The steampunk wonder of April and Her Extraordinary World (Avril and le monde, truque)

(image via Rufftoon)
(image via Rufftoon)

 

SNAPSHOT
The plot of the film is the kind of slightly revisionist history that makes the mind tingle with delight. In this world, based on the world of graphic novelist Jacques Tardi, everything changed when Napoleon Bonaparte was killed before he became a famous world leader. His demise started a chain reaction where most of the scientific advancements we now know and use never happened. Electricity, television, telephones? Don’t exist. Instead everything is run on fossil fuels, which obviously has led to a very different world.

At the center of that is April, voiced by Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard, who has long had to fend for herself since her scientist parents were killed. Turns out, though, maybe that’s not exactly what happened and April’s search for truth in this steam-based world kicks off a globe-spanning adventure. (synopsis (c) io9)

Alternate histories, done well, are thing of wonder and thrilling (or terrifying) possibility.

They grant us a window and insight into our world via a mirror universe that is often the same in certain ways but also wholly different; we see how manifestly altered things might have been if a particular person had lived, or the opposing side had won the war, or a critically important invention had never come to be.

It opens up a mesmerising sweep of storytelling what-ifs and it’s in this creatively fertile place that April and her Extraordinary World (Avril et le monde truqué), a masterfully entrancing animated French film with steampunk sensibilities sits most perfectly.

In this alternate world, science was robbed of its power of advancement long ago, the world existing on far more basic industrial bases than it currently does and Avril is an orphan, mourning the loss of her scientist parents.

As Variety notes, this beautiful film is a beguiling mix of “downbeat reality [which] never advanced past the Industrial Revolution” that still somehow possesses an “imagination-tickling dimension of hope and possibility”.

Yes the world is a ruin, the last surviving oak tree coddled in the relatively pristine surrounds of Beaux Arts exhibition space, and the Paris of 1941 is darkly oppressive but even here creative, possibility and wonder reside and it’s by that spirit that April and the Extraordinary World is powered.

This is by all accounts an intelligent film that by showing an alternate vision of the world encourages us all to use our gifts, whatever they may be, to make our world a better place.

April and her Extraordinary World opens in USA on 25 March 2016.

 

Benny Hill meets The Walking Dead? Yes really … and it’s great fun

Daryl and Jesus decide to get some cardio time in right in the middle of trying to survive the zombie apocalypse (image courtesy AMC)
Daryl and Jesus decide to get some cardio time in right in the middle of trying to survive the zombie apocalypse (image courtesy AMC)

 

There’s a better than even chance that the first thing you think of when someone, say like me, says The Walking Dead, is not The Benny Hill Show.

And fair enough too – one show is all about trying to avoid either becoming undead chow or grist for sociopathic leader’s twisted mill, while the other was a mix of slapstick, burlesque and ripe double entendres that was less apocalytpic than innuendo-laden.

So not a natural fit then? Yes well that was until the most recent episode of The Walking Dead‘s sixth season “The Next World” in which Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) went out on a supply run, found and lost a truck full of food, and found/lost/found/lost/found an engagingly slippery fellow by the name of Paul Monroe aka Jesus (Tom Payne).

Their on-again, off-again encounter with the man who they’d eventually take back to Alexandria for medical treatment culminated in a race around a particular farm where Daryl and Jesus raced hither and yon, with Rick trying to predict their movements to riotously comedic effect.

Well it would have been damn funny if Jesus was being an annoyingly duplicitous so-and-so and they didn’t lose all that food to the bottom of a lake, right in the middle of a food-starved apocalypse.

But now, possibly following a comment on the Talking Dead, the Chris Hardwicke-hosted chat show follow-up to The Walking Dead, by Austin Nichols who plays Spencer on the show where he encouraged someone anyone to combine this footage with Benny Hill’s music theme, officially known as “Yakety Sax” by “Boots Randolph, it is as side-splittingly funny as you always knew it could be.

Sit back and laugh and resist the urge to see if one of the zombies in the middle of the sequence doesn’t look just a bit like Benny Hill.

