Life is quirky and miserable and just plain weird says Lemon

(image via IMP awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Lemon: a person or thing that proves to be defective, imperfect, or unsatisfactory. Isaac Lachmann is a dud. Isaac Lachmann is 40. Isaac Lachmann is a man in free fall immobilised by mediocrity. His career is going nowhere. His girlfriend of ten years is leaving him. And his overbearing family doesn’t help matters. What did he do to deserve this? Things were supposed to work out differently for him. Isaac Lachmann had big dreams. Now he just watches as life unravels. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Life is pretty confronting isn’t it?

There you are thinking that everything is sailing along beautifully and – WHAM! – it’s all exposed for so much nothingness.

Granted this happens more often in art house films than real life mainly because films of that ilk (which I love) tend to overplay things for dramatic purposes but it doesn’t take away from the central truth that what we expect life will be when we’re younger rarely plays out the way we expect.

The movie looks crazy quirky but also truthful and oddly accessible, something Variety noted in their review of one of the critical darlings of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

“Lemon is a comedy of miserablism that keeps poking you in the ribs — and, quite often, fails to hit the rib it’s aiming for. Yet it’s a watchable curio, because beneath it all the director, the Panamanian-born Janicza Bravo, has a more conventional sensibility than she lets on. Her style might be described as Theater of the Absurd meets Comedy Central sitcom.”

Good thing is it seems to indicate that all that life falling apart stuff doesn’t have to be end and that maybe, just maybe, there’s a way out of the medicore void.

Lemon releases 18 August L.A. and internet and 25 August, New York City.

 

Wes Anderson and the fine art of cooking up an artistic storm

Wes Anderson makes S’mores! Artfully YUM (image via YouTube (c) David Ma)

 

Cooking is in. Probably because eating, which has never really gone out of style because #starvation, remains very firmly in.

And since cooking is in, in this digital age, that means cooking tutorials are in.

But what if the likes of Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino joined the lifestyle throng and made up some cooking how-tos in their own, utterly inimical, signature style?

Why they’d look like these videos from David Ma aka The Food Freestylist, who produced them “to bring some charm, irreverence, and silliness into the world of familiar overhead recipe videos.”

If these videos happened for real,and let’s face it, all these directors eat so why not, then frankly cooking, which I have always seen as a means to an end, would become crazy, over-the-top fun.

Somehow I think you’d end up wearing more than you eat but then that’s why there’s leftovers from all the non-dramatic cooking endeavours …

(source: Indiewire)

 

 

 

 

Movie review: The Big Sick

(image via IMP Awards)

 

There was time, lo many days, nay years ago, when romantic comedies burst forth upon the cinematic firmament, fully-formed, delightfully-engaging, possessed of a fairytale-esque romantic sensibility and a sense that life, for all its many banal obstacles and nasty stumbling blocks, could actually be something quite magical.

The cynic within us didn’t necessarily believe such love was possible but for a short time in that darkened cinema with all the stresses and burdens hidden away on the other side of the door, we could pretend, just for a moment, that we could be that in love.

Those days are long gone now, with Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and While You’re Sleeping mere twinkles in the eye of best-of romantic comedy lists; the good news is that The Big Sick not only brings back the golden age of falling in love on film, but goes one step further, rooting it, as far as the storytelling demands of cinematic romance allow, in the grit and reality of the everyday.

That’s largely because it’s the true story of how the stand-up wanna-be child of US Pakistani immigrants, Kumail Nanjiani – played by himself, bringing the dry of his role in Silicon Valley and marrying it with a winningly sweet vulnerability – eschewed cultural and familial expectations and allowed himself to fall in love, though arranged marriage beckoned, with an American girl named Emily (Zoe Kazan).

It’s hardly a spoiler to know that they ended up marrying and collaborated on bringing their grand, epic love story to the big screen; in fact, it garnishes this never-puts-a-foot-wrong romantic comedy with an appealing concreteness, a sense that this is not some imaginary tale of the heart but something that could happen to real people in extraordinarily real circumstances.

Precisely because it did.

 

 

Where reality really came a-biting is some time into their romance, hidden from Kumail’s parents Azmat (Anupam Kher) and Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff), and brother Naveed (Adeel Akhtar) – who went along with tradition and married his arranged bride Fatima (Shenaz Treasury) – when Emily, bright, bubbly, goofy Emily, succumbs to a virulent infection and has to be put into a medically-induced coma.

