Directed by Jake Paltrow, the dystopian Young Ones takes place in a future that’s almost totally devoid of water, which makes farming a difficult task for hardened frontiersman Michael Shannon and his two children, played Elle Fanning and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Once Fanning’s boyfriend Nicholas Hoult sets his sights on stealing Shannon’s land, the stage is set for all the characters to clash, and they pursue their agendas in a visually stunning, barren futures cape. (Synopsis via Vulture)
Humanity’s almost morbid fascination with a possible bleak dystopian future, one much removed from the gleeful optimism of early science-fiction, continues apace with Young Ones, a film set in a bleakly arid USA where water is now the most valuable commodity going and people will do anything to secure themselves a liveable future in a precarious land.
With so much at stake, it will come as no surprise that Young Ones, which was filmed the arid surrounds of Namaqualand in Northern Cape, South Africa, is marked by violence, betrayal, murder and the crushing weight of disappointment and dark disillusionment.
Ripe ground indeed for an engrossing dystopian drama, albeit one with an almost crushing intensity, which some critics, many of whom saw the film when it premiered at Sundance this year, did not find to their complete liking.
For example, Geoff Berkshire from Variety, though complimentary about the striking cinematography of Giles Nuttgens and the exemplary performance of lead Michael Shannon, felt the movie lost itself in the darker elements of its narrative:
“… the sophomore effort from Jake Paltrow (The Good Night) gets so bogged down in its primal tale of murder and revenge that the most intriguing elements become little more than futuristic window dressing.”
Dominic Mill of We Got This Covered was even less enthusiastic, having this to say about the film’s revenge-centric narrative:
“As an allegory for the death of the Old West, it’s thoroughly interesting, but the film’s engaging first act is cut short by an abrupt jump to a significantly less interesting tale of murder and revenge. It’s at this point where Young Ones really goes off the rails, descending into a confused mix of domestic drama and a parable on the cyclical nature of revenge.”
Other critics however were far more laudatory (albeit conditionally), giving me hope that Young Ones can largely deliver on its unique take on the apocalyptic genre (technically speaking civilisation still exists but not in this neck of the woods it seems).
Andrew O’Hehir of Salon had this to say about the film:
“… it’s a genuinely idiosyncratic vision of near-future doom that’s never boring, with characters and images that will stick in my mind longer than many better, soberer films.”
While Chris Bumbray at JoBlo was even more effusive:
“Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones is easily one of the most ambitious films to be unveiled at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It takes a page not only from post-apocalyptic actioners like Mad Max, but also Dust-Bowl era literature and films – especially John Ford’s big-screen adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath – all mixed in with a certain punk rock aesthetic and Tarantino-style chapter breaks. It’s wild, it’s sprawling, and it’s uneven, but it’s also very entertaining.”
Weighing up the various reviews, Young Ones seems to have more pluses than minus, the sort of movie that on ambition alone is worth checking it.
Quite whether it’s a worthy entry into the annals of dystopian moviedom will become abundantly clear when Young Ones premieres in Australia on 12 August 2014 at the Possible Worlds film festival and in USA on 17 October.
The Boxtrolls are monsters who live below the streets of Cheesebridge, who crawl out of the sewers at night to steal what the townspeople hold most dear: their children and their cheeses. Or so the townspeople have always believed. In truth, the Boxtrolls are a community of lovable oddballs who are raising an abandoned and orphaned human boy named Eggs as one of their own. When the Boxtrolls are targeted by a villainous exterminator who is bent on eradicating them, Eggs must venture aboveground and team with an adventurous young girl to save them. Graham Annable (story artist on ParaNorman) and Anthony Stacchi (co-director of Open Season) directs the film which Focus Features releases on September 26th this fall. (synopsis via First Showing)
It must be abundantly clear by now – see here, here and here – that I am in love with the upcoming stop motion animation movie from Laika, The Boxtrolls.
And yes, that’s before it has even hit theatres.
But you only to have to watch the various trailers, and check out the gorgeous detail in the newly-released poster (above) to see why it has captured not just my wholehearted devotion but that of anyone who appreciate intelligent, heartfelt, beautifully-rendered animation.
Based on the novel Here Be Monsters!: An adventure involving magic, trolls, and other creatures by Alan Snow, and produced by Laika, the stop-motion company who brought us the delights of Coraline (2009) and Paranorman (2012), The Boxtrolls is a charming tale of love, acceptance, a reminder that we should never judge those whose lives don’t subscribe to our own world views but rather that we should invest the time and effort in getting to them.
It very much reflects Laika’s storytelling modus operandi, that each story must have substance and a message, as CEO and lead animator Travis Knight made clear to Jonathan H. Liu aka Geek Dad, when he visited the set:
“Travis Knight remarked that LAIKA doesn’t have a formula or a house style, but there are strands of DNA that connect them. They want their films to have substance, something that you can learn and take with you: “bold, distinctive stories that have something to say.” Each movie has a message at its core—The Boxtrolls asks the question, “What makes a family?” Knight said that they don’t want to water a film down so that it appeals to everyone because then it doesn’t say anything.”
