Halloween movie review: Crimson Peak

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

 

It is impossible to watch Guillermo del Toro’s latest gothic horror masterpiece, Crimson Peak, without wondering if there is more to be feared from the living than the dead.

It is a question that Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), would have more cause to muse on than most, after her whirlwind romance with Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a Baronet from England with little money but high hopes of making his fortune from clay mining, turns out to be less about love than other more base desires.

Swept off her feet by a man who raises more red flags than a matador in full flight – both Edith’s doting father Carter (Jim Beaver) and her best friend and would-be suitor Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) warn her against pursuing the romance – budding-author Edith is convinced that Thomas is the man of her dreams and won’t hear a bad word against him.

Their path to the altar however is not an easy one and after a series of tragedies that leave Edith clinging to Thomas for dear life – ironic given how much of the world he and his disapproving sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) exist in is defined by death rather than life – she leaves for England and what she hopes will be a new life, free from sadness and pain.

But ah, when is life ever that simple, especially in the films of del Toro who specialises in exposing the propensity of humanity’s dark side to twist life into all sorts of grotesque, unwelcome forms?

Edith soon discovers that the ghosts she has been seeing since she was a little girl – her first contact with the restless members of the afterlife was with her dead mother who appeared to her in a screaming rush of flowing black, not once but twice, warning her against “Crimson Peak” – should have been heeded rather than cowered from in fear.

 

 

Although to be fair, while the ghosts don’t necessarily dominate proceedings – far more insidious is the dark intent and darker still actions of Tom and Lucille whose home Allerdale Hall sits on clay deposits that routinely turn the snow blood red each winter – they are frightening when they do appear, and you can’t blame Edith from running from them rather than listening to them.

Covered more often than not in scarlet red blood and communicating either in spine-tingling screams, their decayed, hideous forms are the true stuff of nightmares, and del Toro uses them effectively not so much to elicit frights, although they do that and more, but to graphically highlight that something is very wrong in the world of Thomas and Lucille Sharpe.

The slow build-up to the big reveal is magnificently orchestrated by del Toro who, in keeping with the intelligence, economy of narrative and elegance of his work, meticulously layers insight after insight, discovery after discovery on top of each other until a picture so frightening emerges that you can well understand why Edith contemplates running away from her new life through the snow in bare feet and a nightgown.

It’s this slow burn, punctuated by moments of true heart-stopping terror that draws you into Crimson Peak and doesn’t let you escape until the bloody finale has played itself out to every last drop.

The genius of the film is that the horror, such as it is, serves the greater needs of the plot rather than the other way around.

The ghosts, though eminently noticeable, impossible to ignore, and of course, suitably terrifying, are servants to the greater lessons of the story which is that appearances can be quite gruesomely and life-endingly deceiving.

Lest this sound far too black and white a theme, del Toro is careful to make that the characters in the film, particularly Thomas and Lucille, are far more layered than you might expect in a horror film.

There is nothing Bond villain-esque about these two – they are desperately sad, flawed people who have endured lives of incalculable, twisted misery and insufficient love, and have reacted accordingly, though not, at least in the case of Thomas, with the singularity of evil intent that lesser films would be content to dwell on.

 

 

As with Edith, who reacts in terror as any sane person would, but who is also possessed of courage and a willingness to fight for what she believes in, including her own life if needs be, Thomas is wrought in richly textured, all too human layers that speak to the potential for darkness and light in all of us.

It’s this willingness to forgo cartoon horror villainy and discuss instead the supremely flawed nature of humanity that grants Crimson Peak much of its satisfying richness.

The film is less about the perils and threat of the afterworld and more about the very real dangers inherent in the here and now and the way the living and the dead are inextricably linked.

Scary though it undoubtedly is at times, Crimson Park is, like many of del Toro’s films, a wise and revealing commentary on the state of the human condition wrapped in a breathtakingly beautifully-wrought and edge-of-your-seat gothic thriller than looks every bit as lush and enticing, thanks to the cinematographic work of Dan Laustsen, as it is dark and utterly, mesmerisingly engaging.

