The short and the short of it: Things go bump in the night in I’m Scared

(image (c) Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins / C4toons)


8-year-old insomniac Ralf warns his little brother Crumbs of all of the dangers that lurk in the shadows, waiting to devour the two of them. (synopsis via YouTube)

Be honest – when you were a kid you were convinced there was plenty to be scared of in the depths of the night.

No assurances from your parents, no matter how sincere or repeated could dissuade you from the deep conviction that somewhere in the blackened void of your bedroom lurked monsters innumerable.

In I’m Scared, filmmaker Peter Levin‘s delightful stop-motion, literally poetic tale of an older brother regaling another with everything there is to be deathly afraid of – sharks swimming through the air or red-eyed rabbits anyone? – which was the subject of a successful Kickstarter to get the $65,000 needed to finish the film, we get a gorgeously epic rundown of everything a kid could possibly fear.

With monsters that plentiful, what is there to be done? Ah, but you’d be surprised with the ending of the film inventive, fun and as perfect as you could for.

(source: Laughing Squid)


All aboard! What’s happening with Eurovision 2018? (update 2)

(artwork courtesy Eurovision,tv)


Time is tick-tick-tocking on with the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 less than 2 months away!

Preparations at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, where Portugal will host its first ever Contest after Salvador Sobral won with the exquisitely-beautiful “Amar pelos dois (Loving For Both of Us)”, are well under way as are all the events that lead up to Europe’s musical night of nights.

Key among them are the pre-parties that litter the Eurovision schedule like glitter scattered artfully across the floor with Riga, Latvia (24 March), London, UK (London Eurovision Party), 5 April), Amsterdam, Netherlands (14 April), and Madrid, Spain (21 April) gearing up to get everyone excited about the event to come.

At each of the events, a carefully-created number of actual Eurovision entrants will entertain the crowds – ZiBBZ from Switzerland and Laura Rizzotto from Latvia are performing in Amsterdam while London plays host to the likes of Rasmussen from Denmark and Cesár Sampson from Austria – giving everyone a great idea of what lies in wait come the middle of May.

You could argue that all this concert/party hype takes away from the impact of the event itself but that seldom seems to be the case with enthusiasm building, after each of the nights; and besides with the focus on all the national contests and the megaphone virality of social media, the musical cat is already well and truly out of the bag.

In the end, it’s all about marketing an event that has been around since 1956 – it was established as a way of culturally knitting together a war-torn Europe – and which, thanks to events like this continues to grow bigger and brighter with every passing year.



In other big news, and given the time to takes the tally the televotes and jury votes – the ultimate vote tally for each country is a 50/50 split between national juries composed of musical luminaries and the votes of the general public – this is a BIG DEAL, the acts who will keep us entertained on the night of the grand final on 12 May have been announced.

As Belén García (Spain) reports from ESCplus, Salvador Sobral, the man who gave Portugal its first Eurovision win and who is fresh from a successful heart transplant – he was so weak last year that his sister, fellow singer and co-writer of the winning song, Luísa Sobral stepped in at rehearsal and joined him for his post-victory performance – will be performing “Amar pelos dois (Loving For Both of Us)” along with a new song from his upcoming album.



Joining him on the entertainment roster will be acclaimed fado singers Ana Moura and Mariza who sing in a genre that is peculiarly Portugese, dating from the early 19th century, with songs that are mournful in both lyrics and melody. and Beatbombers who are going to give the country flagbearers in the opening act a suitably percussive entry.

Finally Portugese DJ, Branko, whose first album Atlas drew its influences form around the world, will take into the electronic music of  Cape Verde, Angola, Portugal and Brazil, all areas with which this artist is intimately familiar.

For full details, go to ESCplus.


(image courtesy


Now should be fortunate to score any of the fourth and final wave of tickets that go on sale on 5 April, and are one of the fans duly accredited by the Eurovision powers that be, you, along with  journalists, delegations and artists will gain hallowed access to the beat-heavy surrounds of the Euroclub.

