Welcome to Dreamland: Meet the characters of Disenchantment

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
In Disenchantment, viewers will be whisked away to the crumbling medieval kingdom of Dreamland, where they will follow the misadventures of hard-drinking young princess Bean, her feisty elf companion Elfo, and her personal demon Luci. Along the way, the oddball trio will encounter ogres, sprites, harpies, imps, trolls, walruses, and lots of human fools.

The series will feature the voice talents of Abbi Jacobson (Broad City) as Bean, Nat Faxon (Tammy) as Elfo and Eric Andre (The Lion King) as Luci. They will be joined by John DiMaggio, Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, David Herman, Matt Berry, Jeny Batten, Rich Fulcher, Noel Fielding, and Lucy Montgomery. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

I love a well-executed piece of post-modern animated fun and honestly Disenchantment (I also adore a clever play on fairytale words which this title delivers in glitter-filled handfuls), the new comedy from Matt Groening looks like it has the capacity to deliver that in spades.

Not everyone is convinced – see this critique from Rolling Stone – but these character profiles, which are an absolute hoot to watch (yes I used the word “hoot” so you just know I really liked them) indicate that we’re in for a brilliantly quirky romp into the land of princesses and medieval familial expectations.

Take time to watch them all since they’re a great primer for the series. How do I know this without having seen a single episode?

Well, Groening has demonstrated with both The Simpsons and Futurama that characters, beautifully-written, appealingly-executed characters are at the very heart of every one of his shows, and given how well the characters do their thing in these short videos, it’s obvious that Disenchantment won’t be an exception to the rule.

How right I am will be come obvious today when Disenchantment premieres its full 10-episode first season on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

Fear the Walking Dead: “People Like Us” (S4, E9 review)

Staring Morgan is staring (image via Spoiler TV (c) AMC)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND ZOMBIES WHO ARE BLOWING IN THE WIND … THEY’RE BLOWING IN THE WIND MY FRIEND

Things got more than a little Z Nation in the opening episode, “People Like Us”, of the second half of the fourth season of Fear the Walking Dead.

The undead, who are looking less and less attractive – to be fair, they were never going to win any “Most Beautiful Person” contests anytime soon, or ever, really – were being blown hither and yon, yon and hither by a massive storm that mirrored the emotional state of everyone in the wake of the seismic events of the mid-season finale when Madison (Kim Dickens) most likely met her doom. (I say “likely” because there is an idea out there in fandom that she lives because no one saw her die. Put that in your conspiracy theory pipe and spoke it why don’t you?)

Admittedly the storyline that unfolded throughout the episode wasn’t that hilarious – this is the apocalypse folks where happiness is simply a muted form of fear, not a cosy, blissful state unto itself – but damn it if those easily picked up from the ground, light-as-air zombies weren’t an absolute hoot to watch, much as they are in Z Nation, a brilliantly-clever show in its own right that went one step further and created a “zombienado”, and yes a GIANT zombie cheese wheel.

It was even funnier watching them ka-thunk, bump onto the ground although if you were in the way, as June/Laura/Naomi (Jenna Elfman) and Al (Maggie Grace) were at one point, thankfully secure in the Armoured SWAT Van That Fears Nothing, have one come down hard onto you was no laughing matter.

But all that Dylan-esque, Peter Paul and Mary blowing in the wind aside, and again wheeeee!, there was some serious questioning about life, the universe and everything down on the ground, which each character handled in vastly different ways.

 

Staring Charlie is also staring (image via Spoiler TV (c) AMC)

 

Before we travel down each of those twisty, existential-angsty paths, one thing worth noting, once again, is how brilliantly-well Fear the Walking Dead frames everything in terms of raw, visceral, real humanity.

The temptation after a big bombastic finale is surely to throw everyone back, with no ceremony and a devil-may-care, ratings-grabbing attitude, into the mincer of life is a messy pile of shit and you’re soaking in the worst of it AGAIN, but Fear didn’t do that; in fact, it pulled back, taking us one month down the road where everyone who survived the fateful turn of events at the stadium had fallen into a rather ginormous funk.

It makes sense right and feels wholly relatable; after all, who of us, even in the face of looming undead death, and maybe even more so then, wouldn’t seek some form of escape or lapse into despair and questioning about what to do next.

Where The Walking Dead has lost its way, and honestly, is making its characters acting like aggressive set pieces in a big grand apocalyptic tableau – true you could argue people might end up like Rick et al, constantly playing Lord of the Flies games, but I think they’re far more likely to act like the people in Fear who, in one form or another, are wanting to hide from the worst of life around them in ways that are unique to each person.

“People Like Us” feels just like you’d expect people after a major traumatic event to behave and each and every character is palpably human through this softly-spoken but deeply-impacting episode that may pull back on the hard, in-your-face action but which never forgets that these are real people we’re talking about here and has each of them act accordingly.

Take Victor (Colman Domingo), for instance.

In the aftermath of losing Nick (Frank Dillane) and Madison in quick succession, our once-was-a-millionaire has retreated to a big lavish gated house, surrounded by mostly-intact fencing, to drink himself stupid each day on a cellar stocked with expensive red wines.

Is it productive? No. Will it help him move forward? Not really. But is it a really human reaction? Absolutely, underscoring that people don’t always fight back against trauma and terror and in fact, especially in the face of massive terror writ large, which in anyone’s book is exactly what the zombie apocalypse is, run from it, his reaction makes sense.