 

 

 

Halloween short: Dream a little dream of Freddy Krueger

(image via YouTube (c) Freddy Krueger)
(image via YouTube (c) Freddy Krueger)

 

OK so here’s two things you don’t usually see together – Freddy Krueger from the  A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and 1931 song “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, recorded by among many others Mama Cass Elliot of The Mamas and the Papas.

But in this highly entertaining number from Glover and Boots on YouTube, who specialise in brilliantly-made puppet glove stories, Mario eats way too much junk food and discovers to his initial fright, that all that over-indulgence leads to a musically-inclined Freddy Krueger singing a twist on the timeless song.

It all looks everything will go Krueger’s way until Mario decides that perhaps the solution to having too much junk food is, naturally enough, to have some more.

And it all leads to a most unexpected outcome.

But shhh keep that on the down low – we don’t want to ruin Krueger’s nightmare street cred now do we?

 

Now this is music #57: Max and the Moon, Postiljonen, Cheat Codes, Lost Kings, Philco Fiction

Now this is music 57 MAIN

Light and dark.

They go together more often than we’d like to admit in life, the melancholic sitting cheek-by-jowl with the ecstatic, and so it makes perfect sense that it would find expression in music.

The five bands and duos features know this lesson of life well and have distilled it with ease into five songs that speak of life’s less than ideal than moments but marry with the kind of music that suggest hope and a sense that all is not lost.

It may not quite be a case of life got you down, get up and boogie but it’s close and really that’s all you need.

 

“Actor” by Max and the Moon

 

Max and the Moon (image via official Max and the Moon Facebook page)
Max and the Moon (image via official Max and the Moon Facebook page)

 

“Actor” kicks off with the jauntiest of musical openings, an effervescent piece of pop from the SoCal indie band with some less than giddily happy lyrics about the way life doesn’t always play out in the way you think it will.

It asks the question over and over as it recounts failed thespian dreams and way too much alcohol at one too many parties “Who do you want to be?”

Fairly strong lyrics, laced with a little sarcastic criticism, that marry perfectly with the guitar-driven upbeat melody, a pleasing marriage of light and dark at which pop excels if its allowed to do so.

This is somewhat of a departure for the band but a pleasing one, a radio-friendly song that doesn’t surrender its soul in the search for more airplay.

 

 

“Go!” by Postiljonen

 

Postiljonen (Photo by @stiansmollerfoto via official Postiljonen Facebook page)
Postiljonen (Photo by @stiansmollerfoto via official Postiljonen Facebook page)

 

There is a fantastic urgent energy right out the gate from “Go!” which kicks it into high gear and doesn’t slow for a second throughout its 3 1/2 running time.

Postiljonen, a shimmering lush pop three piece from Sweden, deliver each and every utterance of “Go!” as if their lives depends on it, the almost-pleading vocals and high-energy soaring music perfectly encapsulating the song’s message, according to the band, of doing something, anything rather than just sitting there when life backs you into a corner:

“There are times when you feel stuck, trapped, without a clue of what to do. Wherever you are in life, in whatever place or age, you need a little kick to release yourself, take your life back. You can do whatever you want, you are beautiful. Remember our souls are burning with love and life, the road is in our hands, there is no other way out, just ‘Go!'”

The band is usually known for quieter fare but this song works, and works brilliantly, delivering a necessary dose of “get your ass moving!” to anyone who feels like life has stopped dead in its tracks, which at one point or another is pretty much all of us right?

 


“Adventure” by Cheat Codes

 

Cheat Codes (image via official Cheat Codes Facebook page)
Cheat Codes (image via official Cheat Codes Facebook page)

 

LA-based Cheat Codes, who take their name from the virally-circulated list of button combinations that let video games leap ahead in a video game, have crafted a dazzling cheery piece of pop in “Adventure” (produced by Evan Gartner) that begs for a departure form the endless pretense of not quite living out your dreams.