Having just broken up after Emily finds out that not only has Kumail kept their romance a closely-guarded secret, afraid he’ll be kicked out of his family – that does happen but you get the feeling that it won’t be a permanent state of affairs not with someone as tenaciously funny as Kumail on the case – but that he has a cigar box of all the headshots of the Pakistani women his mother has set him up with.

Admitting he isn’t sure if he has a place in his future for Emily, though it’s clear he has fallen head over heels in love with her, and she with him, they split and then, not long thereafter, Kumail finds himself in the awkward position of being in close company with Emily’s parents Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter) during the long weeks of Emily’s illness and long recovery.

What begins as a stupendously uncomfortable coming together, since Terry and Beth know all the circumstances of Kumail and Emily’s then-aborted romance, one complicated by the stress of an ongoing illness that shows no sign initially of responding to treatment, soon grows into a closeness and familiarity that is at once sweetly intimate and and quite believable.

After all, these are people at the coalface of emotional distress – Terry and Beth are agonising over the lingering sickness of their daughter and how best to treat it while Kumail grows acutely aware he can’t lose Emily, whatever the consequences – and they have a choice to either bond closely or retreat to opposing, hostile corners; that they do the former in instrumental in the cementing of the temporarily stymied grand romance, once Emily eventually recovers.

It’s at that point that the rubber really hits the road, and the reality of Kumail cementing his love for Emily while she, by virtue of the coma is freeze-framed at the point of the breakup, really starts to feel like less of a rom-com trope and more the stuff of real life.

Up to that point, it has many of the tropes of a romantic comedy supremely well-executed – the meet-cute (she heckles him playfully during his stand-up routine), the will-they-won’t they date moments, the witty, delightfully-affecting dialogue, the montage of growing intimacy and closeness; it’s all there, but given what follows it feels less fey and more grounded and real, the kind of stuff that happens in the honeymoon phase of any great love affair.

 

 

What really gives The Big Sick its deep, emotional romance is that for all the witty insights and drily delivered oneliners – Kumail is a master of the art and shines in every scene, balancing emotional truthfulness with brilliantly-funny humour – it lets the real stuff feel real.

Really gut-wrenchingly real.

Emily’s sickness is not just a cute prop for some eventual reconciliation; that’s hard-won and takes major post-recovery concessions by both parties.

Rather, it’s is allowed to live and be devastatingly real with the horrific agony of watching someone you know fight a major illness and be close to death on a number of sickening occasions; this is not the stuff of lighter-than-air romantic confections and The Big Sick is happy to be as much emotionally-taxing drama as it is a funny, witty romantic comedy.

It’s great strength, apart from a stellar cast – Nanjiani and Kazan are perfect together, chemistry very much in evidence  while Romano and Hunter are far more than cardboard cutout parents there as some sort of emotional fop for Emily and Kumail – is that it’s happy to let this balance swing back and forth as needed.

It recognises that what makes this story unique is that it actually happened, and in the kind of situation you wouldn’t wish on anyone, and that the harrowing moments of facing mortality and the reality of familial politics and cultural expectations, played as much a role in shaping the romance as the intangibles of love and attraction.

This is love in the trenches, admittedly one with a killer punchline and a touching sweetness that never once feels forced or sickly.

It grounds the deeply-appealing The Big Sick with the kind of emotional authenticity that means that the winning romantic comedy sense that love is not just possible but will definitely happen, lasts long after the cinema doors have swung shut behind you, and feels way more possible that it has in some time.

 

 

 

Humans, elves, orcs and fairies oh my! Bright has them all

(image courtesy Netflix)

 

SNAPSHOT
Set in an alternate present-day where humans, orcs, elves and fairies have been coexisting since the beginning of time, this action-thriller directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad, End of Watch, writer of Training Day) follows two cops from very different backgrounds. Ward, a human (Will Smith), and Jakoby, an orc (Joel Edgerton), embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it. Battling both their own personal differences as well as an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a young female elf and a thought-to-be-forgotten relic, which in the wrong hands could destroy everything.

