Trio o’ TV trailers: Disenchantment, Wellington Paranormal, Nightflyers

 

Oh boy do we need more TV shows!

Actually in the strictest not really since, unless you’re some kind of automaton (and if you are, when’s Skynet making their move, please?), no one really has the time in Peak Glut TV for any more programs in their schedule but when they’re these three appealing possibilities, how could you not at least consider them?

Trust me, you’ll likely want to make space on your DVR for …

 

DISENCHANTEMENT

 

(image via variety (c) Netflix)

 

SNAPSHOT
In the first animated teaser for the 10-episode series, we’re introduced to Princess Bean (Abbi Jacobson) as she’s returning to her father’s kingdom under less than ideal circumstances. Bean, her elf companion Elfo (Nat Faxon), and their demon buddy Luci (Eric Andre) are called to the king’s court, likely for causing a ruckus, and it isn’t until Bean’s cloak is removed that the king realizes he’s interrogating his own daughter. (synopsis (c) io9)

What do you do if you’re animation maestro Matt Groening and you’ve tasted success with a future-set show (Futurama) and one set in the present (The Simpsons)? Why, you go hurtling back to the past and set your show in ye olden days completed with a wholly unorthodox princess, an elf named, yep, Elfo (Nat Faxon) and, of course, a demon Luci (Eric Andre) for good measure. There’s even lots of drinking and fantasy tropes skewering which means these adventures in the kingdom of Dreamland will definitely not be what fairy tale doctor ordered, but damn they’ll be fun!

Disenchantment drops its first season on Netflix on 1 August.

 

 

WELLINGTON PARANORMAL

 

(image via Starburst (c) TVNZ)

 

SNAPSHOT
Sergeant Ruawai Maaka of the Wellington Police enlists the aid of Officers Minogue and O’Leary to tackle paranormal events in New Zealand’s capital city. In a police reality show style, the 6 part series follows these kiwi cops as they investigate cases such as the demon possession of a teenager, a noise complaint at a haunted house and a blood bank robbery. (synopsis via IMDb)

What We Do in the Shadows was one of my standout films of 2014. An hilarious mockumentary from New Zealander creative powerhouses Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement that gave us an inside look at the rather weird, and very funny, lives of Wellington’s vampires, it mercilessly parodied all the usual vampire tropes and some wider horror ones into the bargain with werewolves even get a non-sweary look-in. While the movie itself is getting a direct sequel in the form of “We’re Wolves” and a 10-part US TV series set in the USA that explores the idiosyncratic lives of New York vampires, the most immediate follow-up is TVNZ’s 6-part series Wellington Paranormal which look funny, damn funny, with that understated, self-deprecating hilarity that New Zealanders do so well.

Wellington Paranormal premieres on TVNZ on 11 July in New Zealand; no international release details available at the moment.

NIGHTFLYERS

(image via YouTube (c) syfy)

 

SNAPSHOT
The story follows a team of scientists on a mission to make first contact with an ancient, nomadic alien race. Of course, things turn from historic to horrifying when a malevolent presence makes its way onto the ship. With the crew trapped on the ship without anywhere to run to hide from this newfound threat, the crew must do whatever it can to survive. (synopsis via Hypable)

Honestly, after the endless number of TV shows, movies and books about people on spaceships who succumb to all manner of nightmarish mindgames, horrific experiences and death, there’s pretty much nothing that could convince me to journey out into the stars. Oh sure, there’s boundless opportunities to explore; but for every Star Trek, there’s an Event Horizon, Alien, Cloverfield Paradox and Sunshine, and countless more besides, none of them offering up much incentive to zip off into the great galactic beyond. But hey, watching it from the safety of a lounge room is another thing entirely which is why I’ll likely tune in when Nightflyers premieres a little later on this year.

Nightflyers premieres on syfy this northern autumn.

Weekend pop art: A pop culture A to Z by Otis Frampton

(image via Think Geek (c) Otis Frampton)

 

I remember fondly the days of learning my ABCs, when my kindergarten teacher Miss Allen and Sesame Street jointly taught me – contentions about how to pronounce the letter “Z” aside -how to go from the beginning to the end of the alphabet (love the song!) and how to use all those fabulous letters to make amazing words.

It was the start of a vibrant love affair that continues to this day and is responsible for my blog posts, my too-long-shelved novel and the job I hold as a content writer.

