Movie review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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

 

It doesn’t take long to realise that The Diary of a Teenage Girl, written and directed with a playful yet dark intensity by Marielle Heller, is not your typical quirky indie teenage drama.

Granted, the 1976-set film, based on the book The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures by Phoebe Gloeckner, gives every appearance of being that for a second or two with socially ill-at-ease teen Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) wandering goofily through a park filled with loving couples on blankets on a sunshiny day.

But then she utters the immortal words, “I had sex today. HO-LY SHIIIIT”,with all the wonderment of a convert finding their god for the first time, and it becomes readily apparent in an instant that this is not going to be your typical innocent teen figuring out the complexities of adult life in a charming and endearing way.

There is, of course, a great deal of charm, much of it drawn from the intense, epically heartfelt way Minnie experiences pretty much everything about her new, sexually-promiscuous life.

It’s not merely sex for this preternaturally sexual 15 year old who, rather scandalously and unsettlingly much of the time, falls into her bed with mum Charlotte’s (Kristen Wiig in one of her increasingly confident, nuanced dramatic turns) 35 year handsome boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) not once but multiple times to their mutual delight.

Rather, everything is written large and in vividly-rendered neon for the young girl who fails to understand that she’s trying to plug a dysfunctional hole in her life – no pun intended – with the oldest distracting tactic in the book, Real Love not sex, A Passionate Love Affair not statutory rape, the Beginning of the Rest of Her Life Where Everything is Different rather than a tawdry desperate, and in the case of Monroe, highly inappropriate “relationship”.

For aspiring artist Minnie, of course, who sees school as an impediment to her wider ambition of becoming a comic artist like her heroine Aline Kominsky, who comes alive through some of the gloriously colourful, emotionally cathartic animation that augments Minnie’s more intensely emotional moments, it’s all life-changing EVERYTHING.

For Monroe, at least at first, nothing more than thinking with something other than his adult heart and mind; he is revealed, unsurprisingly, as less grown up than his scandalously young lover as the film progresses.

 

 

Where The Diary of a Teenage Girl impresses is with the way it treats the way Minnie feels, and the way she interprets everything that happens to her in the most positive, life-affirming ways possible, typical of the manner in which we experience all the first things of our life, particularly as teenagers.

There are greys, no passive, meaningless inbetweens; everything is graphically – in the case of Minnie’s increasingly sexually graphic artwork, this happens literally – tremendously, HUGELY important.

She’s convinced that Monroe LOVES her, that he is thinking about her ALL THE TIME, that even though he continues to come around to see her mother, who though she loves Minnie and younger sister Gretel (Abigail Wait) is better at drinking and snorting cocaine than being maternal, he is really doing so just for appearances.

She commits all these, any many other feverishly intense thoughts to tape, speaking into the recording machine as if she is the David Attenborough of teen sexuality, the first person to have observed and experienced these intensely sexual feelings and longings for more, more, MORE.

Listening to her words alone you’d be convinced she has a firm and incisive grasp on what’s happening to her, embellishments aside; but Heller authentically lets Minnie also make more than her fair share of mistakes, revealing as expected, that she’s just another teen way in over her head trying to make sense of very adult things from a still quite limited perspective.

This is not to say her observations don’t carry weight and meaning; to Minnie they are THE WORLD, and then some, and are giving due reverence by Heller, and Powley who treads a fine balance between goofily light and darkly intense.

Rather that real though this all feels, and for Minnie it is a defining moment in her life, an emancipation from a semi-loving, dysfunctional childhood defined by artistic imaginings and rich fantasy, it is by no means the whole story, something which is allowed to unfurl as the film progresses and Minnie discovers there’s more to adulthood than falling into bed with the first person who pays attention to you.

 

 

Unexpectedly, The Diary of a Teenage Girl takes some pretty dark turns, with some reasonably harrowing moments creeping in to darken Minnie’s hitherto “Everything is AWESOME!” palette of life experiences.