As does Luciana’s (Danay García) decision to sit in a room, headphones on and listen to an endless parade of old country music records, her back to the world and her pain shut maybe a little, with only the odd wandering zombie to almost kill her (thank goodness for Victor and a broken wine bottle!).

 

June/Naomi is also staring .. seems to be a thing this episode (image via Spoiler TV (c) AMC)

 

And on we go with Morgan (Lennie James) deciding that Virginia is after all where he wants to be – given the bonds he’s formed with John (Garret Dillahunt) and the time he spends with Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey)  in this episode, it doesn’t ring true and smacks more of writers wondering what the hell to do with him than anything else – and June/Laura/Naomi unsure if John loves who she really is or who he imagines her to be.

Even Charlie, who’s living with John and June/Laura/Naomi (henceforth JuLomi) on a bus on an easily-defendable bridge from which the fishing is easy – bar the zombies who keep washing up on the shore, complicating reading on the riverbank – is conflicted, hardly a surprise given how much she’s lost and who hates her (Victor, Alicia, Luciana) and that she’s still a very young woman who doesn’t have the adult coping mechanisms (actually given how well everyone else is doing, they’re not really what they’re cracked up to be now are they?).

Everyone, and I mean everyone, is searching, regardless of how they’ve reacted to the events of one month back, and reacting just like normal people would.

Not apocalyptic warriors. Not feudal tribes locked in war. Not play actors in some deathly struggle. But real, all-too-relatable people who don’t have the perfect reactions to events but then, stop and think about it, who of us really do?

Would we suddenly get miraculously better at it in the apocalypse? In any kind of civilisation-ending event for that matter? We might, but we might not, with my money more on the latter than the former, a constant contrary, fallible trait of humanity that Fear the Walking Dead used to brilliant effect in “People Like Us” which explored the after-effects of trauma in a way that was gut-wrenchingly impacting in its own quietly-devastating way.

  • Coming up next week in “Close Your Eyes” …

 

 

Phoebe Buffay: The Mystery Ingredient of Friends (video essay)

We love you Phoebe! (image via Friends Wikia (c) Warner Bros. Television)

 

SNAPSHOT
Phoebe is the secret mastermind of the group. She uses her insights about the other characters to pull invisible strings. …Phoebe the puppet master can be a bit of a troublemaker …she has a habit of being loose lipped and even straight-up meddling in her friends personal lives. …yet Phoebe’s friends need her straight talking and boldness because she pushes them to confront their true feelings about things. (synopsis via Laughing Squid)

I adore Phoebe Buffay!

Sure she was often dismissed as the flaky, ditzy one, the quirkily offbeat character who lived in a world all her own but what that assessment missed is how her straight-talking, her willingness just to say what everyone else is thinking makes such a profound difference to her circle of Friends.

ScreenPrism knows exactly how important she is as a character, christening her as the lynchpin that keeps the gang together and bringing something even more precious out of her group of close knit pals, as Laughing Squid observes:

“Phoebe’s eccentricity is incredibly nuanced and layered with a deep sense of fairness, a strict dogma and an unyielding love for her friends. This combination of traits allows Phoebe to encourage her friends to be true to themselves first.”

 

Get ready for the judgement day! The Marvellous Mrs Maisel S2 exuberant teaser trailer debuts

(image via IMP Awards)

 

The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel leads the pack of the shows I would love to be watching but simply don’t have the time to get to, alas.

That’s largely because it sits on its own streaming platform, Amazon, and I’m hardpressed to keep up with two I do have – Netflix and Australia’s very own Stan.

But because this incredibly well-reviewed series comes from the clever word-loving hands of Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, I am going to need to find the time to watch season 1, especially since the teaser promo for season 2 has just landed and is beckoning to me with its witty, insightful and fabulously-fifties playfulness.

Think my boss will give me the time off to play catch-up? With TV reputedly this good, how on earth could he refuse?

The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel 10-episode season 2 premieres sometime later this year.

 

TV Trailer Trio: Maniac pops a pill, Kidding is definitely not and Outlander teases

 

So much TV, so little time.

Honestly, while other people may fantasise about having lots of money and time to lie on a beach in the south of France, float idly on a riverboat down a quiet burbling river or indulge their love of extreme macrame-making (trust me, it’s totally a thing: OK, it’s not but it should be), all I want is unlimited time to catch up on the roughly 60 gigazillion TV shows I have yet to watch.

That’ll likely never happen – why universe why?! – but if it should, I will definitely be adding these shows to my long and ever growing list, one, I suspect, will likely pursue me into the grave (where I hope the afterlife includes a Netflix subscription and unlimited cable access).

Until that hopefully far-off day, I will keep trying to find the time to watch all the tantalisingly intriguing shows that cross my path including the first two new ones which look suitably and appealingly quirky and Outlander which, amazing even myself, I am completely up to date with.