So yeah I love the alphabet, which means I am positively giddy about writer and artist Otis Frampton’s pop culture alphabet, ABCDEFGeek, which all kinds of geek-loved characters to teach us how to jauntily go from A to Z, with humour and a little irony to boot.

Responsible for the joyously offbeat and quite touching Image Comics’ series Oddly Normal, and a slew of upcoming childrens’ books from Capstone Books featuring Batman, Superman, WonderWoman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Aquaman, Frampton’s alphabetical musings have a delightful whimsy and cleverness to them that make them as pithy as they are cute.

You can find out more about the talented artist and writer by going to otisframpton.com – where you can commission him for comics work – or follow him on Twitter or Instagram.

(image via Think Geek (c) Otis Frampton)

 

(image via Think Geek (c) Otis Frampton)

 

(image via Think Geek (c) Otis Frampton)

 

(image via Think Geek (c) Otis Frampton)

 

(image via Think Geek (c) Otis Frampton)

 

(image via Think Geek (c) Otis Frampton)

 

(image via Think Geek (c) Otis Frampton)

Book review: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

(cover art courtesy Simon & Schuster Australia)

 

I believe it was those pop sages ABBA who once intoned in one of their marvellously-attractive songs that “Love isn’t Easy (But It Sure is Hard Enough)”.

A perfect mix of early ’70s folk-pop, Swedish harmonies and life truisms doesn’t feature anywhere in The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus but the sentiment which drives it most certainly does, with this utterly beguiling and consistently well-written novel full of all kinds of pithy, beautifully-articulated musings on the nature of love, relationship and the tricky art of keeping them alive and kicking.

Frankie, known to the tax office as Frankston Rose – first name after the train station in Melbourne and no, she’d rather not go too deeply into that particular story; her mother Putu, a free spirit with inclinations to yoga, New Age philosophies and boundary-crashing, however has no such inhibitions and will tell you everything – has a pretty wonderful life on the surface.

Frankie’s best friends with lifelong pal Cat who employs the inveterate reader and ardent bibliophile at The Little Brunswick Street Bookshop where they discuss life, books and the meaning of life (and a host of other things such as the dishy Jon Soo who runs the local K-Pop exercise class), and she has a lovely, if overbearing, mother and much put-upon father, and has been published even if the rather negative reviews for her second book left her wondering if that particular accomplishment represents much of an achievement after all.

What she doesn’t have is a boyfriend since Adam aka Ads left her a couple of years back and while she’s not the kind of girl to define herself in terms of a man, she wouldn’t mind having a guy with whom she can discuss her great love of books (but no YA because, well, let’s just say Frankie is a little against that particular genre, at least at the start of the book).

“Over the next few week I will stealthily ninja said books (everything from Atkinson to Zafón) on various train and tram services travelling in and out of the city. My hope? For a man to find one, read it, and be so deeply and irrevocably moved by the words (because he has superb taste in books, is obviously intelligent and has his shit together) that he is compelled to contact me. We shall then hit it off. Date for a few months. Move in together. Get married. And before you can say Fitzwilliam Darcy, live happily ever after with three kids, two Dalmatians and an American walnut veneer bookshelf, of course.” (P. 24)

So being an unconventional woman who doesn’t mind going out on a limb or speaking her mind – sure it’s an approach that has some risks but when she accidentally kisses a hunky male customer named Sunny on the nose one day (long story) it pays off big time – she decides to start leaving copies of books she loves on trains and trams throughout Melbourne, with her details on the seventh-last page of the book. (They have to work for this people – Frankie isn’t just going to hand her good self to them on a platter!)

Thus do titles like The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne end on Route 86 tram to Bundoora RMIT via Smith Street, and Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks find a hopefully temporary home on the South Morang train line towards South Morang; it’s an epically-romantic gambit with no guarantee of success, but Frankie figures that it’s worth a shot and might, just might, find her the love of her life.

What it also does is get her back into the writing she abandoned a few years back when some book reviewers handed out some rather bitter, nay fatally caustic reviews, with the blog charting her unorthodox literarily-influenced romantic adventures capturing the imagination of the blogosphere and even her old publisher.

It’s a win-win all round although none of the men, and there are some literate, clever, intelligent and sweet men who find the books and email her, really come close to ticking all the boxes or filling the considerable emotional vacuum left by Ads.