Some near misses, the revelation of peoples’ true colours, stripped of Minnie’s romanticising, idealising filter, and an affirmation that she doesn’t need anyone to be happy – this moral of the story is happily delivered without a trace of movie-of-the- week cloying sentimentality, as authentic as the rest of the film – add some real depth and insight to Minnie’s anything-but-goofy coming of age story.

The film gives real validity to Minnie’s sexual awakening, and the emotional awakenings that comes in its wake, validating every step of the way how normal and natural what she feels is, even if the circumstances in which they come about are anything but normal, natural and or even remotely appropriate.

Much is made of the ’70s freewheeling, anything goes ethos, and the era is created faithfully without artifice by cinematographer Brandon Trost, but in the end, what matters is the intensely meaningful experiences of one remarkable, quite capable (eventually) teenage girl who discovers, as we all must, that life is a good deal more complicated, and rewarding, than any of us initially give it credit for.

 

 

Call me! A whole lot of movie phone calls in one glorious mash-up

Call me Amelie! (image via YouTube)
Call me Amelie! (image via YouTube)

 

Phone calls – we either love ’em or hate ’em.

Waiting for a good friend to confirm the details of your all expenses paid, big birthday dinner at the best restaurant in town? LOVE ‘EM.

Boss calling at 11.24pm to check why you use a comma instead of a dash in that crucially-important report they should’ve looked at 3 days ago? HATE ‘EM.

And as for calls from telemarketers? LOVE ‘EM of course. Haha … NO.

But if you’re a character in a movie, then phone calls are often a matter of life-and-death, of life-changing destiny, of kismet, fate and a thousand other trajectory altering moments crackling at the end of the line.

And you just HAVE to answer – how can you not?

Is that cinematic success or failure calling? Better answer the call!

You never know who might be calling … or WHY (*cue portentous soundtrack and zoom in now please Mr. DeMille*)

(source: Zap2it)

 

Fear the Walking Dead: “Cobalt” (S1, E5 review)

Not everyone loses their soul as the zombie apocalypse hits its undead lope: Travis finds himself to end someone's life even when that life has already ended by other viral means (image via Undeadwalking (c) AMC)
Not everyone loses their soul as the zombie apocalypse hits its undead lope: Travis finds himself to end someone’s life even when that life has already ended by other viral means (image via Undeadwalking (c) AMC)

 

* SPOILERS … AND AN ARENA OF ANXIOUS-TO-GET-OUT WALKERS AWAIT *

 

Ah humanity, when the chips are down, you either cover yourself in glory, self-sacrificially stepping forward to make lives better for others in times horrifically extraordinary, or you look out for number 1, making sure you’re OK and leaving everyone else to handle things the best way they can.

No prizes for guessing what route the majority of the characters, major and minor took in the penultimate first season episode of Fear the Walking Dead.

Safe to say, as things took a decided turn for the worse – yes, surprisingly it is possible for things to deteriorate further in a world where the apocalypse has arrived, all undead and ready to rip civilisation to blood-soaked shreds – “Cobalt” was not exactly humanity’s finest hour.

“Every man, woman and child for themselves!” was effectively the new motto and even the military, swaggering their way, on the whole, into this brave new world, one not even Aldous Huxley likely contemplated, took it to heart, abandoning their role as dictatorial Florence Nightingales, in favour of getting the hell out of Dodge.

And in the process, leaving everyone else to cope as best they could.

Assuming they were allowed to stay alive and breathing anyway, what with the military being more than a little fond of a combination Scorched Earth/Blitzkrieg/lock the alive up with the dead policy.

Showrunner Dave Erickson and his team powerfully brought to the fore humanity’s propensity to unleash its less than stellar angels when their very survival is threatened.

Granted not everyone caved into based instincts but enough did that the walking dead were not the only people to be feared as the temporary sanctuary of the wire fenced-compound begin to fall before the relentless onslaught of the unstoppable apocalypse, rampant self-interest and ghosts from the past rearing their ugly, tortured heads.