“All I want is an adventure
For the dreams in my head
Cause I’m tired of pretending
Give me something I won’t forget.”

But rather than place their wholly-understandable begging and pleading for something new and different into a dirge-like lament, they have chosen instead a delightfully bright piece of danceable pop that surges and swoops with gleeful intent throughout and suggest the look and feel of the very out-of-the-box outing they want to undertake.

They may not have quite got their adventure just yet but the synth-driven song suggests it can’t be too far off, with an airily optimistic vibe coursing through every bar of music and every thoughtful lyric.

 

 

“Bad feat. Jessame” by Lost Kings

 

Lost Kings (image via official Lost Kings Facebook page)
Lost Kings (image via official Lost Kings Facebook page)

 

Slip on your neo-disco dancing shoes all you John Travolta wanna-bes!

LA-based dance duo Lost Kings has delivered up a glorious piece of R&B-laced disco perfection in “Bad” than features the suitably summer-sultry vocals of Jessame.

And as YourEDM notes, it comes with the sort of joyous sensibility we’ve come to expect from this talented twosome:

“[‘Bad’] captures that quintessential “feel good” Lost Kings sound with smooth summer disco production in the form of synths and funky piano chords as well Jessame’s R&B inspired vocals.”

And even though the song is all about longing and love just out of reach, if it doesn’t quite work out there’s always some dancing which covers a multitude of broken dreams and frustrated hearts.

 

 

“Talk/Brag” by Philco Fiction

 

Philco Fiction (image via official Philco Fiction Facebook page)
Philco Fiction (image via official Philco Fiction Facebook page)

 

“Talk/Brag” starts off slowly with a slow-building intro and contemplative verses before breaking into poundingly-insistent choruses that declare with steely-eyed intent “‘I’m a lover, lover, lover. I’m a force. I’m a mother. And I’m never, never, never gonna let you down – leave you alone.'”

Lead singer of the Oslo, Norway-based band, Turid Alida’s vocals surge with a fervency that suggests she isn’t just singing the lyrics but living them out in every strongly-declared word.

In a piece on The Line of Best Fit, Philco Fiction talks about why the lyrics come with such urgency and meaning:

“We wanna talk about our place in this world. We wanna brag about our potential as human beings. Tell everyone we are here to love. Tell everyone we want a piece of it.”

Listening to this song, which dances between lingering melodic introspection and synth-heavy powerful moments of unstoppable energy, you are left in no doubt that this band means business.

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

There’s only 210 days to go until 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, which will be held in Stockholm, Sweden – start stocking on your glitter now! – and the UK is going all out to find a winning song!

The BBC has announced that it will conducting an open submission process where amateurs and professionals alike can submit an original song for consideration.

Budding songwriters and performers will also be able to submit their entry via OGAE, the UK branch of the world’s biggest Eurovision fan club, a songwriting competition run by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and through the British music industry itself.

So get writing people! There’s no time to waste.

Here’s the UK entry for this year’s Eurovision, Electro Velvet performing “Still in Love With You” …

 

 

Enya has announced she’ll be releasing her first new album in 7 years, Dark Sky Islands, on November 20 with lead single “Echoes In Rain”, the last song recorded for the album.

It features Enya’s trademark lush vocals, and richly-layered melodies, with Enya working longtime collaborators producer and sound engineer Nicky Ryan and lyricist Roma Ryan.

Asked why she’d left it so long to release a follow-up to 2008’s Christmas-themed And Winter Came …, she had this to say.

“I took a break. Because with [1988’s] Watermark going into [1991’s] Shepherd Moon, [1995’s] Memory of Trees, there’s a three-year gap but I was in the studio for the three years. I had little breaks, but it took three years to put each album together.”

