At one point we must all confront the fact that our best days could well be behind us.
That’s not necessarily the case of course, but the reckoning must be dealt with nonetheless; in the case of the “It” monster who appeared in a series of movies by Cosmic Pictures where he devoured a succession of world cities, it’s a none too pleasant experience and scarily close to the truth.
Told by his agent, that there’s no place for dinosaurs like them in the modern world of moviemaking – the Godzilla Monster, who watches as his fellow scary beasties like Mothra (cue the fabulous Variety obit) fall by the wayside left and ride from irrelevancy and old age, must confront the fact that his city-destroying days may well be behind him.
Save for smaller scale recreations in the bath and re-watching the movies on TV, of course.
This delightful short film by Harry Chaskin, who wrote, directed and animated this marvellous effort, bravely and poignantly confronts the passing of time and the loss of sense of purpose and relevancy that often comes with it.
It’s touching and meaningful, the stop-motion animation is beautiful and it’s worth investing your time in some rewarding reflective viewing.
There is already a distinct of otherness about Tommi Grayson, way before the transformative (literal and otherwise) experiences of Who’s Afraid?, the impressive debut novel by Maria Lewis, take hold.
Hers is clearly an identity forged in the fires of exclusion, of not quite fitting in growing up, of marching to the beat of a drum so different and outside the norm that not even she is quite sure what it sounds like exactly.
All she knows is that she is different, boundaries ill-defined, and it finds vibrant expression in her electric-blue hair, her eclectic fashion choices, her burgeoning career as a curator of art exhibitions, her near-lifelong practising of Muay Thai and her jaunty, oneliner-heavy ability to speak her mind.
Her expression of this sense of self, which Who’s Afraid? reveals to be known and unknown all at once, is worn defiantly; not militantly or aggressively but simply expressed with the strong assurance of someone who long ago accepted she was not going to slip nicely and neatly into the mainstream and set about defending who she was against those who thought she should.
It’s this assured sense of self that leaves her at least somewhat prepared for the profoundly disruptive revelations she encounters; given the fantastical nature of these revelations, which lie well outside anyone’s normal life experiences, save for those who inhabit this otherworldly place that lies within and around our own, there is no way she can be wholly prepared, and she most certainly isn’t.
Lewis captures Tommi’s sense of dislocation perfectly, adroitly describing the kind of deeply unsettling change that results when something unknowable about yourself, that lies just out of range and focus, suddenly snaps into view and you know without a shadow of doubt who you are and why you do the things you do.
In one sense it’s welcome since you truly know who and what you are, but as Tommi discovers it can also prove destructive to everything you’ve known up to that point.
This seismic upsetting of Tommi’s applecart, which follows a trip to Rotorua, New Zealand to see if she can find out anything more about the Maori father she never knew after her mother fled the country for an obscure life in Dundee, Scotland, is rendered graphically and yet knowingly, the slow tipping from fear and uncertainty to the sense that everything is about to change dramatically rendered in ways that leave you gasping for breath almost as much as Tommi.
Lewis has managed the seemingly impossible with Who’s Afraid?, balancing the everyday and the supernatural, the day-to-day world of going to work, paying bills and nights on the town with close friends with revelations that there is far more out there for Tommi than she might have dared imagine.
The world building is so well done it almost seems to be spring fully-formed from the page – Dundee Scotland and Tommi’s life there comes effortlessly alive in all its glory almost immediately, leaving you feeling as if you have known her and her close friends Mari, Kane and Joss for years, not simply pages.
So too does the new world she encounters, one represented by Lorcan who seems to know more and have seen more than his 27 years on this world could possibly have allowed for.
Lewis has clearly put a great deal of thought into who Tommi and all the characters are, the kinds of lives they lead and the worlds they inhabit, so much so that everything is richly alive from the word go.
Having places and people so well-realised means that you care about what happens to them deeply; unlike some urban fantasy novels where the characters are sketched in just enough to keep the narrative galloping merrily along, Who’s Afraid? takes the time to make everything matter so that the narrative is propelled by the characters, rather than leaving them hanging on grimly for the ride.
Defining the characters so well also means that many of the relational twists and turns that fill the book don’t impede the story but add richness and vitality to it; they are, in effect vital elements of it and you never for a second feel as if this conversation or that heartfelt moment is holding things up at all.
In fact were they not there, the book would be poorer for it.