 

The ghosts of the past meet the darkness of the present and no one emerges with their humanity fully intact (image (c) AMC via AMC)
The ghosts of the past meet the darkness of the present and no one emerges with their humanity fully intact (image (c) AMC via AMC)

 

The man with the most ghosts peering coldly and passionlessly over his shoulder was Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) who it turned out was not the victim of the story back in old El Salvador but among the ranks of the oppressors, the man responsible for torturing and disappearing all those people he once talked about as if he was among their number.

While his wife Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) was party to his whatever-it-takes-to-survive ethos, daughter Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) was not, only discovering her father’s true identity as a cold-blooded torturer when he convinced her to lure one of the few good soldiers guarding (and soon not to be) them, Andrew Adams (Shawn Hatosy) to what will likely be his undead doom.

Before he is despatched to the land of the undead, however, the young, well-intentioned who has at all turns been distinctly uncomfortable with the cavalier “I’m a military god” attitude of the commanding officer, Moyers (Jamie McShane) is treated to some drip feed torture at the hands of Daniel who seems intent on playing the role of dungeon executioner, even as Adams offers up all the information he can bring to mind.

It’s deeply calculating, unutterably, chillingly dark and something that people like Madison (Kim Dickens), anxious to get junkie son Nick (Frank Dillane) back from the “hospital” aka waiting room for the extermination camp, where he’s saved from an uncertain fate by new swaggeringly confident friend Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), while there’s still time.

Only Travis (Cliff Curtis) holds intense reservations about this whatever-it-takes approach, refusing to shoot a walker waitress in a cafe when invited to do so by Moyers, who treats shooting the undead he’s an aristocrat on a country estate wantonly shooting pheasants as he pleases, and after making it back home when the military patrol he’s on goes completely to pot, blanching when he sees what Daniel, and by tacit refusal to object, Madison is up to.

Still, even noble Travis, man of the people, and likely conscience of humanity going forward – is that really wise Travis? Those people always die – doesn’t stand in the way of Daniel’s barbaric techniques, which has elicited the news that the military is preparing to fly the coop and save themselves, screw the rest of humanity.

Yep, everyone is abandoning the sinking ship S. S. Humanity and it’s readily becoming apparent that any semblance of what passed for civility, morals or ethics is flying out the window faster than a walker’s hastily chopped-off body part.

It’s not looking pretty and Fear the Walking Dead does an exemplary of capturing this decline, this rapid, messy decline in all its putrid glory.

 

Alicia and Chris devide that the best way to handle the apocalypse is to play dress ups in a rich person's abandoned home, drink champagne and pretend like the world is theirs to picnic in (image via Dread Central (c) AMC)
Alicia and Chris devide that the best way to handle the apocalypse is to play dress ups in a rich person’s abandoned home, drink champagne and pretend like the world is theirs to picnic in (image via Dread Central (c) AMC)

 

And that where Fear the Walking Dead excels.

It’s unafraid to admit that much as we’d like to think people will nobly step up in humanity’s darkest hour Hollywodd hero-like, and it’s true some will, the reality is more than not that fear and self interest will win out over altruism and self-sacrifice.

It may seem indulgently pessimistic to some but the reality is civilisation hangs by a gossamer thread of collective goodwill, and as Fear the Walking Dead starkly portrays, once that’s gone, and it won’t take long alas, then it really is every person for themselves.

“Cobalt” vividly brought to life, or undeath, your call, what the end of the illusion of civilisation is like, when the last tattered vestiges fall away and we see each other as we really are.

Not pretty is it?

  • And it’s likely to look even less pretty by the time next week’s episode “The Good Man” wraps up the first season of the show …

 

 

Life always surprises you: The Good Dinosaur (international trailer + poster)

(image via Screenrant (c) Pixar/Disney)
(image via Screenrant (c) Pixar/Disney)

 

SNAPSHOT
The Good Dinosaur asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? In this epic journey into the world of dinosaurs, an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers what he is truly capable of. (official synopsis via IMDb)

You have to hand it to Pixar – they have a way with imaginative premises.

In the case of The Good Dinosaur, it’s a doozy.