However, and this is the loveliest spanner in the works that any gal has ever had to contend with, things with Sunny pick up to the point where emotionally-intimacy averse Frankie – you can see where this might cause a problem in a geographically-expansive search for love – has to decide which she wants more – a future with the quirky, YA-loving hunky sweet caring Sunny (who naturally has a secret) or a publishing deal based on her ever-increasingly popular blog?

What’s a girl lost in life to do?

 

 

Quite a bit in fact, what with trying to sort out her ever more-complicated love life, the messiness of Cat’s marriage to Claud and some, ahem extracurricular activities, the love life of 17-year-old Sebastian aka Seb and trying to keep her mother close but not too close.

There’s a lot of amusing, richly-insightful narrative momentum right there, and Berg and Kalus make merry with it, offering up a book pleasingly, often adorably, rich in vibrant characters, sparkling dialogue that dances along with wit and vivacity and some delightful twists-and turns worthy of the very best romantic comedies.

That is what The Book Ninja essentially is – a very, very good Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn-level rom-com, and a passionately-fun love letter to writing, reading and books, that is right up there with the best of anything found in Frankie’s beloved books or the many movies which populate the genre.

Right at the centre of everything is extraordinarily delightful friendship between Frankie and Cat which is absolute pleasure to be a part of on every single page.

These two longstanding friends are silly, serious, whimsical, quirky and heartfelt and you would have to have a heart of concrete encased in stone to not fall in love with how fabulous flawed but appealingly and winningly human these two brilliantly-written characters are.

“Frankie was crouched in the front window, absentmindedly rearranging a display of children’s picture books next to a sign announcing upcoming Book Week celebrations. Koala Lou, Loni and the Moon, Under the Love Umbrella, No One Likes a Fart. Sitting among these sweet and hilarious and poignant stories, she suddenly yearned to be young and unencumbered by adult worries and complications, but her thoughts were interrupted by cat’s exasperated rant about how from Snow White to War and Peace to The Kite Runner, too many mothers are conveniently killed off in literature. ‘What kind of example is it setting for our children?’ she yelled.” (P. 226-227)

They feel like real, endlessly-supportive, unconditional friends, their dialogue is witty, clever, sharp and funny and there’s not really a scene I can recall where they don’t feel like the kinds of people you would love to be friends with and see as often as possible.

The characters who satellite around them such as Frankie’s parents, Sebastian, Cat’s absurdly-handsome, knitting obsessed husband Claud and of course, the turtle-giving Sunny who feels real and grounded even as he is impossibly wonderful in all his ways, are every bit as richly-realised, adding to a cast of characters whose struggles feel real, whose tactics to deal with them make sense and whose flaws and foibles feel all too relatable, and heartwarmingly real.

Its rom-com and character-richness aside, and honestly The Book Ninja is fit to bursting with them to a joyously extravagant degree, this gorgeous novel is a declaration of neverending love to reading and literature, a passionate love affair to which I innately relate after a lifetime of reading which has provided both solace and escape, joy and provocation, comfort and joy, and guidance.

A life without books is something I, and Frankie and Cat, cannot imagine, and it is a central feature of a book which celebrates a real-life initiative Books on the Rail which encourages people to leave books they love on public transport for random people to discover, read, and naturally, fall in love with.

The Book Ninja is one of those rare books that is happily light and fluffy and yet inestimably substantial, a celebration of books, friendship, love and quirky ups-and-downs of life that will delight and enchant you and leave you wishing you could spend more time with the characters and places you come to love beyond measure, people who remind you how fulfilling a life can be when you surrender to the very best things around you, whether that’s books, friends and family, or a kissable stranger who wanders in your bookstore one day and changes your life forever.

 

The hunt has evolved … all-new killing-happy The Predator

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race. (synopsis via HeyUGuys)

Kids huh?

Leave ’em alone and they’ll draw all over the walls with crayon, eat you out of house and home and, oh yeah … summon murderous, high-evolved killing machines from space known as Predators.

This time around, the aliens are even more deadly, – yay evolution and a Borg-like tendency to take the best from other races and make them your own – and humanity face the very real prospect of being wiped from the face of the earth.

So alien apocalypse BAU then?

Possibly, but this trailer looks like a whole world of cleverly-updated pain with The Predator, technically the fourth in the series, acting as a direct sequel to the 1987 original Predator.

The Predator premieres 13 September Australia and 14 September USA / UK.

