Awwww love sweet Simon’s Cat-foiled love

(artwork via YouTube (c) Simon Tofield)

 

Much as I love and adore kittehs, and I do, there is a possibility, just a minor one mind you, that they like to get their own way.

Pretty much all of the time.

Oh they undeniably love you, and want to be close to you and want cuddles, which are all good things but it’s often on their own self-determined timetable which can complicate things like, oh I don’t know, dating.

If you’re a single cat owner like Simon, of Simon’s Cat fame, that can be a wee bit of a problem – rat for main course anyone?

Of course we wouldn’t have it any other way, and it’s amazing what we’ll forgive our cats for – my old cat Fred used to lie right across the newspaper as I read it meaning I often missed great chunks of story; I shrugged it off and loved him anyway – but maybe next time Simon dinner out at a restaurant?

Assuming his cat doesn’t get a GPS which, given his feline resourcefulness, is a very real possibility.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

Movie review: The Lovers

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Love, particularly romantic love, the stuff of Valentine’s Day, romantic comedies and long moonlit walks, is regularly placed on a pedestal with many of us eager to buy into the idea that there is something unassailably perfect about the notion of ’til death do us part and selfless commitment to another.

But the fact of the matter is that we’re human, fallibly, feet-of-clay human, and while we might aspire to romantic perfection, the kind that moves someone to write a song and sing it to the heavens, we all too often fail to live up to the ideal.

Azazel Jacobs’ winningly honest film, The Lovers, explores the lives of Michael (Tracy Letts) and Mary (Debra Winger), two married, disillusioned, middle-aged people who are so overwhelmed by the impossibly demanding myths and ideals of love’s impressively-overwrought publicity machine, that they subvert them in the only way they know how – by each having an affair.

Like every adulterer, theirs is a world of stolen moments, of lies-about whereabouts and misrepresented circumstances with Michael, in love with flighty, emotionally-impetuous Lucy (Melora Walters) and Mary, equally enraptured with Robert (Aidan Gillen), a writer prone to grand gestures and some passive-aggressive manoeuvres.

You suspect that at some deep level Michael and Mary, who live in a world of beige and compromise, their home, work and inbetween lives, save for the moment they are living the part of the titular lovers, bland and drained of promise, know that each has long ago left the building marriage-wise.

But they labour on, many of the early scenes a painfully funny choreography of barely-concealed annoyance, frustration and stilted conversation, proof that each now barely tolerates the other, love having long since died a slow and uneventful death, their union only a shell with very little holding it together beyond lies and copious amounts of red wine and awkwardly-paused small talk.

 

(image courtesy official The Lovers Facebook page)

 

Then a remarkable thing happens.

Just when they are both supposedly primed and ready to plunge the knife into the shambling zombie of their marriage, independently and frantically at times promising their long-suffering and now impatiently disbelieving lovers, that this is the moment it all happens and their new lives start, they fall back in love with each other.

Well, not so much love as a last-ditch renewal of sexual and personal attraction, fuelled by a very real fear of leaving behind something that has given their lives form and ever-declining meaning for years, and which is the only thing keeping their malcontented son Joel (Tyler Ross) coming home, this time with his new girlfriend Erin (Jessica Sula).

So last-minutes cold feet if you like, that sees the couple end up cheating, for that’s effectively what it is, on adulterous relationships they have now declared silently and publicly are the real deal, the passionate replacements for their moribund, lifeless, past its use-by date marriage.

It culminates in a very funny scene where Michael and Mary, both out on very public dates with their new partners, part of a commitment to add substance to their many promises that THIS IS IT, NO REALLY, I MEAN IT, end up on calling each other, ostensibly to come up with tired old excuses for staying out all night (working late, all night, a classic lie so commonly-used and universally-joked about that its very use suggests the two can’t even be bothered lying properly to each other anymore). But the conversation instead ends with them both home, frantically making love, or whatever the hell it is they still have, to each other.

It’s funny, ironic and messy, just like real life, like real romantic love, which is always so aspirationally pure but so down in the gutter compromised, whether we like to admit it or not.

