The short and the short of it: Eddie, a darkly clever tale of a zombie lab test subject

(artwork (c) John Lynch)

 

SNAPSHOT
Deep underground, a second-rate scientist mans a discarded research facility struggling to cope with extreme boredom, a desperate voiceless companion and a mystery he’d really rather not have to solve…

Directed by John Lynch, and written by Jon Williams-Nobbs & John Lynch, Eddie is a proof-of-concept short for a feature project set in the same universe. (synopsis via Vimeo)

Eddie is proof positive that just when you think the modern zombie genre has said everything original it can say, that it finds a way to surprise you.

Set at a decommissioned research facility of in the bleak wastes of nowheresville, the short film, which is intended to be the harbinger of a feature film to come, examines what happens to the human psyche when it’s you, a lone undead subject of study and no contact with the outside world.

Funny and profoundly disturbing in equal measure, it explores the limits of humanity in ways that are quite clever, insightful and emotionally resonant, anchored by fine performances by Alan Mandel as Eddie, and Johnny Vivash as the scientists who grows slowly and dramatically mad as the existential pointlessness of the task at hand becomes increasing hard to cope with.

It is part of a fine tradition of zombie storytelling that acknowledges and runs with the idea that the arrival of the undead says as much about those living as it does about hordes of animated corpses coming to feast on them.

Every book, movie and TV show, of which there are many in the zombie genre, ultimately has as it focus an exploration of the human condition and Eddie is no different, giving us an impressively original examination of what happens when the living and the dead come together.

Spoiler alert: It’s everything you expect and nothing at all, gloriously compelling right to its thoroughly unexpected end.

For a full review, check out UK Film review

 

Retro movie review: Wayne’s World

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

Returning to one of the outstanding movies of your young adulthood is not without some risk.

Is it as good as you remember? Have the glasses through you gaze upon it become so deeply and heavily rose-tinted that they filter out even the merest hint of middle-aged criticality? In the case of Wayne’s World, only the second film commissioned from a Saturday Night Live sketch following The Blues Brothers (1980) was it even still funny?

Oh ye of little faith.

Surrounded by ardent fans at a cinema screening recently, a number of whom were channeling their inner Waynes, Garths and neck brace-adorned Stacys, many of whom weren’t alive when the film released in 1992, it became patently obvious that they thought the film retained its stoner-esque, socially-observant sense of the ridiculous and the absurd.

And so, as Wayne (Mike Myers) ushers us into his world of community channel TV in Aurora, Illinois, replete with his extensive collection of hairnets and name badges, it became patently obvious, rather quickly, that Wayne’s World, is as funny now as the day I first saw, yay those many years ago.

Much of that comedic longevity can be sheeted home to the writing team of Mike Myers, Bonnie and Terry Turner (3rd Rock From the Sun, That’s ’70s Show) who managed to turn a sketch into a fully-fledged movie with a reasonably substantial narrative that didn’t collapse under the weight of its central conceit.

Translating films from TV sketch comedy or a TV show even can be a fraught undertaking; what works well in punchy, intense doses often fails to go the distance in lengthier, feature film form.

Sure they roar from the gate, fuelled by fan anticipation and the power of well-wrought and hitherto well-fulfilled premise, but once the one-trick pony has done their thing, events usually trickle to a disappointing middling nothing and you’re left with the realisation that more can so often be less.

 

(image courtesy Paramount Pictures)

 

Not so with Wayne’s World, directed by music documentarian Penelope Spheeris, which managed on its first outing to hold its comedic head high through its 95 minute running time, and remains as humoruously robust 25 years later.

Born from what was reputedly a troubled set where Spheeris and Myers clashed daily – the famous “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene in Wayne’s best friend Garth’s (Dana Carvey) very small car may look like a joyous homage to Queen’s epically operatic song but was in reality the result of great creative fiction between director and star – Wayne’s World manages to land all its jokes effortlessly, even the ones that, on paper at least, should not have worked at all.