 

MANIAC

 

(image via YouTube (c) Netflix)

 

SNAPSHOT
Set in a world somewhat like our world, in a time quite similar to our time, “Maniac” tells the stories of Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) and Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill), two strangers drawn to the late stages of a mysterious pharmaceutical trial, each for their own reasons. Annie’s disaffected and aimless, fixated on broken relationships with her mother and her sister; Owen, the fifth son of wealthy New York industrialists, has struggled his whole life with a disputed diagnosis of schizophrenia. Neither of their lives has turned out quite right, and the promise of a new, radical kind of pharmaceutical treatment—a sequence of pills its inventor, Dr. James K. Mantleray (Justin Theroux), claims can repair anything about the mind, be it mental illness or heartbreak—draws them and 10 other strangers to the facilities of Neberdine Pharmaceutical and Biotech for a three-day drug trial that will, they’re assured, with no complications or side effects whatsoever, solve all of their problems, permanently. Things do not go as planned. (synopsis via IndieWire)

So this looks trippy, weird and thus, in my world, compulsively viewable. While that off-centre recipe doesn’t always work – Exhibit A is Legion 2 which lost me despite its imaginative flourishes – but in this case it could just work. Based on a Norwegian series of the same name, Maniac is given only the barest of introductions in the teaser trailer and we will have to wait until 21 September when all 8 episodes premiere in one bingeable block on Netflix.

 

 

KIDDING

 

(image via YouTube (c) Showtime)

 

SNAPSHOT
Jim Carrey stars as Jeff, aka Mr. Pickles, an icon of children’s television, a beacon of kindness and wisdom to America’s impressionable young minds, who also anchors a multimillion-dollar branding empire. But when Jeff’s family begins to implode, he finds no fairy tale or fable or puppet will guide him through the crisis, which advances faster than his means to cope. (synopsis via Laughing Squid)

We all do it to some extent; juggle our inner and outer personas, tailoring to the audience at hand, whether they be friends, family or work colleagues. The gap is that much greater for public figures and in the Michel Gondry-directed Kidding, we see how one man, in this case Mr Pickles, a Mister Rogers-type figure, handles the increasingly huge chasm between his mild-mannered kid-friendly TV persona and his private life which begins to look a whole lot different to what most people would expect. Expect to be riveted and entrance by Gondry’s unique storytelling approach which is both ardently imaginative and deeply emotionally-evocative.

Kidding debuts on Showtime on 9 September at 10/9C.

 

 

OUTLANDER

 

(image via YouTube (c) Starz)

 

SNAPSHOT
The plot of the series will reportedly follow the fourth book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander saga, The Drums of Autumn. Per the author’s website, the novel follows Claire, Jamie, and his nephew Ian as they “seek to find a place for themselves in the colony of North Carolina, treading a dangerous line between Governor Tryon’s patronage and Claire’s knowledge of the brewing revolution in America.” (synopsis via Town&Country)

Right at this moment, we are in the midst of what fans of Outlander called Droughtlander, that seemingly interminable period between seasons. The good news this time around is that the gap between seasons three and four will not be anywhere as great as that between previous seasons, and so it won’t be too long before the enjoyably sudsy melodrama of life with James “Jamie” MacKenzie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and Claire Beauchamp Randall/Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) continues on, this time in the New World where, as per usual, danger and intrigue await in unsettling large amounts, joined by an unsettling message from the future that could change everything. Can’t wait!

Outlander season 4 premieres November 2018 on Starz.

 

Colony: “What Goes Around” (S3, E13 review) #seriesfinale

Is Katie, played by Sarah Wayne Callies, happy about Colony being cancelled? No, no she is not (image via Spoiler TV (c) USA Network)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND NO FURTHER STORYLINE OF ANY KIND, THUS UNDERSCORING HOW STUPID THE WHOLE TV SYSTEM IS, PERPETUALLY LEAVING US WITH HALF-TOLD STORIES

The making of TV shows is a curiously cruel business.

Unlike books, which arrived fully formed, or movies which come with a complete narrative good to go – even if a series, trilogy or franchise is truncated or doesn’t proceed, there’s a reasonably complete story within each constituent film or book – TV shows are at the mercy of the accounting gods, the Excel-embracing denizens of the various studios at who’s say-so a program often lives or dies.

Granted they are necessary in that, without their careful-shepherding of funds, many amazing creations would not exist; but they, and the risk-averse system of which they are a part, are a relic of a bygone system when ratings were king and networks lived and died on the strength of a single transmission of a episode.

We’re way past that now, with cable and traditional networks, increasingly bested by streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, the frontrunners of a cable-cutting revolution transforming the TV landscape.

The instinctive reaction to these seismic changes, such as that by USA Network to cancel sophisticated alien-invasion show Colony, is to circle the wagons, batten down the hatches and make yourself as small a target as possible; makes sense, at least partially, since funding isn’t infinite.

However, in a viewing landscape full to brimming with multiple hundreds of scripted shows, not to mention a plethora of reality TV compatriots, surely the better option is to be bold, take chances, come up with a show that is innovative, clever, insightful, gripping different.

Everything that Colony has been in its exquisitely well-told three seasons.

True, you won’t get everyone flocking to watch this or any other show; the days of the mass hit TV show that everyone watches are long gone, with even shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones still only reaching a small portion of the total viewing public.

But that doesn’t matter here in the days of niche viewing where capturing a devoted following, especially beloved by your advertisers, can allow you to survive in a way the big networks can only dream about.

 

Is Will, played by Josh Holloway, happy that Colony has been cancelled? No, no he is not (image via Spoiler TV (c) USA Network)

 

Now, I’m neither an industry insider nor someone from behind the scenes in Colony, and I can’t possibly know how recent changes such as losing tax credits in California and its move to Vancouver really affected one of the most intelligent explorations of how power and influence can both corrode and galvanise a society, but surely USA Networks had a one-of-a-kind show in Colony?

