There was time, lo many days, nay years ago, when romantic comedies burst forth upon the cinematic firmament, fully-formed, delightfully-engaging, possessed of a fairytale-esque romantic sensibility and a sense that life, for all its many banal obstacles and nasty stumbling blocks, could actually be something quite magical.
The cynic within us didn’t necessarily believe such love was possible but for a short time in that darkened cinema with all the stresses and burdens hidden away on the other side of the door, we could pretend, just for a moment, that we could be that in love.
Those days are long gone now, with Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and While You’re Sleeping mere twinkles in the eye of best-of romantic comedy lists; the good news is that The Big Sick not only brings back the golden age of falling in love on film, but goes one step further, rooting it, as far as the storytelling demands of cinematic romance allow, in the grit and reality of the everyday.
That’s largely because it’s the true story of how the stand-up wanna-be child of US Pakistani immigrants, Kumail Nanjiani – played by himself, bringing the dry of his role in Silicon Valley and marrying it with a winningly sweet vulnerability – eschewed cultural and familial expectations and allowed himself to fall in love, though arranged marriage beckoned, with an American girl named Emily (Zoe Kazan).
It’s hardly a spoiler to know that they ended up marrying and collaborated on bringing their grand, epic love story to the big screen; in fact, it garnishes this never-puts-a-foot-wrong romantic comedy with an appealing concreteness, a sense that this is not some imaginary tale of the heart but something that could happen to real people in extraordinarily real circumstances.
Precisely because it did.
Where reality really came a-biting is some time into their romance, hidden from Kumail’s parents Azmat (Anupam Kher) and Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff), and brother Naveed (Adeel Akhtar) – who went along with tradition and married his arranged bride Fatima (Shenaz Treasury) – when Emily, bright, bubbly, goofy Emily, succumbs to a virulent infection and has to be put into a medically-induced coma.
Having just broken up after Emily finds out that not only has Kumail kept their romance a closely-guarded secret, afraid he’ll be kicked out of his family – that does happen but you get the feeling that it won’t be a permanent state of affairs not with someone as tenaciously funny as Kumail on the case – but that he has a cigar box of all the headshots of the Pakistani women his mother has set him up with.
Admitting he isn’t sure if he has a place in his future for Emily, though it’s clear he has fallen head over heels in love with her, and she with him, they split and then, not long thereafter, Kumail finds himself in the awkward position of being in close company with Emily’s parents Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter) during the long weeks of Emily’s illness and long recovery.
What begins as a stupendously uncomfortable coming together, since Terry and Beth know all the circumstances of Kumail and Emily’s then-aborted romance, one complicated by the stress of an ongoing illness that shows no sign initially of responding to treatment, soon grows into a closeness and familiarity that is at once sweetly intimate and and quite believable.
After all, these are people at the coalface of emotional distress – Terry and Beth are agonising over the lingering sickness of their daughter and how best to treat it while Kumail grows acutely aware he can’t lose Emily, whatever the consequences – and they have a choice to either bond closely or retreat to opposing, hostile corners; that they do the former in instrumental in the cementing of the temporarily stymied grand romance, once Emily eventually recovers.
It’s at that point that the rubber really hits the road, and the reality of Kumail cementing his love for Emily while she, by virtue of the coma is freeze-framed at the point of the breakup, really starts to feel like less of a rom-com trope and more the stuff of real life.
Up to that point, it has many of the tropes of a romantic comedy supremely well-executed – the meet-cute (she heckles him playfully during his stand-up routine), the will-they-won’t they date moments, the witty, delightfully-affecting dialogue, the montage of growing intimacy and closeness; it’s all there, but given what follows it feels less fey and more grounded and real, the kind of stuff that happens in the honeymoon phase of any great love affair.
What really gives The Big Sick its deep, emotional romance is that for all the witty insights and drily delivered oneliners – Kumail is a master of the art and shines in every scene, balancing emotional truthfulness with brilliantly-funny humour – it lets the real stuff feel real.
Really gut-wrenchingly real.
Emily’s sickness is not just a cute prop for some eventual reconciliation; that’s hard-won and takes major post-recovery concessions by both parties.
Rather, it’s is allowed to live and be devastatingly real with the horrific agony of watching someone you know fight a major illness and be close to death on a number of sickening occasions; this is not the stuff of lighter-than-air romantic confections and The Big Sick is happy to be as much emotionally-taxing drama as it is a funny, witty romantic comedy.
It’s great strength, apart from a stellar cast – Nanjiani and Kazan are perfect together, chemistry very much in evidence while Romano and Hunter are far more than cardboard cutout parents there as some sort of emotional fop for Emily and Kumail – is that it’s happy to let this balance swing back and forth as needed.
