All Hayao Miyazaki, all the time: Short film celebrates the master animator’s much-loved creations

(image via Film 110)
Howl’s Moving Castle (image via Film 110 (c) Studio Ghibli)

 

Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) is rightly regarded as one of the master animators of the modern era.

A gifted storyteller with an enthralling ability to conjure up evocative characters and the beguiling, unique worlds they inhabit, he examines and celebrates the human condition in ways few other animators, besides Pixar, seem to manage.

It’s why people reacted with horror and sorrow when it appeared he was hanging up his animator boots for good; thankfully that’s not the case with Miyazaki working on a 10-minute short film about a hairy caterpillar that will be shown at Studio Ghibli’s museum in Tokyo.

But it does appear that the era of Miyazaki-helmed feature films may have passed, which is why this montage video by French animator Dono celebrating Miyazaki’s work is such a wonderful treat.

Covering everything from pre-Ghibli Castle of Cagliostro to his final beautifully touching work The Wind Rises, it vividly illustrates how marvelous Miyazaki’s creations are, and they fit so seamlessly together into one delightful, transportive whole.

 

 

Falling Skies: “Pope Breaks Bad” (S5, E4 review)

Pope regrets ever asking Rage Tom to be his therapist and ponders if an Espheni Overlord may be a more empathetic listener (image via threeifbyspace (c) TNT)
Pope regrets ever asking Rage Tom to be his therapist and ponders if an Espheni Overlord may be a more empathetic listener (image via threeifbyspace (c) TNT)

 

*THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD … SPOILERS I TELL YOU! AND A BALD POPE (NO, NOT THAT ONE)*

Let’s us all agree here and now shall we that Rage Tom (Noah Wylie) would make a lousy therapist?

Possessed of the emotional tact of a phalanx of tanks rolling across a series of small defenceless villages, and the kind of empathy best exemplified by a sociopathic serial killer toying with his doomed victims, a session with Rage Tom would likely go something like this:

Rage Tom: “Yeah, like Pope (Colin Cunningham) get over it, man. Aliens invaded. Not even my aliens (who keep saying weird, mysterious sh*t and won’t show their faces). People died. People keep dying and … and  … I lost Lexi. I mean that was sad, real sad …”
Pope: “Yeah Mason, real sad. My heart bleeds. But um, you still have your shiny new wife and three sons who have somehow survived intact while lots of other people like Tector have died – very Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds, Mason.”
Rage Tom: “It’s Rage Tom Mason, Pope.”
Pope: “Whatever.”
Rage Tom: “You hate everything and everyone, Pope but mostly me, and that’s not fair Pope, it’s not fair at all.”
Pope: Godammit Mason, I lost Sara! The woman I loved! That I was going to make fine looking babies with! Don’t you even care?”
Rage Tom: “It’s for the Greater Good, Pope … THE. GREATER. GOOD. … and … and … I lost Lexi. It’s sad, real …”
Pope: “Oh shut the hell up Mason! Now I have to shave my head, threaten to kill Anne (Moon Bloodgood) and kidnap Hal (Drew Roy) then kill you … Ah, that’ll all be for the Greater Good right Mason?”
Rage Tom: “Um … I lost Lexi and …”

See wouldn’t Rage Tom make a marvellous therapist?

No, no he would not.

I think we can all safely say he shouldn’t be allowed within a Mech battalion of a couch and notepad after his attempts to half-apologise to Pope for leaving Sara to be stripped of her flesh by alien bug fog – in that useless, non-sorry way that politicians are so enamoured of – simply made the situation much, much worse.

 

Everyone in the 2nd Mass., had cause to question whether Rage Tom's unorthodox therapy techniques would actually help Pope get over Sara's death ... or simply blow a hole in the sh**tiest therapist ever's head (image via Self Rescuing Princesses (c) TNT)
Everyone in the 2nd Mass., had cause to question whether Rage Tom’s unorthodox therapy techniques would actually help Pope get over Sara’s death … or simply blow a hole in the sh**tiest therapist ever’s head (image via Self Rescuing Princesses (c) TNT)

 

He had his reasons of course – a mission to complete what ho! Skitters and hornets to blow up, other people than Sara to save! – but the result was the same – Sara died and Pope, never the most emotionally stable of people to begin with, pretty much lost it.

