Movie review: Truman

(image courtesy ITP World)
(image courtesy ITP World)

 

Losing someone to death is a harrowing experience by any estimation.

So harrowing in fact that Tomás (Javier Cámara), married and living in Canada, and one of the central characters in director Cesc Gay’s Truman, has strenuously resisted visiting his terminally-ailing actor best friend Julián (Ricardo Darín) in Madrid despite the fact that time is fast running out to say his last goodbyes.

It is only at the urging of his wife that he makes the trek home to Spain where he is greeted by a typically ebullient but surprised Julián, who is unaware that his cousin Paula (Dolores Fonzi) has organised the much-delayed reunion.

In characteristic fashion, Julián, who remains on stage even as he battles end-stage cancer, isn’t on the backfoot for long, declaring almost immediately that the two old friends will have a grand time of it over the next four days that Tomás is in town.

His ebullience and Tomás‘s supportive sangfroid is however tinged with a great sadness that runs deep but is rarely acknowledged by the two men, much to Paula’s frustration.

A series of critically-important decisions made by Julián in the face of his ever-encroaching illness only serves to heighten the differing approaches by Tomás, who is determined to be there for his friend (even when he disagrees with him which is often) and Paula, who nonetheless sharing a close friendship and a desire to serve the best interests of Julián.

It is the titular character of the film, Julián’s dog Truman who is in many ways, the central pivot by which every languorous narrative twist and turn moves.

He is essentially, to use a modern term that Julián would likely not object to such is his devotion, a “fur baby”, the second child to much-loved Nico (Oriol Pla), whose welfare becomes the dying man’s overriding concern.

 

(image courtesy Palace Films)
(image courtesy Palace Films)

 

This means that instead of four days packed with self-indulgent bucket list activities, which is what you expect the film of this ilk to take as its focus, we are instead subsumed into the minutiae of planning for looming death.

Over the course of an all too-short visit, which is funded entirely by an understanding Tomás who at every stage is calmly accepting of his friend’s career-induced penurious state as is of many of Julián’s gregarious eccentricities, we are taken to a slick corporate funeral director, the vet, the oncologist and even to Amsterdam to visit Nico, interspersed with relaxed lunches and dinners at which Julián rails against the way in which people treat you differently when you are terminally ill.

In one instance he confronts the acquaintance and his wife, who pretend not to see him and make ludicrously inconsequential small talk when Julián calls them on their actions while in another a man whose wife he slept with comes up to him and expresses great empathy, much to Julián’s delight and relief.

Every stop on the unusually banal but companionable journey Julián plans for the two men looks at first flush like the simple ticking of boxes that anyone wanting to tidy their affairs would take.

But while seeing the oncologist and funeral director makes perfect sense given the circumstances, and the need for Truman to find a good home the sort of thing any loving pet owner would want, dig a little deeper and it becomes obvious that this is Julián’s way of involving a friend who has always been at his side in the closing weeks and months of his life.

Circumspect though Tomás is through much of the film, the odd moments when he challenges Julián – these interludes rarely result in any substantial conversation, shot down in short order by Julián’s unwillingness to brook any opposition to his controversial plans – are the only times the two really comes to disagreement.

Faced with Julián’s implacable will and his clearly-articulated plans for his all too limited future, and many years of friendship that suggest there is nothing to be gained by fighting his friend decision-by-decision, Tomás takes on the role of the supportive other, the one who will do what his close friend asks even if it pains him to do so.

 

(image courtesy Palace Films)
(image courtesy Palace Films)

 

Truman is a perfectly-wrought film, the screenplay by Cesc Gay and Tomàs Aragay capturing with exquisite sadness and agony what it is like to be both the dying and the friend of the dying.

Anyone who has ever lost anyone close to them will readily identify and be deeply moved by the narrative which unfurls with such languorous stealth that you don’t appreciate the film’s full emotional intensity until it knocks you back in your seat.