And that I think is where the real appeal of The Boxtrolls lies.
It not only looks sublimely wonderful, it has a message, an inner sense of what it wants to say, a combination of style and substance that is unusual in moviemaking these days where the look of something can often trump worthwhile narrative or compelling insight.
It’s why I will be sitting front and centre when The Boxtrolls opens in Australia on 18 September this year (followed by USA on 26 September) since it is important that movies this unique and substantial be celebrated, championed and above all watched and watched often.
This is the third in a series of interviews with the (re)Visions: Alice that I published on a now sadly defunct writing site back in 2012. I hope you enjoy discovering more about the authors behind these remarkably imaginative re-imagined tales.
The publication of Hilary Thomas’s evocative novelette “Knave” in the (re)Visions: Alice collection represents this talented writer’s publishing debut with her work up to this point being primarily script-based.
But given the warm reception to her Film Noir-influenced tale, where Lewis Carroll’s characters play members of Wonderland’s criminal underworld, we doubt this will be the last we hear of her.
“Knave” focuses on Jack Knave, head of the Queen’s security apparatus who learns in the course of investigating a crime just how precarious anyone’s position is when you work for such a hot-headed member of royalty.
Hilary confesses that while she wasn’t a fan of the classic prior to writing the short story, she now has a new found appreciation for Alice, The Queen, and the panoply of oddball characters that populate Carroll’s imaginative tale.
I talked with her about the challenge inherent in paying homage to a story this loved and revered, and whether this might lead to further excursions into the world of prose in the future.
(1) What have you written prior to this and how did you come to be involved in the (re)Visions: Alice project? Was it a natural fit for you as a writer?
Kate approached me with the concept of the (re)Visions series several years ago, and I was hooked from the start. I had mentioned that I was a writer, and the idea of experimenting with such well-loved source material in a transformative way really turned my crank. I’ve been writing fanfiction for years, so I feel like it was a natural fit for me in a lot of ways. I love playing around in other people’s universes. As to works I’ve written prior to this, (re)Visions: Alice is actually my publishing debut! Mostly, I do script adaptations for a variety of animation and live-action film and television properties.
(2) How hard was it to pay homage to such a well-loved book as Alice in Wonderland in your contributed story without losing your own voice, especially since it casts such a long shadow over modern fiction? Alice has been so well-loved, and reinterpreted in so many ways over the years, that working with it was honestly a very daunting prospect. From the start, I knew I wanted to write something really different, something I hadn’t seen before; but between Disney and Tim Burton and Broadway and prime-time television, a lot of ground had already been covered. And Carroll’s work is so unique and fantastical, while simultaneously being a snarky book about mathematics, that I knew I would never be able to match his voice. So I decided I wasn’t even going to try. I started thinking about the math angle in an abstract way, and I remembered the old logic puzzle – Knights tell the truth and Knaves always lie. And hey, there was a Knave right there, being accused of Grand Theft Tart, and what if he got to tell his side of the story? What if he wasn’t the most reliable narrator? After that, hardboiled detective noir seemed like the obvious choice. It was a really fun challenge interpreting the world of Wonderland through such a gritty lens. Emphasis on the challenge!
(3) What is the one fantastical element from Alice in Wonderland that you were most looking forward to introducing into your story and why? Did it come first or did you simply weave it into an existing idea you had?
I didn’t really have one particular fantastical element in mind when I started writing “Knave.” I was focused on the characters first, though many of them are plenty fantastical! I had a lot of fun translating their personalities and skill sets into things that fit the criminal underworld of my Wonderland. The Cheshire Cat’s cryptic disappearing act, especially. I did have an image in mind, and it’s pretty silly, but I’ve always been really taken with the idea of Alice attempting to play croquet with a temperamental flamingo. I wasn’t consciously looking for a way to incorporate that into “Knave”, because I honestly didn’t think there was a place for it, but it completely blindsided me on the way home one night. Of course, Flamingo is a make of handgun, probably with pink mother-of-pearl grips, and you should be careful, because she bites. I laughed out loud, and the people on the train started edging away from me like I was a madwoman. Which may be fair enough, actually!
(4) Was Alice in Wonderland an inspiration for you prior to being involved in this project or did you really only come to appreciate its worth once you started writing your story for (re)Visions: Alice?
In the interests of full disclosure, I have to confess – I never really liked Alice in Wonderland. I know, I’m terrible. While I’ve always loved the world, and all the fascinating characters who inhabit Wonderland, I’ve never had any patience for Alice herself. We’ve never had a common viewpoint, not even when I was a kid, and I always felt like she could have done a lot more with her time in Wonderland. But there were enough things about the story that I’ve always loved, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, the Queen of Hearts and her cards, the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle, the clever wordplay and vivid imagery (I could go all day!), that I didn’t hesitate at all to take the (re)Visions: Alice project on. In fact, I was really eager for the challenge! And I have to say, after writing “Knave,” I have a completely new and different appreciation for the story.