Lewis also displays a strong grasp of writing the more action-oriented scenes too. So intensely and viscerally written are they, and so invested with the emotional responses of the participants, that you feel every muscle flex, every blow land, every fatal strike do its life-ending damage. There is a strong sense that you are in the mix with these people, particularly Tommi, whose every breath, rush of blood and adrenaline-fuelled move is felt in every bone-crunching, soul-crushing detail.
It’s a rare thing indeed for any writer to be as adept at writing intimate character moments as large scale action tableaus but Lewis does both beautifully, investing Who’s Afraid? with an immersive, well-rounded feel.
You never feel at any point like you’re waiting for a particular scene to be over so you can move onto something better; every word, every scene, every crisply-written sparkling line of dialogue (which is all of it; the dialogue, as with so much of this book, is uniformly good) matters, and you want to savour it all, every last step of Tommi’s unexpected, fantastical journey, regardless of where it takes her.
And Who’s Afraid? takes you to some amazing places, both around the world and within Tommi herself, in a brilliantly well-told tale of what happens when that sneaking sense that there’s more to you and your world than is immediately obvious comes graphically into play, and you’re left with the choice to either run with it or fall beneath its oncoming might, come what may.
If you’ve been paying keen attention since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the newest addition to the venerable sci-fi franchise’s canon which has naturally does blockbuster business, you will have noticed that many talented artists have paid their own highly-original touching tributes to the much-loved film saga.
Among them is Florida-based illustrator and artist James Hance who has winningly combined Winnie the Pooh and Star Wars to heartwarmingly-perfect effect.
Winnie the Pooh or Winnie the Chew as he known in this delightful mash-up joins Eeyore as an Imperial Walkers, Kanga as a Tauntaun and Piglet as R2-D2 in a story that has also been released as an audio book.
There is one of those rare tracks that immediately, and I mean immediately elevates you somewhere else entirely almost immediately.
Jasia, better known as 18 year old Josiah Willows to his family, has crafted pop so beautiful, so extraordinary moving and so ethereal that are drawn into a dreamy world full of what Backyard Opera perfectly calls a “melted ice cream, swing-pushing-itself kind of vibe.”
Drawing on a multi-instrumental, enormously talented base, the classically-trained vocalist, violinist and guitarist has wrought in “Inverbatim”, a lush, sprawling synthesised landscape of inexpressible beauty, a transportive, near-meditative journey into all those perfect, exquisitely places in our soul that we suspect are there but never get to see.
It’s like standing in an sonically-charged cathedral and having melodies without number wrap themselves languidly and seductively around you, a balm for the soul that even at 5:30 is far too short.
Want to stay perpetually in paradise? Just hit repeat.
If only the actual news was this pleasing to the ears.
Well, musically at least.
Because The Walking Sticks, a Washington DC-based band made up of singer Chelsea Lee, and hip hop instrumentalists (and twin brothers) Spencer and Max Ernst, have pulled off that rare trick of wrapping darkness inside light with “The News”, giving us a song of immense melodic beauty augmented by Lee’s impossibly gorgeous vocals that sings of the end of a relationship and the way you move on.
It’s a “spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” that is soothing and lovely despite the darker subject matter that somehow seems able to be dealt with in this context.
And as the band observed, the song and lyrics fed off each other to craft the song:
“We wrote the music to “The News” first. There was a lot of tension between the strings and guitar, and power there. It felt like the climactic ending to a destructive relationship. These lyrics described that feeling for us – ‘I heard the news, he’s gone. Here’s what you do move on.'” (source: Paste)
Moving on is never easy but perhaps made a little easier by a song as ineffably delightful as this one.
“Mauri” by Fran Seven is one of those vast, sprawling and yet deeply intimate, instrumental tracks that you can happily lose yourself in almost entirely.
With notes hanging on and on far beyond their natural sonic lifespan and an insistent beat kicking determinedly in after the initial sparse but beautiful opening bars, the track by Amsterdam-based Dutch was released as part of label Atomnation’s #ATMCO2, a compilation of the best of 2015’s tracks from their artists.
Listening to “Mauri” you can help but feel as if you are being pulled ceaselessly and yet blissfully across lands that stretch from horizon to horizon, and oceans without end, passing people, places, things on an endless journey through time, space and a thousand stops inbetween.
This is immersive music that will not easily let you go and frankly you won’t ever want it to, willing the musical journey to carry on forever if possible.