It’s obvious from the word go that both Tomàs and Julián are grappling with seismic emotional shifts but neither can come close to fully articulating them and so much of the profound emotional resonance of this deceptively calm film lies in the unspoken moments, the quiet acts of stoic companionship, and of one friend’s willingness to simply be there at the very end of another’s life when being alone is often the last thing you want.

The final scenes come with a hefty emotional price tag as both men realise that this is it, and life will never be quite the same for either of them ever again, and that when Julián does eventually pass away that Tomàs will be the torchbearer for a friendship which has been an anchor for them, the very foundation of their lives.

It’s hard to walk away from Truman without a tear or two in your eye as you reflect on the fact that even when death is omnipresent and seemingly consuming everything, it is ironically life that comes to the fore and that the wise among us will choose to focus on it and its still limitless possibilities while ever-diminishing time remains.

 

Get ready to get stuck in The Middle all over again (S8 promo + poster)

(image via Spoiler TV (c) ABC)
(image via Spoiler TV (c) ABC)

 

SNAPSHOT
This year, the kids will find themselves breaking out of their comfort zones and navigating new situations than what they’re used to – which may or may not be very comforting to Frankie and Mike.

Between juggling shifts and picking up fast-food dinners eaten in front of the TV, Frankie and Mike raise their kids with love, humor and solid Midwestern practicality. Axl, the oldest, is a jock slacker who is beginning his senior year of college via a sports scholarship. He lives near campus in a Winnebago with his friend and teammate, Hutch, and silent gamer Kenny. Over the summer, Axl found the love of his life in April, a local Orson girl, and he’s so smitten with her that he’s planning on bringing her over to meet the parents.

Then there’s the ever-optimistic Sue, their extraordinarily ordinary daughter, who fails at just about everything she tries with great gusto. She is still living in a dilapidated dorm room with roommate Lexie and starting her second year of college at the same campus that Axl attends. And she’s still dating Jeremy, the campus activist. But over the summer, Sue got bit by the acting bug while working at Dollywood, so she’s determined to be the next big star and is changing her major to theater.

And finally there’s Brick, their quirky son, now entering high school. He continues to date the equally quirky Cindy, read constantly, whisper and “whoop” to himself, as well as unapologetically march to the beat of his own drummer. But with a new school comes the chance for a fresh start and not be considered one of the weird kids. So Brick is going to make it his mission to try and fit in with his peers – a not so simple feat.

With Axl and Sue out of the house, Frankie and Mike continue to find themselves with an emptier nest, which lets them continue to cut back on the parental duties – a hope that is still easier said than done – as parenting is never over no matter where your kids are. Balancing kids and work never really gets easier – it just gets different.

Their hilarious struggles continue, but through all the madness shines a loving family, and together the Hecks continue putting THE MIDDLE on the map. (official synopsis via Spoiler TV)

 

 

I have been, I am and I likely forever will be a sitcom junkie.

Starting with British sitcoms in the ’70s like The Good Life and To The Manor Born and moving on to US ones as varied as Mork and Mindy, ALF, Friends, Frasier and Brooklyn 99, I have long loved the ability of the genre to tell meaningful stories while helping us to laugh our collective whatevers off.

One of the standouts of the current crop of sitcoms, that doesn’t so much re-invent the artform as polish the heck (use of the word fully intended as you shall see) out of a timeless model is The Middle which is shaping up for its eight season on ABC.

The story of the much-beleaguered, working class family the Hecks of Orson, Indiana, who can’t take a trick but somehow always end up (mostly) smiling – the real joy of the show is that it doesn’t skimp on the hard realities of life while someone offering heartfelt hope and love into the mix – The Middle is one of those consistently funny, thoughtful, sweet, often quirky sitcoms that doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of loving it should.

Although as the trailer shows, plenty of people do love it, a good thing since it will be a very sad day when we have to say goodbye to Frankie (Patricia Heaton) & Mike (Neil Flynn), Axl (Charlie McDermott), Sue (Eden Sher) and Brick (Atticus Shaffer) and the heartfelt, sometimes nonsensical but all too real world  they inhabit.

The Middle season premieres Tuesday 11 October at 8/7c on ABC.