And in response, Rage Tom was a total and complete insensitive jerk.

Frathouse-level, kick kittens jerk.

The worst part of it all was that it continued the trend by the show’s writers to complete strip away any of Tom’s nobler qualities.

Yes we get it – he has lots to be angry and sad about – “They killed Lexi! It was sad, real sad …” – but then so has everyone else.

And they’ve all fought back as hard as they could.

So why are the show’s creative powers that be now writing Rage Tom as an almost cruelly dismissive a**hole who cares only about getting rid of the Espheni and damn the consequences to the emotionally-rich fabric of the entire human psyche?

Espheni-free Earth ends justify the loss of people we love and the tossing aside of all that makes us wonderfully human means and all that.

It may sound all very macho and militaristic but all it’s doing is reducing the size and stature of Tom’s once-towering noble character and making us care less and less about what happens to humanity.

We should care – these people have been to alien hell and back and deserve a break – but the way they’re being written now, as insensitive, one-eyed attention-grabbing jerks, isn’t helping the care factor at all.

 

"So yes Tom Mason I am dying. Goodbye." Cochise  illustrated in the most vivid terms with his abrupt farewell speech that the Volm has no concept of "warm and fuzzy" goodbyes (image via Recap Guide (c) TNT)
“So yes Tom Mason I am dying. Goodbye.” Cochise illustrated in the most vivid terms with his abrupt farewell speech that the Volm has no concept of “warm and fuzzy” goodbyes (image via Recap Guide (c) TNT)

 

“Pope Breaks Bad” did have some genuinely touching or emotionally-fraught scenes – Anne taking on Pope, Rage Tom and Pope finally having it almost out in the most public of ways – one or two great action scenes (more bugs! And an Ensign Fodder!), and some more tantalising Fayetteville and Washington DC “What ifs”, but it lost the battle for our hearts and minds, a problem for a show that asks and expects us to care a lot.

It also didn’t help its cause by once again rendering the Volm as the most incompetent aliens in the galaxy.

The more we see of them and their excuses, the more obvious it becomes why they’re NOT the invaders but rather the ones running after the invaders.

Granted, Cochise (Doug Jones) almost dying did tug at the heartstrings and his shared grieving with Anne – she mourning Lexi and he his father who died giving him the organ transplant he needed to survive – was quite touching but the main thing that sprang to mind was how the Volm couldn’t seem to fight their way out of a wet envelope.

“So Cochise can you help us bomb the hell out of the Espheni?”
“Ah no, Tom Mason for my father Waschak-cha’ab has taken our spaceships away to fight battles elsewhere.”
“Oh I see then how about helping us talk to other human militias around the planet?”
“Ah again Tom Mason we cannot. Well, not straight away, and then only with a clarity that makes shortwave radio look advanced.”
“Oh well, that’s OK then how about you show off your advanced medicine and save your life?”
“Yeah no, can’t do that either. Once you’re dead, you’re dead. Am I right?”
*Cochise laughs; it sounds like he’s passing a kidney stone*
“We can offer you great interior decorating tips. No, wait, we don’t have those either … gum?”

As narrative devices go, the Volm really are surplus to requirements as are Rage Tom’s new alien friends who are even managing to annoy him now with their obtuse comments and unwillingness to show their true form.

Quite whether they, and the show they are now a part of, will amount to anything with just six episodes to go, is increasingly a concern, with Falling Skies in very real danger of blowing it’s hoped-for action-packed to the dramatic finish line.

* Will things improve in next week’s “Non-Essential Personnel”? We can but hope – just pray the Volm aren’t running the TV transmission facilities or we may miss out altogether …

 

“Let’s blow stuff up!”: Guardians of the Galaxy gets even more animated (teaser trailer)

(image via Coming Soon (c) Marvel/Disney)
(image via Coming Soon (c) Marvel/Disney)

 

You might be thinking, and if you are, well congratulations you for not letting those neurons sparkly idly for no reason, that Guardians of the Galaxy, one of my favourite movies from 2014, is already plenty animated enough.

After all, save for a few touching, heartfelt scenes, one of which is close to one of the most poignant scenes I’ve seen in any movie ever (you all the know the one), it’s one gloriously, full-on, action-filled, fun romp through the galaxy with characters that come close to leaping off the screen.