(5) What is your preferred writing style? Pantser or plotter? How did that work with a unique project such as this?
I don’t really have a consistent writing “style,” really. When it comes to creative writing, I usually start with an image, or a concept I’m curious about, and just start playing with it; seeing how it spins out, where it goes. Often this raises further questions, and by exploring those I come up with a loose framework for a story. Sometimes I even follow it. Once I had the original concept for “Knave,” I knew I wanted to tell a story parallel to Alice’s POV in Wonderland, something in which her actions had consequences, and in which she was the focus. So I read through Carroll’s text several times, taking detailed notes and text citations, and I drew out a timeline of her action through the story. Then I looked for the places it crossed with the Knave in canon, and the places I could make it cross, and that was my guideline. Once I had the guidelines, I found I still had a lot of freedom to play around. So it was different from my usual process, but I feel like it worked really well.
(6) What does the future hold for you? Similar themed projects or do you plan to take a dramatic leap to another genre entirely?
I’ve actually been working on an original script for a feature length animated screenplay, but it’s still in talks and the whole thing is so nebulous that I hesitate to even mention it. But if that does work out, it’ll be quite the departure from the tone and style of “Knave”! I’ve also started work on a novel, which is very daunting as I’m pretty firmly a short format gal, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s a sort of vaguely noirpunk thing about a mercenary. We’ll see how it goes. I have been playing with a few stories set in my urban Wonderland, for characters other than Jack and Alice, but I honestly have no idea if anyone but me will ever see them. I just have a hard time letting go, sometimes, and there are so many stories I didn’t get to tell in “Knave.” I hope to be involved in another (re)Visions project somewhere down the line, because this was a wonderful experience from beginning to end, even when it was challenging and fraught with peril. And working with Kate is an absolute pleasure!
*”Knave” represents Hilary Thomas’s publishing debut. But it’s doubtful this is the last you will hear of this talented writer who is eager to stay in Lewis Carroll’s magical world a while longer and see where it takes her.
Zach (Dane DeHaan) is devastated by the unexpected death of his girlfriend, Beth (Aubrey Plaza). But when she miraculously comes back to life, Zach takes full advantage of the opportunity to share and experience all the things he regretted not doing with her before.
However, the newly returned Beth isn’t quite how he remembered her and, before long, Zach’s whole world takes a turn for the worse. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
You could be forgiven for wondering if there would anything remotely funny about someone you love dying and then when you were in the midst of mourning them, coming magically to life again?
Would you be happy to see them? Maybe.
Would that happiness possibly be outweighed by the sheer ever-lovin’ undead weirdness of it all? Quite probably.
But would true love prevail despite all of that? Of course! It’s true love!
Still even true love isn’t without its complications as Dane discovers when his dead-from-a-hiking-accident girlfriend Beth miraculously comes back to life (along with apparently quite a few other people though quite how big a zombie apocalypse is in the offing isn’t made clear in the trailer) and suddenly he has a chance to be the sort of boyfriend he didn’t quite manage to be the first time around.
It all sounds like The Walking Dead meets Hallmark movie of the week right?
The undead but with heart? Well kind of.
What actually happens is that Beth, who has no memory of having died, actually starts to take a turn for the worse on just about every front, despite Zach’s new found loving attitude and the ever-protective care of her parents played by Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly.
As her body starts decaying in a way that no department store cosmetic salesperson is ever going to stand a chance of covering up, her emotions and psychological state start to go backwards too, rendering Beth into the classic zombie gal in no time flat.
While it is a movie that looks to be undeniably playing it for laughs, it also tries to have some serious moments in there too, exploring what it would be like if the deeply loved and cared for did manage to crawl out of the grave and enter your life again.
The only danger with this approach is that sometimes the serious, heartfelt stuff can get swallowed up by the incessant rush to turn everything into a joke although as Zombieland clearly showed, it is more than possible to balance the two and emerge with a movie that makes you laugh and think and feel all at once.
It will be interesting to see on which side of the fence this movie lands when it opens in USA on 15 August 2014 in limited release and UK on 3 October.
I know the anonymous sages have told us time and again that we should never judge a book by its cover.
And while there is a certain truth to this well-invoked adage, it is also true that that is how many people, myself included, buy their books.
It’s not, of course that we don’t value the words, thoughts and ideas inside; we do, it’s simply that in the sea of books that you come across in any sort of decent bookshop, and hallelujah there are still many of those, the quickest and easiest way to cull the literary herd down is to create a shortlist by the creativity or fun of the covers.
So covers matter, something that publishers know all too well.
If you’re Dag Wagstaff, however, of blog The Casual Optimist however, you take your fascination with the importance of book covers one delightfully clever, book-loving step further by collating a collection of book covers together that all feature books in some ways on them.
It’s a fascinating idea, beautifully executed with a range of gorgeous book covers that he terms “Books on book covers.”