Fear the Walking Dead: “Los Muertos” (S2, E9 review)

On the inside looking out, Los Muertos are having a bloody good time; those left alive? Not so much? (image courtesy AMC)
On the inside looking out, Los Muertos are having a bloody good time; those left alive? Not so much? (image courtesy AMC)

 

*SPOILERS AHEAD … BUS RIDES TO HELL … AND A SALUTORY LESSON IN NOT DRINKING AND ZOMBIE-SLAYING*

 

It’s hardly surprising in a show called Fear the Walking Dead that you would have an episode devoted to death.

In fact, it would be entirely reasonable if that’s all anyone ever talked about.

What was fascinating about “Los Muertos” is the way the show deftly examined a number of divergent attitudes to death in the course of one slow-burning, intense episode where Nick (Frank Dillane) in Tijuana and Victor (Colman Domingo), Madison (Kim Dickens), daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) couldn’t escape the fact that life was now losing out ina big way to its far more ghoulish companion.

In fact, in Tijuana at La Colonia, high above Tijuana, Nick awoke to see a man, clearly ailing in the dying stages of the flu that has felled most of humanity before cruelly resurrecting them, walk through an empty bus that forms part of the boundary between the compounds of the living and the dead and sacrifice himself to feed the zombies of the inhabitants’ former family and friends.

What was horrific to him – he did his best to shield the man’s young daughter as she looked on but she gamely kept watching – was, now at least, a natural part of life for everyone else.

So ingrained was that philosophy in the belief systems of the survivors in the camp that the leader, a pharmacist called Alejandro (Paul Calderon) actually preached it to a crowded room, much like a fervent evangelist would to his revivalist flock.

But this was no slight moulding of Christianity to fit the circumstances – this was a total re-shaping of beliefs with life seen as a way point between the two stages of death.

Interestingly, the former Celia groupie, who completely bought into the idea that zombieism was simply another form of life, looked badly shaken by witnessing the casual way in which the true believers venerated the dead as the harbingers of a new cleansed Earth.

They didn’t worship the zombies in the way Celia did but they certainly saw them as an important first step, one that would be cleared away in time, to a reborn and reinvigorated world.

 

Let's go shopping! With armed guards, no weekly specials and the threat of constant death ... OK, let's not (image courtesy AMC)
Let’s go shopping! With armed guards, no weekly specials and the threat of constant death … OK, let’s not (image courtesy AMC)

 

But wacko life/death philosophy or not, people gotta eat and drink and so Luciana (Danay Garcia) set off with Nick – he was chosen because like her, he supposedly had no one who would miss him; in reality Maddie was missing him terribly convinced he could be found somewhere along the coast of Mexico – to parlay with one of the gangs now controlling Tijuana.

In exchange for a big fat bag of Oxycotin, the two were allowed to go into the “shop” to grab water, food and a whole big helping heap of attitude from the gang members especially leader Marco, witnessing not just how poor the range of foods now were but how many sick and dying were barely clinging to life in the warehouse.

More dead to cleanse the earth with then? Hurrah!

One misstep almost cost Nick his arm, and then his life but some fast talking and attitude – see told you it was on special! – and Nick not only got to keep all his limbs but also scored them an extra shopping cart of food and water.

And some chocolate for the dead sacrificial man’s daughter, an exchange that softened the hard-bitten Luciana’s view of Nick.

So yeah shopping’s ain’t what it used to be, turns out Alejandro has been bit and somehow survived – so an immune person then? Now that’s a fascinating development; let’s hope the show explores it further – and Nick is the one having to once again reassess what he thinks about death, the living and the perilous place in-between that everyone now has to navigate.

 

Here catch this! Victor turns very quickly from drinking the bottles to using them to brain more than a few zombies (image courtesy AMC)
Here catch this! Victor turns very quickly from drinking the bottles to using them to brain more than a few zombies (image courtesy AMC)

 

Meanwhile back at the luxury hotel that Madison, Victor, Alicia and Ofelia fell back to after (a) searching for Nick turned out to be a bust – Alicia finally got fed up and reminded her mum that she was still alive and with her; Nick however was not – and (b) turned out someone has stolen the Abigail (yep they forgot to put the anti-theft lock on!), things got decidedly philosophical.