Take the moment when television producer Benjamin Oliver (Rob Lowe), who has signed Wayne and Garth to a major TV deal, plucking them from Wayne’s parents’ basement and taking them to a TV studio in Chicago where he plans to commercialise the hell out of Wayne’s passion project, reminds his star that the contract he signed comes with the requirement to spruik the wonders of video game arcades owned by Noah Vanderhoff (Brian Doyle-Murray).

Though he’s admitted to the audience, via the fourth wall-smashing commentary to camera that lends much of the film its air of hilarious intimacy, as if we’re welcome voyeurs on Wayne and Garth’s shared life adventures, that he’d love to earn his living doing Wayne’s World, the idea of selling out the soul of his idea to corporate America doesn’t sit well.

But this being early ’90s comedy, and a damn fine example at that, Wayne bats away his contractual obligations with a series of insanely funny product placements for the likes of Pizza Hut, Doritos and Pepsi, with Garth joining in the anti-capitalist fun with Nuprin painkillers and Reebok.

On one level, it’s all school camp charmingly juvenile but with Myers and Carvey hamming it up, and the artfulness of it all in plain view, the irony of a man who sold his show out for money and fame refusing to play by the rules demanded of that decision, is just very, very funny.

As are the endings, which offer up three alternate versions – a sad, grimly-realistic one that is dispensed with as soon as its finished by a Wayne who laughingly says they’d never end the movie like that, a Scooby Doo ending – the pop culture touchstones are everywhere from Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Gone With the Wind to Bugs Bunny and Laverne & Shirley – where Oliver is revealed as Old Man Withers being evil, complete with “I would’ve gotten away with it too …” catchphrase, and the requisite happy ending where Wayne gets the girl Cassandra (Tia Carrere), she gets a record contract, Garth gets his donut shop dream girl and everything lives pretty much happily ever after.

 

(image courtesy Paramount Pictures)

 

Helping all that humour and the endless catchphrases, which are still repeated today, go a long way, were a bevy of standout guest stars such as Chris Farley, Ed O’Neill, and Alice Cooper (his monologue on the history of Milwaukee is beyond hilarious, nicely contrasting his hard rocker image), all of whom play their small but vital parts beautifully.

Wayne’s World is also immeasurably sped on its comedy classic way by a parodic sensibility that sees it insert an “Oscar clip” into proceedings which nails just about everything that term entails (“But I never learn to read!” cries Wayne plaintively as he tries to win Cassandra back from a devious Oliver) and a “gratuitous sex scene” into proceedings, all with a knowing eye on how odd these cinematic conventions look when taken out of context.

That is perhaps is why Wayne’s World works so well.

It knows its every bit as much a part of the very system it parodies, but figures that since it’s on the inside, why not make merry with the ridiculousness of it all? While you’re at it, why not have some fun with small town dreamers wishing for the bigtime and the inherent disillusionment that sets in when all those starry eyes turn out to be trains rushing down the tunnel at you?

It’s hardly a societal critique of course, and most of the time is more than happy to just have some very silly fun, augmented by some great early ’90s pop rock, a winning sense of the absurd and some of the finest ad libbing committed to film, and maybe make a point or two while it’s at it.

Party time! Excellent! Wayne’s World is all that and more, as funny now in our far more serious times as it was back in 1992 when we all wondered, and with good cause – is Bugs Bunny really sexy in a dress?

 

All you need is a carrot: What is the hidden meaning of Frozen?

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Ha! Think you know what Frozen is all about?

Think it’s all about family schisms, unwelcome gifts of the metaphysical kind, estrangement, family, love and redemption?

Think again my friends because as Earthling Cinema from the Wisecrack channel on YouTube hilariously and yet with an admirably straight face reveals, there’s a whole other story going on!

Carrot-based bribery? It’s happening? Lax-open door policy kingdom-wide? Ah-huh! Olaf an illegitimate child of Elsa? Yup!

It’s all there and more, a movie that’s bears no resemblance to what you thought you saw, proof that Frozen is too very different movies in one.

Think there’s still just one narrative at work? Oh c’mon … just “Let it Go” will ya? (Boom-tish and good night!)