What if that pesky asteroid that obliterated all dinosauric life on Earth 65 million years ago had instead got whistling on by into the great galactic beyond, and humanity and dinosaur had ended up sharing the same real estate?

And what if one Apatosaurus in particular by the name of Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) had ended up forming a special bond with a human boy called Spot (voiced by Jack Bright) and gone on an amazing revelatory journey across landscapes fearful and unknown.

What then, wonders Pixar, what then?

Why The Good Dinosaur, of course, that while it looks more conventional than the out of the box, multicoloured deep-inside-the heart-and-head wonder of Inside Out, nevertheless promises all the laughter and touching emotion that Pixar is rightly known for.

 

 

As Screenrant reveals, the new international trailer gives us more of a look at the poignant interplay between Arlo and his “pet” Spot, and also at many of the other characters in the film including a bunch of sassy T-Rexs:

“… a new Good Dinosaur international preview (see above ) also includes voice work by other cast members. To be exact, we hear Jeffrey Wright (Boardwalk Empire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 & 2) as Poppa, Arlo’s father, along with Sam Elliott (Justified, Grandma) as the “tough T-Rex named Butch,” whose scarred exterior is a reflection of his age and experience. Presumably, the two T-Rexes seen alongside Butch and Arlo here are Nash and Ramsey, the characters in the movie voiced by A.J. Buckley (CSI: NY) and Anna Paquin (True Blood), respectively.

“Spot (Jack Bright), the human who becomes Arlo’s companion/ “pet” in The Good Dinosaur, is once again featured heavily in both the film’s latest trailer and its newly-released UK poster (see below). The relationship between the two characters serves as the “heart” of the Good Dinosaur narrative — and by the look of it, the Arlo/Spot dynamic in the film should provide its fair share of pathos and humor alike. Other Good Dinosaur characters who have smaller, yet all the same key roles in the adventure plot include Arlo’s brother, Buck (Marcus Scribner), and Arlo’s mother, Momma (Frances McDormand), alike.”

It all looks quite wonderful, another rich and rewarding excursion into the transcendentally beautiful world of Pixar.

The Good Dinosaur opens in USA 25 November 2015 and Australia 26 December.

Book review: You’re Never Weird On the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

(image courtesy Simon and Schuster)
(image courtesy Simon and Schuster)

 

If there’s one thing you discover pretty quickly in life, it’s that acting like everyone else generally gets you more approval than doing your own highly-idiosyncratic thing.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re at school, or in a church, soccer club or bee fancier society, people like their fellow human beings to look like they just stepped out of conformity central casting.

Which can be a problem, when you’re Felicia Day, home schooled child of sort-of hippies, who grew up with all kinds of self-admittedly odd interests like playing Dungeons & Dragons, and figuring out how you graph a cosine equation, and weird is all you are and have ever known.

You’ve got two choices at that point – either do your best to fit in, at the expense of every last shred of your individuality, or embrace your weirdness and let your freak flag fly.

No prize for guessing which option Day, creator of pioneering online series The Guild and founder of Geek and Sundry, took.

As she admits, rather than shunning her oddball upbringing, and all the quirky elements it gifted her as a person, her weirdness has made her what she is now, the unofficial Queen of the Geeks, and one of the most visible people creatively active on the internet today.

“Sure, I could have avoided a lot of problems as an adult by being raised like everyone else. I might not have had as much performance anxiety, I might be better at maintaining relationships outside of hitting “Like” on a person’s Facebook post when they have a baby. But here’s the part I apologetically embrace: My weirdness turned into my greatest strength in life. It’s why I am who I am today and have the career I have.” (P.31)

What makes this declaration so refreshing is that she freely admits that she has just ended up with all the geeky good stuff.

 

 

 

In a theme that recurs throughout You’re Never Weird On the Internet (Almost), Day happily admits that her less than conventional upbringing has also has led to her being a workaholic perfectionist, having an addictive personality and being manifestly unable to say “No”.