Situated in one of Lisbon’s most fashionable night clubs at Terreiro do Paço (Praça do Comerçio), and running from 6-12 May, this rather exclusive venue, located but a pyrotechnic blast from the 2018 Eurovision Village, will be the place for all the beautiful people of the Contest to chill, unwind, dance and forget that less than perfect semi-final performance.

If you’re a member of the general public however? Best fire up your favourite Spotify playlist, close the curtains on your hotel room and put your hands in the air like your un-accredited self just don’t care …


Commerce Square in front of Arco da Augusta in downtown Lisbon.


Can past winners come back and triumph all over again? A Wiwibloggs correspondent asked that pertinent question in the light of Alexander Rybak being chosen to represent Norway, after a 9 year gap with the song “That’s How You Write a Song”.

Rybak is a special case of course since he won Eurovision back in 2009 with 387 points, the highest vote telly ever under the old system, repeating that victory, at least in spirit, in recent Norwegian selection trials for the Contest known as Melodi Grand Prix where he attracted a landslide number of votes.



But even he may not be immune to the reality that Eurovision lightning very rarely strikes twice – although c’mon! LOOK AT THAT SMILE! – as this fascinating article makes clear with a number of past victors such as Lena from Germany (2010, 2011) and the great Niamh Kavanagh from Ireland (1993, 2010) failing to grab the crystal microphone in their return appearances.

The lessons of history are not always doomed to be repeated and when you have a song as upbeat and bouncy as “That’s How You Write a Song” and a singer like Ryback who has boy-next-door charisma to burn, it’s easy enough to stare it down.

All will be revealed come semi-final on 8 May when we find out if Rybak has a “Waterloo” moment (check the lyrics for the reference) or defies past form and emerges victorious, infectious smile and all …


(image courtesy


I am in love with a woman (beside Sandra Bullock who is, as well know, gorgeous and completely beyond reproach).

Now before my boyfriend wonders what the hell is going on, and my family and friends laugh at the very idea, let me be clear that the woman I am in love with is Israel’s entrant to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Netta Barzilai aka Netta, who is all kinds of animatedly fabulous singing the #metoo movement-influenced song “Toy”, written by Doron Medalie and Stav Beger.

Playful, quirky and incredibly infectiously addictive, “Toy” is that marvellously impressive combination of serious intent and bright, fun execution that delivers a real oomph if you’re paying attention.

Look for this song, and Netta who is simply superb in the very entertaining clip, to do very well, and perhaps even win, yes win, you heard me, this year’s Contest.



The world as a whole may still have some way to go to embrace full sexual diversity but in Ireland, the debate has been largely had, love has won and the country now celebrates its LGBTQI residents.

This is most beautifully evident in the country’s entry to Eurovision this year, “Together” by Ryan O’Shaughnessy, who was a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012, the clip for which feautures a touching and carefree gay romance as its centrepiece. Granted the romance doesn’t run its course with the song a sweetly melancholic musing on past love but it’s a beautiful statement all the same and should enusre Ireland moves to the grand final after four years of failing to escape the semi-final round.



ABBA is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic, winner of Eurovision.

After their near-legendary win with “Waterloo” in Brighton England in 1974, the Swedish super foursome have become inextricably linked with the event that brought them to worldwide prominence, and so it’s entirely fitting that when the UK selected its 2018 Eurovision entry at the BBC-run Eurovision: You Decide 2018, hosts Måns Zelmerlöw and Lucie Jone opened with an ABBA medley.


How’d they do that? The stop-motion animation puppets of Early Man

(image courtesy IMP Awards)


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

I am, and will always be, a fan of stop-motion aniamtion.

It’s not simply because I know hard-won this artform is, how much effort goes into each and every second of action on screen; it’s also the sheer look of characters coming alive in a way wholly distinctly captivating way that is nothing like drawn animation.

I love drawn animation of course as even a cursory glance at this blog will attest but there’s an extra special something that comes with stop-motion, a little extra humanity or quirkiness which has found its apex – the work of Laika (Kubo and the Two Strings, Boxtrolls) aside – in the giddily offbeat, sweet and heartfelt works of Aardman Animations.