While Maddie and Victor got themselves smashed on tequila – is that such a good idea? After all, who knows when zombies might appear and … oh look, there they are now! – and lamented life, the universe and everything, Alicia and Ofelia headed up into the tower housing the rooms to see what they could scavenge.

It soon became apparent that while Alicia was determined to see the apocalypse through – preferably not at the hotel in the long-term since the zombies that kept tumbling, rather comically and in Z Nation-like fashion it must be noted, from the balconies kind took away from the relaxed, holiday atmosphere of old – Ofelia had given up hope.

Yup, the one thing that everyone had in abundance if they chose to hang onto it – Alicia was hanging on so tight you could see her knuckles turning white – was the one thing Ofelia had decided was surplus to requirements.

You can hardly blame her given she’d just lost her dad and mum in reasonably quick succession but given there’s not much else to depend on – Victor and Madison lamented the loss of the life they once knew – hope was pretty much it.

There in that room was writ large the two of the three main prevailing reactions to the apocalypse – give up we’re all doomed vs. there is hope!

Quite where Ofelia ended up was a mystery since when Alicia emerged from the shower she was gone; any thoughts of finding her were quickly extinguished by the falling zombies, one of whom Alicia initially thought was Ofelia, who were attracted by Victor and Madison’s rousing drinking, wonky-piano playing and general disregard for one of the key rules of the apocalypse – don’t making any noise.

The episode ended with Victor and Madison trapped in the middle of the bar, zombies all around them, another chance, not that they needed it, to reassess their attitudes to death and dying, an examination that occurred again and again in a taut episode that named the elephant in the room as death and challenged everyone to find some accommodation with it.

  • And the challenges of the death-ridden apocalypse continue in next week’s “Do Not Disturb” when death once again takes a starring role and life? Well life continues its deft pirouetting on the back foot …

 

Everybody wants to rule the world: Gloriously good Game of Thrones montage video

(image via Gamespot (c) HBO)
(image via Gamespot (c) HBO)

 

It’s no secret, not after countless books by George R. R. Martin and six seasons of HBO’s watercooler-stomping megahit TV show, that everybody, and I mean everybody, wants to rule to rule the world.

Or in this case, sit upon the Iron Throne and look out upon the Seven Kingdoms and many and varied lands beyond.

We have witnessed this grand ambition played out in many different ways by many different people – the one constant being people died … A LOT – but never have I seen it captured eloquently and artistically, and damn near poetically, as in this montage video by Vine user Winterfell’s Princess.

Using the pitch-perfect cover by Lorde of Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, first released for the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack, which is saturated in portentous beats and grand melodic forebodings of doom, the video captures in all its melancholic glory just what it means to reach for power.

Not everyone gets there – haha Ramsey that means you! Never have I been happier to see someone … wait no I danced all over Joffrey’s poisoned corpse so as you were – and even those that do find it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

The video captures all that and more and will hopefully help us to last the long and forbidding distance between now and the middle of 2017.

And no doubt wholly dissuade me from ever launching a quest for the Iron Throne … unless of course Lorde is scoring it in which case I may to reconsider that decision.

(source: IO9)

 

Life upends spectacularly in the highly-emotional Manchester by the Sea

(image via YouTube (c) K Period Media, B Story, CMP, Pearl Street Films)
(image via YouTube (c) K Period Media, B Story, CMP, Pearl Street Films)

 

SNAPSHOT
After the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is shocked to learn that Joe has made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Taking leave of his job, Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester-by-the-Sea to care for Patrick, a spirited 15-year-old, and is forced to deal with a past that separated him from his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and the community where he was born and raised.   Bonded by the man who held their family together, Lee and Patrick struggle to adjust to a world without him. In his first film since 2011’s acclaimed Margaret, Lonergan once again proves himself a powerful and visionary storyteller as he seamlessly weaves past and present together, crafting a tension-filled tale that deftly eschews sentimentality in favor of penetrating emotional insight and deeply affecting human relationships. (official synopsis via Slash Film)

Hollywood would have you believe that grief is a quick, easy process.