While some intense life events, including a breakdown at the height of her success, forced her to deal with these than stellar attributes, she freely confesses it’s highly unlikely she will ever be any sort of cookie-cutter individual and that she’s totally OK with that.

It’s her willingness to embrace who she is, good points and bad, and talk about them in ways alternatively hilarious, introspective and wise that makes her book such a delightful, and yes empowering read.

If you’re the sort of person, like yours truly, who never really fit in with the crowd growing up, and who struggled for years with your uniquely weird persona, reading an account like Day’s gives you the intoxicating sense that you are far from being alone.

For every ten people who cling to the idea of wearing the same clothes at the same time at the same event while commenting in the same way on the same things everyone else is seeing, there’s at least one person who is happy to be themselves, no matter how odd it might appear to others.

And once you find others like you, says Day, it can be the most revelatory experience, one that set you up for life:

“I know the story of my Dragon-hood may sound a little sad but and weird and super geeky, but (kiss story aside) for a girl who was lonely and desperate for friends, that group of people was the most important thing to me growing up. I can’t imagine being as confident about my passion for geeky things today without that opportunity to connect with OTHER people who were saying ‘Wow, I love those geeky things, too!” (P. 54)

 

 

This strong of belonging has extended well into adulthood and Day spends much of You’re Never Weird On the Internet (Almost) talking about her time making The Guild, founding Geek and Sundry and attending a slew of comic-cons, as they’re sometimes termed, where you’re never really weird because everyone around you is just as weird:

“I think fan conventions are the epitome of what is fantastic about the internet. And probably why they’ve become so much more popular in the last several years. You’re never weird when you’re surrounded by people who are weird like you, right?” (P. 206)

What really makes her book so rewarding to read is that she deftly combines a spry, almost playful sense of humour with an almost cavalier willingness to admit to all sorts of failings and less than stellar moments.

So one minute you’re laughing in comforting recognition at a quip or perfectly-executed joke – the way the humour carries through on the page is impressive – and the next you’re that rejected kid in the middle of the playground, wondering why it is you’re not as well-accepted as everyone else seems to be.

Right to the very end, Day encourages everyone who reads the book to be themselves, be at peace with being themselves, and live their life, some minor and major modifications as circumstances dictate aside, as they please.

But this moral of her story never comes across as obviously sentimental or overly earnest,and is delivered always with heartfelt honesty, down to earth self-awareness and a great big dollop of appealing self-deprecatory humour.

Even so, it’s there, and there most clearly, and as you finish the last very funny, insightful and moving page, you’re left in no doubt that you are a singular creation, that you should shrink back form being that person, however you choose to express yourself, and that being weird is entirely a good, and life altering thing.

 

 

http://www.themarysue.com/how-to-be-amazing/?__scoop_post=a120a0e0-6156-11e5-aaf6-00221934899c&__scoop_topic=3295939#__scoop_post=a120a0e0-6156-11e5-aaf6-00221934899c&__scoop_topic=3295939

Still Please Like Me: Season 3 trailer reminds us Josh is still trying to figure things out

Josh Thomas is still asking the world to Please Like Me (image courtesy ABC/Pivot)
Josh Thomas is still asking the world to Please Like Me (image courtesy ABC/Pivot)

 

SNAPSHOT of seasons 1 & 2
Season one saw Josh come to terms with the multiple changes in his life (his girlfriend had dumped him, he’d gained and lost a boyfriend, come out to his parents, lost his eccentric great aunt, and moved back in to live with his bipolar mother after her suicide attempt). Season two showed us a more grown-up Josh who tried to get through the day without upsetting anyone. Both Josh and his best friend Tom went through the ups and downs of love as they met new people and reconnected with old acquaintances while Mum and Dad had their fair share of trials and tribulations as they both got committed although in vastly different ways. As Josh opens up his heart to change and adulthood, though, he realizes that trying isn’t enough. Sometimes, it’s important to try again . . . again. (synopsis via Take Part)

One of the most appealing things about the sitcom Please Like Me, starring Australian comedian Josh Thomas, is the way it is willing to leave things undone at the end of an episode.