That’s pretty animated!

But not it seems animated enough for the creative minds at Marvel who have come up with a cartoon take on the unexpected saviours of all we galactically hold dear – you know, like whole planets and a dearth of star-consuming dictators – that will screen on Disney XD.

As Bonnie Burton at C|Net makes clear, the cast may be different but the gang, who we are reminded are a little bad and a little bit good, are up to pretty their same old highly-watchable tricks:

“The new animated show has a different cast to the movies, with Peter Quill/Star-Lord played by Will Friedle, Rocket Raccoon by Trevor Devall, monosyllabic tree Groot by Kevin Michael Richardson (surely the easiest voice acting role ever), Gamora by Vanessa Marshall and Drax the Destroyer by David Sobolov.

The trouble-making gang discovers a strange artifact that can only be opened by Quill’s DNA. They find a treasure map leading to a weapon called the Cosmic Seed, which can create the next universe,according to IGN. Of course, being the Guardians of the Galaxy, they must prevent it from getting into the wrong hands, such as galactic gangster boss Thanos, brothers the Collector and the Grandmaster, and legendary trickster Loki.”

It looks like it has everything that made the film such an expected delight, and should tide us over nicely till the movie sequel debuts in 2017.

The series premieres in the USA on Disney XD on September 26, 2015 – there’s a sneak preview on September 5 if you can’t wait till then – with UK and Australia to follow.

 

Love & Mercy: what Brian Wilson’s story tells us about genius and music (curated article)

(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)

by Liam Viney, The University of Queensland

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see – Arthur Schopenhauer

Love & Mercy (2015), currently in cinemas, is a non-fictional recreation of two important and contrasting periods in the life of the Beach Boys’ singer, songwriter and producer Brian Wilson.

Directed by Bill Pohlad and starring Paul Dano (as younger Wilson), John Cusack (as older Wilson), and Elizabeth Banks (as Melinda Ledbetter), it is, according to Wilson, a “very factual” portrait of his musical and personal life in the 1960s and 1980s.

Much like the music of the man it is based on, Love & Mercy is beautiful, complex, somewhat melancholy, and thought-provoking. It also teaches us some things about creative genius, innovation, and art.

One of the striking things is the substantial amount of screen time the film devotes to the recording sessions of the Beach Boy’s 1966 album Pet Sounds.

It is not controversial to say that Pet Sounds – largely Wilson’s creation – was a game-changing achievement within popular music.

The Beach Boys in Love & Mercy (2015): (L-R) Kenny Wormald as Dennis Wilson, Graham Rogers as Al Jardine, Brett Davem as Carl Wilson, Jake Abel as Mike Love and Paul Dano as Brian Wilson. Francois Duhamel/image.net

 

It has been described as one of the most influential early concept albums, was credited by the Beatles’ producer George Martin as the reason Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) exists, and has influenced musicians ever since.

Inspired by the Beatles’ album Rubber Soul (1965), Wilson’s vision was to transcend the sugary-sweet mixture of hit singles and filler material most albums aspired to at that time.

His big idea was to create a unified artistic statement across a whole album.

By portraying the Pet Sounds sessions so extensively, Love & Mercy draws attention to the process of genius, rather than the product alone.

We are given a fly-on-the-wall experience of a rarefied time and place as we witness the explosive in-studio creativity of Wilson expanding the language and traditions of popular music.

The film reveals Wilson’s delirious way of working: spontaneously composing in the studio, leaving mistakes in, encouraging experimentation in others, and continually, himself, experimenting. This way of treating the studio as an instrument would become known as “playing the studio”.

Paul Dano as the young Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy (2015). Francois Duhamel/image.net

 

We see him sampling and orchestrating bicycle bells and a barking dog, asking whether he can bring a horse into the studio, and bullying his cellists into sounding like airplane propellers.

The accommodating but somewhat baffled studio musicians and technicians contrast with the suspicion of fellow band member and Wilson’s cousin Mike Love, (played by Jake Abel) who accuses Wilson of selfishness and egoism: “Who do you think you are, Mozart?”

In a touching moment, Los Angeles session drummer Hal Blaine (Johnny Sneed) reassures the young Wilson that, not only is he blowing the minds of the conservatory-trained session musicians with his unorthodox brilliance – he is even surpassing his idol, the producer Phil Spector.