The creation of Peter Lord and David Sproxton in 1972, and most famous for the work of Nick Park who joined the team in 1985, Aardman has gifted the world the sublime delights of Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts, Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep, and now the goofy prehistoric silliness of Early Man.



In this movie, which you pretty much know is going to be an idiosyncratic joy from the trailers alone – athough the reviews have been pretty fabulous too; see exhibit A and exhibit B – a plucky cave man named Dug, his sidekick Hognob and his entire tribe of Stone Agers have to square off against Lord Nooth, leader of the Bronze Agers, who wants their land and their labour to enrich himself with mined metals.

It’s a classic David vs. Goliath story, one that, quite literally, plays itself out in a way that is imaginative, heartstoppingly tense, and yeah, completely and gorgeously bonkers silly.

How could you not love it?

Underdogs triumphing, and c’mon how could that not happen, is always a joy to watch since it doesn’t always happen in real life, and that’s why creators like Aardman and films like Early Man are necessary and so good for our soul.

An added treat is having Adam Savage, late of Mythbusters and now Tested, who spent some quality time hanging out at Aardman’s studios with senior model maker Jimmy Young, finding out how they make the magic happen and bring the characters we know and love to enthrallingly beguiling life.

It’s fascinating and will only added to our rich enjoyment of the film.

Early Man opens in Australia 29 March.

(source: Laughing Squid)







First impressions: Britannia (episodes 1-7)

(image courtesy The Movie Database)


When first you lay eyes upon Britannia, it’s a little too easy to dismiss it as some kind of charmingly low-rent Game of Thrones, ancient Britain on a budget, populated by drugged-out festival goers purporting to be Druids, Romans wanting to take it all for themselves (and going tripping with the Druids — and frankly, why wouldn’t you?) and tribes like the Cantii and the Regni battling it out amongst themselves so fiercely that General Aulus Plautius (David Morrissey), who leads the force of Rome, could save himself a great deal of time and stress by just sitting back and letting them have at it.

And then you realise, as you happily wallow in all the faux-historical melodrama generated by witches brew of weirdly off-the-charts rivalry, that there’s a great deal of narrative substance percolating away under all the agonised looks, pagan debauchery and imperial manoeuvring.

So much so, in fact, that while the show can seem a little over-wrought and wacko, it’s also compelling viewing in its own strange way, a fantasy drama with historical moorings that is less concerned with being accurate to a documentarian fault than being damn entertaining.

In so doing it brings history alive, and if you’re a history buff like me, it will have you scurrying to the likes of Mary Beard and Bettany Hughes faster than you can type “Were the druids really that malnourished and off with the mushroom-addled space pigeons?”

Frankly no one knows exactly what the Druids were up to, such as is the guesswork that circles around the archaeological evidence which is never definitive in detail, but if Britannia was to be so slavishly complaint with every last pagan tattoo swirl and Romanic flourish, and I say this as someone who reads National Geographic for fun, I might be more than a little disappointed.

One fact that is very much not in dispute and is the hat upon which Britannia, a joint production between Sky Atlantic and Amazon Prime Video, hangs its ever more sprawling, trope-heavy storyline, and that is that in AD 43, the Romans, under good old Plautius, did storm the eastern beaches of England and forever upset the established order of the British tribes who saw the interlopers, who had left just 100 years before when Julius Caesar decided to leave the island to its own devices, as demonic hordes come to steal their cultural souls.

OK so that last part is probably just an invention of Britannia‘s gloriously-overheated writing room, but suffice to say, the arrival of the Romans, who mixed military might with geo-political wheeling and dealing, the better to get more money rolling into Rome’s coffers, did shake up the balance of power between an array of infighting tribes.



What Britannia has fun with, and ever more quirky fun has to be said, is exactly how all this power gets shaken up.

In the world of this show’s AD 43, are the Cantii, led by King Pellenor (Ian McDiarmid), who’s a cranky superstitious bastard, enthralled to the drugged-out wan leader of the Druids Veran (Mackenzie Cook), who are, in common, with religious elites everywhere pure of heart and twisted of soul simultaneously, and not exactly father of the year to Prince Phelan (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and rebellious daughter Kerra (Kelly Reilly) who is more than a little fascinated with Rome thanks to her dear departed mother.