It’s never easy waiting for one of your favourite artists to release new music but in this case, the long wait appears to have been worth it.

 

 

 

The Gilmore Girls are back! Where they lead, I will follow …

The cast of Gilmore Girls (image (c) Warner Bros)
The cast of Gilmore Girls (image (c) Warner Bros)

 

Gilmore Girls is, hands down, one of my favourite ever TV series.

It’s not simply the storybook setting of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, the engaging mother-daughter pairing of Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel), the fast-paced, witty, wordy (in the best possible sense) dialogue stuffed full of insightful, deftly-placed pop culture references, the opening song “Where You Lead” by Carole King, or the delightful supporting cast of characters which included handsome Luke (Scott Patterson) and the irrepressibly upbeat Sookie (Melissa McCarthy).

It’s the way all of these elements come so wonderfully together at the hands of talented creator and writer (with husband Daniel Palladino) Amy-Sherman-Palladino, as a fully-formed, perfectly-realise world that is substantial, intelligent, goofy, funny, touching, witty, soap operatic and yet meaningfully dramatic, and just plain charming.

 

 

And now, wordsmiths rejoice, IT’S BACK!

That’s right, my giddily fast-talking friends, Netflix has ridden to the rescue once again and will resurrect Gilmore Girls for four more 90 minute episodes set in the present day that will each occupy one season of the year.

And as Collider points out, there’s one very big reason why this news is an especially good development for fans of the show:

“Palladino returns to write and direct the entire run of revival episodes — a fantastic bit of news for fans who never got to see Palladino’s planned Gilmore Girls resolution when she stepped away from the series prior to the final season after a bout of conflict of contract negotiations with the studio.”

There was always a sense, for me at least, that the final season of the show, while still delightful in many ways, lack the verve and wit that its creator brought to the show – much like season 4 of Community with Dan Harmon – and didn’t quite finish in the fairytale manner everyone expected.

So this is a chance for everyone, Amy Sherman-Palladino most particularly, to wrap things up as they should have always been wrapped up, with pretty much the entire gang – sadly Richard Herrmann, who played patriarch Richard Gilmore passed away late last year – returning for the much-anticipated, and happily-awaited revival of the one show everyone wanted back.

 

 

 

The Walking Dead: “Thank You” (S6, E3 review)

Glenn is the central figure in "Thank You" as life and death both vie to claim him as their own (image courtesy AMC)
Glenn is the central figure in “Thank You” as life and death both vie to claim him as their own (image courtesy AMC)

 

* SPOILERS AHEAD … AS WELL AS MORE ZOMBIES THAN YOU SHELTER ON A DUMPSTER FROM *

 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in six seasons of The Walking Dead, and most particularly in last week’s gory attack on Alexandria, it’s that death and the apocalypse go together like inseparable twins.

Blood-soaked, nasty twins with a thoroughly disagreeable disposition, but twins nonetheless.

But even with this lesson well learned, and you be hard-pressed to take it in given how often characters, even major ones, messily shuffle off this mortal coil on the show, the death, or POSSIBLE, death of Glenn (Steven Yeun) in this week’s episode ” Thank You” was a shock.

Perhaps it was the fact that he was one of the original cast, around since episode 1 of the series “Days Gone By”, or that he was so there, so dependable, so seemingly indestructible that made his death almost unthinkable.

But there he was screaming, apparently caught under a now very dead Nicholas (Michael Traynor), who chose death by suicide from atop the dumpster where he and Glenn were both sheltering from the mother of all walker herds, not all that successfully, with his intestines going hither and yon and melancholy, ominous music playing.

He looked dead, or about to be, and it was certainly the intent of the episode’s writer, Angela Kang, showrunner Scott Gimple and director Michael Slovis to make us think he was no longer among the hard-pressed living.

And frankly even if Glenn had somehow managed to get coded in Nicholas’s entrails and pull off a Fool the Zombies With Blood and Gambit that he and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) mostly pulled off in “Guts (S1, E2) the odds of escaping a horde of zombies that massive is well nigh impossible you’d think.