The Netflix original film stars Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramirez, Ike Barinholtz, Enrique Murciano, Jay Hernandez, Andrea Navedo, Veronica Ngo, Alex Meraz, Margaret Cho, Brad William Henke, Dawn Olivieri, and Kenneth Choi. The film is directed by David Ayer and written by Max Landis. David Ayer, Eric Newman, and Bryan Unkeless serve as producers. (synopsis courtesy Coming Soon)

This film looks really intriguing.

Set in an alternate universe where the magic never left and creatures like orcs, elves and fairies live side-by-side with people, Bright looks to be a very clever film indeed.

For one thing, it doesn’t pretend that magical creatures equals a magical world; in fact, the recurring thread through the trailer seems to be that intolerance, racism, prejudice and discrimination are thriving every bit as much as they sadly do on our blighted slice of the multiverse.

With a script by Max Landis (Chronicle) and directed by David Ayer (End of Watch, Street Kings), it comes with the real prospect of dissecting these issues, along with presenting us with a thrilling narrative that promises the end of the world if our heroes don’t step up.

Intelligent action seems to be the prevailing dynamic here which gives those who love our sci-fi big and loud but also deeply thoughtful, something to really look forward to.

Or maybe we could just wave that wand they’re all after and make it start now.

Hmm, perhaps we’ve missed the moral of the story?

Bright premieres on Netflix on 22 December.

 

Weekend pop art: It’s time for your favourite character to put pedal to metal

Batman and Robin, circa 1960s (artwork (c) Mark Chilcott)

 

I am not a car person. Not even a little bit.

But the only sphere in which I will make an exception for vehicles, and really just about anything (bar pretty anything the extreme right advocates), is pop culture where transportation of all kinds has long been associated with many iconic characters.

Artist Mark Chilcott has honoures these vehicles with a series of beautifully fun watercolour artworks that were the subject of a recent exhibition in Brooklyn.

Everyone from Batman to Ghostbusters, the A-Team to Star Trek: The Original Series got a look-in in this delightful homage to pop culture vehicles of all stripes, many of them so idiosyncratically that even a car-ambivalent person like myself would mind owning some of them.

It appears that prints were only available during the actual run of the exhibition but it would be worth keeping an eye for these prints which would be a fab addition to anyone’s collection, car lover or not.

For more information on the art and the exhibition, go to io9

 

Ghostbusters (artwork (c) Mark Chilcott)

 

Buzz Lightyear (artwork (c) Mark Chilcott)

 

Back to the Future (artwork (c) Mark Chilcott)

 

Addams Family (artwork (c) Mark Chilcott)

Movie review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

(image via IMP Awards)

 

If there is one thing you know to the very marrow of your movie-loving bone walking into a Luc Besson film, it’s that it will be gorgeously, extravagantly, luxuriously and immersively imaginative.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets lives up to this justifiable expectation, delivering up a galaxy so wildly candy-colourful and expansive, so drenched in transportive landscapes, cultures and peoples that you almost forgot you are sitting in a cinema in the comparatively drab surrounds of planet earth.

In true Besson fashion, we are not gently taken into this far away galaxy – although there is, at the start, a very brief and entertaining “history” of humanity’s voyage into the stars and the creation of Alpha, a space station that becomes a spacefaring community to a legion of alien species – as we’re almost immediately plunged into a wordless but beautifully catastrophic recounting of the cataclysm that obliterated the planet Mül thirty years ago during a heated war between humanity and an unnamed race of aliens.

The loss of the planet, which it later emerges has been officially covered up by the federation of galactic species presided over by humanity, and with it almost all of the peaceful, nature-harmonious groups of aliens, is at the centre of a conspiracy that forms the central core of what is, admittedly, a fairly threadbare but nonetheless enjoyable narrative.

Of course, as is the way of slowly-uncovered conspiracies, no one at Alpha, least of all our protagonists Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevigne), who are engaged in an off-again, on-again romantic flirtation, suspect that these dark machinations are driving a real threat to the station’s very existence.

In fact, it’s only when Alpha’s Commander Arün Filitt (Clive Owen), who is rather clumsily telegraphed as the Bad Guy from the word go, with a menacing sneer, black, imposing Cylon-esque robots at his personal back and call, and an unwillingness to answer any question directly, is kidnapped by Mül’s remaining people, now stateless rebels seeking redress, that the various pieces of a jigsaw come together to form a dark and menacing conspiracy.