In the Pet Sounds sessions, Wilson is shown to have the uncanny ability to predict certain things would “work” musically, demonstrated in the film when a musician queries his choice of chords and bass line – they seem to be in two different keys, against all logic: surely a mistake.

Wilson’s response: “it works in my head, I think it’ll be OK”.

That small moment in the film is illustrative of Wilson’s over-arching certainty of vision. When Mike Love upbraids him for selfishly pursuing his esoteric artistic ideas at the expense of commercial success, Wilson can only respond with mute silence and a bewildered facial expression – his eyes follow Love’s mouth, as if searching for clues as to what he’s talking about.

It’s as if he can’t comprehend why Love is unable to see what he can see, let alone why it is special.

Of course, while seeing what others cannot, geniuses don’t actually create something from nothing. In fact, Pet Sounds suggests Wilson was uniquely attuned to what had come before him musically, and what was happening around him.

Influences

Wilson’s primary influences were naturally from popular music (Bill Haley and the Comets, The Ronettes, The Four Freshman), but other more radical influences are suggested in the film.

Experimental instrumentation and orchestration (harpsichords, flutes, a theremin, dog whistles, sampled trains, a de-tuned 12-string guitar, and Coca-Cola cans – Wilson’s “pet sounds” – were certainly innovative in the context of popular music, but the Futurists had been experimenting along similar lines since at least the beginning of the 20th century.

The film also shows Wilson clambering inside the piano to attach bobby pins to the strings, in an effort to obtain a harpsichord-like rattling effect. But experimental American composer John Cage had been extensively preparing pianos with all kinds of bolts, screws, wooden and rubber objects since at least 1940 (as had Henry Cowell before that).

The experimentation wasn’t all avant-garde; the exquisitely shaped, achingly beautiful counterpoint of the coda to God Only Knows, for example, evokes the 800-year-old technique of the musical round – perhaps new in popular American music of the 20th century, but not elsewhere.

None of that diminishes the vision of Wilson, who recognised this kind of experimentation had never been attempted within the domain of popular music.

On a deeper level still is the notion of the concept album. From Wilson’s perspective, Pet Sounds is a production concept album. Mostly inspired by Phil Spector, who had been revolutionising studio production techniques and creating the famed “wall of sound”, Wilson feels that his work constitutes an interpretation of Spector’s recording methods.

But it’s also possible to see the album as a song or lyric concept album, with a general theme of romantic loss, disappointment or disillusion, although not unified by an over-arching story.

Here one must acknowledge the striking parallels with another famed musical genius: Beethoven.

To a distant beloved

There are obvious parallels between Wilson’s and Beethoven’s biographies: an abusive alcoholic father, prone to beatings and aggressive stage managing; having a degree of deafness; and a trajectory toward unkemptness of physical appearance throughout life.

But there is a much more fascinating creative parallel: they both created a new genre, essentially the same genre, now known as the Song Cycle.

Inventing the Romantic song cycle in 1816 is one of Beethoven’s less widely known achievements. His An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved), Op. 98, portrays a young man in love experiencing the pain of separation from his beloved.

 

For the first time, a major composer had written a sequence of songs that were intended to be heard as a single, coherent statement rather than a collection (not necessarily a unified story, although that is also possible).

The idea was soon picked up and explored in a rich 19th-century efflorescence of unified song collections by Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf.

Pet Sounds can also be considered the first song cycle in popular music. And it too led to enthusiastic uptake in the output of others, most notably the Beatles (Sgt. Pepper’s), Van Dyke Parks (Song Cycle, 1968) and Marvin Gaye (What’s Goin On, 1971).

As with the song cycles of the past, Wilson’s gift was to be able to instantly create a strong emotional response, using text and music creatively.

On Pet Sounds, it takes “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” all of a few seconds to establish a sighing, end-of-summer haze that somehow evokes the bittersweet resignation of a couple about to leave each other (“let’s not think about tomorrow”).

The word painting – the musical depiction of the lyrics – in “God Only Knows”, on that same album, is more involved. Take just the first verse – there’s the surprising harmonic colour that accompanies the equally surprising (for a love song) entrance:

I may not always love you.