It recognises that what makes this story unique is that it actually happened, and in the kind of situation you wouldn’t wish on anyone, and that the harrowing moments of facing mortality and the reality of familial politics and cultural expectations, played as much a role in shaping the romance as the intangibles of love and attraction.
This is love in the trenches, admittedly one with a killer punchline and a touching sweetness that never once feels forced or sickly.
It grounds the deeply-appealing The Big Sick with the kind of emotional authenticity that means that the winning romantic comedy sense that love is not just possible but will definitely happen, lasts long after the cinema doors have swung shut behind you, and feels way more possible that it has in some time.
A new comedy from 20th Century Fox Television, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Gettin’ Rad Productions, a cynical skeptic (Craig Robinson), and a genius “true believer” in the paranormal (Adam Scott), are recruited by a secret government agency to look into the rampant “unexplained” activity in Los Angeles — all while uncovering a larger mystery that could threaten the existence of the human race. Craig Robinson and Adam Scott will both serve as executive producers, in addition to starring. Other EPs are Naomi Scott, Oly Obst, Mark Schulman and Tom Gormican (That Awkward Moment), who penned the pilot. Kevin Etten (Workaholics, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives) has signed on as showrunner and will also serve as an exec producer. (synopsis via official Ghosted site)
Oh parodies how I love thee!
Oh well-written, cleverly-executed parodies how I love thee more!
Based on these 30-second snippets, I am willing to believe, and my powers of optimistic anticipation are great indeed thank you, that Ghosted will be a very funny parody indeed.
Why these clips alone touch on The Fly,Alien and Poltergeist, proof, if nothing else, that the show has its finger on the pop culture pulse.
Bring on the full episodes because I can’t wait to get my sci-fi parody and boldly and hilariously go … well, you know.
Among humanity’s many contradictory traits, one that stands out is our ability to romanticise just about anything.
Whether it’s things as mundane as upcoming holidays or an album release by our favourite artist, or idealistic hopes for a better future, one that dwarfs our oft-blighted present, we are ever-ready to slap on the rose-coloured glasses and stare dreamily at all kinds of imagined possibilities.
Sometimes this plays out as expected, but as Netherspace, the collaborative novel by Andrew Lane and Nigel Foster makes painfully clear, often it does not with the future, especially the gee-whiz techno-wonders that have been promised since time immemorial (where are the flying cars exactly?), often resembling a dented and bashed-in version of what we breathlessly anticipated would come to pass.
In the near-future Earth in which Netherspace takes place, aliens have arrived – the technologically-advanced Gliese, the human artifact-acquisitive Cancri and the art-loving Eridani – and as you might expect, totally reshaped human society.
But while humanity has been gifted with side-slip generators, which allow it to travel fantastically fast through our solar system and the galaxy beyond, leading to the establishment of colonies without number, it has come at a great cost.
“Marc felt an increasing anger, aware that it covered a pit of unease that only deepened the more he discovered about space flight and hyperspace and the odds of getting where they wanted to go unscathed. He’d always known space flight was like launching a ship into rough seas and hoping for the best, the metaphor, for him, has meant seventeenth- and eighteenth-century tea clippers: all sails and masts and spars and jolly heave-ho Jack Tars. Now he was beginning to realise they were more like Vikings in open longboats sailing the North Atlantic. Or islanders from a small, insignificant atoll sending canoes across the Pacific Ocean. This wasn’t exploration but an act of faith … or desperation.” (PP. 162-163)
Far from Roddenberry’s Star Trek vision of a united future Earth, cosily-ensconsed in a Federation of like-minded aliens, the planet is now a patchwork of city states, connected by AIs, with many people living in the Out There, the so-called regions outside the realm of urban control.
While humanity has undoubtedly take a great big warp-powered leap into a glittering future, it remains totally subservient to the wanton needs and capricious actions of the three alien races, all of whom seem inordinately fond of acquiring actual human beings above all else.
Hence, every generator or piece of high-tech wizardry comes with a fairly hefty price tag of x number of human lives, and those charged with overseeing these exchanges, principally Earth central’s Galactic Division, based in Berlin (where aliens first arrived), know all too well the Faustian social and political ill-effects of humanity’s great leap forward.
What is most perplexing in this brave new world, where netherspace (the mysterious corridors below or above normal space) is traversed as easily as we cross the street to buy bread and milk – though again at great cost in human lives – is that we still can’t communicate with the aliens, who remain as obstinately unknowable as they did 40 years ago when they first arrived.