 

Movie review: The Lady in the Van

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

 

If you’ve ever been tempted to judge someone based on their appearance or current circumstance, The Lady in the Van is an instructive lesson on the pitfalls of such a judgement approach.

Based on the true story of British playwright Alan Bennett’s (Alex Jennings) fractious friendship with van-dwelling homeless woman Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith, reprising her much-acclaimed stage performance), and directed by Nicholas Hytner from a screenplay by Alan Bennett, the film is a richly-realised, gently-meandering reminder that there is always more to a person’s life than meets the eye.

When Bennett first encounters Shepherd she is a grimy, irascible deluded homeless woman who believes God, angels and a host of saints are providing her with life advice on everything from parking to where she should live; as the story develops however we discover that the woman occupying prime real estate in Gloucester Street, Camden in London was a talented pianist, a former pupil of the legendary Alfred Cortot who, after a particularly traumatic life event, found herself unable to return to the life she’d once known.

Shepherd, it emerges, was just a broken woman of very set ideas who saw herself as a sinner, a failure who could never atone for the great sins of her past, one in particular haunting her constantly, and who thus kept herself on the run, emotionally and physically from the ghosts of her past.

Thankfully being a British film, The Lady in the Van is not afflicted by the treacly sentimentalism that often sinks Hollywood’s efforts at addressing stories of this ilk, preferring to keep things alternately prickly and sweet, but most the former recognising that that extraordinary friendships between people like Bennett and Shepherd are never perfect and often far from inspiring, as are the people themselves.

They simple are, warts and all, and Bennett, who spent 15 years hosting Shepherd and her van in his home’s driveway, to little to no thanks – amusingly Shepherd greets everything from Christmas presents from the neighbours to often of food and toilet use with a sense of grouchy entitlement – moved between being glad he could help Shepherd out and resenting her enduring presence on his property.

 

 

While the focus is most certainly on Shepherd and her backstory, which emerges in judiciously placed, well-told fashion that fleshes out her present without disconnecting us from current events, we’re also witness to Bennett’s sense of personal dissociation.

Effectively in the closet, although all his neighbours bar one sweetly naive lady who enthusiastically asks everyone one night when they’re going to find Bennett a female partner, his sense of alienation from himself and palpable discomfort with life is evidenced by the neat visual trick of having Jennings play the two parts of the playwright, often in the same scene.

Bennett the writer and Bennett the one who lives life – reluctantly it seems with the preference being to stay ensconced writing at a window-side table whenever possible – engage in conversations that vividly illustrate how he wrestled with not just Shepherd’s presence in his life, but also his own ability to deal with the business of living, particularly his gently fraught relationship with his loving but opinionated mother.

A kind man at heart who simply can’t bear to leave Shepherd to her own devices, even though you can tell at times he really wishes he could, Bennett is a man benignly at war with himself, who veers between kindness and exasperation, affection and distaste, depending on how many buttons Shepherd has managed to push on a given day.

And button-pushing, even with those who supported her, such as Bennett’s liberal-leaning, well-off neighbours who tolerate the van lady because she makes them feel better about their prosperity and their disposal of it, was an artform that Shepherd has raised to the highest level.

For all that irascibility however, she and Bennett, both their flaws and their character strengths on full display, come across as wholly sympathetic, likeable characters, people who are simply trying to deal with life in as painless a way as possible.

 

 

And that’s likely why, despite their combative relationship, they stayed living so close together for as long as they did.

For all the butting of heads, they were essentially birds of a feather, both of them in their quite disparate ways, ill-at-ease with life and not really certain of where they belonged in its rich tapestry of possibilities.

With only the odd appearance of the real life Bennett in the final scene, evoking of all things reality’s hilarious intrusion at the end of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, to mar its nuanced, uncomplicated narrative, The Lady in the Van is sweet, funny, all too relatable and real, the evocation of a friendship that endured despite a whole host of reasons why it shouldn’t.