And the Regni, ruled over with chutzpah and menace by Queen Antedia (Zoë Wanamaker) who like pretty much everyone else, camps it up with a bravado that you can help but admire, making deals with Pellenor and then Plautius, all with an eye on her own ambitious self interest.

Standing, in theory at least, in the middle of all of this back and forth, tit-for-tat, are Veran’s Druids, who honestly look like they could do with a few good meals, a whole lot less drugs and a few weeks kicking back with a good scroll or two at a seaside resort.

Instead, under the guise of doing the will of the gods, which trust me is as amorphous and open to manipulation then as it is now – at one point Plautius, who may or may not be possessed by an earth demon named Lokka, does a deal with Veran to alter tribal succession, a brazenly political deal passed off as a religiously-ordained wisp of divine inspiration – they romp about doing whatever the hell they like, leaving some, Antedia chief among them, more than a little suspicious about the motives of the religious elite who meddle more than you might think in the tribes.

Our narrative eyes and ears on the ground, however, belong to a small teenage Cantii girl named Cait (Eleanor Worthington Cox) who is one of the few survivors when her village is burned to the ground and its people being put to the sword as the Romans ride in, like a death metal band on a drunken post-concert bender, intent on making a Statement to the local people.

While her father Sawyer (Barry Ward) and other men are taken hostage by the Romans who need them less as labour than bargaining chips, and are not averse to hurting them to get their way, Cait runs into the forest where she is saved, with extreme reluctance by barely-holding-onto-sanity exiled Druid Divis (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) who skips into the Underworld with the kind of ease we reserve for commuting and who may or may not be possessed by a demon king.



If that all sounds tripped as hell, that’s because it most certainly is.

By the end of episode 7, you have witnessed any number of druidic pronouncements, violent incidents, intensely-lustful sex and spiritual moments both sublime and unnerving as Britannia makes clear that it aims to be less historically accurate than a damn good, over-wrought tale of blood, vengeance, betrayal and loss, all of which make for damn fine storytelling in any time and place.

In the case of AD 43 where there is no recourse to the police or justice or a welfare state, staying alive is far more than an academic pursuit, something that the show brings to the fore again and again as people trip up on their own vaulting ambition or poor-decision making and have no other recourse but to roll with the consequences.

Happy to thrust modern lexicon and sensibilities into the drama, with everyone talking in some kind of English accent, the show sometimes feels like it’s not taking itself even remotely seriously, in danger of tipping into Carry On Rome parody.

But each time you think it has gone too far, it injects some deeply poignant moment, courtesy mostly of Cait who is an intense character par excellence – when you see what happens to her you will well understand why she’s not cracking a smile every five minutes – or some off-with-the-demonic-pixies spiritual moment (the journeys into the Underworld are particularly lalalala nutjobby but they work in their epic dolalliness) and balance is restored.

Serious drama Britannia is not but nor is it jokingly fripperous either, balancing, much like Britain itself, on the edge of serious and the sendup, the dramatic and the melodramatic, the old and the new in such a beguilingly full-tilt mad way that you can’t help but keep watching even if you do catch your eyes rolling at the sheer insanity of it all.

It may be garrulously, gloriously over the top much of the time, and will never be used in universities as a depiction of history brought to life, but it is marvellously, immersively entertaining, brilliantly leveraging a mysterious and murky period of history about which much is and isn’t known, leaving it fertile ground for imaginative storytellers to weave their tales of power and lost and the sheer contrariness of fallible, its-own-worst-enemy humanity.


Pop Culture Typography: Iconic logos and fonts get a fun musical re-imagining

(image via YouTube (c) Isaac Moores aka “Izac Less”)


Ever-more creative and colourful lyric videos have become quite the thing of late for many music artists.

Whether as a stop-gap till a live-action clip is filmed or the final promotional product itself, the best lyric videos entrance, entertain and move perfectly in time with the song they’re accompanying.