If you love books, and by extension, book covers, it’s well-woth spending some time disappearing down this literary rabbit hole.
Once again the highly imaginative TV gods have smiled upon us.
This time, it comes courtesy of designer Maria Bayley from Barbados, who entered and won a DesignCrowd contest which asked contestants to replace the inmates of Litchfield with famous women, and who chose to replace Piper and co. with the last people you would expect to be incarcerated – Disney princesses:
“My female group that I have chosen are the Disney Princesses (with a prince and a sea witch thrown in for good measure). I could not think of anyone further from the possibility of being locked in jail than this lot of under aged princesses.”
As a study in contrasts, it works a treat, casting the sassy inmates of Orange is the New Black is a whole new light, and perfectly merging these two groups of pop culture icons in an act of wholly pleasing, utterly original, delightfully creative postmodernist cleverness.
And as a contrast here are a few of the season 2 Orange is the New Black posters that inspired Bayley’s design-winning art.
*Watch out! There are Mechs, Beamers, Skitters … and spoilers this way!*
Never was an episode more aptly named.
If it wasn’t Tom (Noah Wylie) trying to talk his way out of temporary captivity at the hands of collaborationist brothers Nick (Gil Bellows) and Coop (Aaron Douglas) or Anne (Moon Bloodgood) and Lexi (Scarlett Byrne)/Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) – let’s face it they’re basically one person; The Human Centipede of Falling Skies if you like – squaring off against each other in the most mother/daughter way possible, it was Hal (Drew Roy), interim leader of the rump 2nd Mass., doing his best, along with Tector (Ryan Robbins), Dingaan Botha (Trev Etienne), Pope (Colin Cunningham) and Sarah (Mira Sorvino) and a stray Volm or two, to bring down a Mech.
Everywhere you looked, people and aliens were trying to cajole, manipulate, tease or otherwise hornswoggle their opponents to varying degrees of success.
It was a well-conceived extension of the whole new gritty, dirty, fractured apocalyptic realpolitik in play this season, where Falling Skies has finally acceded to the fact that there is never a simple good vs. evil dynamic at play but rather a multitude of multiple viewpoints, all of which seem valid to the person or being holding them, and all of which seem worth fighting and dying for.
Or if you’re brothers Nick and Coop, the latter who was far more conniving than the latter, not dying for, with the former Wall Street stockbroker (who didn’t do a whole lot for the reps of financial high fliers it has to be said) more concerned with selling out those he loves, his brother excepted of course, to get out of a “Skitter farm” where, in his words, the Espheni are “beat testing” all sorts of painful, invasive ways to turn adult humans into human/skitter hybrids.
He presented his “escape” from the least bucolic rural setting you could imagine in the most heroic way possible of course with daring tales of explosions, resistance and derring-do papering over a narrative that was in reality far more ugly and self-serving than Nick’s party line would have you believe.
Tom, while rightly suspicious, went along with both his full-of-holes heroic tales, and sort of looked the other way at the copious amount of food and supplies they had in a region pretty much bled dry of homes or businesses with anything of sustaining or military value, for the sake of Matt (Maxim Knight) and he and Weaver’s (Will Patton) need to eat after three days of nothing much at all.
(Of course they could have had a rabbit if Matt hadn’t freaked out at the last minute about killing the damn thing, which was quickly followed by his reluctance to kill someone to save his dad’s life; you could see what the writers were trying to do – Matt as a young man hanging onto his humanity just like he had in the re-education camp – but it all came across as a little too forced or contrived, leaving Matt looking less noble than wishy-washy or flim-flamy).
It turned out, naturally, that Tom should not have been so “trusting”.
Taken prisoner by Nick and Coop, who Nick proclaimed had decided to join the “winning side”, as if the Espheni were a cashed up football team and were offering lucrative strings-free contracts to all comers, it took all of Tom’s ability to talk the sort of big game needed to split the two brothers apart in such a way that escape, courtesy of Weaver and Matt, who seemed uncertain if he should be angry, revengeful or just very, very sad, who played the part of the calvary quite well.
There was a homily somewhere in all that about brothers not really being brothers if they didn’t look out for the other more than themselves, delivered by Tom over a campfire to a Matt who seemed willing to listen about summarily rejecting Weaver’s earlier entreaty to fight for love, not hate (otherwise known as “You’re a loose cannon Matt and will get us all killed!”) but in the end it all came down to some parts of humanity being willing to sell out their kin if it meant living another way.
Another sign that humanity is no longer the bold, united force of seasons past but under the seemingly never-ending onslaught from the Espheni, starting to splinter into all sorts of self-interested cabal, an achilles heel of the resistance effort that no one seems to have adequately addressed yet as a concern.
One person who is most certainly not playing nice is Anne who slipped into Abu Ghraib mode this week in search of answers from Lexi’s now-imprisoned Espheni Overlord pal.