It doesn’t seek to sanitise either Bennett or Shepherd, nor does it seek to dramatise what happened between them in the hopes of drawing out some sage lessons of not judging by appearance online.

Rather it simply tells its story, in so doing making it all too clear that life doesn’t always play by the rules we would like it to, and that there aren’t always happy endings, or at least of the type that Disney favours, and that often we simply have to make do the best we can.

What is so remarkable about Bennett and Shepherd’s story is that neither of them is utterly, inspiringly transformed by their unconventional friendship; certainly they change in small ways, and in Bennett’s case a major way, towards the end, but what The Lady in the Van most clearly demonstrates is that life often just happens and we are neither better or poorer for it, simply different and that we shouldn’t overthink it, we should just do it and see where it takes, warts and all.

 

 

The short and the short of it: The deeply-moving bonds of Changing Batteries

(image via changethelifechannel.blogspot (c) Sunny Side Up Productions))
(image via changethelifechannel.blogspot (c) Sunny Side Up Productions))

 

What makes life truly worth living are the people who journey through it with us.

Sure we might have interests we love to pursue, places we like to be, and TV programs we love to watch but when all is said and done, what makes all those things and a whole lot more worth having is the fact that someone we care about was there doing them with us.

So people matter, a point brought home in the most profoundly moving way by this short film from Sunny Side Up Productions, which tells the story of a lonely old lady who is sent a robot by her absent son who never seems to find the time to get home and be there in person.

The bond between these two individuals is remarkable, nuanced and a joy to behold as it grows and develops.

Created by a group of four students – Shu Gi, Casandra Ng, Hon JiaHui and Bahareh Darvish – as part of their Final Year Project at Multimedia University in Cyberjaya, Malaysia, the film reminds us in the most affecting of ways that who we are with in life makes a profound difference to how we live it and often how it all ends.

And Changing Batteries has the most beautiful of endings. Make sure you have your tissues handy – you’ll need them.

Oh and ring those you love if you can’t be by their side. While robots are lovely, they aren’t really a thing just yet, and your voice, and better yet your presence, will make a world of difference to someone you love.

 

Not easy being green? Kermit and Stephen Colbert ponder life’s big questions

Kermit and Stephen Colbert ponder life, the universe and suitcase wheels (image via YouTube (c) The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
Kermit and Stephen Colbert ponder life, the universe and suitcase wheels (image via YouTube (c) The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)

 

Why are we here? What makes us, us? and why didn’t we didn’t think of inventing the wheels that make puling along suitcases so much easier these days?

All very good questions, and all pondered to one degree or another by Stephen Colbert and Kermit in an segment on The Late Show called “Big Questions With Even Bigger Stars” which in the past has featured the likes of Bryan Cranston and Tom Hanks.

Reclining back on a picnic rug and looking up the stars, Kermit the Frog (promoting the newly-relaunched The Muppets) and Stephen the Person speculate on whether they’re being watched – let’s hope so; they’re on a TV program – and whether there’s such a thing as free will (a problematic issue for the average Muppet to be fair), and a host of other questions begging for an answer.

It’s deep, it’s philosophical and very, very funny.

And it might make you think about all kinds of deep things … and whether taking biology in high school is really a good idea for a frog.

 

Movie review: How To Be Single

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

 

Romantic comedies, in common with just about every genre of movie in existence, loves its tropes.

As sure as a spectacularly reunion will follow a hackneyed misunderstanding, rom-coms, as they’re affectionately known (or not so affectionately depending on your point of view) regularly give us the lovelorn soul who unexpectedly meets the person of their dreams, who they may or may not recognise as such, with whom they spar/parry/flirt/have sex with until such time as complications ensue, obstacles only resolved by a rush to the airport/gatecrashing a wedding/a heart-to-heart conversation on pouring rain.

Let’s face it they persist because we love seeing them; even so it’s welcome occurrence when a movie like How To Be Single comes along which dares to, if not challenge the conventions of the genre, at least tweak and twist them a little.

