“The idea of this film is that our gang is on this global tour, and we’re selling out these grand theaters all over Europe—in Berlin, Madrid, London—but we sort of get into a little bit of trouble when we run across my doppelganger. He’s the world’s number one criminal Constantine and he happens to look an awful lot like me. I won’t tell you any more than that, but let’s just say mayhem ensues.” (Kermit describing the new movie to entertainment weekly earlier this year/source: underthegunreview.net)
Yes a sequel! A SEQUEL!
But this my friends is a Muppets sequel which means that Animal, the red-haired wild-spirited drummer from Doctor Teeth’s Electric Mayhem Band, who spends much of the trailer running past a bemused Kermit screaming “Sequel!”, has every right to be excited.
Granted the successor to 2011’s The Muppets Movie, doesn’t include life long fan Jason Segel, who co-wrote, and starred in after convincing the Disney that Jim Henson’s beloved, irreverent creations should be allowed another satirical run through a now-crowded zeitgeist, but it does have the original director James Bobin onboard, along with master songwriter Bret McKenzie, who scored an Oscar winner for the gloriously fun soundtrack to the first movie.
And it has three of the funniest people around, Tina Fey (30 Rock), Ty Burrell (Modern Family) and Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras) – plus lots of celebrity cameos from the likes of Salma Hayek and Sean “Diddy” Combs – all of whom possess just the right amount of comedic silliness to fit into The Muppets highly absurd, post-modernist world (yep they were post-modernist way before it was fashionable, breaking through that fourth wall with Gonzo-fired-from-a-cannon-like hilarity every chance they got).
It seems to have everything that a Muppets movie needs as Sharon Sletty at slate.com has noted:
“… not surprisingly this feature is full of Muppet trademarks we know and love: sketch comedy that straddles the absurdist and burlesque, self-referential riffs that segue into corny musical numbers, and all the loony slapstick one could want.”
So suspend every last shred of disbelief you have, engage your inner absurdist, and make sure you are front and centre when Muppets Most Wanted opens in USA on 21 March, UK on 28 March and Australia on 3 April 2014.
If you don’t there’s a fairly good chance Animal will make you go anyway.
“Love is sunshine and puppies, flowers and nipple clamps” (Rubix Von Füchenhürtz aka P!NK’s concert host Jimmy Slonina)
It’s a rare thing to turn up at a concert of one of your favourite music artists and feel like you really matter to the performer on stage. (Beyond, of course, buying the albums, T-shirts, tour programs, and the obligatory concert ticket.)
But then not every artist is like P!NK, gifted with that much fabled ability to make each and every attendee at her cavernous stadium shows feel like they’re sitting down for a bourbon and Coke, and a pithy, unadulterated chat about The Truth About Love with her, rather than merely one of a seething, excited mass of fans rather prone it must be said to multiple, and surprisingly well-timed, Mexican waves.
At every point in last night’s concert, P!NK managed to make each and every person there feel like they were the only reason she was there, the reason she was strutting in perfect time to a multitude of hits like “Just Like a Pill”, “So What” and “Sober”, the reason she attached herself to trapeze wires and performed singing upside down, or spectacularly flying across the heads of her fans.
And the only meaningful reason why she repeatedly and enthusiastically ran across, along and up and down a stage that was a fantastical blend of Southern plantation mansion and Rocky Horror Picture Show, or danced in perfect sync with her buffed and toned dancers, in a feat of fitness that would shame even the fittest of personal trainers.
Her genuine, unbridled enthusiasm for her fans, which went far beyond a platitudinous greeting or two, or guttural cries of “SYYYDNNEEEY!” was palpable (she went for a far warmer “Hey Sydney” as if greeting an old friend), lifting a perfectly choreographed, and timed show above mere rote and into the realm of genuine fan interaction, a rare occurrence at the best of times, but even more so when you’ve been around as long as P!NK (aka Alecia Moore), who broker out with her first hit, and a shock of pink hair, way back in 2000 with “There You Go”.
Yes, it was obvious this was a show into which great thought and planning had gone.
A show in which every person knew their place, where her Frank N. Furter-esque narrator’s sweet yet graphic monologues on the “glories of love … and the sphincter of sin” were works of beautifully-delivered pinpoint poetic art (he also entertained the crowd before the show, licking a bald head or two in the process) and where each and every song, including the covers of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and Cyndi Lauper’s touching “Time After Time”, were all in the set list for a reason.