So dead, yes but god in my heart, I don’t want him to be and I’m hoping that all the telltale clues that he might be alive turned out to be bang on the undead money.

 

Ah Nicholas - one man who clearly wasn't meant for the apocalypse (image via I'm With Geek (c) AMC)
Ah Nicholas – one man who clearly wasn’t meant for the apocalypse (image via I’m With Geek (c) AMC)

 

There was more going on in the episode than the “death” or death of Glenn granted but nothing had quite the same emotional impact.

Alexandrians dropped by the dozen it seemed, as Glenn and Michonne did their best to get them home.

Granted Rick created one or two teensey-weensy trust issues when he proclaimed to Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Glenn for all to hear, that if their new compatriots couldn’t hack the pace or the zombies, to leave them behind and get back to Dodge in a hurry.

But these were quickly quashed by the actions of these two stalwarts of Rick’s inner circle – one again, there’s every chance that both may STILL be in the circle – who put their lives on the live to save those Alexandrians who didn’t get ambushed by walkers, run off in a panic and get eaten by walkers and kill themselves and fall off a dumpster in the worst case of apocalyptic mosh diving EVER.

In fact, so gallant were the two that when Heath made a Big Thing of Michonne and Glenn not considering the Alexandrians as their own or people worth protecting, Michonne got more than a little pissed off.

In fact, monumentally, you-ain’t seen-the-horrors-I’ve-seen pissed off.

So emphatic was her displeasure that it shut Heath up good and proper, who later realised as he, Michonne and Scott (Kenric Green), a victim of panicked friendly fire, trudged back home covered in blood that everything she had said was TRUE.

I think we can consider that a lesson well learned.

Meanwhile Daryl (Norman Reedus) went AWOL, leaving Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) to their own devices herding a big ass bunch of walkers – the ones that hadn’t gone “Pretty truck horn! Prettttty truck horn!!”  the week before  anyway – ostensibly to find Rick who ended up being attacked by the very Wolves Morgan (Lennie James), the Overly Idealistic Pacifist had let go with a stern peace, love and mung beans warning after they butchered their way through Alexandria.

 

Rick plays a mean game of "Lifeboat" with the Alexandrians instructing Glenn and Michonne to not be sentimental with their new townsfolk, an instruction both quite roundly ignore (image via and (c) AMC)
Rick plays a mean game of “Lifeboat” with the Alexandrians instructing Glenn and Michonne to not be sentimental with their new townsfolk, an instruction both quite roundly ignore (image via and (c) AMC)

 

For all that action though what we got was a very measured, well-crafted and well-paced episode that tipped its hat to tropes past – Glenn’s use of the word “dumbass” to farewell Rick was the same used in episode 1 when they met; the use of entrails as the grottiest Halloween costume EVER – while slowly and surely building up to the big Glenn is dead/might be dead/ is it all wishful thinking he’s alive finale.

It certainly fit the pattern of The Walking Dead which has made an art of doing the whole whistling “nothing to see here, nothing to see here” narrative maneuvre, so we don’t think (but of course we do) that Something Bad is about to happen.

It’s in fact the episodes that don’t seem to be making a big deal of things that always lead to something really awful taking place.

Not that you could say that “Thank You” was a walk in the park storyline-wise – lots of people died and rather compelling life lessons were learned by the likes of heath – but it certainly was as high on the Reichter scale of OMFG-ness that the first episodes of the season had been.

It says much about the renewed sophisticated storytelling of this season that Scott Gimple & Co were able to pull the wool over our eyes and surprise us with such a shocking development when everything pointed to something like that happening.

Hopefully Glenn’s death is nothing but smoke and mirrors but we’ll have to wait at least 2 weeks to find out as next week’s episode looks like being Morgan’s great big moment in the backstory sun.