A perfect example of this art comes from Melbourne artist Isaac Moores aka “Izac Less” who has created a lyric video for the song “Pop Culture” by French DJ, record producer, singer, songwriter and musician Madeon using, and here is the genius part, fonts from every pop culture property imaginable including Rick and Morty, Ghostbusters, Game of Thrones, Tron, Back to the Future and Stranger Things. (The list is impressively and exhaustively long, detailed in the video below the actual lyric video itself.)

It’s clever af, bright, effervescent and most importantly syncs up so harmoniously with the song that you swear it was made especially for it right from the start.

(source: Laughing Squid)



The body may be cured but is the soul? The Cured asks some hard questions

(image courtesy IMP Awards)


What happens when the undead return to life? In a world ravaged for years by a virus that turns the infected into zombie-like cannibals, a cure is at last found and the wrenching process of reintegrating the survivors back into society begins. Among the formerly afflicted is Senan (Sam Keeley), a young man haunted by the horrific acts he committed while infected. Welcomed back into the family of his widowed sister-in-law (Ellen Page), Senan attempts to restart his life—but is society ready to forgive him and those like him? Or will fear and prejudice once again tear the world apart? Pulsing with provocative parallels to our troubled times, The Cured is a smart, scary, and hauntingly human tale of guilt and redemption. (official synopsis via io9)

Coming up with a fresh take on a well-worn genre, perticularly as in vogue and popular as the zombie genre, can seem a lot like misison impossible (the concept, not the franchise which doesn’t feature zombies, at least the last time I checked).

But books like The Girl with all the Gifts and The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey, TV shows like In the Flesh and now The Cured, starring Ellen Page, demonstrate that with some clever thinking, inventive perspective and some stellar writing, that it is possible to transcend the tropes.

The Cured mixes horror, Machiavellian intrigue and good old-fashioned bigotry and paranoia (clearly “good old” is meant more than little facetiously) to devastatingly horrifying effect as the story, eshcewing simplistic notions of good and bad, cured and sick, good and evil, tackles a simple idea in a complex but accessible way.



As the trailer brilliantly demonstrates, there is far more going on with the Cured, ex-zombies now rehumanised that looks like it has volumes to say about how we deal with the monster within, zombie or otherwise. (As current events show all too clearly, many of society’s monsters are all too unnervingly alive.)

The film looks provocative, chilling and tense af, a brilliant excursion into a world not unlike our own.

Now all you to do is RUN … to the cinema … why do you don’t actually think zombies are real do you? Oh wait …

The Cured opened in USA 23 February with a release yet to be determined for Australia.


Graphic novel review: Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten

(image courtesy Houghton Mifflin)


There is a quiet peace and an air of bucolic contentment that comes from knowing you belong to someone and belong somewhere that is your own.

Contrast that sense of intimate belonging with the loss of it and the person that helped make it so and you have the essence of Aileen Leijten’s quirkily heartwarming tale Lint Boy, a graphic novel composed of both a deep, abiding heart and some of the most delightful art you’re likely see anywhere.

At its heart, and Lint Boy has it in entirely non-mawkish spades, this beautiful book is a testament to the power of friendship and love, but also to how these unbreakable bonds fuel a willingness to do the kind of amazing, envelope-breaking things that can topple the status quo.

In this case, the overlordship of a terrified house by a bitter, cruel old lady called Mrs PinchnSqueeze who decades earlier was a still very curl girl called Tortura, who delighted in the most sociopathic of ways in destroying other kids’ beloved toys and playthings.

Decades later, she’s still at, with the seventh iteration of her pet pugs named Snort by her side – unwillingly; she is horribly cruel to them too – and a host of toys including the butchered beauty of a doll named Pinhead (her lustrous locks replaced by you-know-what) hanging in cages from the roof, close enough that she can bang them together whenever the urge strikes her in a terrifying “game” called Rattle-and-Battle.

Into this macabre chamber of hanging horrors, comes Lint Boy in search of his very special friend Lint Bear, their home in the clothes dryer where they were worn foregone in the name of saving the one you love.