There is a brooding intensity to “Figurine”, the first single by Danish singer/songwriter Baby Blood aka Lucy Love, that arrests the senses on just about every level.
Moody vocals, a slurring, dark but attractive melody that wraps itself around the lyrics like a snake around prey and seductive barely-whispered spoken word interplays combine to dramatic effect in a song that isn’t so much listened to as experienced.
It’s music best suited to languorous late nights where the mood is one of quiet but rigorous reflection and you’re leaning back with close friends pondering life in the sort of deeply meaningful way that only seems to happen in the early hours of the morning.
It’s a gripping, anthemic song that augurs well for a career spent making thoughtful, intelligent pop.
With breathy ethereal vocals that seem to waft all around you from no direction in particular, “Portrait” by New York state-based band Breakfast In Fur, is a study in measured musicality that doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere.
And that’s a good thing since it’s the kind of pop that begs to be listened to when you have all the time in the world, and can take in the thoughtful lyrics and meandering melody.
Founded by friends musician Dan Wolfe and singer Kaitlin Van Pelt, and fleshed out by guitarist Mike Hollis and drummer Chris Walker, Breakfast in Fur seem adept at creating pop that is reflective, broody and thoroughly engaging.
It’s the latest track to be released from their 3 February release Flyaway Garden which promises more of this richly-imaginative, contemplative pop.
Want to think about life to a great soundtrack? “Portrait” is your song.
NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!
Love is a beautiful thing – that pretty goes without saying (but you’ll notice we said it anyway).
Mutemath have captured the intensity and devotion of love in their song “Monument” which speaks of the great need you have when you find that perfect someone to create a celebration of everything you love about them.
If you have a relationship that stands the test of time, like Charles “Lala” Evans who features in the clip and whose wife died just days before their 60th wedding anniversary, prompting him to turn their home into a museum to his beloved – he was featured on Ellen recently and was moving and charming in equal measure – it happens naturally, everyday becoming a monument to how much they mean to you.
This is a beautifully upbeat song with a deeply poignant clip that can’t help but touch you and make you fall in love with love all over again.
A zombie outbreak has fallen upon the land in Jane Austen’s classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England. Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) is a master of martial arts and weaponry and the handsome Mr. Darcy (Sam Reilly) is a fierce zombie killer, yet the epitome of upper class prejudice. As the zombie outbreak intensifies, they must swallow their pride and join forces on the blood-soaked battlefield. (official synopsis via Coming Soon)
“My daughters,” intones Mr Bennett to an eager suitor enquiring after their domestic skills, “are trained for battle, not the kitchen.”
And so is set the template for the movie adaptation of Seth Graham-Smith’s Jane Austen mash-up Pride Prejudice and Zombies which neatly blends Austen’s unorthodox, gently satricial take on the mores of nineteenth-centre upper crust English romance with the far more modern obsession with undead apocalypses.
The sheer inventiveness of the book looks to have been captured perfectly in its cinematic companion with the Bennet women more than capable thank you very much of looking after themselves, both on and off the battlefield.
What makes this new trailer so damn enjoyable is the way it shows each and every Bennet sister, all of whom would make a fine catch for any man looking to fend off the undead, going hard at it without a curl out of place and only the merest of disruptions to a tightly-set bodice.
These ladies know what they’re doing and if you’re zombie, you would do well to get out of their way and fast.
If you’re a potential suitor, do not, by an means, underestimate the Bennets – raised for battle, they are instinctive warriors far more apt to do the saving than need saving themselves.
Mr Darcy you have been so warned.
Pride Prejudice and Zombies opens in USA 5 February 2016 and Australia 25 February.
Beloved pop culture properties like Bugs Bunny, Star Wars and Scooby Doo are beloved for a very good reason – there’s a lot to like about them.
In the case of Scooby Doo, one of Hanna-Barbera’s most enduring set of characters, the gang from the Mystery Van, whose best known member is the goofy, easily-scared eponymous canine, there’s the slapstick silliness of Shaggy and Scooby, the insight and intelligence of Velma, the over-the-top, predictable plots and the melodramatic scares.
And that’s just for starters.
So given all the nostalgic loving, you play around with beloved icons like Scooby Doo at your peril; and to be honest it usually doesn’t end well as a little-mourned series of TV series-to-movies shows only too well.
But as Den of Geekpoints out, sometimes it comes out very well indeed.