Jacobs, who both wrote and directed the mostly pitch-perfect film, does judge either Michael or Mary, even when they’re patently behaving abominably, the general stance being one of calm acceptance that it is how love, for better or worse, plays out.

Even when Michael and Mary finally do the deed – the break-up of the marriage, not the sex although during their brief but furiously lustful renewal, it is frequent and intense – it is not clean and uncomplicated, as Lucy and Robert believe, but every bit as flawed and poorly-executed as any romantic entanglements before it, proof that though we aim high, we often end up, despite ourselves, falling far short.

 

(image courtesy official The Lovers Facebook page)

 

The refreshing thing about the The Lovers is that it doesn’t come across as brutally despondent or cynical about love, or even marriage; in fact, it almost celebrates the power and veracity of love especially, offering its potency up as the reason why people like Michael and Mary, who are ticking all the boxes you’d expect of a couple their age, would do what they do, and how they would do it, cognisant though they are of the consequences.

They’re not presented as monsters or unfeelingly horrible people, torn as they are by their duplicity and underhanded, half-realised lives, but equally unable to keep living the lie of an empty shell of a relationship with each other.

Rather they are simply two people caught between the romantic perfectionism celebrated by society, and aggressively upheld by their still-idealistic college-aged son, and the stark realities of life down in the long-term relationship trenches.

Jacobs doesn’t always get the narrative to hum along in service to these grounded ideas with both the beginning and the end of Michael and Mary’s marital renaissance oddly and abruptly ushered in and out. Even so, the execution is poetic and unexpected, just like its occurrence, with the tone and feel of The Lovers deliciously on point throughout, bolstered by luminously bland tones, whimsically romantic music by Jacob’s longtime collaborator Mandy Hoffman, and a very real understanding sense that this is just the way it is.

Darkly quirky and as authentic as can be, despite a storyline replete with people acting out lies and subterfuge, though it has to be said in the service of some very real, deeply motivational emotional attachments, The Lovers is a gem, an admission that though romantic love is an appealingly ideal state of being and one worth pursuing, it comes with some hefty price tags, some so high that we might find ourselves in all kinds of bother and pretense trying to figure out how to pay them.

 

Blue Planet II: Take a deep breath and watch this Pixar story come to life (trailer)

(image (c) BBC)

 

SNAPSHOT
This world-exclusive introduction to the show is narrated by series presenter Sir David Attenborough and set to an exclusive track developed by Hans Zimmer and Radiohead. The prequel features an array of some of the most awe-inspiring shots and highlights from the new series, as well as several exclusive scenes that will not feature in any of the seven episodes which are set for UK broadcast on BBC One later this year. (synopsis via YouTube (c) BBC)

There is something about the ocean blue that has an irresistable pull for all of us.

Perhaps that’s because where all life, including our own began. Or is it because we sense in its vast, near-unfathomable depths a mystery that we want to solve or beauty and vivacity of life that we want to connect with, especially as our modern, urban-based lifestyles increasingly distance us from the natural world?

Whatever the reason, this love for the seas, oceans and coastlines of our remarkable planet are in for another exquisitely-made close-up as the BBC prepares to release Blue Planet II, which, much like its 2001 predecessor, combines stunningly immersive visuals, a love for the natural world and the dulcet and knowledgable tones of Sir David Attenborough (one of my all-time personal heroes).

 

 

The trailer that has been released to publicise the series, which airs later this year, gives an intriguing, compelling look at the wonder and beauty of the oceans, which are populated, according to BBC producer Mark Brownlow, by some amazingly emotionally-resonant stories:

“You’re meeting little tusk fish that can pick up shells and smash them.

“You’ve got an octopus that can disguise itself from a shark attack.”

“The level of characterisation we’re getting from our animals, they are almost like real life Pixar stories.”

Stories that, it should be added too many years to film and required an infinite amount of patience and dedication. The results, notes Sir David, have been suitably impressive, and promise an excitingly watchable new dive into the natural world.