 

Movie review: Incredibles 2

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Sequels occupy an odd place in the pantheon of Hollywood films, often eagerly-anticipated and existentially-dreaded in equal measure.

They are usually, though not always, a response to a film making a cratering impact on the pop culture firmament, and while the studios make them because cash registers will likely ring with the kind of fervour that makes cinematic bean counters salivate, fans flock to them because of an intrinsic, unyielding connection they’ve made with the original film.

Many times this devotion goes cruelly unrewarded, or at least partially so, but in the case of Incredibles 2 – for what I can only imagine is increasing tripping-off-the-tongue-ness, the “The” from the first film, The Incredibles has been kicked to the superhero curb – it has been paid back handsomely, and then some.

Zipping into cinemas some 14 years years after we first met Mr Incredible aka Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl aka Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) and their powers-imbued brood,  Incredibles 2 is one of those preciously rare sequels that feels as joyously out there and narratively-rich as its predecessor.

In fact, may I be so bold as to say, that Pixar’s latest animated masterpiece takes the very best of the first film, and there was a surfeit of “very best” to help themselves to, and runs and bends and swoops with it in ways that will astonish and delight, and leave you wondering how writer & director Brad Bird got so damn good at what he does.

From its lavish visuals to its brilliantly-rich characters to its ability to juggle some pretty serious issues and superhero chutzpah with comically-stellar observations and exquisitely-good dialogue, Incredibles 2 is a tour de force, proof that sequels don’t have to be just slavish re-imaginings of their predecessor but can be their own lavish, exuberant creation.

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

In fact, so successful is it in both linking back to what came before, and adding and driving what must be a franchise now – calls for Incredibles 3 are already ricocheting with laser-like intent across the interwebs – that my boyfriend, who somehow managed to miss The Incredibles back in 2004, never felt at a disadvantage for one moment.

That kind of referencing of the original and addition of all new material is an impressive balancing act for anyone, but Bird makes it look easy with the jokes flying thick and fast even as a real threat in the form of the hypnotic screen-stealing Screenslaver emerges to test not only the belief of Elastigirl and Mr Incredible in themselves as superheroes but the bonds of their family – Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dashiell “Dash” Parr (Huck Milner)  and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) who comes into his superhero own this time around with 17, count ’em, powers to unwitting credit.

That kind of substance is what makes Incredibles 2 such a compulsive piece of animated viewing.

Sure there are riotously funny moments aplenty that will leave gasping for breath from laughing so hard and so long – the scene where a newly power-capable Jack-Jack fights off a raccoon intruder to the Parr’s yard is a comic gem, one of the leading candidates for one of the standout movie scenes of the year – and that’s to be expected from the humour-embracing franchise, but it also takes its time, like many Pixar films such as Toy Story, to give us carefully thought-through, provoking musings on gender equality, and the all-too-often lack thereof, and the role of keepers of the peace, whoever they might be, and whether it’s possible for the good guys to go too far in pursuit of doing the right thing.

No prizes for guessing which side of that debate Incredibles 2 comes down on, especially as the superhero-championing billionaire, Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), who recruits Elastigirl, much to Mr Incredibles regretful, pride-dented chagrin, to build a case for the re-legalisation of Supers as they’re called, is such an unapologetically ardent fan.

But in exploring, and expertly parodying all kinds of superhero conventions, even as it is a love letter to the genre overall – the climactic battle is as kickass as any of its Marvel compatriots, possessed of a gripping, balletic fluidity that will leave you mesmerised and edge-of-your-seat tense – Incredibles 2 asks some very cool questions about the price we’re willing to pay for justice, peace and protection.

In the light of ongoing debates about national security in my home country Australia, and abroad, it’s a timely focus to be fair, the last thing Incredibles 2 is is political in any way.

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Besides, it’s main focus is the role of family and how each member can find themselves challenged when the status quo of familial harmony is upended.

If you recall, in some The Incredibles, this came in the form of the Parr children discovering that mum and dad were actually impressively-talented superheroes back in the day.

This revelation, which unfolds in a pretty confronting way when Helen has to make use of Dash’s speed and Violet’s protective powers to save dad Bob, cements the family as the kind of together unit they were struggling to be as dad particularly resented his loss of superhero status, a bonding which is tested again but grows still stronger in the sequel.

This time the testing of the established order comes courtesy of gender role-swapping when Elastigirl is recruited to be the face of Deavor’s superhero PR campaign, necessitating lots of time away from home and meaning that Mr Incredible has to step in and be the best dad possible, even as he nurses his easily-bruised ego.