The general rule in sitcoms is that everything, even the most dire of circumstances, should be neatly tied up with a pretty narrative bow at the end of 20 minutes, with everyone smiling beatifically at the lessons learned.

No such adherence to convention for Please Like Me, which centres around relatively newly-out young gay man Josh (Josh Thomas) and his authentically dysfunctional friends and family, and thank the sitcom gods for that.

This show, much like Lena Dunham’s Girls – the US comedian is an unabashed fan of the show, a fact happily trumpeted by Please Like Me‘s third season trailer – is more than happy to fill its ranks with fallible characters who, though armed with the best of intentions and close relationships of varying degrees, are simply unable to get it all together in the space of such a short period of time.

They get things wrong, lots of things wrong, and God bless them for being willing to admit that.

Josh Thomas wears his heart on his sleeve and Please Like Me is all the better for it.

The partly-autobiographical sitcom has sensitively tackled a host of issues including coming out and mental illness – to profoundly moving and illuminating effects – creating awareness, and quite a few knowing laughs along the way.

The return of Please Like Me for a third season on October 15 in Australia and October 16 in USA, is a welcome one indeed, and proof positive there’s still a place for sitcoms that dare to be as clever and insightful as they are funny.

 

Movie review: Grandma

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

 

“Time passes. That’s for sure.” (Eileen Myles)

Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) is not having a good day.

With her past coming up to meet her, as it always does, to remind her things aren’t as good as they once were, and her present taking the turn for the unexpected with the sudden appearance of granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) who announces she’s pregnant and needs an abortion, Elle has her hands full, and then some.

Throw in a prim-and-proper estranged daughter, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), who everyone seems afraid of, a new girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer) that Elle has unkindly referred to as a relationship “footnote” – she recently lost the love of her life, and co-parent Violet or “Vi” and has yet to recover, if she will at all – and a plethora of old “friends” and one ex (male) lover, and it’s beginning to resemble one of those things where the best thing to do is to stay in bed and demand the world leave you the hell alone.

But that’s not an option with Sage having already booked at appointment to have the abortion for later that same day, having no money to pay the bill and douche boyfriend Cam (Nat Wolff) refusing to act like a grown up, and so Elle, played with merrymaking wit by an enthusiastic Tomlin, makes what she can of a potentially bad situation.

Oh, and did we mention she cut up all her credit cards as an act of defiance of some kind?

Yup, she did, completely in keeping the impulsive, angry creative soul that has fuelled so much of her poetry, and rather cleverly – take a bow screenwriter Paul Weitz, who also directs this remarkable taut and emotionally-punchy film – cutting off what could have a narrative-killing option.

In the hands of Tomlin, who is in masterful form, at turns acerbically biting (“Some men shouldn’t grow facial hair. You look like an armpit” and “Oh, she doesn’t need an ESPRESSO”) and hauntingly vulnerable and open, and the richly-talented cast that surround her, none of whom miss a beat, Grandma resonates with the kind of insights and exchanges that can make American indie drama, at its best, such a thing of revelatory power.

 

 

And Grandma is a thinking film, as much as it is a nuanced. emotionally-studied one, and damn funny into the bargain largely thanks to Tomlin and the winningly oneliner-punctuated script, exploring how time moves far too fast, leaving a mess of tangled, not always easy to resolve consequences in its wake.

Through the course of what she later calls a “very long day”, Elle, in the service of finding her granddaughter the money she needs – both grandmother and granddaughter are as broke as each other, and refuse to tell daughter/Mother Judy what’s going on for fear of immediate heavily-barbed censure – revisits a series of old friends and lovers.

Some visits go well such as the warm and effusive catch up with transgender tattoo artist Deathy ( Laverne Cox), whose lovingly heartfelt recitation of all the things Elle has done for her rounds out the hitherto ballsy, angry woman’s character with the hidden compassion and concern she holds in spades, while others?

Well, not so much, and yet not so bad in the end – seeing her ex-husband Karl (Sam Elliott) after 30 years is fraught and warm, sometimes all at once – if you look at things from a purely tying up existential bows somewhat neatly perspective.