“I think the things that really astounded me were when we go down deeper into the oceans than ever before and see sights that are really mind-blowing.”

(source: BBC and Laughing Squid)

 

Now this is music #97: Ionnalee, Butter, Future War Bride, Queenie, Bien

 

Who wants a beige life?

No one in their right mind that’s who, which is why you need to listen to artists like the ones following who chart their own course, put real thought into their artistic expression and pour it into songs so unique and vividly listenable that you’ll realise, all over again, how richly varied life can be.

And if ever the beige comes creeping back in, and it happens despite our best efforts thanks to daily routine and exhaustion, then throw these songs on, soak in them and be reawakened to a life lived far from the boring centre.

 

“Not Human” by Ionnalee 

 

Ionnalee (image courtesy official Ionnalee Soundcloud page)

 

Setting out on her own after eight years as part of Swedish electronic music and audiovisual project iamamiwhoami, ionnalee aka Jonna Lee has gifted us with the fruits of her many talents including singing/songwriting and visual directing in the form of the lushly ethereal beauty of “Not Human”.

Beginning with some trippy pounding beats, “Not Human” has a melodic vibrancy to it, grounded and enriched by ionnalee’s emotionally-resonant voice with the song, as We Are: The Guard points out, creatively paying tribute to the way romantic love can truly change us:

“…. the song is a larger-than-life piece of electronic pop, with a powerfully rhythmic instrumental acting as a backdrop to Jonna’s narrative about her lover giving her shape-shifting abilities: ‘Oh, oh! You make my waters flow/Now look how tall I grow/I’m not human/Oh, oh! With you, it’s magical/The urge is animal/I’m not human.'”

As imaginative celebrations of love’s immense power to make us someone altogether different, “Not Human” takes some beating, it’s gorgeously-transcendent music the perfect backdrop to life-affirming lyrics.

 

 

 

“For Kate I Wait (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti Cover)” by Butter

 

Butter (image via official Butter Facebook page)

 

Kate Bush, one of pop music’s most original and brilliantly clever voices, has inspired a great many people; among them is Ariel Pink who penned “For Kate I Wait” as part of his solo project Haunted Graffiti which he used up until 2014.

Similarly-inspired it turns out is Butter aka Lola Blanc, a Los Angeles-based artist who covers Pink’s seminal track, infusing this standard bearer song of Hypnagogic pop (basically chilled pop that draws heavily on nostalgia and older styles of music such as that of the 1980s) with a distinctly gender-different perspective as We Are: The Guard points out in their description of this catchy track:

“[she] succeeds in bringing a whole different dimension to the hypnagogic pop piece, which originally appeared on 2000’s The Doldrums. Featuring her starry-eyed vocals meeting an 80s-indebted, synth-speckled production courtesy of Night Sequels and Freescha’s Nick Huntington, it’s an otherworldly cover that drains the song of most of its testosterone, refocusing it instead through a dazzling female gaze.”

It’s rich, bright and breezy, a wash of amped-up etherealness that surges and bounces along while still retaining lush emotionally-introspective qualities.

 

 

“Gloves Off” by Future War Bride

 

Future War Bride (image via official Future War Bride Facebook page)

 

Oh, but “Gloves Off” is a lot of fuzzy atmospheric rockin’ fun!

The debut single from Danish outfit Future War Bride, the song has got a whole of Bowie/Queen-esque sonic weirdness going on which grants a deliciously psychedelic vibe to this fantastically out there song.

And if you think it’s whole lot of musical experimentation with no real purpose, think again:

“The face down generation is, on a spiritual level, going belly up in the hunt for the next opportunity. It’s a weird and cruel philosophy that leads only one way, creating miserable people in a miserable world. This is not a game, and people are not athletes. Maybe it’s time to take the gloves off and start fighting with winners and losers mentality.” (source: We Are: The Guard)

So there you have it – some very retro musical influences with some very pithy, off-the-moment sentiments that together creates a thoroughly original track that will have you captivated and thinking hard for quite some time.