As he struggles to help Dash with maths, Violet with her boy problems and an off -the-charts funny and substantially more present Jack-Jack who can now shapeshift, cut things up with laser eyes and zip between dimensions (he can only be lured back by a cookie which leads to some highly-amusing scenes), and Elastigirl has to deal with things not being quite as they seem even as she misses her family, Incredibles 2 explores with sensitivity, insight and deft use of humour, how families are shaped and formed by the banal as much as the extraordinary, and how parents have to balance being real people with their role as parents.

In the case of the Parrs this is somewhat blurred leading to all kinds of unique familial interactions, but families are families, and the Parrs are no different, even if their superhero abilities present all kinds of unique challenges.

All these pithily-articulated ruminations on all kinds of pressing issues are neatly-balanced and woven into the fabric of a full speed-ahead narrative, in which you’ll be pleased to know Edna (Brad Bird) plays a small but vitally-important, not to mention scene-stealing role, where there’s action aplenty (in which Frozone, played with appealing brio by Samuel L. Jackson once again), jokes beyond number and the kind of retro-influenced, Bond-esque artwork that made the first film such a pleasure to watch.

Incredibles 2 is proof positive, that you can go back, that sequels can work, especially if you take the time as Bird and Pixar clearly have done, to build on everything that was so good about the first film, extend and parlay into something even better, and to continue to tell the kind of stories that dazzle the senses even as they burrow, Underminer like (yes he’s back too!), into your heart.

 

 

It’s a Jurassic World … or is it?! A professor weighs on the accuracy of TV and movie dinosaurs

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

Like many other people, I have long held a fascination for dinosaurs of all shapes and stripes.

Doesn’t matter if its Stegosaurus or T-Rex, Velociraptor or a plesiosaur, dinosaurs captured my imagination very early on, and to my very adult joy, haven’t loosened their hold at all in the intervening years.

Having read so widely on them, well as much as a lay person can anyway, I can spot discrepancies between the latest research and what I see on screen in films such as the all-new Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

But I’m not an paleontologist, and so it’s fascinating to see an actual professor, a very chilled and none-too-precious one I should add, talk about, in Vulture’s new Expert Witness series, how accurately movies and TV shows have portrayed the now much-loved “terrible lizards”.

Among the revelations big and small, news that T-Rex were none too quick on their feet … bummer for Jurassic Park but great for us, you know, should we ever find ourselves 65 million years in the past …

 

Colony: “Lazarus” (S3, E8 review)

Staring … that’s what will see the Hosts off home, wagging their robotic tails behind them … yep, STARING (image via Spoiler TV (c) USA Network)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AS WELL AS DUPLICITY, ARROGANCE AND SOME UNNERVINGLY OPAQUE AGENDAS

So how’s that whole Seattle as the promised land of post-grief/current-grief/no one is talking about the grief living going there Bowmans? I mean Daltons? Ah whatever the hell you’re calling yourself today.

Not so great, I’d wager.

The itsy-bitsy fissures that began to appear for Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) last week when she still in her “tapping the heels of ruby red shoes and reciting ‘There’s no place like Seattle!'” phase turned into great big, unmissable, yawning chasms this week when it turned out that lots of people who were supposedly going to new idyllic life in public housing in the model colony were in fact heading to the lesser know Portland Colony.

Hadn’t heard of it? Missed the flyer for this alien apocalyptic gem as it fluttered down from a drone flying overhead?

I’m not surprised – no one at Refugees Make Great Labourers and/or Soylent Green where Katie works acted like they were aware of it, with Katie’s supervisor  Michelle (Nicki Micheaux) almost blowing a gasket when she told her far-too-many-questions underling not to probe any further.

It’s not clear if Michelle knows stuff, or DOESN’T want to know stuff – figuratively putting the fingers in your ears and yelling “Lalala!!” at high volume seems to be popular to spend your time in Everett Kynes’ (Wayne Brady) idyll of humanity in a sea of alien barbarity – but the message is clear that Seattle is hands down the best thing since slice bread and dammit you’ll keep telling yourself that OK?

Alas, after tagging along on a bus with a sweet old man and seeing where they were headed – hint: NOT Seattle’s empty public housing – Katie realises something is amiss in a Colony which it is rumoured is playing a key role in the development of a biological weapon of some kind, and she is seriously unnerved … and seriously can you blame her?