And yet for all that planning, and the exquisite delivery, which combined acrobatics, amusing and beautiful video screen images, a string of amazing hits and a voice that is as a strong and arresting as ever, what stood out the most was that P!NK was having FUN.
Genuine, non-faked, I-am-having-a-ball FUN, drawing energy off the pink-clad people around her who held up signs, offered her plush kangaroo toys (“I shall call him … DUSTY!”), held out their arms for autographs (she obliged every time) and whooped and hollered with an infectious enthusiasm that was returned to them in spades by an artist at the top of her game who was clearly enjoying herself.
From the moment she burst out from under the stage singing “Raise Your Glass” clad in skin tight black lycra, attached to a bouncy trapeze cable which sent her soaring into the waiting arms of her muscular male dancers perched atop a glittering, gilded mini-stage in the air, through multiple costume changes (a black bikini/fetish wear chains anyone?) to the moment she soared across the entire stadium belting out “So What”, even stopping to do some push ups on one pillar, this was a woman determined to have as much as possible, bringing the crowd with her every step of the way.
It all goes to prove that true entertainers, people who live as much for their fans as much as their art, and draw true sustenance from interacting with them, are able to keep the enthusiasm palpable and real even after 80 shows because they honestly love what they do.
And as P!NK demonstrated through every note, and energetic footfall last night, she is every bit a true entertainer, making The Truth About Love tour one of the standout shows of the year.
The set list for the night (entered while watching the show, mouth agape at her feats of derring-do so please forgive any errors):
“Raise Your Glass”
“Walk of Shame”
“Just Like a Pill”
“U + Ur Hand”
“Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely)”
“Wicked Game” (cover)
“Just Give Me a Reason”
“Are We All We Are”
“How Come You’re Not Here”
“The Great Escape”
Acoustic set atop stools with guitarist Justin Derrico, a man who owns 57 guitars according to P!NK)
“Time After Time” (cover)
“Perfect” (we supplied the F-bomb at P!NK’s request)
“Slut Like You”
“Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”
Cookie Monster is back, cookies naturally enough in hand!
But this time he is willing to wait for his tasty treats … well longer than normal at least.
As a prelude to their 44th season, which launches on 16 September, Sesame Street has unveiled its latest parody song, a playful take on Icona Pop’s massive pop hit “I Love It!”, now titled “Me Want It (But Me Wait)” featuring none other than everyone’s favourite cookie-chomping blue-furred monster.
In line with a 2006 decision to use the show as a way of tackling the growing childhood obesity epidemic by teaching them how to make wise eating choices, Cookie Monster sings of his great love for cookies but also, of course, his decision to resist the urge to eat all them all NOW.
In a press release for their upcoming 44th season, Sesame Street’s producers, The Children’s Television Workshop, explained the rationale behind the Icona Pop hit parody, part of a new segment in the show called “Cookie’s Crumby Pictures” and aimed at teaching kindergarten-aged kids self-regulation:
“For 44 years, Cookie Monster has struggled with intermittent success to consciously control his thoughts, actions and emotions. Through seven hilarious spoofs, including Life of Whoopie Pie, The Spy Who Loved Cookies, Les Mousserables and The Hungry Games, we’ll see Cookie Monster attempt to master executive function skills – a key component of self-regulation. He’ll display self-control (try not to eat the cookie), delayed gratification (eat the cookie later), flexible thinking (think about something else so you don’t eat the cookie), working memory (remember a strategy that worked before to keep from eating the cookie) and task persistence (being motivated to not give up while waiting to eat the cookie). Along with Cookie Monster, children will also learn about identifying and managing emotions and empathy.” (source: communityvoices.post-gazette.com)
It’s an important message but one cleverly wrapped up in the sort of highly imaginative form that kids, like yours truly, have lapped up for 43 years and counting.
You can watch the fun clip for the parody below …
“Me Want It (But Me Wait)” is the perfect follow up to last year’s viral hit in which Cookie Monster also starred, “Share It Maybe”, a parody of the Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit “Call Me Maybe”.
And the latest in a gloriously long line of inspired parodies.