 

 

“I’m Ready” by Queenie

 

Queenie (image via official Queenie Soundcloud page)

 

One of the distinguishing marks of many new music artists is a scant or near-to-nonexistent bio. Is it an attempt at mystery? Of wanting the music to speak for itself unadorned by a biographical muddying of the waters? A case of not enough time what with music creating and everything?

Whatever’s behind it, new British artist Queenie is among their number, arriving with no real bio but a debut single “I’m Ready”, that is a giddily upbeat as it lushly and darkly plunges into a swirl of modern electronic music that is brilliantly, amazingly, insanely catchy.

With her sound described by We Are: The Guard as “the love child of Robyn and Lily Allen”, “I’m Ready” surges on a wave of densely melodic synth beats and a voice that fits into the musical scheme of things so perfectly that you feel like the artist has always been singing the song.

You know, whoever the hell she may be …

 

 

“Spinning on Blue” by Bien

 

Bien (image courtesy official Bien Facebook page)

 

An indie-pop Nashville, Tennessee-based trio that includes Jessie Early, Angela Lauer and producer Tim Lauer, Bien is a band that began with the idealistic notion of creating music free from any and all limitations (but not without “confetti” and “fun” according the band’s Facebook page About us section).

The latest fruit of their un-hemmed in labours, following their debut EP in 2016, “Spinning Blue” is set very much in a musical tradition which they, delightfully and somewhat quirkily describe as “dreamy synths, unique melodies, sweeping strings, and dance-y beats, [with] the songs cover[ing] a colorful spectrum of emotion.”

It’s an exquisitely-wrought piece of pitch-perfect dream pop awash in beautifully removed vocals that soar lightly and brightly across a lithe, steadily pounding musical landscape that seems to stretch on into infinity.

The song is a reminder, says the band, that we should all stop and remember that even in the midst of the fraught mess that is 2017, beauty and community should be sought and can be found:

“There’s so much going on in the world right now, and we really wanted to write something that encouraged people to remember we’re all sharing this planet. It’s our kind of ‘seize the day’ song that reminds us to take in the beauty and wonder of the world and the people around us.” (source: We Are: The Guard)

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

If there’s one music artist you can count to come up with a truly original, imaginative, envelope-pushing visual feast for her songs, it’s Björk.

Her new song for “The Gate”, the lead single from her upcoming album Utopia, is no exception, a crazy, colourful feast for the eyes that is the result of the artist’s collaboration, according to SPIN, with “Andrew Thomas Huang, the artist and filmmaker who also directed videos for Björk’s Biophilia album and the VR clips for Vulnicura, and Alessandro Michele, creative director at Gucci.”

 

Horrors of copyright: How Night of the Living Dead gave birth (or death) to the modern zombie genre

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

The Walking Dead. The Newsflesh Trilogy. World War Z. Pride Prejudice and Zombies. Resident Evil. Shaun of the Dead.

All those highwater marks (and quite a few low water marks, sensibly not mentioned, too) of the modern zombie genre would likely not exist, or at at least not in their current form, were it not for a mistake by the company that distribution George Romero’s iconic 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.

Widely recognised as the film that gave birth to modern zombie storytelling – previously zombies had been almost exclusive preserve of Haitian voodoo folkore with older movies drawing from that belief system – the film led to Romero, who died recently at the age of 77, being christened the father of zombie movies.

As Kaptain Kristian notes in his latest beautifully-produced, richly-informative video essay, Night of the Living Dead has been hugely influential in shaping how zombies are perceived by the public at large.

But its influence stems from one critically-important poor decision by the distribution company, an oversight which had huge ramifications for pretty much everyone involved and led to the huge zombie business that we know today.

 

Fear the Walking Dead: “Brother’s Keeper” (S3, E12 review)

So much for posting selfies on Instagram and kissing boys behind the bleachers … apocalyptic teenage Alicia is definitely not living the teenage dream (photo by Richard Foreman Jr / courtesy AMC)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND MORE ZOMBIES THAN YOU CAN POKE A POINTY STICK AT …

So you know how they – yes the mysterious “they” who are responsible for pretty much everything it seems – always say revenge is a dish best served cold?