 

Katie, similarly convinced off the efficacy of sharing as an alien-vanquishing tactic, couldn’t stop it, even at home (image via Spoiler TV (c) USA Network)

 

That particular piece of intelligence comes courtesy of Broussard (Tory Kittles), who along with the ever-suspicious Amy Leonard (Peyton List), is now a resident of Seattle in all its north-western glory.

In fact, thanks to Amy’s that there doctoring skills, he’s in a lovely wooden house on a nice street, perfect for viewing the teflon-coloured, Stepford Wives-esque end of the world which is coming either at the hand of the Hosts or their enemies or the human collaborators who still believe their future has a rosy intergalactic glow.

Once a rebel always a rebel and before you can say “Is that my ration of food or are you just happy to see me?” he’s already plotting to steal information off a key Colony operative, a man who spends his days driving from building to building on very Secret Squirrel business.

Aware that the Colony may look pretty, and honestly they have a VERY nice lawn care regimen; sooooo green and lush, but is deep down rotten to the core, Broussard is determine to get to the truth, and co-opts Will (Josh Holloway) to help him out.

Wasting no time holding a housewarming party or getting to know the neighbours – let’s be fair Broussard is not a people person, not for that matter, an alien one either – the one star of the LA Colony resistance hatches a plan to steal documents, kidnap the operative and get some more intel, the kind that will have katie no doubt sitting in a fetal position before you can say Bram (Alex Neustaedter) wants to take Gracie (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp) to live in his own apartment in a nicer part of town (not sure there is such a thing dude, just saying).

Alas the best laid plans of mice, men and irascible resistance fighters goes to shit when Will, who has perfected his Brooding Face to a remarkably impressive degree, spots … Snyder (Peter Jacobson)!

Yep, say it like Jerry said “Newman!” in Seinfeld, and you have some idea of how pleased Will, who quite reasonably holds the GA “hero” responsible for his son Charlie’s (Jacob Buster) death out in the forest, is to see his former “friend”.

 

Snyder thought he could stare right back but nah, it doesn’t work that way (image via Spoiler TV (c) USA Network)

 

So pleased in fact that he ditches Amy, who rushes to warn Broussard is wigging out but not in time to stop the plan going royally to crap – but at last they get the briefcase full of documents and weird, bullet-repelling silvery material which is not, as Amy “cleverly” observed, of human origin; hmm, well who could it be from then? Thinking, thinking … – and rushes to see Snyder, who’s on a tour of the Colony with Kynes, setting off from a wharf to view the Outlier facility out on a nearby island.

An earlier scene shows that the place is crawling with humans in stasis in pods – well they would be crawling if they could actually think, feel or move – but to what end? And what kind of deals is Kynes doing with the Hosts who have given him technology such as food replication tech that they haven’t even shared with the GA?

No one’s sure and Snyder, who may be working for humanity’s good, his own or the GA’s, or a murky combination of all three, is as suspicious as Katie and Will, who are still not talking, even when she admits to him that she can see that all finger-in-ears-and-lalalaing stuff may not have been as worthwhile as she first thought.

Quite what’s going on is the central mystery here, but the bigger issue, and one handled with admirable restraint by Colony‘s writers who seem to have a grasp of how subtle and un-histrionic grief can be, is the corrosive way the loss of someone desperately important and much-loved can be on a family.

Will and Katie aren’t talking, Bram joined the equivalent of the Stasi – they talk nice but you just know they aren’t – Gracie feels isolated and only listened to by her brother, with the entire family trapped in a spider’s web of threat that looked, until recently, like a lavish five star hotel.

As an nuanced exploration of how grief corrodes and distorts relationships if you let it, and warps good judgement into a very Devil-ish bargain, “Lazarus” is impressive, showing us that even in the midst of the very worst of times, things can sadly get a whole lot worse, and there’s no real way back or forward.

Or at least there appears not to be, which is a problem when you have a Colony administrator like Kynes plotting all kind of alien collaborative fun, and humanity, as ever, right in the cross hairs.

  • Next on Colony in “The Big Empty” … the proverbial hits the fan and any semblance of idyll goes with it …

 

HBO is hoping you won’t avoid these Sharp Objects

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
The limited series’ chilling new trailer follows journalist Camille Preaker (Adams) as she returns to her hometown to cover the story of two murdered young girls. (synopsis (c) Paste Magazine)

You know how small towns are supposed to be warm, cosy bastions of love, acceptance and a surfeit of home-cooked meals prepared with love?