How To Be Single, based on the book by Liz Tuccilo, and directed by Christian Ditter, is not, it must be said, a revolutionary change to everything we have ever known about rom-coms, but there is enough about it that is different to make it a pleasing, if not necessarily classic, entry in the annals of romantic movie-making.

But as far as it goes, it’s an interesting and often quite funny addition to the canon, mainly thanks to Rebel Wilson as out there, commitment-phobe party girl Robin who lands a neverending cavalcade of raunchy, unedited oneliners, daring to assert that maybe a happily ever after with the man of your dreams isn’t the be-all and end-all to a woman’s life.

Of course that doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t romance aplenty afoot but the overriding is quite clearly that while falling in love is fine and dandy and to be welcomed with open arms when it occurs, that its pursuit shouldn’t define anyone’s life and that the aim should be aim to be satisfied with who you as a single person before you throw another person into the mix.

 

 

It’s a theme clearly enunciated during the voiceover narration that begins and the film courtesy of protagonist Alice (Dakota Johnson) who is in a relationship with Josh (Nicholas Braun) before deciding she needs some time to find herself.

When events don’t play out quite as expected, Alice finds herself negotiating the often unpredictable world of singledom, with advice of dubious merit supplied by Robin who firmly believes you should never go home after work and that every night must be spent in an alcoholic daze in the intimate company of a man whose name and appearance you will not recall in the foggy light of morning.

Alice isn’t entirely convinced by Robin’s unorthodox advice but sets out to find out who she is without a man by her side; it’s an experiment that keeps getting interrupted by occasional sex with bar owner Tom (Anders Holm), a serial player who is dedicated to sleeping with women and nothing more until sassy Lucy (Alison Brie) crosses his path, the reemergence of a wavering Josh, and a stop-start relationship with widowed architect David (Damon Wayans, Jr.).

Despite her best intentions, she keeps finding herself enveloped in what Robin amusingly called “Dicksand”, the male equivalent of quicksand, the idea being that people like Alice find themselves, no matter their resolve being defined and constrained by their boyfriends.

It’s a concept that Alice struggles with and it’s only towards the end that she realises she’s being making a hash of the whole epic quest for happy singledom.

Meanwhile her sister Meg (Leslie Mann), who makes her own profound life changes, rather quickly and a tad unconvincingly, more due to narrative need than any sort of character integrity, and Lucy, who has developed a spreadsheet she is convinced will lead her to the perfect man, end up discovering that sometimes life can surprise you, even when you have committed to a particular life course.

 

 

While the script by Lenny Beller and Dana Fox keeps things moving along at a crisp if slightly overlong pace, mostly giving each character their moments to shine, it does often lose sight of what it is we’re meant to take away from the proceedings.

The earnest lessons about the benefits of the single life that usher in and farewell How To Be Single aside, the film often leaves you wondering where Alice would be happiest, as if its finding it hard to commit itself.

Should she go back to Josh, pursue emotional baggage-laden David, or see if she crack open Tom’s wavering resolve to commitment-free everything, or should she wholeheartedly embrace Robin’s adherence to a single life of endless hedonism? Or simply get comfortable in her own skin and read, paint, cook and hike the Grand Canyon secure in her own company?

While we know what we’re supposed to think thanks to the voiceovers, the storyline inbetween seems unable to decide which way she should jump.

Even so, there enough realism ideas-wise at least, well as much rom-coms ever allow (which let’s be fair isn’t much; the apartments alone are way out of anyone’s budget) to make How To Be Single accessible and and relatable for anyone who’s ever been single, in a relationship and wondered in which state they would be better off?

It’s a hardly an earnest existential polemic but then it’s clearly not intended to be; in its own slightly messy though unarguably hilarious and often heartfelt way, it simply seeks to ask whether being in a relationship is necessarily the end goal for everyone and whether, rom-com conventions somewhat, slightly, kinda be damned, whether being single is such a bad thing after all.

 

A Headful of (Driving) Dreams: Chris Martin (Coldplay) joins James Corden for Carpool Karaoke

Chris and James sing their  Carpool Karaoke hearts out (image via YouTube (c) The Late, Late Show)
Chris and James sing their Carpool Karaoke hearts out (image via YouTube (c) The Late, Late Show)

 

James Corden is a thoroughly lovely, engaging guy.