You know you’ve made it as a musician when Sesame Street, which has a history of creating winning, message-rich parodies such as “Furry Happy Monsters” (REM’s “Shiny Happy People”) and “Don’t Know Y” (“Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones), gives your song it’s famously imaginative treatment.
Given the fact that Cookie Monster is set to be a major component of fulfilling Sesame Street’s main objectives in the forthcoming season, we know we have a few more delightfully creative parodies coming our way.
Sigh … I want to watch them all NOW!
But me, of course, will wait.
And why not check out the song that inspired Cookie Monster’s latest viral masterpiece?
Yes I appreciate that sounds like the sort of the slogan that a movie mogul running for re-election would use – you know, assuming they had to run for re-election, which you know, they, um, don’t … moving on … – but it is exactly what I would want to be offered by anyone wanting to get my attention.
Which clearly they have because I have put three of my favourite recent trailers, plucked with speed and unerring eye for a catchy hook, from the unceasing flood of pop culture goodness that courses around me at every turn.
So dive on in with me and check what’s coming and why you might want to get a little excited.
OK a lot … get bat s**t crazy, whoopin’ and a-hollerin’ excited … starting … NOW!
After a nearly fatal accident, 21-year-old Lamb Mannerheim (Julianne Hough) is beginning to realize that the world is much bigger than her small, God-fearing Montana town. Armed with a big, fat insurance payout and a checklist of untried sins, there’s only one place for her first taste of temptation…Las Vegas! And, with the help of a few new friends (Russell Brand and Octavia Spencer), Lamb embarks on an oddball odyssey of lost souls, broken faith and cheap cocktails…a true journey of the heart. (source: geektyrant.com)
“Some people say this whole world is broken. I say it’s paradise.”
I love this line, which Lamb Mannerheim, a woman undergoing the mother of all crises of faiths undergoes when a major life changing event forces her to re-assess everything she ever believed in life.
It’s one of those perfectly-formed observations of life that Diablo Cody, making her directorial debut with Paradise, who brought us the delights of Juno and the complex and engaging The United States of Tara, is adept at filling a script with, and it neatly sums up this movie which will be available on demand via DirectTV on 8 August 2013, with a wider US release to follow 18 October.
While it will be interpreted in some more conservative quarters as an attack on faith itself, it is really asking the sort of questions that anyone who wants an authentic, well thought-through faith in anything should be asking.
And shaken to her core, Lamb takes her “Napkin of Sin” (must get me one of those!) and sets out to explore what life is really about with the help of a wise-cracking bartender (Brand) and an aging world weary show girl (Spencer).
While played for laughs to an extent, at its core it carries with it Cody’s trademark willingness to ask the big questions of life, and layer in as much vulnerable, exposed humanity as we can handle.
And with a writer, and yes now director as talented as Cody in charge, I am happy to handle as much as she will give me.
SHERLOCK (season 3)
“2014, my dear Watson, 2000 and bl**dy 14.”
Yes that’s how long we all have to wait for series three of Sherlock, the acclaimed contemporary re-imagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s evergreen sleuth Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch, Star Trek Into Darkness) and his trusty companion and partner in crime solving, Watson (Martin Freeman, The Hobbit) by Dr Who executive producer Steven Moffat and writer Mark Gatiss.
But fear not eager viewers for a teaser trailer is at hand!
And it shows that contrary to appearances, Sherlock did not fall to his death at the end of series two.
You could have been forgiven for thinking that he did but it appears he survived with all limbs and that handsome face quite nicely intact, something that Mark Gatiss made clear wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility at Comic-Con 2013:
“There really are only a few ways you can fall from a roof and survive,” “Sherlock” co-creator Mark Gatiss said at Comic-Con. “It’s not black magic.” (source: huffingtonpost.com)
Oh and Watson has a moustache!
Yes a hairy caterpillar has crawled across his upper lip.
Quite what Holmes will make of that is not clear but we should find out sometime in 2014 when the series premieres.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
SNAPSHOT “Stiller stars as Mitty, a mild-mannered employee at LIFE magazine who dreams of becoming worthy of the periodical’s pages (and of his co-worker Cheryl, played by Kristin Wiig). Of course, as with most short stories that become movies, the plot doesn’t cleave precisely to the source material: unlike the original Mitty, whose adventures are purely internal, Stiller’s Mitty ends up taking action.” (source: time.com)
Almost from the moment James Thurber’s short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was published in The New Yorker on 18 March, 1939, it captured the attention of beleaguered people everywhere, all of whom felt that there must be more to life than 9-to-5 clocking on and off and the endless banality of the daily commute.