Admittedly it didn’t execute everything perfectly, with rather too much Lost-like obliqueness in its lack of reveals, but as we journeyed with Will and Katie Bowman (Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies) and their family, and those they knew along the way such as Proxy Snyder (Peter Jacobson) and rebel leader Broussard (Tory Kittles), one thing became very clear – this was no ordinary tale of alien invasion.

Eschewing the usual big, awe-inspiring arrival of ships through the clouds – think Independence Day or War of the Worlds, Colony dove down into the very heart of things, offering up a tale of humanity both flawed and noble, collaborative and rebellious, people willing to sell their souls to new alien overlords and those who fought their treason every step of the way.

It’s a classic storyline that’s been played out countless times down through the history, but Colony gave it a modern resonance, a glossy, technologically-buffed retelling that captured your attention because unlike many modern shows that prioritised mass killing off of characters or wildly-extremely story arcs, Colony took its time unspooling its engrossing narrative.

Likely too slow for some, and that’s fair enough since not everyone likes their stories told at a stop-and-smell-the-narrative-roses pace, Colony took three seasons to bring us to the point at the end of “What Goes Around” where the enemies of the aliens who seized our planet with the help of their human collaborators came bursting through the clouds, shields glistening in the sun.

It was an impressive sight, presaging a war we will never see play out – unless, of course, the campaign to #renewColony succeeds in convincing Netflix or another platform to save the show – preceded by an episode that balanced heart-to-heart confessions such as those between Katie and Amy (Peyton List), and Katie and Will, who went off to fight at the frontlines, with some striking action sequences that spoke of the willingness of some people to do the right thing and others to cowardly acquiesce to save their own skins.

We saw the nobility of sacrifice for the hoped-for greater good when 150 Outliers, led by Will, reported to the IGA’s Outlier facility to fight to save the Seattle Colony (and others) and the same noble dynamic play out on a smaller, moreintimate scale when Katie set out to find her kids Bram (Alex Neustaedter) and Gracie (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp) against a backdrop of the growing march to war.

 

… and is Broussard, played by Tory Kittles, happy that Colony has been cancelled? No, no he is not (image via Spoiler TV (c) USA Network)

 

We also saw, and thank goodness for some completion before a thousand plot threads were left unceremoniously dangling, Helena Goldwyn (Ally walker) and pretty the entire IGA leadership in Davos killed in seconds by a mysterious, invisible assassin wearing a reflective material that hid its from sensors, guards and some sophisticated shielding.

Sure, there were plot holes – how did the RAPs still not have a defense against their great enemy after eons of fighting them across the galaxy? And if you have the power and technological wherewithal to cross the stars, how could you see your enemy coming?

Those can all be answered by narrative convenience of course, and the battle about to wage, begun in a relatively-small commander bunker in Switzerland, and honestly the scene was so striking and justice-satisfying that any quibbles about events leading up to it could be discarded for sheer spectacle alone.

The thing is, Colony‘s great strength, and it was on display in “What Comes Around”, is that it took the time, gloriously-immersive time, to tell its story, to build up to this great climactic moment which Netflix-miracle aside will never find its fulfilment.

That aside, and even if it doesn’t have its story continued in televisual form, there’s always comic books or books to finish things off, over three seasons we had the distinct pleasure of watching intelligent writers tell a carefully thought-out story that didn’t dwell purely on spectacle, a fallback for many an alien invasion tale, but chose to go micro, looking at why such an invasion would happen at all, and how humanity would either be complicit in it, stand by self-preservingly or actively fight its very occurrence.

“What Goes Around” brought everything to a beautiful end in one sense, underscoring the impressive bravery and hope of the human species against almost impossible odds, and the willingness of its bottom-dwellers, for that is what they most assuredly are, to sell their very humanity to gain some warped measure of advancement.

Who knows who would have triumphed and what would have been left of us after two extraterrestrial species, locked in violent, ancient enmity for eons, had finished using our home as a battlefield?

One thing we do know however – Colony would not have been satisfied with some sort of simple, easy ending, some glib good vs. evil final act, no doubt finishing as it began, with clever, insightful storytelling, rich characterisation and a willingness to dive into the very worst and elevate the very best of humanity in the hope of telling a captivating story that shone a knowing light on the human condition.

  • And that my friends is that … no “next week on …”, no resolution and no ending to one of the finest sci-fi shows I’ve had the good fortune to watch. Of course, hope springs eternal and if any news emerges of a last-minute reprieve, I will shout it from the blogging rooftops …

Tons o’ #SDCC trailers: Origins, FTWD, Nightflyers, Disenchantment, SHAZAM! + lots more (bonus The Good Place gag reel)

 

As always lots of pop culture goodness came cascading out of San Diego Comic Con wrapped up just under a week ago.

This intro is far too short a beast to capture it all which is why you check out Den of Geek’s excellent round-up which has all the big, exciting stuff you need to know (trust me, you do, you really, really do).

But one of the big highlights is the release of a slew of great trailers for movies and TV shows, of which I’ve selected the eight that are exciting me the most. (For the full list, see Vulture.)

Let the watching begin!