 

 

Well, let’s just say, it’s meant to be a dark and menacing conspiracy; but as with so much of the plot, which is rife with tropes and cliches almost as abundant as Alpha’s multitudinously-diverse inhabitants, it amounts to little more than the Commander, for reasons which are made clear in a Bond villain-esque reveal, lying a whole lot to just about everyone, including his temporary replacement, General Okto Bar (Sam Spruell).

Filitt hides the presence of the Müllians with a furphy about a growing radioactive menace at Alpha’s core, a ruse that is quickly exposed as a lot of fabricated nothing when first Valerian, and then Laureline, venture into the area and are trapped there first trying to save themselves then the peaceful people of Mül who simply want their lost planet back.

As narratives go, it’s hardly wantonly substantial but as a driver for Besson’s uniquely lush and brilliantly visually-verbose storytelling, it fits the purpose and works as needed.

And for the most part, it’s giddly entertaining, allowing the talented French director to take us to a raft of amazing Alphan environments including the red light district of Pleasure Alley and the depths of the so-called radioactive core, and the multi-dimensional shopping mecca Big market on the planet Kyrian.

Even so, lushly-realised world-building can only cover so many narrative sins, and as the film progresses, some major flaws comes to the fore.

For a start, while the banter between Valerian and Laureline is amusing and pleasingly, mischieviously-staccato, it’s let down by almost zero chemistry between the two; they’re meant to be in love, the former fully so, the latter not so much at first, but there’s no sense that they’re even remotely a couple.

Further, while the movie is named after the male protagonist, unlike the French graphic novel series upon the film is based (Valérian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières), both characters are instrumental to the narrative’s momentum, and it seems odd for Besson to neglect one-half of the protagonist team.

In fact, you could make a case for Laureline and the City of a Thousand Planets to be the title, largely because while DeHaan, all smiles and handsomeness, appears to be sleep walking through the role, Delevigne gives it pretty much everything she’s got and comes out the more memorable of the two.

 

 

Even so, both the leads are outshone by a series of famous cameos with the likes of Ethan Hawke, John Goodman, Herbie Hancock and Rutger Hauer making their presence felt; the star of them all though is Rihanna who provides a deeply-affecting turn as a shimmeringly-colourful shapeshifter, Bubble, who is briefly integral to Valerian and Laureline’s efforts to save the people of Mül, uncover the conspiracy and fight off the bad guys.

In her few key scenes, she is emotionally-resonant in a way that Valerian and Laureline, hampered it must be said by some clunky cheesy dialogue and oddly shoehorned-in exposition, never quite manage, delivering up the kind of humanity that all those deeply-rich visuals are crying out for.

What they also could have done with is a slightly-shorter running time.

Not that Valerian is unforgivably bloated with many of the scenes a delightful excursion into Besson’s epically-imaginative, poppingly-bright worlds, but too much time is given to certain scenes that aren’t desperately essential to the plot, such as it is, and which weigh the film down, sapping what could have been much punchier momentum.

Still, for all that, and yes the flaws are there and reasonably obvious, including a preponderance of “we totally saw that coming!” moments – there’s no real pushing of the narrative envelope but that’s hardly a failing of Valerian alone – Besson’s latest sci-fi extravaganza is a feast for the eyes, and yes, for the soul.

So perfectly-realised is his world of a thousand planets and the people of Mül’s heartbreakingly-beautiful struggle to find a new home, that you can forgive the film’s other shortcomings.

Granted this won’t be possible for everyone – my companion at the screening found all the plot deficiencies and character shortcomings almost fatally-distracting – but if you’re willing to surrender yourself to Besson’s wildly-colourful vision, you will be taken on a journey so luminously rich and wonderful that you might wish you could propel yourself 500 years into the future to join everyone there.

 

 

How *jolly*! The Nightmare Before Christmas gets a comic-based sequel and emoji retelling

It’s all very symbolic (Image *(c) Disney)

 

SNAPSHOT
“From the creative team of DJ Milky and Studio DICE, the book will be released as full-color floppies, then collected into graphic novels, and then finally collected in manga-sized editions.” (synopsis via Bleeding Cool)

Can you ever really get enough of Tim Burton’s inspired piece of festive storytelling The Nightmare Before Christmas?