It struck a chord precisely because it spoke to one the great agonies of the human condition – that life is never quite what we imagine it will be.
So much a part of the popular lexicon did it become that a “Walter Mitty” is now defined as an ineffectual person who seeks release from their boring, self-constrained life through extravagant daydreams, sometimes resorting to deceit to give their long-denied fantasies a semblance of reality.
Proving that this great existential dilemma can still speak to audiences today, Ben Stiller is bringing Thurber’s tale to life once more on the big screen – it was previously made into a movie starring Danny Kaye in 1947; by all accounts, Thurber was not a fan of the movie which bore little resemablance to his story offering Samuel Goldwyn Mayer $10,000 to leave his story alone – with a release date set for 25 December this year.
It will however make its world premiere at the 51st New York Film Festival on Saturday 5 October, according to deadline.com, which means we should fairly quickly if the much-anticipated film is the stuff of dreams or nightmares.
I very much suspect the former, and may be tempted to jump out of helicopter into the sea in my own evocation of Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty’s larger-than-life wanna-be hero.
Or I may just wait till 26 December 2013 when it opens in Australia and heroically saunter into my cinema seat instead.
A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like David O. Russell’s previous films, American Hustle defies genre, hinging on raw emotion, and life and death stakes.
Now this my friends this is how you make a movie.
Take one insanely talented director, in this case one David O. Russell who has scored big, both commercially and critically, in recent years with The Fighter (2010) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012).
Then add the stars from those two movies – Christian Bale (The Fighter) and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) – along with Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner just for good measure.
And then put them all together in a genre-defying tale of power and corruption, and the fight to bring those who practise it with impunity to justice, all against the decadent backdrop of 1970s-era America.
It has looks, glamour, style, and some mighty fine music – Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times” is just one of the era-specific songs featured – and A-list acting talent to burn.
This is one you don’t want to miss.
American Hustle opens in USA in limited on 13 December with full release following 25 December; Australian dates TBC.
And now we go a decade earlier to the Swingin’ Sixties …
In what critics are calling his best work as writer/director since Slingblade, Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton stars – along with Oscar winner Robert Duvall, two-time Oscar nominee John Hurt and Golden Globe winner Kevin Bacon – in this story of fathers and sons, wars and peace, and the turbulent time that changed America forever. It’s 1969 in a small Alabama town, and the death of a quirky clan’s long-estranged wife and mother brings together two very different families for the funeral. But do the scars of the past hide differences that will tear them apart or expose truths that could lead to the most unexpected collisions of all? Robert Patrick (Walk the Line), Ray Stevenson (Dexter), Katherine LaNasa (Deception) and Frances O’Connor (The Hunter) co-star in the acclaimed comedy/drama that TwitchFilm calls “A perfect film for a lazy summer day with near-perfect performances across the board!”
This is another movie packed to the cinematic rafters with some impressive acting talents.
I frankly can’t put it better than Cinemablend‘s rhapsodical recounting of the actors gathered for Billy Bob Thornton’s latest directorial effort about two families, one Southern, one British, who clash in the kind of way that only warring clan’s can when the matriach unravels what little ties them together:
“You’d better believe that [Robert Patrick, Kevin Bacon, Robert Duvall) sounds like a stacked cast, and in this exclusive, brand-new poster for the film, you can see just how deep the talent runs. The British family is played by John Hurt, Ray Stevenson and Frances O’Connor! Kevin Bacon is playing a hippie!”
Quite how iconic American bombshell Jayne Mansfield car fits into the whole tale of family love gone wrong isn’t explained but with this many fine actors all gathered together in one film, I am more than happy to head to the cinemas when it opens and find out.
Having premiered at the Berlin and Toronto Film Festivals, Jayne Mansfield’s Car opens in USA on 13 September 2013 with on-demand downloading available a month earlier on 20 August.