 

ORIGIN

 

(image via IMDb (c) YouTube)

 

SNAPSHOT
Created, written and executive produced by Mika Watkins, the series centers on “a group of strangers who find themselves stranded on a spacecraft bound for a distant planet. The abandoned passengers must work together for survival, but quickly realize that one of them is far from who they claim to be.” Paul W.S. Anderson of the Resident Evil franchise and Alien vs. Predator will direct the first two episodes. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Seriously everyone! If anyone ever comes up to you in the future and says “Come on a spaceship to a distant planet, it’ll be fun, it will be lifechanging and everything will be better!” — JUST … SAY … NO because stuff like Origins just keeps on happening. Far better to sit back in the comfort of your non-terrifying loungeroom and stream the show, which actually looks pretty gripping, presumably without a hostile, malignant threat in the background.

Origin premieres on YouTube Red in late 2018.

 

 

FEAR THE WALKING DEAD S4B

 

(image via Flickering Myth (c) AMC)

 

SNAPSHOT
This is how season 4a ended (SPOILERS!)

Sometime after the destruction of the Gonzalez Dam, Madison meets Al whom she tries to rob without success. Madison eventually gives Al a story from when her children were little and explains how she is trying to protect their innocence. Upon their departure, Al gives Madison some food, a radio and a map, allowing her to find her children. Al’s kindness inspires Madison to form the stadium community, but Al never learns Madison’s name. In the present, Naomi and Morgan struggle to get supplies to save John Dorie’s life while Al and Charlie struggle against an attack from Alicia’s group. The subsequent revelation that Al met Madison and Morgan’s intervention convinces Alicia to stop her path of vengeance. At night, Alicia’s group finishes telling their story about the fall of the stadium, including how everyone else died when they tried to flee and were overrun. Madison is revealed to have led the infected into the stadium to contain the herd and give her children, Strand and Luciana a chance to survive. Madison ultimately sets the herd ablaze within the stadium, sacrificing herself in a successful attempt to save the others. In honor of Madison’s memory, Al names the story after her and the group shares the same noodles Al gave to Madison when they first met. (synopsis via Wikipedia)

Is it the living or the dead from which you have more to fear? Hard to say really but I’d put my money on the living who have shown a depressing propensity, ever since Fear the Walking Dead (and its parent The Walking Dead, which has a season 9 trailer) debuted for making things worse not better, pretty much every step of the way. You can outrun zombies but not human nature it seems as recent deaths (is Madison actually dead hmm? No one actually saw it soooo …) attest all too well.

Fear the Walking Dead season 4b returns 12 August US and 13 August Australia.

 

 

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Following the global success of 2014’s Godzilla and this year’s Kong: Skull Island, comes the next chapter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ cinematic MonsterVerse: an epic action adventure that pits Godzilla against some of the most popular monsters in pop culture history. The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

As monster movies go, both Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island were actually pretty good, sporting the usual blockbustery bells and whistles of course but suffused with way more intelligence and emotional resonance than anyone expected. It’s hard to say if Godzilla: King of the Monsters will reward us in the same way, especially given the overwrought trailer which just seems a little bonkers honestly, but I’m hopeful we’ll be 3 for 3 come next year.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters premieres 30 May 2019 Australia and 31 May 2019 in USA.

 

 

NIGHTFLYERS

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Nightflyers follows eight maverick scientists and a powerful telepath who embark on an expedition to the edge of our solar system aboard The Nightflyer – a ship with a small tightknit crew and a reclusive captain — in the hope of making contact with alien life. But when terrifying and violent events begin to take place they start to question each other — and surviving the journey proves harder than anyone thought. The series is based on author George R.R. Martin’s novella and the 1987 film of the same name. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

See Origins – to repeat – DO … NOT … GET … ON … A … SPACESHIP … sure it sounds like fun but then there’s death, running and screaming and a compulsive need to go running back to Earth. Only in this case, you can’t. Far better, once again, to watch it all unfold instead.

Nightflyers premieres on syfy in the northern autumn and Netflix internationally.

 

 

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY S2

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Showrunners Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts explained to the crowd that Star Trek: Discovery season 2 will edge away from “the backdrop of war” and into a “more exploratory phase and a more diplomatic phase,” steadily becoming “a bit more of a Trekian chapter.” (synopsis via Den of Geek)

Good lord but Star Trek: Discovery season 1 was a cold and fascinating ride. Not everyone liked it but I loved its grittier, earthier take, far more humanly fallible take on the future where things are good, but not perfectly good. For all its futuristic trappings, if feels real and possible and with Sonequa Martin-Green lending strength and vulnerability to her role as Michael Burnham, you can’t really go wrong especially now the show has added TOS-ness.

Star Trek: Discovery season 2 premieres late 2018/early 2019 on CBS All-Access in USA and Netflix internationally.

 

 

SHAZAM!

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Angel) case, by shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart—inside a ripped, godlike body—Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong). (synopsis via Coming Soon)

This looks wonderful! Apart from the ’70s TV show which I loved, my knowledge of Shazam is sketchy. But by gosh if this gleefully spirited, sweet little trailer is any indication and I think it is, DC could have a real hit on their hands. Zachary Levi is perfectly, beautifully cast and it seems to capture what it would be like for a kid who’s never had any breaks, to get an almighty big life-changing one. Let the happy superhero stuff begin!