 

 

Then there’s the rather literal switch to high (falsetto) voice for the word “stars” (which are, clearly, also high).

Darker thoughts of doubt are shaded by diminished triads (highly unstable musical structures, subconsciously reinforcing the instability of “doubt”).

The harmonic uncertainty of the verse gives way to stability, clarifying itself just as the doubt of the text also resolves to “God only knows what I’d be without you”. It’s as if the music smiles at that moment.

And on it goes; somehow, this song is perfect.

The result of Wilson’s sensitivity to the music of both past and present, coupled with an eye to the future, is that Pet Sounds has a kind of depth and richness that sets it apart from anything that had come before in the world of pop.

Despite Pet Sound’s initially modest critical and commercial success, Love & Mercy shows how, in pursuing his vision, and possibly creating the first album that was intended to be listened to rather than danced to, Wilson (like Beethoven) was creating art for posterity.

Is there a downside?

Genius can be expensive. Recording Pet Sounds cost the equivalent of half a million dollars in today’s terms. Even discounting the revenue it has generated over time, I would far prefer a world with an expensive Pet Sounds to one without.

Genius can also be erratic. There’s a short scene near the end of the film where Wilson begins to run aground creatively in working on the follow-up album, Smile, which was never completed in its original form.

A large group of musicians waits in silence as Wilson examines the walls, listening for something only he can hear. Apparently the end of a two-hour delay, he finally declares the vibe isn’t right, that the “space is hostile”, and cancels the session.

This expensive and erratic aspect of Wilson’s genius doesn’t fit quite so well with the modern, corporatised vision of innovation, in which efficiency constitutes a twin pillar.

And that’s where the research, the films, the discussion, and the analysis of individual parts tend to reach an impasse – the alchemy of genius is elusive, its end result greater than the sum of its parts. We know it when we see, hear, or feel it, and it’s very important to us on an emotional level.

Storytelling and melancholy

And then there’s the entire 80s portion of the film. Diagnosed with mental illness, scarred by drugs, exploited by a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Dr. Eugene Landy, played by Paul Giamatti), and estranged from his family and children; Wilson’s darker years represent an extreme version of something many people can relate to – lost balance in pursuit of a vision.

In Love & Mercy, the story of a creative genius, we witness the retelling of an archetype derived from human nature. A story about unbridled and incandescent creativity and how much it can both give and take away, a tale that we can learn from over and over again.

So there is a neat overlap between artistic object and subject with this film. Because anyone who has loved a song, or a piece of music, will know that to love it is to come back to it over and over again. For many people, Pet Sounds is a trove of such treasures.

A song of genius like “Don’t Talk” can take us back in time, especially to our youth. That nostalgia for the past hurts – irretrievable except through memory, images, and sounds.

 

 

Which leads me finally to melancholy, perhaps one of music’s most underrated gifts to the world. Mike Love complains in one scene that, with Pet Sounds, “even the happy songs are sad”. That comment takes us back to the film’s prologue, where Wilson reflects on what he’s striving for in his music:

Like a cry, but sort of in a good way.

How ironic that the music we choose to listen to – that we can’t help but love – means more to us the more it hurts. Paul McCartney has described “God Only Knows” as not only one of his favourite songs, but also one that makes him tear up each time he listens to or performs it.

There’s a kind of pain that attends the experience of certain songs, they remind us that beauty’s value, (like life’s), is somehow related to its transitoriness; the song/ life metaphor is all too clear – tragically short (God Only Knows comes in at under three minutes!), but beautiful while it lasts.

So like the storytelling archetype Love & Mercy embodies, Wilson’s music is like a lesson we relearn each time we listen.

Thankfully, creating symmetry with the early Beach Boys’ prelapsarian era of Sun, Sand and Surf, there’s a happy ending to this story.

As the film makes clear, Wilson’s life became very much worth living again thanks to the entrance of Melinda Ledbetter, now his wife and manager, and he is touring the world, performing, among other things, the version of Smile he always had in mind.

If you can’t make one of Wilson’s live shows, go and see Love & Mercy, or better yet, have a listen – or 20 – to Pet Sounds.The Conversation

Liam Viney is Piano Performance Fellow at The University of Queensland.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

To vocal infinity and beyond! Brock Baker serves up 24 Pixar voices in 5 fun-filled minutes

(image via YouTube (c) Brock Baker / Disney/Pixar)
(image via YouTube (c) Brock Baker / Disney/Pixar)

 

There is an art to inspired mimicry.