They note that Be Cool, Scooby Doo, is a welcome iteration of the show precisely because it keeps what everyone loves about the characters and the mysterious places they go, but dares to break new ground and bring some freshness and creativity into what is by anyone’s estimation a tried-and-true, well-tested format.
It’s so good in fact that it’s best incarnation of Scooby and the gang to come along in years.
“Be Cool, Scooby-Doo isn’t an unreconstructed iteration of the cartoon but it’s infinitely more knowing than previous series. Mystery Incorporated had a couple of winks to the audience but, for the most part, it just stuffed each adventure with as many pop culture references as possible in the vain hope of seeming up to the minute. Be Cool, Scooby-Doo doesn’t need to fall back on naff puns or dated references to contemporize Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Fred and Daphne – it can rely squarely on its humour.”
And as for the style of animation, well that works too, despite some early criticism that the characters look considerably different.
“Something has to be said about the animation, which has had its fair share of criticism since early artwork materialised on the web. Admittedly, the graphics do initially look more than a little crude but after about two episodes, you stop noticing. The style of animation is entirely in keeping with Be Cool, Scooby-Doo’s brand of humour and confidence. Just because it doesn’t look like previous incarnations of Scooby-Doo doesn’t mean it’s bad, and it’s akin to the likes of Gravity Falls and Adventure Time, two similar shows lauded for similar reasons. There’s no point judging a book by its cover or a cartoon by its animation and here the bright and stripped-back visuals fit the modern styling like a glove.”
Granted it doesn’t re-invent the wheel but then why would you do that?
Be Cool, Scooby Doo recognises that keeping what audiences love but playing around and having some fun with it can really pay dividends, and inject life into a show that has been around in various guises since 1969.
If it keeps characters we love on the air, and we do love them dearly, and gives us something fresh and fun to watch into the bargain, then it’s to be welcomed, watched and loved all over again.
So grab yourself some Scooby Snacks, don’t be constrained by wanton, mindless nostalgia and let yourself enjoy Scooby for the 21st Century.
SNAPSHOT ANIMALS focuses on the downtrodden creatures native to Earth’s least-habitable environment: New York City. Whether it’s lovelorn rats, gender-questioning pigeons or aging bedbugs in the midst of a midlife crisis, the awkward small talk, moral ambiguity and existential woes of non-human urbanites prove startlingly similar to our own. (official synopsis via and (c) Indiewire)
Horses are the engine of the New York economy? Teenage male flies with a penchant for female flies in skimpy lingerie? Pigeons, well being pigeons?
There’s so much to love in just this 45 second snippet of Animals, an adult comedy show from the Duplass Brothers (Togetherness) that combines the charm of Aardman’s Creature Comforts with an amusingly gritty look at life in a big city where the animals are doing it as tough as the rest of us.
Picked up by HBO for a two season deal after the first two episodes of the series were shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, Animals is channelling a little bit of Bojack Horseman, albeit from completely the other end of the socio-economic spectrum.
There looks to be some incisive social commentary and deadpan wit in display and with the likes of Adam Scott, Ellie Kemper, Aziz Ansari and Wanda Sykes providing entertaining vocal work, Animals looks like it will be another HBO show worth laughing at and thinking about.
After all, deep down we’re all animals right? This show just proves it.
Animals premieres 11.30pm on 5 February 2016 on HBO.
A young man reconciles ancient tradition with the modern, urban world in this debut feature from Stephen Page, artistic director of Australia’s renowned Bangarra Dance Theatre.This visually arresting film may be Stephen Page’s directorial debut, but Page is no stranger to the telling of stories through movement and images. As artistic director of the world- renowned Bangarra Dance Theatre, he has spent over twenty years interpreting the stories of Indigenous Australians for global stages. Now Page brings Bangarra’s outstanding dance work SPEAR to the screen. (synopsis via Cinema Australia)
Being caught between two worlds is never easy.
You are constantly caught in an emotional tug-of-war with both parts of your existence demanding allegiance and attention and refusing to accept a phoned-in part-time presence.
The end result for most people? A sense that you don’t belong in either world and a sense of apathy, disconnection and disillusionment.
That’s the theme of Stephen Page’s debut Australian feature film, based on a breathtakingly imaginative 37 minute dance performance (part of the Skin double bill from 2000) by the famed Bangarra Dance Theatre.