After revving things up considerably last week, after a few episodes where Falling Skies almost spluttered to a narrative stop, this week’s episode “Road to Xibalba” (a reference to the name of the underworld in K’iche’ Maya mythology which roughly translates as a “place of fear) put the pedal to the metal and zoomed off to some rather scary and explosive places.
Literally explosive as it turns out.
One after another buildings blew up in spectacular fashion with the Volm facility the first to go nuclear, sending out a shock wave so great that it violently threw a recently returned from Boston Tom Mason (Noah Wylie) and John Pope (Colin Cunningham) who were engaged in one of their vigorous tête-à-têtes (although interestingly one in which Tom, who fears Karen may have bugged him again, asks Pope to shoot him the moment he does anything strange on the possible mission to Boston; Pope naturally agrees immediately ’cause that’s the no b.s. kind of guy he is).
Only Cochise, who rather fortunately can self-regenerate if left alone, survived the destruction of the facility which rather fortunately left the weapon operational (or so the lone surviving Volm believes) ready to be used to take out the Espheni’s grid which if you recall went operational in “Strange Brew”, threatening to fry all life on Earth in three short months.
BBQ’d humanity? Not a particularly pleasing prospect really.
While I am still not entirely convinced that Cochise and the Volm as a whole are on the level – I want to believe I really do but I can’t help suspecting their superficially good motives and wondering if they didn’t blow up the facility themselves using the mole’s activities as a cover – Cochise certainly talked as a man very aware of his own mortality with he and Tom engaging in a rather meaningful West Wing-like walk-and-talk discussion on the nature of fate and why human or Volm do what they do vis-a-vis the Espheni.
Largely it turns out because no one really has any choice, but the sense of taking matters in your own hands and at least having some say in your own destiny was strong, as was Cochise’s stated admiration for the tenacity of the human spirit.
Or was that just Teflon Tom’s human spirit?
Hard to say but it was a deep and personal moment that, unlike previous episodes, didn’t slow the non stop action down one iota, proving if Falling Skies wants to, it can have its deeply engaging action-filled plots and ponder the meaning of life, the universe and everything if it wants to.
Then, the kaboom-a-thon continued with an Espheni bomb planted by Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) taking out the mall that had been centre of the human resistance and trapping everyone from Hal (Drew Roy) and Maggie (Sarah Carter) in the ammo supply room, and Tom, Marena (Gloria Reuben), Jeanne Weaver (Laci J Mailey)Dr Kadar (Sean Leonard) and a whole of others under tons of rubble with no way out.
And unknown to them, a mole still running amuck with a Volm-modified weapon in a bag where only lifesaving meds should be.
But ah, not for long!
For somewhere in the middle of Ben (Connor Jessup) and Matt (Maxin Knight) finding and rescuing a newly re-bonded Hal and Maggie – near death experiences have a powerful way of bringing anyone back to what really matters – and Tom blowing a hole in the wall to free them all (suspect load bearing columns be damned; I am Tom Mason and I am angry!), Lourdes was finally uncovered in the simplest and most satisfying way possible.
She let slip that she knew Tom, and by extension the quite possibly dead Anne (Moon Bloodgood) and Alien Demon Spawn Alexis – hence Tom’s embrace of hate as a motivator over love; well temporarily at least since we all know he’s just not a nasty hating kind of guy right? – had been in Boston, which she couldn’t have known since Tom had only shared the information with Dan Weaver (Will Patton) and Geneal Porter (Dale Dye).
In short order, she was lured from the sick bay where she had been about to lay a rather pointy scalpel into a recuperating Cochise by a fake sick Anthony (Mpho Koaho) – a well played devious luring card everyone! – taken captive by a very angry Tom (raising the issue of why grace and understanding is extended to bugged Masons but not really anyone else) whereupon she began ranting like a mad woman about everyone being doomed and you might as well give up now etc etc.
Even if you know it’s the bugs talking, very angry bugs none too pleased that they’ve been exposed, it’s hard to ignore the crazy, verbally diarrhea-ing woman tied to the gurney, prophesying your imminent destruction.
And she may well be right if Tom and the others can’t get the Volm weapon up and running, and get to Boston to take out Karen, the tower, and the whole Earth-cooking grid.
Of course the human spirit, the self-same one that Cochise spoke so glowingly of will prevail since this is after all Falling Skies, and they have faced great losses before, but even so this action-packed, long overdue episode certainly raised the stakes for what little is left of humanity and bodes well for an action-packed, plot-rearranging finale in which humanity will find out that the universe is even more crowded they thought.