Playing good cop/bad cop and pretty much all points inbetween, Anne did her best to cajole useful information out of her captive who said little besides mouthing platitudes about Lexi being special and that he was not like the others (the Sesame Street of the Espheni then yes?), marking clearly as one of Lexi’s peace, love and mung beans acolytes of which Lourdes remained cheerleader in chief and annoying as they come.
Any frustration though that Anne may have felt over the Overlord’s reluctance to play nice at Lexi’s Camp of Joy, Happiness and Unexpected Kinetic Tantrums was more than swept away by her daughter’s consistently wilful and underhanded behaviour.
While Anne, for reasons known only to her, persisted in the whole “I am your mother and will do anything for you baby girl routine”, which frankly sounds nice but is coming across as a wacked-out delusion on steroids – something even she had to acknowledge when after nursing Lexi through a nasty bout of fever (the coming transformation referred to last episode perhaps?), her daughter released the Overlord proclaiming him to be, in some sort of weird reverse Darth Vader admission her father.
While the scenes between Anne, who was also treated to a terrifying bout of Sith Lord-ian choking, keeping the spirit of Star Wars alive in the episode, courtesy of her temper! temper! baby girl, who is more Rosemary’s Baby than Anne of Green Gables, and Lexi added little of anything new to the equation, it underlined again that things have become far more complicated both for the Mason-Glass family personally, and humanity in general.
Lexi is a thousand different kinds of unpredictably creepy and Anne, Ben (Connor Jessup) and Maggie (Sarah Carter) and pretty everyone within earshot, which will soon be everyone with Tom, Matt and Dan, and Hal and the 2nd Mass., closing in fast on the Abode of Everlasting Happiness, Kumbayah-ness and Tofu, need to start taking that seriously or find themselves seriously flat-footed come the transformation.
Speaking of Hal and the gang, whose main aim this time seemed to be to play “Bring Down the Mech”, everyone’s favourite alien apocalypse game, their contribution to living out the title of the episode largely consisted of playing a pretty vicious game of skip rope, or is that “trip rope” with a mech.
It was all in pursuit of intel on the best way to reach Lexi’s Sanctuary of Medication and Mech-less-ness, which it turned out, thanks to the Mech’s “transmitter array” which lit up like a 3D video game, was a suspiciously clear corridor of land free of Beamers, Mechs and Skitters, a too good to be true occurrence that Hal rightly dubbed “unbelievable”.
While gathering all this data was quite a serious, bang-’em-up, shoot-’em-up business, there was quite of bit of humour at foot with the standout being this exchange between Cochise’s 2nd in command Shaq (John De Santis) after the Volm had said they couldn’t any of their drones, not one, to go scouting for enemy combatants because they were all out looking for the Espheni’s mysterious power source:
SHAQ: “There is one course of action that could provide the intel we need.”
[LONG PA– USE WHICH PROVES TOO MUCH FOR HAL WAITING FOR THE NEXT SENTENCE] HAL: “Sooo … You going to tell me what you have in mind or are we going to stare at each other till the sun comes up?” SHAQ (perplexed): “That would be a terribly inefficient use of our time. We’d further exhaust ourselves by morning.” HAL: “I was being sarcastic.” SHAQ: “What I have to suggest is highly irregular.”
Leaving aside the fact that just about every friendly alien race humanity in any TV show/movie/book comes across as possessing the sparkly personality of paint drying on a hot summer’s day, the Volm included, the exchange was a welcome humourous interlude, with more than a few shades of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, in what are, quite pleasingly, far more grubby, real world episodes than Falling Skies used to deliver.
It was nicely handled by Drew Roy who seems to be stepping out nicely, not simply in the shoes of his character Hal as a leader who’s ever more confident as the mantle of Tom-ness of his shoulders, but as a comic actor with a deft gift for delivering a line, and the ever-attendant smile, just so.
“Mind Wars” was another walk into the dark side for Falling Skies which is suddenly and quite willingly, happy to try on new ragged, gritty narrative clothes for size.
I have remarked on this before but it increasingly feels like we’re in a real battle for humanity’s soul, with realpolitik the size of Everest being employed to colour the storytelling in a way it perhaps should have been from the beginning.
Falling Skies is finally making the case, and admirably too, that not every human is noble and of good character, nor is every alien despicably evil with all the shading of a cheesy Bond villain – while the Volm and some past human characters made that point in a limited fashion in seasons gone by, they were not of the calibre of scale of season 4’s efforts – in the process turning the series on its head in the best possible, engrossingly dark way.
Lead on Tom and Dan and Anne and the gang … onward to the sort of apocalypse we may not want in real life but which we most definitely need in our TV shows that aspire to tell their stories with authenticity, grit and good engaging doses of hard-nosed reality.
To whet your appetites still further, here’s the promo for next week’s episode, “Door Number Three” …
I, along with a great many people, never seem to be able to make it, for a whole host of reasons, to the greatest of all pop culture nirvanas, San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), which by the time this post goes live, will be in full, crowded, technicolour swing.