 

Read all about it! Pop culture newspaper headlines courtesy of Movie Heds

 

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (image courtesy Movie Heds)

 

Pop quiz! What a quick, visual, easy to comprehend expositionary device used in movies, particularly the pre-digital ones?

No, not voice-over narration! That is very rarely done well and kinda annoying to boot.

I’m referring to the use of news paper front pages, which effectively convey a ton of information new to audiences, and back up or enlarge something they already know. (My particualr favourite use of front pages was the spinning page that would whirl in from the back of the screen until it was right in your cinematic face.)

Someone with a great love of the newspaper device in movies is Travis Greenwood, the person behind Twitter account Movie Heds which features newspaper front pages from various movies such as Forrest Gump, Ghostbusters, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Back to the Future II.

Not only is it fun to be reminded of their existence but it makes you realise all over again what a great plot-advancing or eludicating device they are.

Read all about while you watch it! The best of both worlds …

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

 

 

 

“But it’s gooooood …” New Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer ramps up the galactic anticipation

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Rey took her first steps into a larger world in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and will continue her epic journey with Finn, Poe, and Luke Skywalker in the next chapter of the continuing Star Wars saga. “The Last Jedi” is written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Behold my long time ago in a galaxy far, far away fanatics, there is another trailer full of mystery and wonder and details over which to obsess and minutely examine should you be so inclined (and I’m glad for the people that are since they pick up on so much cool stuff that I’ve missed).

In the second of the trailers for the hotly-anticipated next chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi, there is a lot of detail thrown into the mix, including our first glimpse of the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke who does his best megalomaniacal bad guy ranting about unfettered power, Kylo Ren dealing with some substantial mummy issues – speaking of which we see the much-missed Carrie Fisher in her final performance as Princess Leia; we are assured she will be given a fitting farewell – and coming into her Force-ful own.

It’s looking epically captivating and enthralling, and on the 40th anniversary of the first Star Wars film I, or anyone else for that matter, saw, it looks like the perfect way to make this most momentous of dates.

May the Force be with you – especially when it comes to getting pre-release tickets for the first week of sessions.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi releases 14 December in Australia and 15 December USA.

 

Movie review: The Girl with All the Gifts

(image via IMP Awards)

 

The zombie genre has exploded in recent years, fuelled by a morbid end of days fascination with the way the apparent vivacity and robustness of human civilisation could so easily be brought down to undead ruin by any number of small, unnoticed Achilles heels.

That’s good news if you have  a darkly moralistic tale to tell of homo sapienic arrogance; not so good if you want a better than even chance of standing out from the shambling crowd.

Fortunately in the midst of all this apocalyptic sameness, British writer M. R. Carey found a way to tell a thoroughly original tale of man vs. his animated corpse counterparts which shed new light on a genre that seemed to have precious few new narrative paths to take.

The Girl with All the Gifts, which began life as a successful 2014 book release for the successful comic and book author, has now found its way to the big screen courtesy of a pared-down screenplay by Carey himself, and assured, nuanced direction by Colm McCarthy, which deftly retains the intelligent, thoughtful insights of its predecessor while becoming very much its own rabidly-fast storytelling monster.

Drenched in an eerie, tense atmosphere where the fear is palpable and the risk of not surviving at all is desperately real, the film, like the book, is one of those rare examples of a story that is very much of its genre but also distinctively set apart too.

Dispensing with the feral human Junkers (think Mad Max-ian survivalists) that added in another element of danger and civilisational breakdown, the cinematic version of Carey’s recounting one remarkable girl and a nifty evolutionary leap by what’s left of humanity strips itself to doing what it does best – a warts-and-all examination of humanity’s hubris, an unwarranted, unflinching belief in our own superiority that is brought to its knees by something as small as fungus, specifically Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.

This small denizen of tropical forests – yes conspiracy theorists and doomsayers of the world this harbinger of undead doom actually does exist – manages to cross the species barrier in Carey’s darkly hopeful tale, bringing with the end of all things, and quite possibly, the beginning too, if anyone will actually pay attention.