Which is a very good thing indeed since as the host of The Late, Late Show on CBS, which airs at 12.35am when many people are not at their most awake – the viewers, not the participants who tape the show at a far more civilised time, thank you – he has to be, wrangling celebrity guests and all manner of viral-wanna-be segments.

The most viral-y of these segments and the one that regularly garners the most attention because it’s just good old fun, disarming and a little bit revealing is Carpool Karaoke, where a famous music artist – think the likes of Adele, Sia, Sir Elton John and Justin Bieber to name but four – jump into his car and sing their tunes with the late night host.

One of his recent hosts was Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, who ostensibly needs a lift to the band’s Superbowl Half Time gig – poor planning band management, POOR; yeah, yeah I know it’s a joke, relax – and once in the car the two Brits have a fine old musical time.

If you think it’s a case of Corden, simply recording a segment and moving onto the next workman-like, you’d be wrong, because as he told EW, he was really looking forward to throwing a few tunes such as “Adventure of a Lifetime” and “Viva La Vida” down with Chris:

“It’s more of a road trip than it is a Carpool in many ways. I’m such a fan of his. I’m a fan of that band — they mean the world to me. It was very funny. He brought a keyboard over, and it involved an overnight stay.”

It sounds like a lot of contrived fun and it is, one likely to cause, in the words of EW, a thoroughly enjoyable Rush of Blood to the Head … boom-tish thank you I’ll be here all week … or Chris and James will be … you know what I mean.

 

Movie review: Hail, Caesar!

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

 

Anyone who has seen Trumbo, the brilliantly-executed story of one wisecracking screenwriter’s attempt to defy the prohibitions of the McCarthyist era in America, will agree that there is precious little to laugh about when it comes to draconian moralising and coercive, chest-thumping patriotism on a nationwide scale.

But that hasn’t stopped the enormously talented Coen brothers, who have far more hits than misses under their considerable moviemaking belts, from trying to summon some laughs from a dark period in the otherwise golden age of Hollywood.

That they succeed at all says much about their love of movies and their ability to distill the very essence of the period into entertaining form, and the calibre of actors taking parts including Josh Brolin as studio head Eddie Mannix, George Clooney as Kirk Douglas-esque movie star Baird Whitlock and Scarlett Johansson as DeeAnna Moran, an earthy, tell-it-like-it-is Esther Williams-modelled star.

Unfortunately while Hail, Caesar! works as a microcosm of the period, showcasing the various genres in vogue at the time such as musicals, westerns and over the top Biblical dramas and the various stars who brought them to the screen, and the thankless people behind the scenes who made them happen, it lacks oomph as a screwball farce.

It tries, gosh darn it tries – it’s hard at this stage not to channel Alden Eihenreich as Hobie Doyle, a gee whiz, nice-as-pie boy next door who’s great at horseriding but not so much at the acting – but it never quite lands the laugh-out-loud hilarity it’s clearly gunning for.

 

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

 

It certainly sets things up well.

Every character, save for Mannix, who by the very nature of his role has to play it tough, straight and as serious as it comes – though he does get some moments to play it a little fast and loose in his amusing interactions with twin, competing gossips columnists modelled on the infamous Hedda Hopper, both played by Tilda Swinton – verges on the cartoonish, in the best possible way.

They never tip into superficially irrelevant with the Coen brothers managing to inject enough humanity and sincerity into even the most overblown of caricatures to make you care enough about what they’re doing.

But essentially, they are there to serve the plot which is essentially about a cabal of earnest Communist writers in Hollywood who fervently believe they will bring about equality for all if only they can convince actors like Baird Whitlock, who god bless him is dumb as an ox and easily swayed, to subscribe their cause.

They attempt to do this by kidnapping the hapless star and taking him to the home of another Hollywood star, who for the purposes of the reveal must remain nameless, who in amusing satire of the McCarthyist era is essentially telling the devoted group of communists scribe what they should and shouldn’t do.