How about undead with trailing entrails and an unearthly growl?

Not all that appealing on one level but definitely capturing the revenge vibe which, let’s face it, it not exactly cute puppies, warm hugs and all the cheesecake you can eat.

In “Brother’s Keeper”, which saw Jake (Sam Underwood) and Troy (Daniel Sharman) circling around the turgid drain of brotherly love, revenge was all the rage, particularly if you’re a zombie since mindless raging is pretty much all you have left to do, beside chomping down on stray living creatures like cows and yes sadly, Jake.

Troy was smitten, in his lifetime state of delusion which had received an extra helping hand of detached from reality when he was exiled from the ranch and left out in the wilderness by Madison (Kim Dickens), by the idea of making everyone at The Ranch suffer.

But, and this is a tribute to the quality of the writing that uniformly the storytelling on Fear the Walking Dead, his motivations were actually far more nuanced and decidedly filial.

In his state of ravaged sanity, the product of more abuse than anyone should have to endure, Troy saw herding a massive, and I mean dust storm-creating massive horde of the undead towards The Ranch as some act of brotherly love.

That he, Troy, son of the cruelly slain Jeremiah (Dayton Callie), wasn’t going to take the necessary death of his father lying down – not that he saw it as necessary; adding to Jake’s torment, he did, an acknowledgement that diabolically increased the intensity of his emotional pain – and so, in a plan straight out of the “what the living f**k are you doing?” playbook (best avoided if you can) Troy spent two days sending a sh*t ton of the undead towards a whole lot of wholly innocent people at The Ranch.

 

It’s always the same … post a party on social media and all the undead lowlifes in the neighbourhood turn up (photo by Richard Foreman Jr / courtesy AMC)

 

The only reason anyone knew it was happening though was because, in a Bond villain-esque moment, Troy visited his unhinged soul brother Nick (Frank Dillane) and cryptically hinted that “a reckoning” was coming.

Ah vaguely redneck Biblically malevolent language is such a hoot isn’t it? All kinds of doom and death and destruction tied up in a great big pile of camp craziness.

For reasons known only to Nick, and seriously wouldn’t you have run down the hill to tell people, Madison’s #1 child – yeah sorry Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) but you know it’s true, he waited until morning light to saunter down and let Alicia, Jake, Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) and Lee aka Crazy Dog (Justin Rain) know that (a) Toy was alive (b) he was babbling like an end-times prophet on way too much mescaline, and (c) doom might soon be upon them.

Well hurrah Nick and wouldn’t like bacon and eggs with all that doom and gloom?

Naturally, the only way to sort out whether anything was actually going on for sure since Troy was not exactly the most reliable of people with a few thousand holes in his credibility rating, Jake and Nick set off to find him and see if the Bond villainy was real or imagined.

Sadly, real which c’mon they must have known would be the case.

As the horde of the undead ambled past them Z Nation-like, Jake and Troy had a brotherly moment, but not the kind you’d see featured in a Hallmark movie around Christmastime.

No, theirs involved Jake holding a gun to Troy’s head saying he had to end it here, Nick saying “No, don’t do it, think of the pain and regret!” – yes that’s right folks, Nick was more worried about Jake’s fragile emotional state than he was about the lives of many others back at The Ranch; priorities, Nick, priorities! – and Jake failing to follow through.

Push came to shove, undead hordes to the squabbling three and before you knew it, Jake had been bitten, had had his arm chopped off, died, turned, all while Troy tearfully realised that maybe a card saying “I love you brother” might have been a way less messy an option.

 

Let’s hear it for brotherly love and … yeah, well, maybe not the type that leads to zombie chomping (photo by Richard Foreman Jr / courtesy AMC)

 

So the sh*t, or in this case, desert dust royally hit the fan, and the horde arrived at  The Ranch and quickly overwhelmed the circling of the wagons aka Winnebagos defence, forcing everyone bar a few hapless Ensign Ranchers to flee for the cutely-named Pantry wherein lie lots of food, water and guns … and bloody big doors to keep zombies out.