In one sense, the story of Lint Boy is not overly complex but that is the beauty of it – it takes an admirably simple tale of fighting to save the one you care about more than anything, and fashions a redemptive narrative where the odds stacked against you and the tyranny of the evil that besets you are no march for a tenacity born of love.


(image courtesy Houghton Mifflin)


Possessed of gorgeous washed-out colours and minimalist dialogue which pays tribute to the Belgian-born, LA-resident artist’s superlative ability to capture an idea in a taut, skillyfully-worded sentence or phrase, Lint Boy is reminiscent of books like The Velveteen Rabbit which sings a similar story of the power of love to transform things that do not look transformable.

With a history of animating for the likes of Hanna-Barbera and Disney Imagineering, it is clear that Leitjen has a great eye for judging just how much detail to put on a page, and the precise amount of emotional resonance that will capture the moment, and the heart, without inducing nausea.

Lint Boy is pitch-perfect in almost every day.

It celebrates love, belonging, bravery and waking from inertia borne of long imprisonment – Lint Boy awakens the other cage dwellers to the possibility of seizing back from their lives from Tortura grown up who keeps them caged because she’s convinced they’re alive; which they are but none will give her the satisfaction of confirming her Toy Story-is-right thesis – with quiet verve, never pretending the task ahead will be easy but always erring on the side of the idea that its fulfilment is entirely possible, and yes, necessary.

Reading Lint Boy takes you back to those heady, anything-is-possible days of childhood when you earnestly believe, even in my case in the face of incessant bullying and cruelty from others, that anything is possible.

It’s a much-needed, astonishingly beautifully-illustrated shot in the arm to jaded adulthood, an artfully-joyful reminder that life can be tough and arbitrary and just plain nasty at times but that it is entirely dealable with if you have love on your side.

Again, the love Leitjen celebrates is not mawkish Hollywood-lite stuff; rather she upholds and lauds the kind of love that pushes you beyond comfort levels, way outside the place you call home, to accomplish things you might have previously thought are quite beyond you.

They’re not, of course, not when you really love someone or something or even an idea, and this joy of a book is an immersive, thoroughly idiosyncratic reminder that you can overcome the villains in your life, that it may be tough and you and those you surround yourself with may doubt themselves on a multitude of levels, but that persisting through to the end is worth every last moment of terror and loss and pain.


(image courtesy Houghton Mifflin)


Joy of joys there is a trailer and it is, like the book itself, simply beautiful to behold …


Anyone he wants to be: The amazing chameleon mastery of actor Doug Jones

Doug Jones as The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth (Photo: Picturehouse via Chron)


… [Doug Jones] would go on to play lots of characters that rendered him virtually unrecognizable. With job offers flooding in, thanks to word-of-mouth he eventually got a reputation for being not only someone who had a gift for giving life to these strange creature like roles, but also someone who’s easy to work with and doesn’t complain about the long hours it takes to apply all the prosthetics and makeup. (quote via Laughing Squid (c) Brandon Hardesty / IMDb)

One of my favourite actors on the planet is the endlessly-malleable Doug Jones.

The thing is you rarely see Doug Jones as himself in any of the films or TV shows he’s been in such as Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Falling Skies, The Shape of Water and Star Trek: Discovery.

He is, as this brilliant video from No Small Parts IMDb Exclusives series, hosted by Brandon Hardesty, beautifully explains, a man layered under masks and prosthetics, appearing as aliens, creatures, vampires and a range of other amazing beings, none of whom are human.

But all of whom are exquisitely-well written and who, under Jones’ emotionally-resonant touch, come gloriously alive and add immense richness and depth to the stories in which he appears.

He is a master of his art and it’s exciting to see such a talented man well-recognised for his craft.


You’re a curmudgeonly one Mr Grinch? (poster + trailer)

(image courtesy IMP Awards)


For their eighth fully animated feature, Illumination and Universal Pictures present The Grinch, based on Dr. Seuss’ beloved holiday classic. The Grinch tells the story of a cynical grump who goes on a mission to steal Christmas, only to have his heart changed by a young girl’s generous holiday spirit. Funny, heartwarming and visually stunning, it’s a universal story about the spirit of Christmas and the indomitable power of optimism.