It’s not enough to sound like the character you’re impersonating, you must embody their mannerisms and personality too.

Effectively, you have to become that character.

It’s clearly not a lesson Brock Baker needs to learn.

A talented impressionist, who bring a host of characters to life on his YouTube site where he operates under the user name McGoiter, he brings the characters he mimics to joyous, fun-filled life in a way I’ve seen seldom few manage.

In this delightful video, he channels 24 different Pixar characters perfectly, reminding us once again just how perfectly Pixar creates the wonderful beings that populate its animated universe.

 

Everyone knows She’s Funny That Way (Poster + trailer)

Shes Funny That Way MAIN

SNAPSHOT
From renowned director Peter Bogdanovich, “She’s Funny That Way” is a screwball comedy featuring the interconnected personal lives of the cast and crew of a Broadway production. When established director Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson) casts his call girl-turned-actress Isabella “Izzy” Patterson (Imogen Poots) in a new play to star alongside his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) and her ex-lover Seth Gilbert (Rhys Ifans), a zany love tangle forms with hilarious twists. Jennifer Aniston plays Izzy’s therapist Jane, who is consumed with her own failing relationship with Arnold’s playwright Joshua Fleet (Will Forte), who is also developing a crush on Izzy. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

One of the earliest movies I ever remembering seeing was What’s Up Doc? (1972), a gloriously silly over the top screwball comedy starring Barbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neil and Madeline Khan about the chaotic merriment that ensues when four identical plaid overnight bags get mixed up, leaving the wrong people holding the wrong items.

It had everything – perfectly-written, snappy oneliners, actors capable of making them zing with all the comedic flair you could hope for, and a plot that got sillier and sillier and ever more frenetic as it went on.

It remains to this day one of my favourite movies of all time.

And now the man who gave us this comedy gem, Peter Bogdanovich, is back with another screwball comedy She’s Funny That Way which looks to be every bit as deliciously silly as its predecessor.

Centering around a tangle of relationships that develop amongst a theatre group preparing for a production, it looks to have same keen eye for social commentary, witty repartee and a dream cast of actors bringing the whole hilariously complicated scenario to life.

Early reviews such as this one by Robbie Collin in Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper indicates this is very much the case:

“… it’s a hysterical screwball fantasia that openly steals from Lubitsch, Hawks, Capra and Sturges and wants to be caught with its fingers in the till. The result is a highly-sexed Jenga-pile of silliness, to which Bogdanovich can’t resist adding block after teetering block. “

Onward with the silliness I say and get ready to hold your aching from laughing sides …

She’s Funny That Way opens in USA on 14 August 2015 and Australia on 27 August.

 

 

What Pet Should I Get? Dr Seuss has a new book worth a look!

(image via Hollywood Reporter (c) Random House)
(image via Hollywood Reporter (c) Random House)

 

This has surely got to rank as one of the best news stories of the year.

24 years after his death in 1991, Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, has not one but three new books ready to be published, discovered, according to The Hollywood Reporter, in 2013 when “Seuss’ widow, Audrey Geisel, and his secretary were looking through boxes in his office in advance of a home remodeling project.”

What a thing to find!

You can only imagine the inestimable joy to find out, years after the loss of the man you loved that he had three never before seen books hidden away for you, and of course, the world to enjoy.

 

Interior shot of the book courtesy CNN (c) Random House)
Interior shot of the book courtesy CNN (c) Random House)

 

What Pet Do I Get? is the first book off the presses, publishing July 28 in the USA, and it features the same brother and sister made famous in the beloved Seuss classic One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960) who find themselves in a pet store wondering which animal they should take home with them.

With advance orders of 500,000 to 1 million, it won’t be long before the book gets a second printing, and Dr. Seuss adds to the already 650 million books he has sold, which includes titles such as Green Eggs and Ham (1960), The Lorax (1971) and Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990).

I’m so excited I want to burst into rhyme but I think that I leave that to the master of the art, one Dr. Seuss and content myself to jumping up and down with Yurtle the Turle-esque excitement till I can get my hands on a copy of the book.