SHAZAM! premieres 4 April 2019 and 5 April 2019 US and UK.

 

 

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second of five all new adventures in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

OK confession – I have never read the Harry Potter books but I have seen all the films and loved them. Hence, I approach any films in this universe from a cinematic rather than literary perspective and honestly the first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film ticked all the boxes and then some. What a fun romp with real heart and some pretty big stakes. Granted the second film looks darker and far more intense but I’m still expecting some wit and whimsy along, since Rowling seems to have the ability to balance the dark and the light to astoundingly good storytelling effect.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald premieres 15 November Australia and 16 November US and UK.

 

 

DISENCHANTMEMT

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
In Disenchantment, viewers will be whisked away to the crumbling medieval kingdom of Dreamland, where they will follow the misadventures of hard-drinking young princess Bean, her feisty elf companion Elfo, and her personal demon Luci. Along the way, the oddball trio will encounter ogres, sprites, harpies, imps, trolls, walruses, and lots of human fools.

The series will feature the voice talents of Abbi Jacobson (Broad City) as Bean, Nat Faxon (Tammy) as Elfo and Eric Andre (The Lion King) as Luci. They will be joined by John DiMaggio, Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, David Herman, Matt Berry, Jeny Batten, Rich Fulcher, Noel Fielding, and Lucy Montgomery. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Postmodern parodies are brilliantly good fun usually and Matt Groening looks to have hit a completely off-the-charts good home run with his tale of a non-trope observing princess and her unusual travelling companions. Sure all the usual fairytale elements are in play but not in any configuration you’ll find a kid’s storybook and we will be all the better for that. When we can stop laughing, that is.

Disenchantment premieres 17 August on Netflix.

 

 

We all know it’s a very funny and enormously clever show – who knew that the existential quandaries of the afterlife could be so damn funny – and that season 3 is going to be AAAAA-MAZING, but did you know that the gag reel is not “meh” at all (don’t listen to The Medium Place!) but actually wonderfully entertaining too?

You want more? Here’s The Good Place gang at #SDCC 2018!

 

Colony: “Bonzo” (S3, E12 review)

Alien speed dating was fraught with peril but Kynes looked to have met his perfect vomit-inducing match in Blurry Alien #1 (image via Colony Wikia (c) USA Network)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND THE BEGINNING OF THE END (FOR REAL AND NOT JUST NARRATIVELY) …

So Colony is dead … long live, well, nothing really since in marked contrast to shows like Lucifer and Brooklyn 99 which attracted spirited campaigns from fans and cast & crew, the #saveColony seems to have fallen on already-shut up deaf ears.

It’s uncertain if this means that the producers have lost the will to creatively push on further or they’ve already tried other avenues such as Netflix, which carries the show internationally and it’s come to nothing, but there is next to sense, beside rabid fans like myself, that anyone cares really if Colony breathes another day, in the form of a TV movie or very limited fourth series.

It’s a pity really because “Bonzo” once again confirms how powerful slow-and-steady measured storytelling can be.

It’s been a hallmark of the show since it started – a slow exposition of ideas and plot with rich characterisation, intelligently-articulated exploration of what happens to a society, in this case all of Earth, under totalitarian rule (spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty and we don’t edify ourselves one bit) and a step-by-engrossing-step build up of the inevitable march to do-or-die war.

For a sizable portion of modern viewers, this kind of slow-burn approach is anathema, accustomed as they have become to BIG, BOLD, EPIC PLOTS, DEATHS APLENTY, and TENSION, ALWAYS THE TENSION! (Capitalised lettering has also greatly benefited from the additional exposure.)

Exhibit A of their dislike for shows that take their own sweet time is Fear the Walking Dead which adopted a similar approach until season 4 when it succumbed, in part at least, to EPIC, BLOODY, TENSION FEVER!

Sure Colony could have benefited from throwing people a few more juicy reveals than they have – in “Bonzo” for instance, Everett Kynes (Watne Brady), the now-revealed surreptitious resistance leader who used his governorship of the Seattle Colony to plan humanity’s great fightback (now with added hidden Outliers!), meets with the RAPs aka Morks’ mortal enemy but all we see is a blurry head for a second or two; it’s all very Lost like and look how that went (one of Colony‘s creators, Carlton Cuse worked on Lost) – and perhaps it was a tad too sedate, stop-and-smell-the-narrative-roses-ish but by and large it’s careful exhumation of the plot paid considerable dividends.

 

Broussard loved his kitchen chats with Amy but he would’ve liked them more if she talked as much as she unnervingly stared (image via SpoilerTV (c) USA Network)

 

“Bonzo”, where Kynes’ summoned Outliers such as Will (Josh Holloway), who has a death wish about him still (witness the episode’s end where he’s wondering lost and bloody through the deserted streets of now IGA-controlled Seattle), Broussard (Tory Kittles) and Dave O’Neill (Will Brittain) to rescue him and right hand man Adam Ford (David Paetkau) from an interim hidey-hole, was an exemplary case in point.

Not much happened in one sense with the plot revolving almost entirely on Kynes escape from Snyder’s (Peter Jacobson) predatory gaze and his hoped-for rescue and relocation to his commander centre in Bellevue, right across the lake from Seattle, now in IGA lockdown.