Its translation to a near-wordless, considerably-lengthened film is stunning, visually immersive and beautiful, every bit about the emotions as the deeply-involving story.
“Descriptions of Spear, a strange and beautiful beast adapted from work developed by Sydney’s Bangarra Dance Theatre, will suggest a film that is, God forbid, unique – a word almost entirely extinguished from the cinematic lexicon.
“The prophecy is true: what a spectacular achievement; what a strikingly original piece of work.”
And original it is, a meaningful piece of artistry that is definitely worth catching.
Spear premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival in October 2015 and is available in various formats for downloading and viewing.
First appearing in Brooke Nicholls’ 1933 book Jacko – The Broadcasting Kookaburra, Blinky Bill was the creation of Dorothy Wall who conjured up a young, feisty anthropomorphic koala who did everything a young boy such as I was then wanted to do.
He had a bunch of wonderful friends – Splodge the kangaroo, Flap the platypus, Marcia the marsupial mouse, and good old Mr Wombat aka Wombo (Blinky’s name for him) who acted as the Mr Miyagi of the books – a loving mother and sweet adopted sister Nutsy, and grand adventures in the Australian bush that had danger and fun in equal measure.
It was hard not to fall in love with a character like that who got to do amazing things, get into scrapes and escape from them in the nick of time, lesson hopefully learned, who learnt life lessons, albeit grudgingly sometimes, as he did things that any kid would do.
In that respect, Wall captured childhood perfectly; specifically what an Aussie childhood could be like.
Granted, we didn’t all go running through the bushland, go to fairs with a riot of produce on sale or run away from home, have conversations with snakes or Willie Wagtails (a bird) but we did push things a little too far in our learning about the world, become friends with people who weren’t he best fit for us or influence on us, and delighted and exasperated our mothers in equal measure.
In that respect, Blinky was a typical kid and even as I read his adventures – I was lucky enough to have parents who loved reading and so The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill became, with so many other books, a staple in our home – some 30 plus years after Wall had first published Blinky’s tales in his own books (which by the way have never been out of print), I couldn’t help but identify with the remarkable young little koala boy.
I was never as naughty as he, of course – as the eldest child in a Baptist minister’s family I was the personification of well-behaved; well mostly, let’s not get carried away – and lived vicariously through his excursions into places he really shouldn’t go and with people he really shouldn’t be with.
But he was loved with Mrs Koala being the best mother a young “rab” could have, and at the end of the day, at the tail end of all the big adventures, home was where Blinky ended up and where he belonged, even if like all kids, he didn’t always appreciate that.
What I also loved about Blinky Bill were the conservation messages embedded into every story.
It was unusual at the time I guess since the 1930s were hardly a hotbed of radical thought and deed as far as preserving the planet was concerned but it spoke to Wall’s love of Australia and things like “the bush” (the gum forests) and the animals that made it so distinctive.
In common with many Aussie writers, such as poet Dorothea Mackellar who penned the immortal ode to Australia My Country with its well-known line “I love a sunburnt country”, Wall a patriot in the original, untarnished definition of the word.
She loved Australia, loved its unusual plants and animals, its rugged landscapes and wanted to reflect what it meant to be an Aussie, and most particularly an Aussie kid.
Hand in hand though with that, she wanted to make it clear that you couldn’t just take it for granted that all this unique wonder would be around forever; care had to be taken with it or it would be lost and so in books like Blinky Bill: The Quaint Little Australian and Blinky Bill Grows Up, she told stories that emphasised how important a world Blinky, his beloved mother and his friends occupied.
As a budding conservationist who loved the books of Gerald Durrell and fretted at the way we were treating our planet and especially the part of it I lived on – Australia has sadly one of the highest mammal extinction rates of pretty much anywhere on the planet – Blinky Bill spoke to me about the need to preserve the Australia natural landscape so Blinky and his fellow animals would always have somewhere to call home.
In a sense Blinky Bill and I grew up together.
The red-covered book of his complete adventures rarely left my grip and even as I got older, much, much older, I kept it close and it remains one of my most treasured possessions to this day.
And yes, even as Blinky Bill, as the trailer above makes clear, has kept pace with the modern world and begat all kinds of TV series and movies, something I dearly welcome given how important it is that he keep discovered by each generation of Aussie kids, I always remember the young koala bear and his adventures as Doroth Wall wrote and illustrated them, and how much they meant to me growing up and how they defined what it meant, even as a young boy, to be Australian.