’s zen-like composure is often challenged by a noisy, thoughtless neighbour), a man with answers for everyone even if he is manifestly unable to admit to his own failings as a father and husband.

When his former junkie son Danny (Patrick Fugit) appears out of the blue claiming to be eight months sober, Mike begins to realise that while he might be the repository of a great deal of life experience, and the wisdom you accumulate with it if you’re paying attention, he has failed to properly look apply that to the relationships with his own family.

While the resolution to his own struggles to come to terms with his manifest failures in life does threaten to teeter into the melodramatic, and is a little too predictable, Robbins brings it home with aplomb, rendering Mike as a man more vulnerable to life than he’d like to admit, and far more appealing as a result of acknowledging these chinks in his initially consummately put together armour.

 

Neil (Josh Gad) and Dede (Alecia Moore aka Pink) discover the delights of male to female platonic friendship (image via kcet.org)

 

Quite possibly the most delightful of the pairings that anchor Thanks For Sharing is that of Neil (Josh Gad), the initially glib and cavalier doctor who has a penchant for getting rather too close to women on public transport, and Dede (Alecia Moore aka singer Pink in a revelatory performance that confirms her as a major acting talent), a woman who arrives at the group that Neil attends broken and desperately in need of assurance that life can get better.

It is Moore’s initial confessional in the group that is the most haunting, and emotionally resonant scene in the film.

Her voice trembling, hairdresser Dede shares about a lifetime of too early sexual awakenings, inappropriate couplings, and abortions that have left her single, and alone, at 30 with only a toxic ex-boyfriend to lend her any kind of flawed solace.

It is raw, redolent with gut-wrenching pain and sadness, and leaves you wanting tho hold her close and offer any consolation you can (of the non sexual kind naturally).

Her problem, she admits, is that she can’t relate to men without forming a sexual bond with them, and it’s only when a rock bottom event causes former joker Neil (who provides many of the film’s delightfully funny moments including lessons on how not to ride a bike), who only attended the self-help groups due to a court order, to radically reassess where he is in life, that a touchingly sweet, and critically supportive, friendship of a distinctly platonic kind forms between the two.

 

An alternate poster for this charming, dramatically robust film (image via impawards.com)

 

The true joy of Thanks For Sharing is that it never overplays its hand.

Resisting the urge to get all preachy or frathouse prurient, or alienatingly overly dramatic, it charts a middle line through this most misunderstood of issues, engagingly drawing us into the lives of three people, and the friends and family in their orbit, and reminding us that life is a flawed experience, and that no matter how confidant we may be about our capacity to handle it, that we need all the help we can get.