  • It looks we have a chance to get up close and personal with Alexandria’s resident pacifist Morgan in next week’s “Here Not Here” …

 

 

Run away! The aliens are coming to get you in Hunters

(image via Laughing Squid (c) Syfy)
(image via Laughing Squid (c) Syfy)

 

SNAPSHOT
From executive producers Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead, The Terminator trilogy) andNatalie Chaidez (12 Monkeys, Heroes), Hunters is inspired by Whitley Strieber’s best-selling novel, Alien Hunter, in which the disappearance of a decorated FBI agent’s wife leads him to a secret government unit assembled to hunt a group of ruthless terrorists – shadowy figures that may or may not be from this world.

The series stars Nathan Phillips (Wolf Creek) as Flynn, a headstrong Baltimore FBI agent with a dark past trying to piece together the disappearance of his wife. Britne Oldford (American Horror Story) will play Regan, who is one of the government’s most valuable operatives and may be keeping secrets of her own. Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck) portrays McCarthy, an unhinged junkie and Hunter cell leader.

If aliens attacking us in broad daylight from the skies in enormous spaceships isn’t bad enough, now they’re lurking among us, stealing bodies and doing goodness-knows-what with them.

Recalling the ill-fated series Dark Skies, in which aliens had infiltrated Earth and it became increasingly difficult to tell who was human and who was not, and hence who was friend or foe, Hunter gives a world in which aliens are kidnapping people, presumably as part of some grand plan to subvert humanity for their own nefarious ends.

Based on the book Alien Hunter by Whitley Strieber which is either unputdownable gripping fiction or a great big pile of inconceivable tosh depending on which review you read – and I’m guessing your tolerance for over the top plotting and pacing – the 13 episodes of Hunter season 1 are an addition to syfy’s programming of which they’re understandably quite pleased, according president Dave Howe:

“We were so impressed by the pilot script from this outstanding and accomplished creative team led by Gale Anne Hurd and Natalie Chaidez. This fast-paced and innovative story takes viewers inside a chilling yet all too familiar world. Adding Hunters to new series such as The Expanse, 12 Monkeys, and the miniseries Childhood’s End, provides us with a formidable lineup of diverse, high-end science fiction.” (Variety)

With people like The Walking Dead’s Gale Ann Hurd producing, the odds are good that Hunters will be less sensationalist fiction and more a thinking man’s alien invasion with a bit of blood-and-gore, shock-and-awe thrown in.

Hunters premieres April 2016 on syfy.

 

Movie review: Mistress America

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

 

People, by and large, are not a terribly self-aware bunch.

Sure they know what do they and don’t like in broad, abstract terms – chocolate vs. vanilla ice cream, beach holiday vs. the snow – and even on some deeper existential questions, but in general, many of us are too busy rushing hither-and-yon to really give any thought to the deeper questions of existence.

Tracy Fishko (Lola Kirke), newly installed freshman at a women’s liberal arts college in new York Cityand the protagonist in Noah Baumbach’s latest ode to fallible humanity, Mistress America,  is not one of those people.

Arriving at college with expectations of greatly expanded social circles, intense learning experiences and an almost mythological “New York experience”, she is at first disappointed that her big, new exciting life bears no resemblance to what she’d envisaged.

In a phone call to her mother (Kathryn Erbe), she bemoans the fact that she feels like a wallflower at a party where no one seems particularly interested in getting to know her; hers in not a passive complaint – she has tried and failed to engage with people her in dorm, her classes and by seeking membership of the Mobious Literary Society, all to no avail.

And then into her life walks, or rather, surges with palpable, highly-articulate life force Brooke (Greta Gerwig).

Tracy’s soon-to-be stepsister,Brooke seems to have everything her new baby sister does not – stylish, literate friends, an endless buffet of professional and personal possibilities, and the charm, personality and intellect to make the most of them.

Brooke, is in short, everything young, impressionable Tracy thinks she wants to be.