But then a bare bones plot does not a poor episode make; in fact, from Will and Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) having what amounted to one long painful goodbye as he went on the mission and she didn’t (not her choice) to Bram (Alex Neustaedter) taking Gracie (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp) to his girlfriend’s place for “safety” through to Bram’s girlfriend’s dad wasting no time in selling out people to the IGA (from benign peacemaker to self-preserving collaborationist on 10.5 seconds! WHOOSH!), there was a lot going on.

Sure there were guns, killing, yelling and lots of Snyderian posturing but it was all the smaller but no less meaningful sideshow elements that made “Bonzo” such a rich piece of storytelling.

The downside of course to taking a narrative stroll through the alien apocalypse, rewarding though it is, is that if you happen to get canceled, and alas Colony has been, never to see a fourth season, you can get truncated just when things are really getting interesting.

As it stands now, the IGA has thrown its lot in with the robotic RAPs, Kynes with their galactic enemy, leaving non-collaborationists and the undecided – the latter status is fine if you’re being sampled in a poll but when humanity’s fate hangs in the balance? Not so much – and there’s nowhere to go but lots of war and possible civilisation-ending argy-bargy.

It won’t be pretty and it will be deadly and I have no idea that Colony, master of the carefully-told story would have found depth and substance well beyond the violence, death and world-ending destruction.

 

Hmmm now where *did* I leave the children? (image via SpoilerTV (c) USA Network)

 

Of course, now we will never know – a boy can hope and dream can’t he but honestly there’s disappointingly not much groundswell for someone to pluck it from the ashes which baffles me when other shows with similar ratings figures have been thrown a lifeline – and it’s a real shame that such intelligent sci-fi, which avoided the pitfalls that befell the likes of Falling Skies, which ended on a farcically half-baked note, has been sent out to TV pasture just when it had reached its great crescendo.

It’s a salutary lesson that in today’s TV environment, rich though it is with more shows than anyone can watch in a lifetime, that being too clever, sci-fi wise at least gets you nowhere.

I can only guess that whatever Colony‘s revelatory failings may have been, and they were there, that its great sin was investing its fightback against tyranny with a thoughtful, in-depth critique of what happens to societies when previous norms of freedom, the primacy of human rights and controlling your own destiny are thrown under a passing alien spaceship.

It’s very cleverness and willingness to take its time appears to have been its undoing with many people unprepared to invest the time it takes to execute a story such as this with due diligence and narrative solidity.

Of course, we’ll never really know why most people stop watching one of the best-written show on TV at the moment but suffice to say that barring some sort of grand rescue, that this is one show that will fade into oblivion, leaving us all wondering what might have been.

You can only hope that people fight a lot harder when the real authoritarian takeover comes which, if current events are any guide, can’t be too far off.

Perhaps we need the other aliens after all …

  • Ahead on what is now, very sadly (for now at least, he says hopefully), the series finale after USA Network’s all-too-premature cancellation, “What Goes Around” … war, baby, war! Don’t say we’d didn’t warn you …

 

Scoops ahoy! Stranger Things 3 releases a mall-avelous teaser trailer

(image via Pinterest – unknown artist fan art)

 

Ah the ’80s!

Gaudy, colourful, pastel-hued fun – hypwercolour T-shirts, shoulder pads, Duran Duran … and the rise and rise of the mall.

How big a deal were malls in the 1980s? They were BIG and just how big can be seen in the new teaser trailer for Stranger Things season 3, which according to Den of Geek is still filming in Atlanta, which celebrates the arrival of “one of the finest shopping facilities in America and beyond” to the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.

As Variety notes, there’s a whole lot going in the glossy, cheesily-gushy piece of time-specific promo liveliness:

“The promo video is full of 1980s mall-culture references, from the vintage logo for retailer to Gap to a shoutout to the now-departed bookstore chain Waldenbooks and music retailer Sam Goody. The teaser depicts the character of Steve Harrington, played by Joe Keery, as working in the Scoops Ahoy ice cream shop in the mall’s “state of the art food court.”

 

 

Given the otherworldly terrors unleashed on the poor unsuspecting citizens of the town throughout seasons 1 and 2, you could forgive the likes of Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Will (Noah Scnapp) and their various friends and family members including good old fraught Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) for needing to indulge in a little, or a lot, retail therapy.

But I fear they won’t get much of that, nor some downtime in the state of the art foodcourt, if past season are any indication.

The care taken to single out Starcourt Industries as the great retail-enabling benefactor would seem to suggest that some more underhand corporate shenanigans, and the monsters, both metaphorical and literal they let loose, are on their way to blight good old Hawkins once again.

Best get your Demogorgon spray ready …

Colony: “Disposable Heroes” (S3, E11 review)

The Alien Apocalypse Staring Contest was the must-attend hit of the season and neither Katie nor Amy were going to give an inch (image via SpoilerTV (c) USA Network)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND SUBTERFUGE, DOUBLE-DEALING AND UNDERHANDED EVERYTHING!

If the alien apocalypse wasn’t such a serious business, and we’re talking “serious” with a capital “S” and some highly luminous but grim neon, you could well argue that everyone is having a hood of a time trying to outfox and outplay everyone else.

In one action-packed narrative, “Disposable Heroes” delivered up Kynes (Wayne Brady) who looks like he’s working with the Hosts while possibly working with their enemy while possibly aiding and abetting the Resistance while quote possibly not.

Got all that? But wait, there’s more!