Of course not, and to prove the point, not only is there going to a comic book adaptation of last year’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: As Told by Emoji coming our way this year, but also a sequel, entitled The Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero’s Journey.

That’s a lot of Jack Skellington-ness to go around and frankly we couldn’t be happier.

And remember, to paraphrase Jack, “Just because we can’t yet see it, doesn’t mean we can’t believe it’s coming!

 

The short and the short of it: The endangered voice of the Sun Bear

(image via Vimeo (c) Forest Clay Productions)

 

SNAPSHOT
Sun Bear imaginatively embodies the life of a sun bear and discusses the issues of poaching and habitat loss due to palm oil in Borneo from the bear’s perspective.

It’s all too easy these days to look at the state of the world and see only a giant amorphous mass of things going wrong.

But the reality is that every big ticket issue afflicting the planet on which we live from climate change, to environmental degradation, war, famine and disease, has a human (or animal) face, something that gets lost all too often in the undiscriminating big-picture melee of the modern 24/7 news cycle.

That’s why the short film, Sun Bear, by Forest Clay Productions, which was funded courtesy of a National Geographic Young Explorer Grant, is such a masterstroke.

 

 

In this remarkably moving, visually-lush film, the whole ungrappable issue of worldwide deforestation is brought down to one very vulnerable species – the world’s smallest bear species which is finding itself at the mercy of all kinds of pressures as humanity wreaks more havoc on its small corner of the planet.

You’ll be profoundly moved certainly, but perhaps more importantly, well-informed, and able to come to grips with an issue that otherwise may seem too big and difficult to deal with or respond to.

With the film being selected for screening at film festivals including 2016 International Wildlife Film Festival, 2016 Wildlife Conservation Film festival and 2016 Jackson Hole WILD Film Festival, the message is getting out there in a powerfully intimate way, testament to the importance of not just shining a light on issues, important though that is, but shining it in such a way that real change is hopefully set in motion.

Monday is missing in the first Steven Sisters movie trailer

(image vie IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
In a not so distant future, where overpopulation and famine have forced governments to undertake a drastic “One Child Policy,” seven identical sisters live a hide-and-seek existence pursued by the Child Allocation Bureau. The Bureau, directed by the fierce Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close), enforces a strict family-planning agenda that the sisters outwit by taking turns assuming the identity of one person: Karen Settman (Noomi Rapace). Taught by their grandfather (Willem Dafoe) who raised and named them – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – each can go outside once a week as their common identity, but are only free to be themselves in the prison of their own apartment. That is until, one day, Monday does not come home … (synopsis via Coming Soon)

It’s no secret – we live in a world which is under a great deal of stress.

Climate change, war, famine, refugees, resource shortages, economic in equality, terrorism – and of course, overpopulation.

Addressing the latter pressing issue is the preserve of a new film premiering on Netflix which looks at what happens when the need to preserve life and uphold family comes dramatically head-to-head with strict government policies enforced with draconian vigour.

 

 

As Slashfilm points there is a lot to love in this dystopian sci-fi thriller:

“Glenn Close and Willem Dafoe chewing scenery in a dystopian future? Noomi Rapace pulling an Orphan Black and interacting with other versions of herself in a single frame? The “guy in the van” trope recently seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but with six remaining versions of Noomi Rapace (Rapaces? Rapaci?) guiding their on-the-run sister from their apartment? Rapace throwing her head back and screaming as she blasts an automatic weapon? Oh yeah, I’m totally in for this.”

Serious issue with a larger-than-life approach? Count me in too!

What Happened to Monday? aka Seven Sisters premieres on Netflix on 18 August.

 

Inside Big Bird: Witness how one of Sesame Street’s most-loved residents comes alive

(image via Pinterest (c) Sesame Workshop)

 

Big Bird is one of Sesame Street‘s most beloved characters, the perfect embodiment of sweet childlike innocence, playfulness and an eagerness to learn.

For much of his time on Sesame Street, he was given life by Caroll Spinney, a charming man who devoted much of his life to his friendly feathered companion and who was responsible for the richness of Big Bird’s characterisation.

This beautiful partnership was captured in the charming documentary I am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, from which the following clip has been taken.

It gives us insight into what literally makes Big Bird tick and it will leave with renewed appreciation for the amount of work that went into making this delightful denizen of Sesame Street such a joy for children young and old.

(source: Laughing Squid)