 

 

But as is the way with these things, appearances can be deceiving.

In short order, and after Tracy has fallen headlong in love with everything Brooke is, represents and does, the wheels start falling off this brash, exciting new vision of a perfectly-wrought New York future.

Rather than an unassailable, unalloyed success, it emerges that Brooke doesn’t have it together at all, and that all the balls she had in the air, the shiny harbingers of a perfect life in the offing, are in danger of falling to the ground in one calamitous heap.

To the of writer/director Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig who penned the wryly amusing, insightful and meditative/screwball inclined script, Tracy is not presented as an impressionable, guileless ingenue nor Brooke as a screw-up in shiny, pretty clothes with the gift of the gab.

Rather they skillfully draw out that both women are the products of their own rather imaginative self-perceptions, or lack thereof.

Brooke, far from being in touch with herself to the degree initially suggested, is in fact, a few moments of intense self-realisation aside, wildly blind to her own weaknesses of character and intent.

She is the quintessential all-talk-and-little-action stereotype, with grand plans for a TV show, a cabaret performance on Broadway and a restaurant that is pitched as something approaching heaven here on earth, such are its lofty ideals.

Tracy, interestingly, realises all this early on, choosing to set this inisght aside in favour of harnessing Brooke’s joie de vivre and energy to supplement her own life’s wan prospects and forward momentum.

So aware is she of the broken puppet strings behind Brooke’s facade of success, that she uses her new familial bestie as the template for a character in a short story that she hopes will finally gain her access to the hallowed Mobius Society

 

 

By the film’s end, any idea that Brooke has a lock on a successful life, and Tracy does not, have successfully, and at times, highly amusingly upended, with the former pretty much carrying on as before, despite the near miss of almost losing it all, and the latter effectively parlaying what’s observed and learnt into some major life changes.

What carries the film successfully is the immediate likability of both characters, despite some major flaws on both sides.

And Baumbach’s willingness to portray failure once again as simply a learning experience – or not, depending again on how self-aware you are – and not a death sentence, lends the film a relatable sense of humanity that engages you in a way that the initial pell-mell sense of two lives colliding may not suggest.

Mistress America also does a rather fetching dance between introspective self-awareness, or its lack, and screwball farce, shifting between the two in ways that are amusing and insightful in a very Woody Allen-esque way.

Both Brooke and Tracy are gifted with some particularly witty and insightful lines, and the chemistry between them is a delight to watch, regardless of whether in they’re in best friend or fractious enemies mode.

The supporting players too are a pleasure watch, most notably Tracy’s best friend at college Tony (Matthew Shear), his prone-to-jealous girlfriend Nicolette (Jasmine Cephas Jones), and Brooke’s social-climbing ex-best friend Maimi-Claire (Heather Lind), all of who get their chance to join in the self-aware/not-quite-self-aware “fun”.

In the end though, the barbed farce of Mistress America brings with it a reassurance that all of us entertain the lesser angels of our nature far too much for own good but that that’s not such a bad thing if we’re self-aware enough to do something worthwhile and life-changing with the fallout.

 

 

Talent that will not be denied: Trumbo defies censorship in new trailer

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

 

SNAPSHOT
The successful career of 1940s screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) comes to a crushing end when he and other Hollywood figures are blacklisted for their political beliefs. TRUMBO (directed by Jay Roach) tells the story of his fight against the U.S. government and studio bosses in a war over words and freedom, which entangled everyone in Hollywood from Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) and John Wayne to Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger. (official synopsis via Laughing Squid)

Standing up for what you believe is easy when there’s nothing really on the line.

But when you’re entire life could be torn asunder by taking a principled stand, then you really need to think long and hard about what you’re willing to give up to stand by what you believe.

In the case of Dalton Trumbo, caught up in the witches brew insanity of McCarthyist America, where communist enemies lie around every corner, under every bed and in every movie, holding true to his principles which see him blacklisted along with a great many other people in Hollywood and forbidden to work for 12 years, could come with a very high price indeed.