But absence from the event no longer means missing out on many of the goodies shared over the 4 epic day event thanks to the wonders of the world wide web and the 24/7 reach of social media.
One of the alluring parts of SDCC are the huge variety of exclusive goodies, and artwork that is especially prepared for the event, some of which has been shared already via various blogs and Twitter feeds.
Three of the posters in particular caught my attention, all of which I present for your viewing pleasure …
Toy Story is, without a doubt, animation powerhouse Pixar’s crowning achievement.
That is saying something given how many brilliant, imaginative, emotionally-rich, visually striking feature films they have put out but despite my great love for Finding Nemo and UP to name but two other films, it is the Toy Story movies that I find myself returning to repeatedly.
Thankfully Pixar knows how much we all love this series and how much we need to spend time with Woody, Buzz and the gang, and so along with the feature films and the shorts, they have also begun to produce specials for the ABC network which is also by Disney (which also, of course, owns Pixar).
Last year we were treated to a Halloween special Toy Story of Terror which screened on October 16 in the USA and this year it is the turn of Toy Story That Time Forgot, which is scheduled to premiere sometime in December.
While we don’t have a trailer we can dissect in exhaustive detail just yet, we do have a poster released for SDCC and it’s a gorgeous piece of art, featuring Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, along with Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy) who will voice and give life to Reptillus Maximus, a potential troublemaker in the world of Toy Story.
While we’re all anxiously awaiting said trailer, this brilliantly-detailed poster will do quite nicely in the interim, getting us even more excited for what will undoubtedly be another fun action-filled adventure for everyone’s favourite toys.
An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan (Lee Pace), a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits—Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Groot, a tree-like humanoid (Vin Diesel), the deadly and enigmatic Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand—with the galaxy’s fate in the balance. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
Guardians of the Galaxy is promising to be the sassy, crazy, idiosyncratic fun sibling of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Rip-roaring, swashbuckling galactic-spanning adventuring seems to be its hallmark if the clips below are any guide – note neither contains any major spoilers and deal mainly with how this motley crew come together and end up as the galaxy’s sole hope for avoiding an evil armageddon – which should make for a thoroughly enjoyable moviegoing experience.
It got that sense of playfulness and witty repartee apparently from director James Gunn, a man who Indiewire notes, was an unexpected choice, known as “a filmmaker who preferred to deconstruct genres rather than play into the usual tropes”, whose unorthodox approach, at least for Marvel movies which uniformly good all follow a set template, seems to have met with approval from Marvel and specifically its president Kevin Feige who had this to say to IGN about why they selected Gunn to helm the movie:
“There were scenes in his early draft…the scene that closed out the 17-minute [IMAX preview], when Peter Quill says ‘I have a plan…’ That scene was in an early draft. And that scene goes on. Just the five of them, sitting in the circle you see, for eight minutes just talking and bantering back-and-forth. And it’s awesome. It’s great. My recollection is that in one of the early drafts we said ‘This scene is awesome—the whole movie should feel like this scene.’ And he went ‘Oh great, I was nervous about that scene. Because that scene is the most me, and I was afraid that you guys would say ‘Ooh that’s too long. Too much talking’.’ And we said ‘No, that’s great. That’s the movie. These characters.’ And I think that hit him more than I appreciated at the time, as an endorsement of his instincts and style.”
The poster is something special too, giving the movie an arty quality that features the Star-Lord’s imposing silhouette with the other members of the group outlined within his profile and which only adds to the excitement of the upcoming release.
To get ready for Guardians of the Galaxy, which opens on 7 August 2014 in Australia, 1 August in the US and 31 July in the UK, you might like to check put this io9 post 12 Guardians Of the Galaxy Facts The Movie Won’t Tell You, which should get well and truly up to speed one of the best blockbusters of the year.
According to the official synopsis of the film, the story will be much closer to the Battle of the Five Armies scene in the original book. Thorin Oakenshield, obsessed with his family’s treasures, risks everything in order to protect it, not paying attention to Bilbo’s attempts to make him see reason. This, in turn, forces Bilbo to make a difficult and important choice in order to gain peace between the dwarves and the people of Lake-town. However, dark forces approach as the allies of Sauron merge and wage the terrible Battle of the Five Armies, in which the balance of Middle Earth itself hangs in the balance. Amidst it all, Bilbo finds himself fighting for Middle Earth and those he cares about. (synopsis via Movie News Guide)
For a small book full of grand “Hobbitses” adventures, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien has already spawned two gigantically epic and thoroughly engaging movies An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Desolation of Smaug (2013), with the final entry in the trilogy The Battle of the Five Armies due out this 17 December 2014 in the US and 26 December in Australia.
Previously titled There and Back Again, which was a reasonably anodyne title for the final chapter in this gripping series, The Battle of the Five Armies will feature the mother of all battles as once again the fate of Middle Earth is fought over by the forces of good and evil.