Bring it on! (Yes I am finally excited about season 3 – at last!)
Oh the sweet power of a tale tautly and imaginatively told.
Villainous is a remarkable short film I came across via laughing squid.com, made by talented filmmaker Paul Constantakis, who wrote and directed this visually delightful and powerful story.
In three far-too-short minutes – not that the story is under told; I simply wish it could have gone on forever – according to laughingsquid.com, “a little boy’s evil collection of comic book action figures being brought to justice.”
The wordless story is accompanied by pitch perfect quietly epic-sounding music, and a breathtakingly poet visual eye that sees the aftereffects of justice being served by a particularly busy superhero toy.
It is everything a film should be, and marks Paul Constantakis as a rare talent worth watching closely.
For now though I am content to simply hit repeat on this beautifully simple tale.
SNAPSHOT: Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away” (source: The Literature Network)
If ever there was a piece of poetry that perfectly captures the almost-vanquished Walter White (Bryan Cranston) rags-to-riches-to-rags journey through the violent world of the meth trade, it’s this 1818 sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
It’s a work of poetry by the highly celebrated English Romantic poet that is highly redolent of hubris and its empty promises of eternal glory and power, a spell that has bewitched a man who started out simply wanting to provide for his family once his recently-diagnosed cancer had claimed him.
Instead what claimed him was a lust for power and control, both far more deadly in their own ways than the cancer coursing through his veins, and poetntially far more ruinous.
His haunting reading of the sonnet accompanies time lapse images of the New Mexico, both rural and urban, including Walter’s own residence, all of them a fitting reminder of the impermanence of man’s achievements.
Yes, it reminds us, even Walter White, the great and cruel Walter White, will be brought low by time’s unsparing hand.
Just how low will be brought home on 11 August at 9pm.
While Gulliermo del Toro’s monster masterpiece, Pacific Rim, is hardly a work of Shakespearian splendour, it is also not the braindead blockbuster monstrosity that many purported it to be.
Granted it has all the trappings of the latter – cardboard-cutout characters, an overly-earnest seriously-intoned opening narration replete with cliches about “great threats”, and the “world pulling together, pooling resources”, an inspiring speech before the climax that is clearly intended to rally the spirit but ends up sounding comically overdone, and a predictably bombastic, somewhat implausible ending – but then they are the tropes of the genre and you would be a fool not to expect them to be front and centre in some capacity.
The surprising thing, and yet not so surprising since del Toro is a masterful director with a knack for subverting cliches and genre over familiarity, is that many of them manage to come across as less hackneyed that you might expect them to.
They don’t of course escape the prison of well-worn tropes entirely but they are burnished up enough by the screenplay written by del Toro and Travis Beacham, and the Spanish director’s knack for spotting a fresh angle when none may be seen, that the film manages to sidestep ever-so-slightly being just another blockhead summer movie with little to recommend it.
In a July 2012 blastr.com article recounting the director’s triumphant presentation at that year’s San Diego Comic Con, del Toro confirmed that he had wanted to make a movie that was fresh and new, even as it drew on the kaiju and mecha genres that heavily inform it:
“If things happen [references to movies like Gamera and the Godzilla movies], they happen because they’re being made by people who love those genres. But I didn’t want to be postmodern, or referential, or just belong to a genre. I really wanted to create something new, something madly in love with those things. I tried to bring epic beauty to it, and drama and operatic grandeur.”
And in that he somewhat succeeds, if even the movie ultimately fails to transcend its genre forebears.
Set in the early 2020s, when humanity is losing a battle with monstrously-destructive alien interlopers called Kaiju, large, loud instinct-driven monsters that emerge from a glowing rift in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, despite developing equally massive Jaeger mecha controlled by two pilots working as one linked by a neural bridge that unifies their minds, Pacific Rim focuses on the closing days of the war when the battle is all but lost.
All that stands between mankind and utter annihilation are the last four humanoid Jaegers of various vintages, piloted by a United Nations of crews, all of whom succumb in some fashion till the only hope for a war-weary humanity is troubled ex-pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and a woman imprisoned by a tragic past Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who,naturally enough rally and come together as a team, falling in love along the way of course, and save the day.