Yes, the group of communist Hollywood insiders have all the self-awareness of true zealots and fail to see they are perpetuating the same hierarchy and system they wish to dismantle.

It’s all ripe for some out-and-out farce and there are moments where Hail, Caesar! looks like it’s getting a good run-up to the kind of runaway hilarity the film seems to promise in spades.

But time and again, though the characters are deliciously over-the-top, and the script sizzles with some witty visual and spoken moments – the scene where Mannix and Coen stalwart (and wife of Joel) Frances McDormand, playing hard-boiled film editor C. C. Calhoun – it never really arrives at the kind of farce that it appears to be eminently capable of, and which the Coen brothers have delivered in abundance in previous outings.

 

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

 

While it fails to fire on all its farcical engines, where Hail, Caesar! comes into its own is as a love letter to the golden age of Hollywood and the business of making movies.

We are treated to some wonderfully-realised set pieces including a full Esther Williams pool number, Channing Tatum as the Gene Kelly-inspired musicals star Burt Gurney who tapdances and sing like there’s no tomorrow and the kind of get-the-bad-guys Western chase scene that so defined the movies of the genre.

We’re also taken behind the scenes as Mannix tries to corral the various competing interests and ego at Capitol Pictures Studios, an exercise that would test the patience of a saint and is akin to herding a bunch of belligerent, naively un-self aware cats.

What’s made clear, and no doubt reflects the Coen brothers own love/hate affairs with Tinsel Town that gives and takes in equal measure, is that trying though the job is, and there are times when Mannix looks close to taking a job offer out of the industry, that once making movies is in your blood that it’s hard to escape it.

And that’s where the true joy of the movies lies – in its celebration of Hollywood, of the good and the bad of making movies, of its evocation of a past golden era that, while not perfect, still had an awful lot going for it.

Premium grade farce it may not be, but Hail, Caesar! is amusing and diverting in its own way, an affectionate to the business of making movies and though who persist at it despite the challenges.

Light as fluff, the movie disappears from your consciousness as soon as you step out of the cinema, but while you’re in there and A-list stars are trading zingers and reliving life as it once was, and likely still is in some respects, it’s a fun-filled ride that’s very much worth the price of admission.

 

Alice Through the Looking Glass: Time is ticking away (new trailer + poster)

(poster courtesy Disney)
(poster courtesy Disney)

 

SNAPSHOT
In Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, an all-new spectacular adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories, Alice returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter. Directed by James Bobin, who brings his own unique vision to the spectacular world Tim Burton created on screen in 2010 with Alice in Wonderland, the film is written by Linda Woolverton based on characters created by Lewis Carroll and produced by Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd and Tim Burton with John G. Scotti serving as executive producer. Alice Through the Looking Glass reunites the all-star cast from the worldwide blockbuster phenomenon, including: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska and Helena Bonham Carter along with the voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall. We are also introduced to several new characters: Zanik Hightopp (Rhys Ifans), the Mad Hatter’s father and Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen), a peculiar creature who is part human, part clock.

Alice Kingsleigh (Wasikowska) has spent the past few years following in her father’s footsteps and sailing the high seas. Upon her return to London, she comes across a magical looking glass and returns to the fantastical realm of Underland and her friends the White Rabbit (Sheen), Absolem (Rickman), the Cheshire Cat (Fry) and the Mad Hatter (Depp), who is not himself. The Hatter has lost his Muchness, so Mirana (Hathaway) sends Alice on a quest to borrow the Chronosphere, a metallic globe inside the chamber of the Grand Clock which powers all time. Returning to the past, she comes across friends – and enemies – at different points in their lives, and embarks on a perilous race to save the Hatter before time runs out. (official synopsis via Coming Soon)

All of us at one time or another have bemoaned the fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day. But I think we can safely say that a lack of time to do all the things we want to do hasn’t exactly imperilled our continuing existence.