It turns out as the day goes on, that Sage’s situation, which provides plenty of opportunities for Tomlin and Garner to deliver pitch perfect exchanges which speak to loss and regret and poor decisions made, often at a young age, is the catalyst for an unplanned and initially wholly unwelcome toting up of the accounts of Elle’s life.

And while she is found wanting in some regards – the inevitable meet-up with daughter Judy, while it eventually warms up as communication breaks down long-held barriers – she is also exposed as the cranky-woman-with-a-heart-of-gold when she needs to be, something you suspect she doesn’t want publicised in a hurry.

 

 

Grandma succeeds because Weitz invests it and the characters that power it forward with their regret, warmth, hilarity (again mostly Elle) and well-articulated introspection, with an authentic sense of hopefulness in among all the face-slapping realisation that we can all do better when it comes to wise life decisions and their unwelcome consequences.

Rather than descending into regretful melodrama, awash in life’s regrets and missteps, Grandma is in instead a humour-draped dissertation on the idea that things are never quite as bad as they seem.

Make no mistakes, this is no Pollyanna in L.A. journey where everyone learns their lesson and lives happily ever after, but enough does go right, and enough existential bows are neatly tied, that you walk away reminded that life, for all its less than stellar moments, actually isn’t a bad thing if you’re willing to take the good with the bad.

It may feel like a long day for Elle, but Weitz, writes sparingly and honestly, for all the lavish, scene-stealing oneliners handed to Elle, using its tautly-plotted 78 minutes to tell a richly-engaging, heartfelt and meaningful story that resonates long after Elle, feeling oddly content at the end of the day after it begin with so much angst and uncertainty, meanders happily down a laneway as dusk falls.

 

Torchwood lives on: first series of audio adventures is out with more to come

Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Captain Jack (John Barrowman) face off against threats from within Earth and without once more (image via Den of Geek (c) BBC)
Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) face off against threats from within Earth and without once more (image via Den of Geek (c) BBC)

 

The world is a dark place my friend and no one knew that better than the tortured souls of Torchwood, hidden beneath Cardiff and fighting aliens with thoroughly disagreeable motives at every turn.

A spinoff of sorts from the 2005 revival of Doctor Who – the name is,of course, an anagram of its parent show’s name – Torchwood was an altogether darker, more existentially-troubled creature, aimed at a much older audience.

Airing 4 series between 2006 and 2011, Torchwood‘s team was an expansive one at first, made up of the irrepressibly gungho and reckless Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), whose bisexuality was telegraphed well in advance in a show where sexuality was fluid and the ethic of fighting bad guys even more so, his right hand man (and sometime lover) Ianto Jones (Gareth David Lloyd), Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) and Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori), and of course, new fresh-eyes recruit, through who we saw this strange and hidden world, Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles).

As is the way when you’re fighting menacing forces from the galactic beyond, and your own inner demons, often at the same time, there were casualties – SPOILER AHEAD! – and by the end of the TV series, only Captain Jack and Gwen were left extant.

Sadly alas the series was not, its final series, a UK/US joint production, a long drawn out shadow of its former deep thinking self.

That, it seemed was that for this most bleak, and yet rewarding of series, which featured one of the most touching episodes I have ever had the privilege to watch on any TV show (season 1’s “Captain Jack Harkness”).

 

 

But just like Captain Jack, whose immortality ensured he never really died (although he came close once or twice) , Torchwood never really dies, and now it’s back thanks to Big Finish, which has just released the first in an audio series of adventures, “The Conspiracy” which finds the Earth potentially ruled by giant alien lizards.

This first Captain Jack-centric adventure will be followed, notes Den of Geek, by quite a few other stories, in which beloved team members will feature:

“October 2015 will see Torchwood: Fall to Earth, starring Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto Jones. In November, we’ll get Torchwood: Forgotten Lives with Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper and Kai Owen as Rhys Williams. We’ve also been promised three more adventures, which we don’t know much about just yet.”