Getting in was relatively easy for everyone bar Ofelia, Alicia and Lee who had to fight their way to safety through a group of fairly determined zombies but getting out could be a mite tricky.

Fortunately Madison, Qaletaqa (Michael Greyeyes) and Victor (Colman Domingo) are coming back with a tanker of water and Nick and Troy are still out there somewhere but man alive, there’s a lot of the undead to dispatch before anyone can kick back and watch a Texan sunset anytime soon.

For all the gory zombie action, and it was freaking spectacular truth be told, “Brother’s Keeper” was a beautifully nuanced Shakespearean tale of brotherly love and delusion that carried a huge amount of emotional romance.

It emphasised again that Fear the Walking Dead‘s great narrative strength is its ability to tell emotionally-impacting very intimate stories within a broad broadstrokes canvas, focusing on the fact that for all the big action set pieces, the apocalypse is really about how the lives of various people and groups are affected.

While big dramatic baddies may look enticing – The Walking Dead is almost fatally addicted to them now; yeah I’m looking at you Negan – what really matters in these apocalyptic tales is what’s happening at the human level.

“Brother’s Keeper” captured this profoundly and movingly, giving us the big zombie battle we all crave but remembering that for it to mean anything at all, we need to see the humanity behind it, something that was on palpably powerful display in this exquisitely well-wrought episode.

  • Next time on Fear the Walking Dead … “This Land is Your Land” where who has what plot of ground looks to be less of a concern than, you know, actually surviving to stand on it …

 

 

Pack your bags Rick & Morty! You’re off to the SpongeBob SquarePants universe

(image via YouTube (c) Vulture)

 

SNAPSHOT
Vulture sat down with the co-creators of Rick and Morty, Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, along with producer Ryan Ridley, and voice actors Spencer Grammer (Summer), and Sarah Chalke (Beth), and asked them to improvise an episode in a Spongebob-like world.

In this Vulture-animated short, Rick and Morty overlook a domestic dispute between Sponge-eons, and are interrupted by guest appearances from underwater heroes from both the DC and Marvel universe. (source: Laughing Squid)

Rick and Morty, Dan Harman and Justin Roiland’s gloriously, fabulously demented creations have been to lots of weird and wonderful places.

Gazorpazorp. Citadel of Ricks. Dimension C-137. The Teenyverse. (And lots more.)

Now you can added the quirkily crazy world of Spongebob Squarepants, courtesy of an non-canonical, improvisational mini-episode engineered by Vulture that is every bit as as funny and deliciously demented as you might imagine it be.

So throw away your stark divisions between cartoon properties, get your postmodern mindset up and running, and glory in a world where Rick and Morty and Spongebob Squarepants are part of the same gloriously demented world.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

Star Trek Discovery: S1, E1 “The Vulcan Hello” & E2 “Battle at the Binary Stars” review

(image via IMP Awards)

 

At this stage of Star Trek’s just over 50 year old journey into the stars and the depths of humanity’s soul, you could be forgiven for wondering if there is anywhere left to boldly go where we haven’t already boldly gone before.

After all, from Captain Kirk to Archer, Picard to Sisko and Janeway, from the dawn of the warp age through to its conflict-ravaged depths,  and from the glories of utopia, upon which Gene Roddenberry’s grand vision of the future was founded through to its corrupted reverse, there has been scarcely a moment left uncharted you might think.

But as is the way of endlessly expansive sci-fi for which there are no boundaries but those of an unadventurous imagination, and thank Sarek for that, Star Trek: Discovery, created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, would prove you wrong.

The much-anticipated return of Star Trek to the small screen it is the first TV series in the franchise since Enterprise finished its run in 2005, Discovery takes us as much back to the past as the future, slotting neatly between the Original Series and its immediate predecessor.

It could be argued that striking out into the technologically-advanced wilds of the centuries beyond Next Generation would be a far better, wholly undiscovered country to explore, but as you watch the protagonist of the latest Star Trek incarnation, Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), raised a Vulcan by Spock’s esteemed father Sarek (James Frain) but wholly human inside despite all the applied logic, do her thing you realise the value there is in returning to the Federation’s earlier days.