It’s not an ideal world but then neither is it terrible either (beats an alien invasion right?); it is, however, not the romanticised vision of the future many of us cling to, something that is remarked upon again and again by characters in the book, principally its leads state-sanctioned assassin Kara and avant garde artist Marc.
Layered across all this alien-triggered existential angst is a lo-fi action thriller about rescuing a group of Pilgrims off to establish an utopian new world where humanity and alien live in perfect harmony.
Of course that goes the way of all well-intentioned but hopelessly naive plans with Kara, Marc, pre-cog Tse (he can see parts of a possible future but not all of it) and the crew of the very unromantically-named RIL-FIJ-DOQ sent to rescue the Pilgrims from themselves and their Cancri-kidnappers, in the process discovering that humanity is so far away from the idealised visions of the future that it shouldn’t have bothered conjuring them in the first place.
Netherspace is brilliantly, realistically, imaginatively expansive, presenting us at every turn with a world in which nothing is ideal but nor is it dystopian, and where the idea of first contact has exactly gone according to the much-imagined playbook.
“Marc said no, it was more than in deep space and especially netherspace nothing surprised or shocked. Just getting there was startling enough. Their minds had accepted that anything could happen and probably would. But maybe it was safer to assume that Nikki and Henk – and probably Tate – were no longer quite human. Whatever netherspace was, it has corrupted them.” (P. 277)
The gulf between the glossiness of a Star Trek-ian future of sleek spaceships and peace, love & galactic harmony, and the gritty realism of the reality is deeply compelling, shining a realism on sunny side-up sci-fi that recasts humanity’s nascent journeys into the great cosmic beyond to something much more akin to what might actually happen.
But while the reality of humanity’s galactic endeavours may verge on the banal and utilitarian, the galaxy itself is richly, impossibly alien, with the many other lifeforms out there diametrically opposed to human understanding in a multiplicity of ways.
Avoiding the great trap of anthropomorphising the aliens, who are always regarded as damn near impossibly unknowable, Lane and Foster have gifted us with a universe which is truly and utterly beyond anything we could happen, and ripe with myriad mysteries and possibilities.
Which is just as well since a sequel is in the offing – Originators arrives May 2018 – one in which, no doubt, we will be plunged even further, and with great reward given the extensive delights of Netherspace’s unparalleled willingness to upset the idealistic sci-fi applecart, into a galaxy so dark and unknowable that you would be best leaving the rose-coloured glasses at home, and taking your chances as you hang on for dear life through the full-on ride that is this wild and dimly-understood near-future of ours.
In the grim, icebound world of HBO’s megahit Game of Thrones, life is a very serious business.
How can it not be? Winter has finally come – brr! – White Walkers, led by the vengeful Night King, are on the march, it’s like Westeros Idol out there with everyone competing for the poke-your-eyes out Iron Throne and there be dragons and lots of dragons burning and pillaging and barbecuing!
So yeah a real laugh fest right?
Not really but hey, who says you can’t have some fun anyway?
Set in an alternate present-day where humans, orcs, elves and fairies have been coexisting since the beginning of time, this action-thriller directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad, End of Watch, writer of Training Day) follows two cops from very different backgrounds. Ward, a human (Will Smith), and Jakoby, an orc (Joel Edgerton), embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it. Battling both their own personal differences as well as an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a young female elf and a thought-to-be-forgotten relic, which in the wrong hands could destroy everything.
The Netflix original film stars Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramirez, Ike Barinholtz, Enrique Murciano, Jay Hernandez, Andrea Navedo, Veronica Ngo, Alex Meraz, Margaret Cho, Brad William Henke, Dawn Olivieri, and Kenneth Choi. The film is directed by David Ayer and written by Max Landis. David Ayer, Eric Newman, and Bryan Unkeless serve as producers. (synopsis courtesy Coming Soon)
This film looks really intriguing.
Set in an alternate universe where the magic never left and creatures like orcs, elves and fairies live side-by-side with people, Bright looks to be a very clever film indeed.
For one thing, it doesn’t pretend that magical creatures equals a magical world; in fact, the recurring thread through the trailer seems to be that intolerance, racism, prejudice and discrimination are thriving every bit as much as they sadly do on our blighted slice of the multiverse.
With a script by Max Landis (Chronicle) and directed by David Ayer (End of Watch, Street Kings), it comes with the real prospect of dissecting these issues, along with presenting us with a thrilling narrative that promises the end of the world if our heroes don’t step up.
Intelligent action seems to be the prevailing dynamic here which gives those who love our sci-fi big and loud but also deeply thoughtful, something to really look forward to.