That all it takes to get over the death of someone desperately close to you is some time, a meet cute or hobby and voila, grief falls cleanly away and life is humming along as it was before.

But therein lies the fallacy – life never looks the same again after you lose someone you love dearly (trust me I just lost my dad and I don’t even recognise my life anymore) and Manchester by the Sea, directed by the impressively talented Kenneth Lonergan and the darling of this year’s Sundance Film Festival seems to appreciate that if the review by Angie Han of Slash Film is anything to go by:

“It’s easy to imagine a version of this story that smooths over ugly, raw emotions in service of a happy ending, or, alternately, a version of this story that devolves into simple misery porn. Manchester by the Sea takes a more humane approach, guided by Lonergan’s deep empathy for his characters. The world around Lee may judge the way he reacts to the blows life has dealt him, or may not even realize what he’s dealing with in the first place. But Lonergan presents a portrait of grief that feels almost honest in its ugliness, because it feels truthful. Redemption and hope are hard to come by for these characters, but they’re apparently nearly as impossible to extinguish completely.”

No grief isn’t easy or clean – it’s messy and unpredictable and wildly uneven but it also comes with hope and if nothing else that’s worth hanging onto tightly.

Manchester by the Sea opens 18 November in USA.

 

Weekend pop art: What if every TV show starred cats?

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

 

 

Cats are natural born actors.

Sure much of the time they pit their prodigious talents one side in favour of living a boldly authentic life, one which includes turning up their noses at the cat food they normally devour in one sitting and demanding to be out the back door – and only the back door thank you very much! – only to turn on their paws when said door is opened in favour of staying right where they are.

Perhaps that is method acting of the highest order but frankly it seems to be more about cats being cats, long may they live.

But when they do decide to switch on their inner Meowyl Streep or Ryan Gosling-For-Dinner, they are actors of the highest calibre, able to convince us with a few well-aimed plaintive mews or a strategic rubbing of the leg that we must get up and serve them NOW because, well … adorableness.

Thankfully one talented artist, Seattle, Washington, USA-based Cassie Murphy has recognised their innate talent for thespianism and drawn felines as they might appear if someone had simply chosen wisely and cast them in hit shows like Games of Thrones (Game of Sits), Orange is the New Black (Orange is the New Cat) and Orphan Black (Orphan Cat).

It goes without saying that they are Emmy-worthy with the only remaining question being – would casting a show full of cats essentially feel like herding cats, with all its attendant, implied difficulties?

While you’re pondering that, you should go and buy prints of this marvellous artwork from Kitty Cassandra’s Etsy store.

 

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

 

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

 

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

 

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

 

(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)
(artwork (c) Cassie Murphy aka Kitty Cassandra)

Back in The Flash! Everyone’s favourite speedster is returning soon with season 3

Kid Flash joins the speed brigade in the upcoming season of The Flash (image via Den of Geek (c) CW)
Kid Flash joins the speed brigade in the upcoming season of The Flash (image via Den of Geek (c) CW)

 

Oh what a tangled web we weave huh Barry?

When last left everyone’s favourite speedster – although that status could be in danger given how rash he has become of late, his spontaneous, hotheaded decisions causing no end of chaos – he had raced back in time (again), saved – SPOILER ALERT!! – his mum from death at the hands of Zoom (motivated to be fair, in part, by just witnessing his father’s death), and assumed, somewhat erroneously as it turns out, that everything was now well with his world.

Think again Baz.

In fact, the only thing right about the timeline is that his mother is now alive in it; otherwise, everything about his life to this point has been MASSIVELY altered with Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is now the richest man in America, Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher) is behind bars naming the new timeline as Flashpoint, and Wally West is now Kid Flash.

Not only that but Barry’s surrogate dad, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) doesn’t know him, and the great love of his life, Iris (Candice Patton) barely know him.