Even more happily, which is an odd word to use in an article about a series that knew next to little of this untroubled state, a second series has been announced, due for release from March 2016 onwards.

So while they may slipped off our TV screens for the moment, and possibly for good, Torchwood and its intrepid team fight on and we, if not the Earth which will continue to be safe form alien threat, are all the better for it.

 

Let your inner Charlie Brown walk free: Promo web app “Peanutize Me” turns you into a Peanuts character

(image via YouTube (c) The Peanuts Movie)
(image via YouTube (c) The Peanuts Movie)

 

Who hasn’t read Charles Schulz masterfully-written, warmly-engaging and cleverly-insightful comic strip Peanuts and wished they could somehow step into its ink-defined panels?

Have you ever wanted to lean on Schroeder’s piano, like Lucy does, and ponder the meaning of life, the universe and as much of everything as a child can manage?

Or dashed through the skies with Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel in full get-the-Red Baron mode?

Or even thought wouldn’t it be great to be Charlie Brown and finally kick that football – as if Lucy would actually let you – or talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl, or wondered what it would be like to wait with Linus Van Pelt in the pumpkin patch on Halloween for The Great Pumpkin?

If you have, and c’mon we all have at one point or another, then have the makers of the upcoming The Peanuts Movie got a brilliant web-based app for you!

If you go to PeanutizeMe, this fun app lets you, and anyone you know, turns themselves into a Peanuts-like character, ready to take on a richly hand drawn world that has entranced people for decades.

OK, you may not ever get to kick the football, but you’ll at least look like someone who’ll give it a go, and in the world of Charlie Brown where trying, if not execution, is everything, that’s pretty much all you can ask for.

The Peanuts Movie opens on 6 November 2015 in USA and 26 December in Australia … but PeanutizeMe is waiting for you now.

 

A perfectly funny show just got better: Bill Hader joins Brooklyn Nine-Nine

(image courtesy Fox)
(image courtesy Fox)

 

One of the most enjoyable ensemble sitcoms to come along in some years has been the Andy Samberg-starring Brooklyn Nine-Nine, set in the eponymous police precinct in Brooklyn, New York.

What’s set it apart from the slew of half-baked sitcoms that come and go each season, and even some of the ones that have stuck around such as 2 Broke Girls is that, occasional minor quality fluctuations aside, it marries witty scripts, inspired comic acting and a fully-formed sense of place to hilarious effect.

It is actually funny and intelligent all at once, a rare feat where sitcoms, Frasier, Parks and Recreation and Community aside (to name a few), rarely manage to combine the two with any effectiveness.

And now its back for a third season with everything in flux, as Christian Post so eloquently makes clear:

“Season 3 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has poor Jake (Andy Samberg) coming to terms with the transfer of his ‘father figure’ Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher). Seth Dozerman (Bill Hader) is now the new precinct captain, though a temporary replacement. He has a new motto that he thinks will work at the 99th precinct – “efficiency, efficiency, efficiency,” Clearly, Dozerman seems to have his foot in his mouth and is a complete antithesis to the calm and collected Captain Holt.

Season 2 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine left viewers on a bend. Captain Holt was totally manipulated and promoted to the PR department from the 99th precinct by rival Madeline Wuntch, played by Kyra Sedgwick. Gina (Chelsea Peretti), of course, follows Captain Holt to the PR department. The new captain does not get along with the 99 precinct. Jake and Amy (Melissa Fumero) finally kiss in the car at the end of Season 2 leaving viewers with wanting more of their romance.”

Yes indeed, that and how good old Captain Holt and Jake Peralta will find a way to best Wuntch, played with delicious, tartly-worded Bond villainry by Kyra Sedgwick.

Outwitting guns at ten paces, people!

But as this new clip shows brilliantly, much of the initial comic momentum is going to come from the relationship between Jake and temporary captain Seth Dozerman, played superbly by Bill Hader, who in my eyes can do no wrong.

That alone will make it more than worth tuning in for season 3 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine which returns 27 September.