If it is anything like its two predecessors, both of which put paid to the idea that you couldn’t expand such a small book into a workable trilogy – Peter Jackson who both wrote the screenplays (with Fran Walsh, Philippa Doyens and Guillermo del Toro) and directed the entire The Hobbit series, along with of course The Lord of the Rings series drew on a number of Tolkien’s supplementary texts to flesh out the story – The Battle of the Five Armies will be a fitting conclusion to this beautifully made franchise.
In keeping with Jackson’s attention to detail and vision for The Hobbit, the preliminary poster is a work of art in itself which shows “Smaug terrorizing Lake-town, with Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) standing in defiance of the red-scaled dragon.” (IGN)
Fans at SDCC will also be treated to the first screening of any footage from Battle of the Five Armies at a Saturday morning panel in Hall H at which Jackson and possibly some cast members will be present.
It’s all enough to make you wish it was December already!
The prognosis is damn near unanimous, even if the degrees of effusive praise may understandably vary – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of the best movies of the year, and certainly the best blockbuster to emerge thus far in a year of lacklustre contemporaries (Transformers: Age of Extinction anyone? I thought not.)
It features an intelligently written script which doesn’t sacrifice any of the weighty matters under discussion in favour of action, characters, particularly those of the ape variety who possess deep, rich motivations that make sense and with which anyone with a heartbeat can identify, fine, FINE performances (thank you Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell and Jason Clarke most notably) … and the sublimely evocative music of one of the most talented movie composers today, Michael Giacchino.
With a wide body of work to his credit, both on TV and in the movies, Giacchino has given musical life to projects as diverse as UP and Ratatouille from Pixar, many of J. J. Abram’s Bad Robot projects including the Star Trek reboot films and Super 8, TV shows like Lost, Fringe and Alias, and many, many other films including Cloverfield, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and upcoming features like Jupiter Ascending and Jurassic World.
That is but a snapshot of his extensive and eclectic body of work which has seen him either win or be nominated for multiple Grammy and Academy Awards including the holy trifecta of Grammy, Golden Globe and Academy Awards for the enchanting, emotionally-rich UP, which benefited immensely from his touching, delicately emotional score.
But what really has people talking right now is the impressive soundtrack he has created for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a movie which moves from the frenzy of the apes hunting deer in Muir Woods to quite scenes of both human and ape life and finally to the big climactic battle scene full of Sturm und Drung.
That’s quite a lot of narrative and thematic ground to keep pace with but Michael Giacchino’s score never falters for a moment, every note and movement perfectly calibrated to the scene playing out on the screen before you.
The music of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is stirring, passionate, powerful, robust, fast-and-furious, slow-and-contemplative and stirringly beautiful as needed, with Gabe Toro of Cinemablend noting:
“What’s notable about the score is how BIG it is. At times, the percussion overwhelms the material in a way that suggests an older score, perhaps a lost composition from the original Planet Of The Apes. On a few tracks he opts for more traditional chanting, but the combination of old-school theatrics and more contemporary ideas feels organic.”
While the rich variations in the soundtrack’s sonic landscape represent a change of pace for Giacchino with Toro noting that “this is a departure for the normally-jazzy Giacchino”, a composer who often favours “bouncy, jittery xylophone-heavy stuff”, one thing that hasn’t changed is his love of hilarious puns to go with his music.
It doesn’t matter how silly or serious the film is, Giacchino is a man who hasn’t yet met a pun he doesn’t like, a welcome change from creative types who can sometimes take themselves a little too seriously in the pursuit of their art.
There is no doubt that the man is a musical artist of the highest calibre, but he also possesses a wicked sense of humour, and a down to earth approach to life which is why this very serious movie with an appropriately serious soundtrack comes complete with song titles such as these:
1. “Level Plaguing Field”
2. “Look Who’s Stalking”
3. “The Great Ape Processional”
4. “Past Their Primates”
5. “Close Encounters of the Furred Kind”
6. “Monkey to the City”
7. “The Lost City of Chimpanzee”
8. “Along Simian Lines”
9. “Caesar No Evil, Hear No Evil”
10. “Monkey See, Monkey Coup”
11. “Gorilla Warfare”
12. “The Apes of Wrath”
13. “Gibbon Take”
14. “Aped Crusaders”
15. “How Bonobo Can You Go”
16. “Enough Monkeying Around”
17. “Primates for Life”
18. “Planet of the End Credits”
19. “Ain’t That a Stinger”
It is one of the finer soundtracks out at the moment and even if you don’t know your orang-utan from your bonobo, your chimpanzee from your gorilla, and have no plans to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – what?! Are you mad?! To the cinema with you now and don’t dilly-dally! – this body of work is exquisitely, profoundly beautiful and powerful stuff, and well worth taking the time to immerse yourself in.
At least until the apes take over and steal your iPod …
The rich and the powerful, hoarders of resources and advantage, reckless, hedonistic spenders of time and life span, lording it over the poor, the downtrodden and the dispossessed who must eke out a living on the decayed breadcrumbs that fall from the tables of the eternally privileged.