Over at the GA Fascist Circus, Helena Goldwyn (Ally Walker), who is a failed Hollywood studio exec (this explains a great deal) and Alan Snyder (Peter Jacobson) who is a failure as a human being among other things, the game is to make Kynes look incompetent and unable to run the Seattle colony properly by staging a series of terrorist incidents that will make it look like the smarmy governor of the Modelest Colony There Is is losing control.

Of course, being a Snyder-run operation, it’s hamfistedly, messily son and it’s obvious to all and sundry that the explosions, death and terroristic stuff is all a great big amateur hour series of diversions.

The GA don’t care since the end goal is a pretext to come jackboot-ing Morks style – again my favourite description of Earth’s new alien overlords ever – but it exposes just how sloppy Snyder really is in pursuit of keeping his new cushy position in Davos.

He thinks he has all the cards, but after Helena informs him that he is now in charge of the Seattle Colony – after Kynes disappears, sensing the noose is tightening around him, and switching off the servers, phone and tracking systems to render the GA blind – he realises he might have grabbed the old family pack, you know the one that’s been in the games cupboard for years, is missing several key cards with a few UNO cards thrown in for good measure.

He’s been had, and he knows it but honestly it couldn’t have happened to another guy; although there is a sneaking suspicion that he may be playing a whole other game than a purely GA one, a likely idea since he’s always looked after one person and one person only – himself.

 

Nor was Broussard who brought his usual single-minded focus to the contest (image via SpoilerTV (c) USA Network)

 

Someone who is most definitely playing a double game, and playing it magnificently well as it turns out, is Kynes and the full extent of his grand epic scheme came into somewhat full view last night (although, once again, Colony, is doing a whole of hinting and not nearly enough saying upfront, loud and proud; don’t be another Lost, please Colony!)

As Helena and Snyder close in, Kynes realises it’s time to set the mysterious Project Phoenix in play, a plan which involved summoning his own collection of Outliers (members of the ex-military who he’s diverted from the Hosts’ own private army into the Seattle Colony under assumed identities) which includes Dave O’Neill (Will Brittain), Will (Josh Holloway) and Broussard (Tory Kittles) to rallying pints where they’re readied for what it is promised will be a coming war for the soul of humanity.

Indeed, good old Kynes, while he’s definitely flawed, arrogant and rather in love with himself, has been quietly building Seattle into “an ark” as his lieutenant Adam Ford (David Paetkau) – newly partner-less after Agent Harris (E. J. Bonilla) ends up dead and tortured as part of the half-baked GA’s grand initiative of murder and bombing – tells the Outliers, filling it with doctors, engineers, all the people who’ll be needed to rebuild human civilisation after the coming war between the Hosts.Morks/RAPs/Terminators and their enemy who’s due on Earth any day now.

Or have they arrived? As we saw right at the start of the season, and again last night in an opening sequence where Outliers, newly-awoken from pods in the middle of the forest, trying to stay alive against a foe encased in a shimmering material that effectively renders them invisible, Predator-style.

It’s only once all the Outliers are dead – and honestly their moment in the narrative is brief and brutal – that their foe decloaks and we see the edge of a spotted head that is most definitely NOT human, and NOT robotic.

It appears, and it’s reinforced later once Kynes has made his dash for freedom, that he might well be working with the enemy of the RAPs, on the basis that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Yep, it’s been proven to be a less than successful way to approach strategy but what choice does he have? The GA, and is slimy collaborative horde – the scene where Kynes denounces Helena and Snyder as traitors to the species and weak, spineless self-survivalists who drag everyone else down is a joy to behold! – seem to hold all the aces and if Kyne is to have any hope of making his vision a reality, he’s going to need help from the only other beings that can provide it.

But if they, and by extension, non-collaborating humanity emerge alive and intact from the coming war – please let there be a season 4! Please! – what will be the price? Will they, once resident on Earth’s green-and blue pleasant lands, decide to stay a while, set a spell and enslave us all over again?

 

Too young for a staring contest! Bah humbug say Bram and Gracie unseasonally, committing to beating the adults at their own staring game (image via SpoilerTV (c) USA Network)

 

Quite possibly they will, but it’s the price you have to pay when the options are few and far between.

Speaking of limited options, in the light of Will going boots and all with the Outliers cause, Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Amy Leonard (Peyton List), who meet delightfully awkwardly outside of the house that Amy and Broussard share, are left sitting on the sidelines when the men going riding into the announcement of battle.

They don’t get to do much but talk but that conversation is illuminating with Amy, used to dealing with people with PTSD, remarking that men often deal with grief by going all gung-ho Rambo on everyone’s ass.

In that respect, Will is Exhibit A through Z, the Amy-revealed knowledge of which Katie finds confronting since she and Will are still finding their way back to the closeness and intimacy they once shared and have missed a lot of things about where each other is at, a process that has as its casualties Bram (Alex Neustaedter) taking Gracie (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp), who simply wants a normal life, increasingly into the orbit of his girlfriend’s family.

It’s games night all around in “Disposable Heroes” which emphasises with a brilliant elegant economy of narrative style just how unfunny, unenjoyable and high stakes all this games playing is, especially when the fate of humanity, and the people you love, are hanging in a precarious balance.

  • Coming up next on Colony in “Bonzo” … humanity stands at the crossroads and it’s not a choice between Candyland and Happily Ever After unfortunately …