You can listen to Rainn Wilson read a very short excerpt from the book (below) and read more about this most marvellous of discoveries at TIME and The Hollywood Reporter and CNN

 

Attaboy, there’s a Good Dinosaur … trailer

(image via D3Bris.de (c) Pixar/Disney)
(image via D3Bris.de (c) Pixar/Disney)

 

There is no such thing as too many Pixar movies in one year.

Especially after a year (2014) where there were no movies from the rightly acclaimed animation powerhouse at all.

Hot, relative again to last year’s Pixar drought on the heels of the beyond superlative Inside Out, comes The Good Dinosaur which wonders what would have happened if that pesky meteorite has screamed right on by Earth 65 millions years ago and left dinosaurs and humans to get to know other than by the fossil record (quite a way down the track of course).

It’s hard to say how that prehistoric alternative history would have played out but one thing’s for sure – if this trailer is anything to go by, it could have been downright magical.

Granted, in the real world, it would likely have played out with a lot of running (humans) and chomping (T-Rex and his kin) but I like to think that maybe, just maybe there would have been a little bit of the lovely storyline we see in the film where an Apatosaurus named Arlo meets and befriends a young human boy and wonderful heartwarming, life-affirming things happen.

And hopefully all to a lovely song like “Crystals” by Of Monsters and Men which accompanies the trailer, and without a single Pixar-unfriendly velociraptor in sight.

The Good Dinosaur opens 18 November 2015 in USA and Boxing Day in Australia.

 

Movie review: Last Cab to Darwin

(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)

 

A sense of belonging is an intrinsic part of the human experience.

Not everyone wants to admit it of course with many people, for a variety of reasons, doing their best to keep the rest of humanity at bay by fair means and foul.

One such person, Rex (Michael Caton), an emotionally-subdued older cab driver in Broken Hill, is the beating heart and soul of Jeremy Sims’ beautifully-realised, touchingly funny film The Last Cab to Darwin.

Though he is surrounded by relationships rich and deep – not that he, or those with whom he is in close regular contact such as his mates at the pub, or his feisty neighbour Polly (Ningali Lawford-Wolf) would ever dare to describe them as such – he sets off alone to Darwin in his beloved taxi one day to avail himself of the NT’s newly-legislated euthanasia laws, acutely aware time is perilously short after his doctors hand him a cancer prognosis giving him three all too short months to live.

Implacably opposed to dying in a hospital, for reasons that are movingly revealed later in the film, he is determined to see out life on his own terms, becoming quickly convinced that Dr. Nicole Farmer (Jacki Weaver), a euthanasia campaigner in Darwin, is his angel of mercy, his ticket to a quick, hospital-free death.

Before, during and after his extraordinary 3000 km drive to Darwin, he tells anyone who will listen that he is alone, no friends or family, no bonds; just him, his cab and a “don’t-think-about-it-or-I-might-not-do-it” determination to beat death at its own game.

His unwillingness to brook the possibility of any other approach to seeing out his last few days is both amusingly brave, and distressingly sad, particularly since it becomes readily apparent very early on that Rex is surrounded by people who love and care for him, if only he would let them near.

 

Polly and Rex share a devoted bond underneath all the back-and-forth banter but it takes them both a while to admit it (Image via SFF (c) Icon Films)
Polly and Rex share a devoted bond underneath all the back-and-forth banter but it takes them both a while to admit it (Image via SFF (c) Icon Films)

 

Quite why he won’t let anyone near is not readily apparent at first.

While he is hardly a garrulous extrovert about town, he is sociable enough in his own way, meeting with his mates in the pub for drinks each night and sharing a pot of tea early each morning with his neighbour across the road, Polly, with whom he is love (though he refuses to admit that for much of the film’s running time) and with whom he is closer than either of them would care to admit.

He maintains his arm’s distance approach to humanity as a whole – an ironic stance given his chosen profession but one which again makes sense when you hear about his unhappy childhood – even on the road, only grudgingly taking on audaciously cheeky Tilly (Mark Coles Smith), and disillusioned British nurse Julie (Emma Hamilton) as passengers when events mandate he can’t leave them behind.

Though he is in some ways the original grumpy old man with the heart of gold, his resolute approach to not getting close to anybody is maintained throughout the trip to Darwin, Sims and co-writer Reg Cribb wisely not forcing on his character some sort of Road to Damascus moment that wouldn’t have rung true.