Or maybe we could just wave that wand they’re all after and make it start now.
But the only sphere in which I will make an exception for vehicles, and really just about anything (bar pretty anything the extreme right advocates), is pop culture where transportation of all kinds has long been associated with many iconic characters.
Artist Mark Chilcott has honoures these vehicles with a series of beautifully fun watercolour artworks that were the subject of a recent exhibition in Brooklyn.
Everyone from Batman to Ghostbusters, the A-Team to Star Trek: The Original Series got a look-in in this delightful homage to pop culture vehicles of all stripes, many of them so idiosyncratically that even a car-ambivalent person like myself would mind owning some of them.
It appears that prints were only available during the actual run of the exhibition but it would be worth keeping an eye for these prints which would be a fab addition to anyone’s collection, car lover or not.
For more information on the art and the exhibition, go to io9
“Turtles All the Way Down begins with a fugitive billionaire and a cash reward. It is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.” (official synopsis via Hypable)
Early July was a pretty exciting time in my household – John Green announced he had a new book coming with the wondrously playful title of Turtles All the Way Down.
It’s one of those titles however that belies some fairly serious intent as John explained when introducing his first new novel in six years:
“This is my first attempt to write directly about the kind of mental illness that has affected my life since childhood, so while the story is fictional, it is also quite personal.”
He is referring to his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which affects in ways far beyond the usual stereotypes that underpin most peoples’ perception of the mental illness.
Now Turtles All the Way Down has a cover which, as Mashable notes, does not feature a single turtle – bummer! – but which will make for undoubtedly compulsive reading as John, once again, pours his heart-and-soul into a book.
Well Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) did … and then, did not.
Fresh from killing his son’s assassin in the now-cleared out remains of Highgardens – go Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), ballsy and acidically defiant to the very end – Jaime, Ser Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and the full cohort of Lannister soldiers made out like eager shoppers at crazy end-of-year sales.
Why they found gold at ridiculous prices! (Read free). Grain just begging to be stolen (the farmers were a great deal quieter on the matter; you might even say; deeply reluctant)! And all manner of bejewelled fabulousness with which Cersei could pay back the debts administered by the grating-unctuousness of the Iron Bank’s chief representative Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss).
If this has been an online shopping network, then things would have sold out before they were even advertised as available.
It looked like everyone was having an utterly find old time – with the exception of House Tyrell which has seen far better days and may have a castle spare to, oh, say, Ser Bronn who appears to be in the market – until, and isn’t this always the way when you’re just about to find safety in King’s Landing, a dragon arrived and set fire to everything.
In no time at all, the rather off-their-guard Lannister troops were on fire en masse, yelling, screaming and wondering why the hell there weren’t mandatory OH&S laws in Westeros, particularly when it comes to fire extinguishers.
As Drogon the dragon swooped in again and again, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) clinging fiercely to his back – no more Miss Nice Guy for her as she dispense with the sage advice of both Tyrion (Ben Dinklage), who has a credibility gap right now, and Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) – troops were barbecued, grain and sundry other luxuries went up in flame, and Jaime and Ser Bronn barely escaped with their lives.
This is not how pleasant shopping expeditions are supposed to end thank you!
But end that way it did, and apart from Drogon getting a dragon-killing giant arrow in his side – will he live? hard to say right now, everything went the way of Daenerys, Drogon and the Dothraki horde who swept down upon the military might of House Lannister with a one-eyed passionate ferocity.
It was a potent win for the aspirant queen sure but at what cost? As Jon Snow counselled her, if she resorted to brutish force and apocalyptic violence, she would be seen by the beleaguered people of Westeros as no better than the authoritarian rulers who’d gone before.
That was good advice, but after losing the combined Dornish, Iron Islands and Unsullied forced as effective allies – the Unsullied remain alive but stuck travelling overland back to Dragonhome, with Grey Worm’s (Jacob Anderson) new love Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) – Daenerys have entirely lost that loving feeling.
So it was time for the dragons some brutish, hellish revengeful nastiness and a lesson to Cersei to not get too cocky.
That doesn’t mean of course that the original Queen of Mean will care one jot, and certainly won’t be cowed in any way, but it was a big setback, and timely lesson in letting hubris get away with you.
In fact, Cersei had barely finished telling Tycho that what she wanted, what she really, really wanted, was more armies, more ships and a kingdom ruled by fear and supreme acquiescence – it was like sitting on Santa’s knee but without any of the red-tinged pageantry or fun; OK Cersei was having fun of a sort – than she very quickly has less of an army.