In Alice Through the Looking Glass, however, where the titular character returns to Underland through, quite naturally, the most peculiar of circumstances, running out of time and the cessation of everything are pretty much interwoven, and Alice is caught in a race against, you guessed, Time himself, to save the day.

With Mia Wasikowska returning as Alice and Johnny Depp as the manic Mad Hatter, a little less manic these days it seems, and music by Pink – she covers, appropriately Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” as well as contributing an original song (see the featurette below) – we’re promised all kinds of, once-again Tim Burton-inspired goings-on in a reminder that even the best and silliest of things cannot survive forever if there’s no time left to give them life.

Drawing on the same overactive imaginative spark that gave 2010’s Alice in Wonderland such a sense of wonder, both narratively and visually, and which perfectly captured Lewis Carroll‘s bizarrely-trippy yet meaningful world, Alice Through the Looking Glass promises the kind of immersive, escapist adventure that big screen cinema was made for (not to mention one of dearly-departed Alan Rickman‘s final movie outings).

Alice Through the Looking Glass opens 27 May USA and 14 July in Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

The Walking Dead – “The Next World” (S6, E10 review)

And this, THIS, is how you say "hello and welcome" in the next world" (image courtesy AMC)
And this, THIS, is how you say “hello and welcome” in the next world” (image courtesy AMC)

 

*SPOILERS AHEAD … AND A LAKE FULL OF GROCERIES … YEAH DON’T ASK*

The Walking Dead is a lot of things my friends – dramatic, touching, sad, scary, occasionally happy, doom-laden and portentous – but tonight it was also instructive in the ways of apocalypse etiquette.

Yes etiquette, in the time of undead people and low life human activity; surely a luxury in an age when simple survival is an undertaking of epic, often thankless, proportions.

Now any thought of etiquette and zombies may conjure up images of an undead Miss Manners stumbling through the forests of Virginia, a tattered copy of Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour clutched in her bony, half-decayed hands.

And entertaining though that might be – are you listening Scott Gimple, this MUST be done! – the reality is that there are some pretty important life lessons you need to learn if you’re going to survive out in the brave new environs of “The Next World”.

Lesson #1
If you find a truck full of food, you take it back home IMMEDIATELY.

I cannot stress this enough. In a time when foodstuffs are scarce and industrial production has ground to a halt making things like toothpaste and soda pop – on Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Denise (Merritt Wever)’s shopping list when Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) set out an yet another daily supply run – if you find a truck FULL, I mean FULL of groceries, you hightail it back to the newly-rebuilt cosy surrounds of Alexandria. IMMEDIATELY.

Do not pass GO. Do not stop at a gas station to check out a vending machine full of chocolate and soda pop. And most definitely do not engage a charming beard man in brilliantly-attired leather goods Paul Rovia aka Jesus (Tom Payne), running from a supposed pack of zombies in awkward, passive-aggressive conversation.

Do not do ANY of those things – unless of course the script calls for it and it’s essential to introducing anew character in which case have at it … but TAKE THE TRUCK BACK FIRST for god’s sake – and do NOT go driving onto a farm with a great big deep lake in which said truck could sink without a trace, no matter how attractive you think its barn could be.

Don’t do any of that and if possible don’t play blues music lest Daryl reach over and try to rip you limb from limb. OK that didn’t happen but he wasn’t happy and frankly you want to keep Daryl happy, just saying.

 

He may be charming, cheeky and handsome but Jesus has established a few trust issues with Rick and Daryl (image courtesy AMC)
He may be charming, cheeky and handsome but Jesus has established a few trust issues with Rick and Daryl (image courtesy AMC)

 

Lesson #2
Family is not what you once thought it was

I know there are entire walls of greeting cards that proclaim that family is more than our immediate flesh-and-blood companions but who really takes that all that seriously? It’s a lovely thought and a reality for many of us but it’s hardly do-or-die stuff now is it?