Old the tale may be but it is a fair bet you have never seen it rendered quite like Bong Jooh-ho’s epic dystopia on train tracks masterpiece Snowpiercer, based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, which presents the divisions between rich and poor, those at the luxurious front of the train and those squashed into its dark, dirty nether regions, in ways so stark you will likely wince at the disparity.
And that is likely the general idea, to show that even in the midst of an icy apocalypse, the result of the nations of the world trying in 2014 to combat climate change with man-made ingenuity and failing, that the rigid hierarchy of the “Old World” as it is dispassionately referred to – it might as well be make believe for all the relevance it has to humanity’s current direct circumstances – remains intact even as the physical world in which it once existed is buried under multiple tons of hardened ice and snow.
We join the remnants of humanity, all of whom are essentially “trapped” onboard the seeming never-endingly long train , some in far greater comfort and luxury than others, in 2031 as it hurtles on its ceaseless journey around the globe, each circumnavigation taking a calendar year, with rebellion fomenting deep in the last carriage of the train where those without money and privilege are crammed like cattle, one on top of the other, forced to eat gooey, almost pitch-black protein bars made out of goodness-knows-what (that is revealed in all its stomach-churning horror later).
Boon Jong-ho, and fellow screenwriter Debbie Masterson (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead) quickly and cleverly dispense with the scene-setting exposition in the brief opening credits, plunging us straight into the fetid world of the literally great unwashed whose unofficial and somewhat reluctant leader Curtis Everett (Chris Evans in a finely-wrought nuanced performance) is readying himself for what will be, by necessity, a violent push to reach the front of the train where the “Sacred Engine”, whose existence is granted almost mystical, divine status, is to be found.
It is, naturally enough, the key to all power, both physical and political, abroad the train, and securing it, though no one has done it before – rebellions onboard the train have a dismal record with few making it past the few carriages that abut the final car – is the only way that Curtis, second-in-command and eager friend to the point of worshipping Curtis, Edgar (Jamie Bell), Tanya (Octavia Spencer) and gnarled and broken elder statesman Gilliam (John Hurt) will ever have any control over their own destiny.
All the characters, though stock standard archetypes in their own way, are given life and purpose by deftly added touches here and there which give you the necessary emotional investment in whether they reach their goal or not.
Granted, their quest is likely to end in death and ignominious failure, but no one has much choice but to pursue it, given their blighted day-to-day existence which is controlled by cruel and capricious guards, cruelly interrupted by the sporadic and unexplained theft of some of their children (including Tanya’s son Timmy – Marcanthonee Reis – and circumscribed by decrees delivered by feisty true believer bureaucrat and possessor of horrendous teeth and oversized glasses Mason (Tilda Swinton), who, oblivious to the oppressive lives of the people of the last carriage, delivers sermons about balance and harmony to people who have long stopped listening.
And when the insurrection finally begins, it is every bit as brutal, fierce and hotly resisted as you would expect it to be with the inhabitants of the front end of the train, who dine on sushi harvested from an aquarium carriage, walk through gardens of fruit and vegetables and dance their nights and days away in a nightclub car high on a drug called Kronole, having as much to lose as the denizens of the last carriage have to gain.
With the help of a Kronole-addicted security expert Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho) and his similarly afflicted 17 year old daughter Yona (Go Ah-sung), the rebels race through the carriages, their more successful-than-expected rebellion succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.
The genius of Snowpiercer’s mastefully-delivered storytelling, apart from it lushly realised and visually-striking world-building (made all the more impressive by the fact that each part of this sealed universe can only only occupy the width and length of a train carriage), is that it never telegraphs its narrative intentions in advance.
You are left guessing right to the end about the success of the rebellion, where it will all ultimately lead, and the motivations of those both for and against it, meaning that the final act’s revelations are genuinely shocking in a way that many action films fail to execute even half as well.
There is a subtlety and poetry to Snowpiercer, both visually and verbally – much of the dialogue is inspired, with Mason particularly being given the lion’s share of lines that are both cruel and bleakly humorous all at once (“My friend, you suffer from the misplaced optimism of the doomed”) – which is quite a feat given the bloodshed and destruction involved in pushing through a train specifically designed to prevent just such an occurrence.
The greatest achievement of the film though is that it manages to strike an entertaining balance between the gritty, epic, action-oriented spectacle of the poor and dispossessed rising up against their pampered oppressors, led by the god-like Wilfred (Ed Harris, who is more Wizard of Oz than a genuine figure worthy of adoration), and its underlying themes of inequity and inhumanity, weighty themes that slide seamlessly into the storyline, adding compelling substance to what could have simply been a bang-’em-up, shoot-’em-up film and nothing more.
None of us really want the world to end, but if that were to happen, you would want Boon Jong-ho orchestrating every last minute of it, such is his gift for crafting engaging, thoroughly immersive dystopian tales, which though authentically-apocalyptic, nevertheless contain a kernel of hope, a sense that humanity isn’t so much damned as simply derailed for a time.