That’s a whole lotta messing around with the timeline and peoples’ lives and you can only hope that, should he able to undo his latest time-meddling blunder – he’s warned in the Comic-Con trailer that he needs to otherwise Bad Things Will Happen – that he’ll have finally learned his lesson.

No doubt things will end up happily – they’ll always seem to in The Flash which is one of the reasons it’s such an appealing show; gritty yes but warm and fuzzy too – but getting to that happy place, and trust me Barry will come to the point where he realises his current happiness is a fabricated illusion, could be real messy.

We find out just how messy when The Flash season 3 premieres on 4 October on CW.

 

 

Mars: National Geographic takes us on a breathtakingly expansive journey

(image via YouTube (c) National Geographic)
(image via YouTube (c) National Geographic)

 

SNAPSHOT
The year is 2033, and mankind’s first manned mission to Mars is about to become reality. This is the story of how we make Mars home, told by the pioneers making it possible. (synopsis via YouTube)

There are a lot of people trying to get to Mars at the moment.

Not immediately of course but eventually NASA, Mars One and SpaceX all want to get people to Mars, to live, work, explore and push the boundaries of human possibility.

The aim of course is to make an multi-planetary species, freed from the bonds of Earth alone – though to be fair it has been very good to us; we however in return haven’t exactly returned the favour – and ready to fulfill a potential that has been us zip from ground-dwelling monkeys to cave dwellers to iPad-tapping 21st century denizens of the cyber world.

Who knows where we will eventually end up?

For now National Geographic, in partnership with Ron Howard and Brian Glazer, are content to take us to Mars, with a six part miniseries that wonders what an expedition to the red planet might look like in 2033.

Blending documentary and sci-fi drama to stunning effect, Mars gives us an imaginative look at what a trip of this magnitude and ambition might look like with input from a bevy of current experts including Neil DeGrasse Tyson, The Martian author Andy Weir and Elon Musk.

It’s unlikely that very many of us will make the actual trip to Mars but through this inventive, creative take on what it might be like – Ron Howard has remarked the aim was to “bring it to life in a really dramatic and cinematic way”; mission accomplished by the looks of things – we get a taste of what lies ahead for some lucky members of the human race.

Mars screens throughout November on National Geographic in 171 countries and 45 languages around the world.

(source: io9)

 

The short and the short of it: A Love Story that urges us to cultivate a better world

(image via YouTube (c) Chipotle)
(image via YouTube (c) Chipotle)

 

I am not usually a fan of promoting brand campaigns since creative though they might be, they are still, in the end, an ad designed to sell product.

But there is something about this ad for Chipotle, which frankly could use all the help it can get in the light of recent rolling food safety issues, that is ridiculously, sweet, touching and just plain adorable.

And it’s part of a deliberate campaign to mention Chipotle without actually mentioning Chipotle, according to their director of brand marketing, Mark Shambura (quoted on Mashable).

“If we can create entertainment without a ton of branding, and we can integrate our values into it rather than making it about Chipotle, we believe people will…pay attention to it more.”

This delightful short film ultimately celebrates love sweet love and shows that in the end, all that matters is ensuring the purity of your passion, both for people and life callings, is preserved.

Watch it and be reminded of what’s important … and oh yeah, Chipotle may possible sorta kinda maybe wants you to go buy a burrito too.

 

Comics review: Wacky Raceland (issues 1 & 2)

(image courtesy DC Comics)
(image courtesy DC Comics)

 

The apocalypse is upon us once again, bringing it with a radically different take, not to mention three-headed mutants, on Hanna-Barbera’s classic late ’60s road race, Wacky Races.

The somewhat still-playful title aside, this is a considerably darker take on the cartoon series which featured 11 cars, 23 characters (and some rather bold unsportsmanlike behaviour), all of whom were racing for some ill-defined reason which spurred them on to risk everything to get to the finish line first.