 

 

One person, although most people don’t see her that way, who doesn’t have any choice but to sit up and take notice of the new order prevailing across the world, is Melanie (Sennia Nanua), a young human/zombie hybrid, possessed of both the autonomic need to feed on human flesh and an incisive, enquiring will that sees her emerge as the best and brightest of a strangely locked down classroom of similar young people, the products of women pregnant at the time of infection by the fungal interloper.

Melanie, starved of human contact – exposed flesh without the all-important Blocker Gel smeared liberally on it is catnip to Melanie and her strapped-down classmates, limiting interactions by her military guards who seem all too happy to abide by that stricture – but rabidly curious about a world she has yet to see, kept as she is in a darkened cell much of the time, is more human than anyone can see.

Bar, of course, the establishment rebel of our morality tale, Miss Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) who, as the teacher of this most unusual of classes, sees what many other can’t, or pragmatically refuse to (case in point, vaccine researcher Dr Sharon Caldwell, played with ferocious implacability by Glenn Close) – that Melanie and her new wave ilk are far more human than anyone will admit.

Sensing someone who can give her the love and affirmation she needs, Melanie worships and adores the only authority figure who has ever treated her as anything other than a fertile test subject or a threat, a bond that is only strengthened when the military base she and Miss Justineau are on falls to the fast-moving, herd-like “Hungries” as they’re known, precipitating a mad dash across dangerous British countryside for the relative though dubious safety of Beacon, the last bastion of what passes for human civilisation in the fungus-ravaged country.

Along with Melanie and Miss Justineau for the wildest and most deeply-unsettling of rides into a world long ceded to the undead – buildings are carpeted with green, cars sit rusting, with much of the decay covered by strange pod-bearing plants growing unnervingly out of countless zombie carcasses – is Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine), Dr Caldwell and two “Ensign Fodders” who quickly meet disturbing but morally instructive ends.

Seeking safety and a new place to call home, the mission is quickly revealed as a fool’s errand for all concerned but Melanie, who discovers bit by bit that the world is no longer the preserve of Homo Sapiens but whatever it is that this clever, curious and all-too-human young girl and her more Lord of the Flies-ish counterparts have become.

Informed by a gritty, authentically-gruesome aesthetic that doesn’t flinch at showing the full primitive monstrosity of a world surrendered to nightmarishly ferocious survival of the fittest, The Girl with All the Gifts is astute, clever filmmaking, that somehow manages to offer hope in the midst of what is, by our estimations at least, a hopeless situation.

 

 

Augmented by industrially-beautiful music that is deeply redolent of mood and menace, the film never flags once, delivering up a viscerally frightening tale that comes complete with some delightfully clever visual flourishes (holed up in a hospital, the first sign someone in the team passes is for the Dept of Immunology) and ironic touchstones (Melanie wild, guttural next generation have chosen a library in which to roost, the tribal new and the educated though doomed old sitting cheek-by-jowl).

Sporting a slimmed-down narrative that proves Carey is one of those rare authors who’s able to step away from his material and take what is needed for a visual medium and discard the rest, The Girl with All the Gifts, bristles with a foreboding sense that none of this will end well, never more so than when the team, silent as church mice, and sloth-like in movement so as not to trigger their flesh-hungry enemy, are edging their way through a throng of silent, tomb statue-like Hungries who stand silent and still when not in threatening motion.

Both a striking visual reminder that humanity long ago lost the fight for sheer numbers and influence to the undead, and gripping, edge of your seat storyelling, this scene encapsulates much of what makes McCarthy’s spare, gritty zombie thriller so compellingly watchable.

It is moralistic without being preachy, unsparingly bleak while never surrendering its humanity, which finds its home in the touching relationship between Melanie and Miss Justineau, and hopeful when, for all intents and purposes, optimism is a spent force, long lost to despair and a grinding sense that everything is irredeemably lost.

Sporting a look and feel that suggests a world in freefall decay, and possessed of the kind of sparse but emotionally-evocative storytelling that grips you from the get-go, The Girl with All the Gifts is proof positive that’s there not just something new to say about zombies, but that’s the end of all things for humanity, may not be the end of all things after all.

You just have to know where to look, right Melanie?