This was a period when exploration was truly an endeavour of galactic bravery and curiosity, shiny, advanced spaceships notwithstanding; a time when, as this two-part prologues demonstrates, with a grittiness that belies its evocative, CGI-enhanced cinematic visuals, that you never really knew what you’d come across.

The capacity then to be surprised is infinitely greater as it most definitely is when Burnham, and her Captain, Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh in a guest starring role), whom we first meet on the desert expanse of a strange planet on a humanitarian mission to bring water to an endangered pre-warp people, come across the first Klingons anyone has seen in over a hundred years.

Far from the days when a Klingon, admittedly a rarity, serves as an officer aboard’s Picard’s Enterprise, and the Empire is more a part of the galactic fabric if still a factious one, the encounter is one fuelled by xenophobia and revived nationalism as a revolutionary firebrand, a true believed in the Klingon messiah Kahless, T’Kuvma (Chris Obi), is in the mostly successful process of reuniting the 24 grand houses, locked to this point in internecine disarray.

 

 

What should be a routine mission to fix a communications relay on the edge of Federation space suddenly becomes a pitched dramatic battle, the kind you’re more likely to see in one of J J Abram’s re-imagined Star Trek: The Original Series films than a small-screen journey into realms where no one has ever gone before.

Disinclined to democracy and possessing some formidable firepower and a now powerful motivator in Klingon racial purity – there is a significant sense of white supremacists standing up against a heterogenous interloper aka the Federation – Burnham and her colleagues, including Chief Science Officer Saru (Doug Jones), with whom she “enjoys” a contrary relationship, find themselves up against an enemy who believes less in diplomacy than sheer, brute force.

Not quite the grand visionary ideal of renewed first contact now is it?

Granted the good folks of the Federation such as one benighted Admiral named Anderson (Terry Serpico), all blustery arrogance and mansplain-ingness, do their best to employ the ideals upon which their multi-planetary idyll is based but it’s fruitless and results not only in the loss of a number of ships, but many crew members and Burnham’s belief that she can make a career in Starfleet work.

Told spectacularly, and yet with some immensely-gratifying moments of great intimacy such as that between Burnham and her mentor Georgiou, or Burnham and Sarek, Star Trek: Discovery is an impressive piece of storytelling by any estimation.

It’s not without its faults, of course, much like the Federation itself whose vibrant self-belief often verges on virulent manifest destiny of the worst kind, with say Burnham’s oft-referred to emotional aloofness more a creature of the script than evidenced in reality, and the Klingons drawn to fairly simplistic, warrior tub-thumping one-trick ponies (still time to grow I suppose into Worf given time), but for the most part it works and works well.

Much like the modern iteration of Battlestar Galactica before it however, Discovery begins not as it really intends to go on; that is, you need to think of these two-part opener as a wholly distinct entity that ushers in the Federation of this era and time, and not as part of what comes after this.

While we are yet to see what follows the cataclysmic “Battle of the Binary Stars” which sees the crew of the USS Shenzhou almost literally scattered to the stars, it stands to reason in the face of a total rupturing of the reality we are first presented with that what follows will be a whole world, or galaxy, unto its own.

 

 

Burnham, the first #Number One” to be the focus of a Star Trek series – usually this protagonistic honour falls to the Captain of the ship in question – will, by sheer dint of narrative wallop alone, have to go onto a new ship, a new crew.

Indeed word is that only Saru will carry over to episode 3 and beyond, meaning that what we witnessed in the first two excellently-wrought episodes that bristle with visual splendour and narrative substance and nuance,  is more prelude than something to be carried forward.

That’s not a bad thing necessarily, and you can hardly discount the first episodes as unnecessary though beautifully-delivered filler since they set up a story, one enticingly ill-defined and full of expansive possibility, and do in such a way that you want to see what kind of rabbit Burnham can pull out of her immensely-diminished hat.