Well, while they might be that and more, and who wants to rain on the parade of snug togetherness that is life in such a bucolic idyll, but they are also a hotbed of long-held secrets, murder and family discord that sets the ratings world on fire.

How do we do this? Only an eon of British and Scandinavian TV shows telling so, and now, of course, Sharp Objects (don’t run with them, and not in the hallway thank you!) created and written (in part) by Gone Girl‘s Gillian Flynn, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée who delivered up to us Big Little Lies, and starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina and Sophia Lillis.

Intrigued yet? Well, you should be – watch the trailer and you’ll appreciate the haunting mystery that lies in wait, both legal and familial and why, even if the small town you visit seems perfectly lovely, that you should keep a close watch on the people around you who are up to, and we guarantee it, way more than first meets the eye.

Sharp Objects premieres on HBO on 8 July.

 

Retro movie review: The Incredibles

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

Being a superhero is, for the most part, a grimly singular endeavour.

Sure, Marvel’s crop of cinematically-popular fighters of evil and catastrophe such as Thor, Black Widow, Iron Man and the like come together when needed as The Avengers, and even Batman, Superman and a cameo-like Wonder Woman have joined forces (to box office dismay alas), but generally speaking it’s one for one and all for one.

Not so, in Pixar’s 2004 affectionate homage/benign parody The Incredibles where the entire family has the powers, the costumes and the chutzpah to take down the bad guys.

Well, eventually anyway.

At the start, it’s very much everyone doing their own thing – with the exception of the children Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Spencer Fox) and Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews) who can be forgiven for not participating on account on not yet being born – with Mr. Incredible / Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl / Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) confronting the evils that insist on invading the ’60s-retro-flavoured urban idyll in which they live.

When we meet them, of course, Mr. Incredible is, unbeknownst to us at the same time racing off, dapper in his tux, racing off to his wedding with Elastigirl; it’s a big deal for the man is smitten beyond hope but even so he can’t help stopping to help multiple people in trouble.

All very noble of him and superhero-like but it delays him, earning him a rebuke from Elastigirl who is feisty, independent and not afraid to speak her mind, but more concerning in the long run, a number of lawsuits from people who don’t appreciate how good they have it with “Supers in town. (One, in particular, that is insightfully amusing is the man who was suiciding off a building and sues because Mr Incredible stopped him dying; it’s funny sure, but also makes a sage point about the USA’s current litigious society.)

Those lawsuits, and countless others lodged by ungrateful citizens force superheroes like The Incredibles, and their friend Frozone aka Lucius Best (Samuel L. Jackson) into hiding, something they can do with relative ease since their masks, which are laughably small and hide nothing (just like their Marvel and DC counterparts), have protected their anonymity.

 

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

The anti-Supers movement consigns Bob and Helen to a suburban existence which is no worse or better than anyone else’s 9-to-5 existence.

Bob has a tedious job working for an HMO, one he continually subverts by helping denied claimants find some justice in an inherently un-just system, and he spends his nights out with Lucius fighting crime rather than bowling (with some messy results), effectively making his superhero-dom a closeted activity, but he has a loving relationship with his wife (mostly), three kids who have their issues thanks to denied use of their powers, and just general kid stuff, and a family life a thousand times better than the likes of Batman who goes home to brood in his manor when his crimefighting shenanigans are over.

But Bob can’t see how good he’s got it, and while you can well understand why he’s frustrated and upset with his status as part of a collective public enemy #1, The Incredibles is all about affirming how good a life Bob has and why he should be valuing the best thing about it instead of sullenly carping and complaining.

Not that this deeply-clever, parody-rich film comes out and says that in so many ways of course.

It’s far too sophisticated a piece of storytelling for that, instead letting Bob, Helen and the entire family, who end up fighting Syndrome aka Incrediboy aka Buddy Pine (Jason Lee), a spurned would-be sidekick of Mr Incredible’s – in reality an over-zealous teenage fan in the old pre-banned days who grows up, after MR Incredible rather brusquely declines his services, as an aggrieved tech-augmented super bad guy adult – on a Bond villain-esque island (complete with volcano, monorail and a plan to sort of take over a city) and back home.