 

 

Audience meet protagonists: The impressive work of director Edgar Wright

(image via IMP awards)

 

No matter how you slice it, Edgar Wright is a very talented, immensely creative director/producer/screenwriter/actor, responsible for a slew of memorable movies including the Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Ant Man and most recently, Baby Driver, one of my favourite films of 2017.

Filmmaker Karsten Runquist has shone a successful light on Wright’s prodigiously unique talent, examining all of his films with a particular focus on the protagonists in Baby Driver, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Ant Man, noting the various methods he employs to connect the audience with the protagonist, a critical element if there’s to be any emotional connection to the films:

“… what makes Wright’s main characters feel so relatable and likable is the misunderstanding coming from those around them in the story … Edgar Wright keeps in mind that every scene deserves full attention, because every scene is its own thing. When every scene is its own thing and the audience member is fully invested in what they’re watching, of course the feeling of connectivity between us and our protagonists is going to feel just that much stronger.”

The video essay thoughtfully examines how important it is to have this connection in any film because without it all you have is a possibly-addled narrative and bombs-and-explosions.

And really, who wants just that?

(source: Laughing Squad)

 

Weekend pop art: Famous movie clothing in itsy-bitsy window displays

The Royal Tenenbaums (artwork (c) Jordan Bolton Design)

 

It has long been said, in one form or another, that “clothes maketh the man (or woman)”.

What is not as commonly remarked, but is no less true, is that clothes, or in this case, costumes, maketh the movie.

One person who recognises that to the very core of his artistic bone is Manchester-based artist Jordan Boltonhis work has been featured on the blog before – who has recreated the clothes from a slew of memorable movies and put them on display for our viewing pleasure in teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy shop windows.

The result are beautifully intricate posters that give you a whole new appreciation for the costuming artistry in films like Amélie, The Royal Tenenbaums and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

You can check out more of this talented artists’s pop-culture inspired work on Tumblr and Instagram and even buy them at his Etsy store.

Time to dress up your home with some wholly original movie artwork!

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

 

 

 

Pretty as a deer: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (poster + trailer)

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a darkly comic drama from Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh. After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated. (official synopsis via Coming Soon)

Grief is an awful limbo world in which to exist.

Your life as you knew it is gone, and even if it largely continues on it as it was, in form at least, there’s an aching sense of immobilising loss that hangs over everything.

This grinding sense of powerlessness and inertia is compounded even more, I would suspect (thankfully it’s nothing like my experience) if your lost loved one was murdered and the police are yet to find the killer.

You can well understand how desperately exhausting that must be and why Mildred Hayes, played by the incomparable Frances McDormand, decides to take matters into her own hands.

In just one short trailer, we see what a powerhouse of a person she is and the lengths she will go to, devil and social properiety be damned, to find the answers she craves.

This looks like it will be an immensely powerful film with some added-in quirk and humour to leaven out the intensity, with a thoughtful, insightful eye on the way grief profoundly, and irretrievably, changes everything.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri opens 10 November USA and 1 January 2018 Australia.

 

Getting adorable in a galaxy far, far away: New-ish Star Wars Blips

(image via YouTube (c) Lucasfilm/Disney)

 

There is no such thing as too much Star Wars – unless you’re a diehard Star Trek fan in which case maybe but still c’mon you can love both can’t you? – and so I bequeath these three new-ish Star Wars Blips videos which were released last month.

Given we are now well within the sacred 100 days leading up to a news Star Wars film – The Last Jedi releases mid-December around the world – and pretty much everything that can be known about the film ahead of its premiere is known (not that this will stop über-fans from digging up everything and over-examining they can), we need something fresh and fun to keep us entertained.

Enter BB-8, Chewbacca and everyone’s new favourite creature, the Porgs (to debut in The Last Jedi to great sighs of appreciated adorkability everywhere), R2-D2 and his fan droids, and BB-8’s dark side of the force doppelgänger BB-9E (all black and no sense of humour).

They’re short, sharp, perfectly-entertaining cartoon vignettes, of fun, appealing appetisers to the big event coming up before you it (but still a long time ago etc etc).

(source: SYFYWIRE)