Of course, like anyone forced into a corner by an oppressive, irrational regime, he fights back behind his oppressors’ backs and figuratively right under their noses, secretly writing films like Roman Holiday and Spartacus while organising trenchant resistance to the prevailing powers of the day.

While Variety called the film that showcases his epic battle a “square, period-stiff homage” to the man and the era in which he lived, it nonetheless highlights an important principle – that refusing to bow down to small-minded, control freaks is never a wrong move since as Edmund Burke (possibly) said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

The film contains star turns from the likes of Bryan Cranston as the eponymous Trumbo, Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper and John Goodman as Frank King, Trumbo is a film ripe for Oscar glory that makes an important point and makes it in dramatically-rich style.

Trumbo opens in USA on 6 November 2015 and Canada 20 November 2015.

 

Think you know everything about Canada eh? Doco Being Canadian may make you reconsider

Being Canadian MAIN

 

Stereotypes are funny things.

Sure they allow pretty much everyone to get a handle on an issue, a person or an entire nation in record time, and yes, there are some elements of truth to them, but by and large, they’re not really all that accurate, and hence, not really that useful.

One man frustrated by the complete lack of accuracy when it comes to Canadian stereotypes is Robert Cohen, described by EW as “an Emmy-winning TV writer-(The Ben Stiller Show, The Big Bang Theory)-turned-director (Maron, Netflix’s upcoming Lady Dynamite) who grew up in Calgary”, who decided to do something about it.

The result? “Being Canadian” a documentary which draws on interviews with a host of well-known Canadians like Howie Mandel, Nathan Fillion, Cobie Smulders, Michael J. Fox, Alanis Morrisette, Seth Rogen and 40 Angry Mounties, and a coast-to-coast trip Cohen took to show Canada in all its great, and rarely-reported-correctly glory.

“I made the documentary because after literally decades of dealing with the same problems, I wanted to once and for all explain Us to Them, and make a visual user’s manual on Canadians. It really was trying to put an end to this pervasive problem that I and other Canadians had experienced.” (EW.com)

And what did he learn from his stereotype-busting trip across the country?

“What I ultimately learned that the country that I loved and was trying to defend so vigorously currently does not need my defense. Canada has just grown into such a super proud, effusive, patriotic country that is so confident about its value that it doesn’t need me defending it.” (EW.com)

And if you’re wondering what his top 10 peeves about the way Canadians view non-Canadians, you can check out his amusing list at EW.com.

Being Canadian is currently available to view on demand.

 

 

Stay between the lines: Games of Thrones and Outlander colouring books are on their way

(image via EW (c) Bantam)
(image via EW (c) Bantam)

 

In case you missed it, adult colouring books are IN.

With a host of benefits ranging from switching creative gears and the increased productivity that results to simply getting in touch with your inner child, lots of very grown up people including someone you probably know, are getting their coloured markers out and filling in-between the sophisticated patterned lines.

So it makes perfect sense that someone, in their infinite pop-culture loving wisdom, has decided that fans of the TV shows Game of Thrones and Outlander should have their own colouring books, to while away the hours between seasons, which in the new brave world of shorter seasons can be lengthy indeed.

The books, published by Bantam, will contain 45 black and white drawings each, giving you the chance to paint these two exquisitely-realised fictional worlds in any colour of your choosing.

In fact, Bantam urges you, in the case of the Game of Thrones colouring book at least, to imagine “a world where weddings are red, fire is green, and debts are paid in gold.”

Or purple, magenta and a nifty shade of red – your call.

Both books will be out on October 27 giving you just enough time to get your crayons primed.

 

Outlander (image via EW (c) Bantam)
Outlander (image via EW (c) Bantam)

 

Colouring books Game of Thrones 1

 

Game of Thrones (image via EW (c) Bantam)
Game of Thrones (image via EW (c) Bantam)