It’s got everything we’ve come to expect from modern superhero films – an over-explaining bad guy (they call it “monologuing”, a shared joke between superheroes about how their opponents have to explain everything), an offshore lair, a rocket speeding towards innocent civilians, a skyscraper-bashing battle downtown and a robot!

What makes it really impressive is that it predates the current crop of MCU and DCU films by some four years, drawing on old comic strip constants and Bond movies (everything from the music to the clothes to the urban landscape), honouring them and making merry with them in equal measure.

Apart from the core cast of the Parr family, The Incredibles soars on the back of its secondary characters who, let’s be honest, come damn close to stealing the proceedings out from under Bob and Helen.

The standout is Edna Mode (Brad Bird, who wrote and directed the film) as the fashion designer to the Supers who is incurably cool, stylish, witty and the very epitome of calm, measured, self-assurance; she also has some of the best lines in the film, an amusing foil to the seriousness of other parts of the film.

 

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

Still, even when it is being super-serious, and it don’t come more serious than saving your family and the city in which you live, The Incredibles has huge amounts of fun.

The kids, with the eldest two grappling with the usual teenage issues albeit with a distinctly secret superhero twist, act just like you’d expect teenagers too; yes, they rise to the occasion and together as a family save the say, but there’s some hilarious recalcitrance, some understandable crises of confidence and some ill-advised, immature dashing into the fray that causes more trouble than might otherwise have been engendered.

The scenes between Bob and Helen – the latter, you won’t be surprised, is the real hero of the piece, her husband’s extracurricular superhero-dom aside, and is justly celebrated as such in a story that is feminist without making a big deal about it; in truth, it simply gives Helen every bit, if not more, ability and nouse as her husband which is exactly as it should be, and in reality, is – are gems too, alternating between love, exasperation and zingers that speak to the intimacy between the two partners in fighting crime.

The parodic elements are spot-on, making merry with the dangers of superheroes wearing capes, the easy to mock pomposity of baddies and the whole superhero milieu even as it honours it with great affection, but what really sets this film apart, which is even better than I remember it 14 years after the first viewing, is the is its great big, red spandex-clad heart.

Like many Pixar films, it is epically and effortlessly emotionally-resonant without making a big city-flattening issue of it, giving us some beautifully articulated instead into the gender divide, the oft-fraught career vs. home balance, internal family dynamics and the ease with which society can blame the Other, in this case superheroes like our titular family, for their own self-generated ills.

The Incredibles is, in short, the total package – witty, clever, visually lush, character-rich and dialogue savvy that manages to both celebrate and lampoon the genre it gloriously inhabits, all while reminding us, and yes, we do need reminding since familiarity can breed ill-deserved contempt, that we actually have it pretty good.

That, and we don’t have past nemeses and giant AI robots crashing up our home which, when you think about it, is a pretty big win too.

 

 

Weekend pop art: Reading books made quick and easy with abridged illustrations

(artwork (c) Johnn Atrkinson)

 

I love reading books.

Losing myself in books, long and short, big and small, has been a passion of time since I can remember but even I have to admit it’s well near impossible to read everything (not that I don’t give it a red hot go!).

Riding to the rescue for those with not enough time, and for those addicted to the viral bits-and-pieces of today’s read-and-run culture (of which I am a participant as much as anyone), is Ottawa-based graphic designer John Atkinson who has come up with a really fast, and fun, way to get a handle on a book in record time – abridged illustrations which humourously take a book down to its core elements.

It’s all driven by a simple recognition that our reading and information absorption habits have changed in the digital age, as he told Buzzfeed:

“I did the original three abridged classics cartoons a while back. I was thinking about how, in an online world, we consume information. In the past, we would spend hours/days/weeks reading great literature, but now we have a need to digest everything in small viral bits.”

Fun though they are though, and they are nothing short of wonderfully inspired, he hopes they will lead people to go further and explore the actual books:

“I would hope that people find these funny — or at least pithy. I’d also hope they might encourage some to revisit, re-read, or discover for the first time some of these great works of literature.”

If you love these illustrations, and why would you not, you can find more in Atkinson’s book, Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn’t – which, as yet, has not been abridged itself – or enjoy the wider body of his work at Wrong Hands.

 

(artwork (c) Johnn Atrkinson)

 

(artwork (c) Johnn Atrkinson)

 

(artwork (c) Johnn Atrkinson)

 

(artwork (c) Johnn Atrkinson)

 

(artwork (c) Johnn Atrkinson)