Star Trek: Discovery gives every indication of being as much Deep Space Nine, the most critically-lauded of all the Trek shows, and a personal favourite, as TOS or Next Generation, a show that recognises, with all the dramatic allure that implies, that ideals are all well and good and one can only hope they prevail over blighted realpolitik in the future, but people will remain people and the lesser angels of everyone’s nature will inevitably play a role, no matter how visionary you might like things to be.

It seems to also acknowledge, as Deep Space Nine before it, that the Federation can be as high-minded and noble as it wants, but if the other warring races of the quadrant don’t want to play ball, there’s nothing that Starfleet can really do about it.

It even seems prepared to jettison the idea that the crews of spaceships and those higher up such as Admiral Anderson should always be in virtuous harmony; where’s the fun in that in the end since it stunts any kind of dramatic exploration worth its salt.

No, Star Trek: Discovery seems wholly prepared to be very much its own creature of the franchise – observing and upholding the ideals of inclusion, respect, diversity and open-mindedness and exploration while being narratively cognisant of the fact that the world out there is a wild and woolly one, especially in the mid-twenty third century, that won’t necessarily play nicely in the galactic sandbox.

Possessed of a grand and epic musical opening, a sensibility that is idealistic but pragmatic, lush cinematic visuals and characters that look like they’ll worth caring about (such as we’ve seen anyway; the bulk are yet to make our acquaintance) Star Trek: Discovery looks to be very much worth the price of admission and a welcome new addition to the august, compelling canon of this most venerable of sci-fi franchises.

 

Tough tonsillectomy or are you just not that Happy! (teaser promo)

Happy! with purpose (image via Entertainment Weekly (c) Syfy)

 

Happy!, by writer Grant Morrison and artist Darick Robertson, is one very dark graphic novel.

Mainly because its protagonist Nick (Chris Meloni), a bitter, angry, corrupt ex-cop-turned-dirty private investigator who never quite got over the death of his wife, is a man for whom the glass is not simply half-empty, it’s leaking out of every possible hole as an elephant squashes it into a thousand twisted pieces.

So there’s that.

But there’s also a very intense reason why Nick is seeing a chirpy imaginary blue horse named, yep, Happy! (Patton Oswalt), after a near-death experience, the natural consequence for a life lived in grief’s unresolved nihilistically destructive shadows – a task so urgent that failure to take it on and complete it could result in some horrible deaths that no one wants on their conscience.

 

 

Not that Happy! after all then?

The brilliance of Happy! is that it balances giddily upbeat quirk with dark, twisted purpose brilliantly, managing to keep both in tension and working well with each other.

It’s a perfect fit for a syfy and we now have a teaser promo to go with the earlier Comic-Con one. The bad news is that the show, which was supposed to premiere right about now-ish, has been pushed back to 10 p.m. EST, Wednesday, 6 December.

So, yeah, we have to wait a little while longer to get Happy!

(source: Bleeding Cool)

 

The eyes have it don’t they Nick? (image via Entertainment Weekly (c) Syfy)

The age of stone is over! Oops, someone forgot to tell Early Man (poster + trailer)

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Set at the dawn of time, when dinosaurs and wooly mammoths roamed the earth, “Early Man” tells the story of how one plucky caveman unites his tribe against a mighty enemy and saves the day! (synopsis via Coming Soon)

So can you imagine what it would feel like if they started the Bronze Age and forgot to tell you?

Dug (Eddie Redmayne) can and trust us, it’s not a lot of fun!

Well actually it is since it’s the basis of Aardman Entertainment’s (Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep) next film, Early Man, where Stone Age caveman such as Dug and his tribe, run headlong, in Dug’s case literally, into the cold, hard, metallic, hand of the Bronze Age and its evil poster child, Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston).

Can Dug win the day and save everyone he knows from ending up working in the mines? (“What’s a mine?” asks one, robbing Lord Nooth’s threat of much its malevolence. Or will metal beat stone?

We’ll find next year when Dug and his amusingly dimwitted friends discover what it feels to have progress kick off without you.

Early Man opens in USA 16 February 2018 and in Australia 29 March.