There’s no such mystery in Wacky Raceland, which takes place on a ruined Earth, a scorched radioactive wasteland beset by the aforementioned zombie-esque mutants with a taste for human flesh, nanite dust storms that strip you bare faster than a swarm of piranhas and an environment so bespoiled that no amount of weekend working bees by the neighbours will restore it.

Into this accursed world, a hidden controlling entity called The Announcer, calls all the shots, plucking the 11 cars, all of whom are now AI-sentient, and their drivers and passengers from situations where death was certain and solutions perilously thin on the ground.

That’s not to say that being “saved” by The Announcer, who is rumoured to be a lot of things including a twisted murderous Führer of some kind, is any kind of blessing; not in the long-term at least.

Yes you are saved from certain death and your car becomes its own class of souped-up self-aware being but your survival beyond that rests on winning a series of races and gaining entry to Utopia, a blissful world which is the last bastion of humanity in a world long ago left in ruins at its hands.

So the racers, all of whom retain their names if not their looks, which now have a decidedly Mad Max-ian edge, and their ruthlessness to win – if you recall, everyone went to a great deal of trouble to win in the Wacky Races with some fairly cutthroat tactics employed; it’s not as squeaky clean and cute as you remember – and their quirky names.

Dick Dastardly and Muttley naturally are front and centre, still unable to win a race (most of the time) to save themselves (literally), with Penelope Pitstop, a ruggedly though pink-accented feminist with no need for anyone and a huge amount of bioneural augmentation, often racing ahead and holding her own in a bar fight thank you very much.

We also encounter everyone from a transgender Sergeant Blast still with Private Meekly, a mutant-lloking Ant Hill Mob and a very angry Ant Hill Mob with everyone present and accounted for, and liable to be consumed by Africanized Battlejackets on the whim of The Announcer.

It’s the apocalypse with race cars and aggrieved survivors and no one is looking to make friends or influence people; kill them perhaps but not befriend them with every phrase uttered either a defiant declaration of warlike aggression or a rallying cry to violence.

 

(image courtesy DC Comics)
(image courtesy DC Comics)

 

Though Wacky Raceland may sound a million miles form its goofy predecessor of almost 50 years before, it retains quite a bit of the tropes and narrative momentum that made the show a whole lot of (repetitive) fun to watch.

The characters are, of course, all present and accounted for and still raring to win; granted they’re are now considerably more apt to annihilate rather than waylay their competitors since life itself is at stake, but the spirit of competition is much the same.

So too is Dick Dastardly willingness to do whatever it takes to win and his failure to make good on that intent.

While his do-or-die, ethically-free motivation to win at all costs which powered him throughthe original series is now that of all his competitors, rendering him less clearly marked out as a class-A baddy, he is an existential mess, saddled with the terrible guilt of watching his wife and son die while he lived safe and sound inside the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.

Penelope Pitstop too still have some of her girlish charm but that’s mostly employed as a way of disarming her enemies who assume a women couldn’t possibly pose any kind of threat.

Think again everyone – Pitstop wants to get to Utopia as badly as anyone and will do whatever it takes to get there.

The freeze frames that marked the cartoon series, which provided you with a chance to see who was placed where in the race, are given a loving nod of the head too, with the lavish artistic renderings by Leonardo Manco matched by writer Ken Pontac cheeky, ballsy commentary.

The series is marked by rather frequent, jagged back and forth action between the past, present and future, each instalment told with the same sort of breathless, messy excitement that marks the comics as a whole.

This is not your childhood cartoon creations reborn so much as obliterated by a nuclear blast and remade from the ground-up, disillusioned, Darwinian to the core and ruthless to the end, and despite scepticism that such a radical departure couldn’t possibly work in light of the fey campness of the original, it does and spectacularly so.

You realise as you’re reading it that if you strip away all the hilarious commentary by, yes an announcer, and the comic set pieces that dotted each episode, Wacky Races and Wacky Raceland share a sizeable amount of storytelling DNA and attitude.

It’s still all about winning the race, although in this new darker, nastier, more brutal though still camp as hell iteration, the stakes are way higher and losing is not something you want to Muttley-snigger about lest you never rise again.