If nothing else, it showed how much of a force Daenerys is to be reckoned with and how much of a fight Cersei will have on her hands.
Of course, that’s assuming, and it’s a big ass assumption, that the White Walkers stay away long enough for the party to decide the latest incumbent on the Iron Throne to get into full swing.
With Daenerys now on board the Undead Fighting Bandwagon – it’s made of Dragonheart aka obsidian and has tassles and everything; no, it doesn’t but wouldn’t that be attractive? – particularly after Jon Snow showed her drawings in the caves under Dragonhome which depicted the First Men and the Children of the Forest fighting back against the Night King’s undead hordes.
(Keep in mind the Children of the Forest started the whole sorry mess in the first place so they damn well should’ve been fighting back thank you very much.)
Meanwhile back at Winterfell aka Ground Zero now that winter and the White Walkers are scarily close, Arya (Maisie Williams) found her way home, had a little bit of trouble getting in the front door since none of the soldiers knew her – turning her aside, which they almost did, would’ve been a big career ender, BIG, as she pointed out – was reunited with Sansa (Sophie Turner), current stand-in ruler of the North while Jon’s falling for Daenerys (maybe; oh, of course he is, pay attention) and got the usual Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is a spaced-out seer routine from her brother.
When Bran wasn’t acting like a drugged out hippie escape from Woodstock – as his longtime companion Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) pointed out, the real Bran died in the cave where he became the Three-Eyed Raven – he was quietly but not obviously challenging Petyr beish aka Littlefinger who was up to his old divide-and-conquer tricks again.
Handing Bran the dagger that was used in the attempt on his life – once again Petyr lied and said the dagger was Tyrion’s not in fact Baelish’s; this is implement, you might remember, that launched, thank to Littlefinger’s skullduggery, the War of the Five Kings – was probably seen as a clever move, but the too-many-drugs-maaaan seer saw right through that.
Littlefinger may think he’s ahead of the pack but really, he’s rapidly falling behind with none of the newly-reunited Stark children all that enamoured of him, and all too aware that his only true allegiance is to his own grubby interests.
I think we can confidently predict that, rather than inheriting the earth as he expects to do, that the charmingly slimy parasite on all the houses of Westeros, will meet his end soon and very soon.
Hopefully as a White Walker which would be a fitting end to his treachery and would free House Stark, god all of Westeros to be fair, to fight their real, very undead enemy who is drawing unnervingly ever closer.
So bring on the zombies! OK don’t. But really you have no choice since the White Walkersare on their way and getting waaaaay too close to the Wall …
In Promised Land, a young Prince and a farm boy meet in the forest and a growing friendship between them blossoms into love. However, when the Queen re-marries, her sinister new husband seeks control of the enchanted forest and the land the farm boy’s family are responsible for protecting.
We live in a world that can be wonderfully, generous and endlessly encouraging.
But it can also be cold, cruel and brutishly intolerant; not fun when you’re an adult but often cataclysmically devastating when you’re a kid, particularly a LGBTI kid who is slowly coming to an awareness than they are not like all the other kids around them.
I was one of those kids growing up, feeling like I was perversely, horribly out of place, with no touchstones to tell me that I was just different; not bad, not terrible, just different.
Thankfully today’s kids are increasingly able to appreciate that being gay is not something weird or strange but just another type of normal, and one book that’s going to play a key part in that is Promised Land, a New Zealand Kickstarter-funded book for children.
There is no doubt that the small-minded and bigoted among us will try to paint the book as some sinister plot to brainwash kids but as Hypable makes clear, this is powerful book with lofty, worthy aims and the talent and execution to make them come to pass:
“Not only is it visually gorgeous, the story is inspiring and normalizes same-sex couples in the context of a children’s book. Plus, the story teaches children about responsibility, standing up to bad guys, and overcoming obstacles.”
I’ve already touched on why a book like Promised Land is so vitally important but let’s hear from the authors Chaz Harris and Adam Reynolds, both of whom experienced the same kind of treatment as I did growing up:
“I experienced a lot of homophobic bullying during my teen years at school, as did my co-author Adam Reynolds. We believe books like this can make a difference for future generations to make them kinder and more inclusive to their LGBTQ peers, and we hope to be able to provide more LGBTQ youth with the representation they need in stories because if you don’t see yourself in stories, you don’t see yourself in the world.”
Proof that there is a need for books like this is manifest but in nuts and bolts figures, people who backed the Kickstarter contributed NZ$ 43,362, far exceeding the NZ$ 25, 000 goal, and the book sold out within 3 weeks of its printing in February 2017.