In the time of zombies, it definitely carries way more importance than a simple greeting card slogan. Your very life depends on having each other’s backs, looking out for other people when they’re in pain or suffering great loss – a mother, an eye, whatever – and DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Like if you’re Michonne and you see Orphan Spencer (Austin Nichols) heading out into the wood with gun and shovel, and decide it might be a good idea to follow him, given his propensity for acting out emotionally in times of great stress.

And so you follow him, talk about the importance of family, of his dearly-departed mother Deanna’s (Tovah Feldshuh) words of life wisdom – I am fairly sure, nay CERTAIN, she would have said TAKE THE TRUCK BACK HOME STRAIGHT AWAY! – and insist you can help him with the very Secret Squirrel mission he’s on that he says you can’t help him with.

Turns out, you can and you can’t, as Zombie Deanna, lost out in the woods – yup remember you last saw her screaming defiantly, sans bullets, but did NOT see her die; well in the non-zombifying way anyhow – stumbles up to her son and all you can do is stand by supportively, as family do, while he does what must be done and despatches his mum with as much tenderness as a knife through the stem of the brain allows.

It’s gripping, harrowing, touching and deeply sad as he clutches her to him – actually dead this time, thank you; holding zombies close is frowned up in the new apocalyptic etiquette for obvious reasons – and buries her and then walks back, well hopefully home and not just to where he lives.

Oh and once again, TAKE THE TRUCK BACK. NOW, YOU HEARD ME. DO IT.

 

Hell of a Mother's Day Spencer, hell of a day (image courtesy AMC)
Hell of a Mother’s Day Spencer, hell of a day (image courtesy AMC)

 

Lesson #3
If love comes a-calling, don’t waste time answering the (metaphorical) door

Granted, hoping cupid’s arrow strikes you is probably not the overriding priority in a time of death and zombies. (Besides which what the hell Cupid, shoot some damn zombies through the head will ya? Like now, please … and where were you last week huh?)

To their great surprise, and yet everyone’s delight, Rick and Michonne finally admitted that they were family of a far more intimate kind, not that long after Carl (Chandler Riggs) had told everyone’s favourite katana-wielder that she was family and that if she’s zombiefied and was walking the woods Deanna-style that he’d take the time to knife her brain; awwww.

Yes Rick and Michonne got it on, mere WEEKS, weeks after Jessie’s (Alexandra Breckenridge) untimely demise – to be fair, that’s an eternity when life expectancy is no longer the statistical average – and looked to be blissfully, goofily happy about, especially after such a long wait AND a pretty exhaustingly shit day that neither of them wanted to talk about just then.

And no doubt as they drifted off to sleep, and before Jesus – Paul Tovia, not the Son of God we must be clear, who appears to be rather good at sneaking out from places – appeared at the end of their coital bed, they thought to themselves “YOU SHOULD ALWAYS TAKE THE TRUCK BACK STRAIGHT AWAY.”

 

Love sweet apocalyptic love (image courtesy AMC)
Love sweet apocalyptic love (image courtesy AMC)

 

And so ends our etiquette lesson, as does an episode that nicely lowered the adrenaline level but not to near comatose levels, screenwriters Angela Kang and Corey Reed, and director Kari Skogland, all too aware that while we need a breather, we don’t need to ratchet down to watching paint dry level either.

It was a finely-paced episode, picking up weeks after the events of the mid-season opener, where we saw life returning to normal after a great deal of work by everyone (save for Enid (Katelyn Nacon) who, new Alexandrian administrator Maggie (Lauren Cohen) reminded her, wasn’t exactly pulling her weight; it was not in a maternally encouraging way that acknowledged how integral Enid had been to her and Glenn, played by Steven Yeun) not dying.

“The Next World” did an exemplary job of making it clear that even with all the loss and death of late that Deanna and now Rick’s dream of a new world is possible, even if Negan is about to throw a great big sociopathic spanner in the works.

One made all the worse by the fact that Daryl and Rick didn’t TAKE THE TRUCK BACK STRAIGHT AWAY.

  • What’s up next you say? “Knots Untie” in fact, a simple title which does not bode well for Little House Without Zombies continuing it’s just-restored beatific run …