That he does soften somewhat towards the end makes sense in the wider, well told narrative context of the film, the direct result of realising, when the opportunity to take his life is finally well at hand, that he still has some living left to do, and like death, wants to do it on his own terms.

 

Rex repeatedly claims to be all alone in the world but along with his Broken Hill family of friends, he acquires Tilly and Julie on the road to Darwin who are every bit as devoted as any family member would be (image via Deckchair Cinema (c) Icon Films)
Rex repeatedly claims to be all alone in the world but along with his Broken Hill family of friends, he acquires Tilly and Julie on the road to Darwin who are every bit as devoted as any family member would be (image via Deckchair Cinema (c) Icon Films)

 

The relationships in the film, particularly with Rex who, again ironically given his diffidence to human interaction, is the emotional hub around which everyone revolves, are uniformly believable and authentic, brought to life by a stellar cast, all of whom without exception, bring forth a real sense that these people matter, and matter deeply, to each other (and that they all have their own long put off issues to deal with).

It’s the key to many of the intense scenes working as well as they do, as is the way the screenplay pleasingly juxtaposes the reality of death, loss and separation with a larrikin black humour that is only really absent in the most emotionally-searing of moments such as when Julie and Rex say their final goodbyes and in the nuanced, subtlely-wrought and immensely-touching closing scene with Polly and Rex.

Caton is the real joy in Last Cab of Darwin, ably and without fuss giving us insight into a man who discovers more about himself, and what he really wants in his final days than he has in all the years leading up to it when he never left Broken Hill or successfully escaped the emotional skeletons in the closet haunting his every move, both of which happen on the great pilgrimage to Darwin.

That Sims and Cribb manage to make some pretty profound, deeply affecting observations about life, living and the general exercise of humanity without once coming across as cloying or manipulative is impressive, as is the way the copious use of humour bolsters rather than detracts from the very real drama in play.

Set against the sweeping backdrop of the Australian Outback, Last Cab to Darwin is a down to earth, insightful, funny and heartwarming musing on the things that really matter in life, and how we often only truly appreciate them when they’re about to disappear from our grasp for good.

 

Weekend pop art: Muppets get their superhero apocalyptic vibe on thanks to JoopaDoops

The Muppets get their Mad Max Fury Road look on (image via JoopaDoops Deviant Art (c) Justin Ponsor)
The Muppets get their Mad Max Fury Road look on (image via JoopaDoops Deviant Art (c) Justin Ponsor)

 

As a life long Muppets fan, I am most definitely of the opinion that there is very little on this planet that can’t be improved by their presence.

Among these many and varied things, are superhero and apocalyptic road movies, two themes that a very talented artist called Justin Ponsor (who goes by the name JoopaDoops on Deviant Art), also armed with some serious Muppets appreciation, has addressed with some seriously good artwork I discovered via Laughing Squid.

Apart from being beautifully drawn – he nails the look and personality of every single Muppet he features from Sesame Street stalwarts like Big Bird, Oscar and Ernie and Bert to The Muppet Show gang including Animal, Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzy Bear – they evoke the pop culture properties they are lovingly paying homage to in ways I doubt even their creators contemplated.

His Muppets-infused pop culture tributes so far include Mad Max: Fury Road, The Avengers and DC’s Justice League and they are without exception, perfectly executed.

You can check out more of his marvellous work at Deviant Art.

 

Loved JoopaDoops' tagline for this piece of artwork - "Muppvengers? Aveppets? I'll Get Back To You On It" My money's on the first one! (image via JoopaDoops Deviant Art page (c) Justin Ponsor)
Loved JoopaDoops’ tagline for this piece of artwork – “Muppvengers? Aveppets? I’ll Get Back To You On It” My money’s on the first one! (image via JoopaDoops Deviant Art page (c) Justin Ponsor)

 

I loved The Justice League cartoons as a kid; how much more awesome would they be as Muppets? Ridiculously awesome that's what! (image via JoopaDoops Deviant Art page (c) Justin Ponsor)
I loved The Justice League cartoons as a kid; how much more awesome would they be as Muppets? Ridiculously awesome that’s what! (image via JoopaDoops Deviant Art page (c) Justin Ponsor)