Academy Award nominee Benedict Cumberbatch lends his voice to the infamous Grinch, who lives a solitary life inside a cave on Mt. Crumpet with only his loyal dog, Max, for company. With a cave rigged with inventions and contraptions for his day-to-day needs, the Grinch only sees his neighbors in Who-ville when he runs out of food.

Each year at Christmas they disrupt his tranquil solitude with their increasingly bigger, brighter and louder celebrations. When the Whos declare they are going to make Christmas three times bigger this year, the Grinch realizes there is only one way for him to gain some peace and quiet: he must steal Christmas. To do so, he decides he will pose as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, even going so far as to trap a lackadaisical misfit reindeer to pull his sleigh.

Meanwhile, down in Who-ville, Cindy-Lou Who—a young girl overflowing with holiday cheer—plots with her gang of friends to trap Santa Claus as he makes his Christmas Eve rounds so that she can thank him for help for her overworked single mother. As Christmas approaches, however, her good-natured scheme threatens to collide with the Grinch’s more nefarious one. Will Cindy-Lou achieve her goal of finally meeting Santa Claus? Will the Grinch succeed in silencing the Whos’ holiday cheer once and for all? (synopsis via Coming Soon)


(image courtesy IMP Awards)


I love animation.

Perhaps it’s my inner child still flexing his considerable imaginative muscles or maybe I just love the escapism that comes with made-up worlds, drawn and illustrated, that are so different and so much more free than my own.

Whatever the basis, I have loved animated films and TV shows since I was a kid and I don’t see the love affair ending anytime soon, as long as Pixar and Disney keep releaseing wonderful films, Laika and Aardman keep making gorgeously well-realised stop-motion films and Studio Ghibli’s superlative output is still there to stream.

One rung down from these A-gamers is Illumination Entertainment and while I enjoy their films on a reasonably superficial level, films like Sing and the Despicable Me series, while lovely and cute in their own way, never really hit the heights of Pixar or Laika. (The Secret Life of Pets aside which was actually quite moving and delightfully realised.)

So the fact that they’re behind the latest iteration of The Grinch means you can expect quick easy jobs, sparklingly colourful animation and lots of cute moments to distract from the lack of robustness in the story.



Now as Boss Baby, which somehow managed to snag an Academy Award nomination, illustrates all too painfully, kids care not often about robust storylines nor particularly fetching animation.

The big plus for Illumination’s films is that they do have a knack for catchy animation and memorably arresting characters, even if the narratives in which they exist aren’t as complex nor philosophically or emotionally dense as Pixar or Laika’s efforts.

All that to say that The Grinch looks like it will be amusing and fun as far as it goes but I can help agreeing with IO9 when they say:

“… this time around, it looks like the Grinch is less a public menace who seeks to destroy Christmas, and more a disgruntled humbug who’d take 11 items into the 10-item lane at the grocery store. I’m shaking in my fur pants.”

Still, while this is likely one for parents, and for guncles (gay uncles) like me, it could be amusing enough to pass the time and if they’re doing their job right, and let’s face it generating festiveness shouldn’t be that hard, get us in the Christmas spirit.

The Grinch opens in the USA and UK on 9 November and Australia on 29 November.

Book review: The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

(cover image courtesy Hachette Australia)


The Feed, Nick Clark Windo’s brilliantly-chilling debut novel, is predicated on a simply though wholly terrifying idea – what if all knowledge, every last skerrick of understanding and know-how, every warm-and-fuzzy memory and emotional connection suddenly ceased to exist?

What then? What would we do? How would we survive? And perhaps most importantly of all in this Oprah-Tony Robbins hyper-self-actualised age, who would we become?

It’s a thought-provoking idea, one we can still entertain an answer to in our relatively-unconnected world, but in The Feed‘s non-specific but highly-advanced future where humanity is hardwired via connections in their brain to everyone else, and knowledge is a resource we access, not something we possess within ourselves, it is quite simply a matter of life-and-death when what can only be described as the internet on steroids suddenly ceases to exist, taking civilisation down with it.

Right now, of course, many of us, even those of passionately addicted to Twitter and the like, would possibly welcome a little down time from the omnipresent lure of social media – although the panic and outrage when these platforms do go down might suggest otherwise – but for the people of The Feed, people like English couple Tom and Kate, it’s far from an academic proposition when the interconnectivity of the human race no longer exists.

“I close my eyes and my memories of the Feed’s phantom images score the darkness like neon and starlight, an internal global cityscape where everyone lives close by. So beautiful. So inevitable. So comfortable … The world is quiet … I have no idea what the menu is and we can’t get the waiter’s attention. It’s like we don’t exist. We’re here, cocooned in slow-moving silence as everyone around us communicates, eats and laughs, and it’s like—” (P. 4)

Tom is a man passionately committed to “going slow”, the idea that you unplug from the Feed, where every last moment of human interaction takes place, and have conversations in the real world, a place where books are no longer printed, classes are no longer attended and no one talks out loud.

Aside from Tom, who has his own familial reasons for resistance and Kate, a rebel in some form too though one increasingly subsumed into the very apparatus she claims to stand apart from, a position that forms the very basis of her activities on the Feed, no one else wants to be part from all the knowledge, all those emotions, all those memories … until there is no choice it is all gone, and bereft of everything they have come to depend on, humanity descends into near-barbaric wildness, or just as deadly, flails around, stripped of the ability without omnipresent manuals and guides and the likes, to save themselves.

The descent into anarchy is swift, sure and certain and without Kate’s aunt’s farm as a refuge, which they share with some other people like resistors Jane and Graham, all of whom fight hard to glean whatever knowledge they can from the fading glimmers and shimmers of the Feed echoes, and their daughter Bea to live for, it’s highly likely they too would join the dead or drugged-up scions of humanity stumbling through a world stripped back to the very basics of being.


Nick Clark Windo (image courtesy Caskie Mushens)


What gives The Feed a wholly distinctive voice in the crowded field of apocalyptic literature is the way Windo focuses on the way identity is often shaped by what we know and how that affects the way we interact with others.

With memories often lost to the same Feed-less void into which the near sum total of humanity culture and learning has tumbled without warning, people are adrift, often unsure of who they full are anymore with uncomfortable holes punched in their recollections of life before the collapse with partners, friends and family (those that survived anyway; the death toll, as you might imagine, is considerable).

This focus on identity is brought into even sharper relief with a recurring threat looming in the former of nocturnal takeovers of people’s consciousness by forces unknown and unseen who replace the former occupant of the body with personalities that appear, on the surface at least, to be homicidally-inclined.

These takeovers, which force people to sleep in shifts to keep watch on their companions for signs of being “taken”, not only brought about the downfall of civilisation and the Feed which supported it, but create a culture of fear and paranoia post-collapse which hamper the vital business of staying alive.

“But she knows he abandoned her. She knows he separated them. She knows that’s not how he should behave. Is it really him? Her finger tightens around the trigger, but the man wrenches the rifle away and brings it up to bear, elbowing her aside. The gun recoils and he squints back through the scope and fire three more rounds, each shot compacting Kate’s ears.” (P. 133)

The genius of Windo’s writing is that while he vividly gives a sense of what apocalyptic Britain is like, his focus is primarily on how the end of the world, and the loss of almost everything that made it, affects the people left alive, especially in light of the fact that who they are could be overwritten at any moment without them knowing.

The explanation for this all-too-real identity theft is enormously clever and suitably sobering and nuanced, eschewing the usual melodramatic overtones you might expect for a layered, emotionally-resonant outcome where the perpetrators are not cardboard cutout villains.

Or in some cases, villains at all.

If you like apocalyptic fiction that goes beyond the schlock value of death, destruction and endless decline, and actually says something meaningful and thoughtful about what it means to be human when everything that once underpinned that humanity is gone, and when there is an ever-present threat that your very sense of self could taken from you, you will be utterly beguiled by The Feed, a novel that takes the time to explore very real, pertinent issues in the midst of an engrossing narrative that will have you turning pages faster than the Feed once fed a now ferociously-marooned humanity.


(image courtesy The Invisible Mentor)