So far, so cliched.
And yet somewhere in this overly-familiar tale and it’s unsurprising character types, are nuggets of originality, and emotional truth, that catch you completely unawares.
Becket for instance, while cocky to a degree, is not recklessly so, nor is he a prisoner of his past to the degree that his anger and despondency render him such flawed anti-hero that you really don’t care if he lives or dies.
The script by del Toro and Beacham invests this much-used bitter archetype with an unexpected maturity and emotional self-awareness, leavening out the cliches with the sort of qualities you would a real person who has dealt with much grief to have.
While he is hardly a well-rounded, fully-formed person, he is far more alive and real that many similar heroes in many similar films, and you actually want him to succeed, rather be swallowed up in a sea of his own self-loathing.
Or eaten by a kaiju, a fate suffered by one of the minor characters who is swallowed up, rather comically it must be said, during an attack on Hong Kong.
Mako Mori too, while imprisoned in a reasonably-standard straitjacket of her past’s making, is given a searingly emotional backstory that powerfully focuses on the loss of her entire family during a Kaiju attack many years earlier.
The actress who plays the younger Mori, Mana Ashida, brings the blinding terror of losing your entire world in a split-second of monster-filled horror to such vivid life, drawing you so completely into that tear-soaked nightmarish scene, that you can’t help but be moved by the trauma of her loss.
It recalls del Toro’s previous work in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and The Orphanage (2007) where he powerfully brought to life the emotional trauma faced by vulnerable children, in situations that took them far beyond their ability to process or cope.
While this emotionally-resonant memory, which Raleigh witnesses while he and Mori are neurally linked, thus sharing each other’s memories, is manifestly powerful, it unfortunately fails to ultimately have much impact on Mori as an adult, or the story as a whole.
Even so, in and of itself, it grants Pacific Rim the sort of humanity and gravitas I did not expect it to possess, even in modicum.
Other attempts at creating memorable characters or relationships aren’t as successful, such as the rather half-baked father-daughter relationship between the head of the whole Jaeger war effort, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and Mako Mori – he is the Jaeger pilot who rescues her after her parents die – but points to del Toro for at least being unwilling to settle for wholesale, across the board cardboard cutout characters.
Where he fails is coming up with anything that is even remotely original narrative-wise.
But perhaps that is an unfair criticism since what characters like Becket and Mori underline is that you can’t expect a movie like Pacific Rim, which is tremendously entertaining if you submit to its apocalyptic blockbuster raison d’être (and you should if you’re going to have any hope of enjoying it), to fully transcend its roots, no matter how hard you try.
It will always be captive to what came before it, despite del Toro’s engaging and valiant attempts to invest it with characters that at least have some emotional substance to them, and aliens that, belatedly at least, are given some sense of being more than mindless baddies, so you might as well surrender yourself to its overwhelming avalanche of cliches and be done with it.
You are going to get Shakespeare or Sorkin and expecting to will only lead to pointless angst.
Frankly I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would.
Yes the been-there-seen-that air to Pacific Rim did grate many times, but del Toro brings just enough humanity, warmth and originality to the movie that it manages to stand acid-spewing head and shoulders above the usual blockbuster fare, proving that in the right hands even well-worn tropes can get back some of their sheen, and entertain us still.
She has been uncharacteristically quite of late – a combination of lull between albums and time out for major hip surgery – with her only major appearance the singing of the US national anthem at a New York pride rally on 28 June this year, but all that is set to change with the exciting announcement that the artist who brought us the insanely addictive pop gems “Poker Face” and “Just Dance”, and a dress made out of meat, is set to release her third studio album, ARTPOP on 11 November.
It will be preceded by the single “Applause”, the cover for which was previewed on wwd.com, along with an extensive phone interview with Lady Gaga herself during which she had this to say about the new single:
“I’ll tell you that it is very fun. And that it’s full of happiness, because what I’m saying in the song essentially is that I live for the applause. I live for the way you cheer and scream for me. Give me that thing that I love. Put your hands up, make them touch.”
While WWD.com notes that it sounds suspiciously like she is quoting the lyrics from the song itself, it does speak to a theme that began in earnest on her first album Fame (2008) and its follow up EP, The Fame Monster (2009), albums which spoke to the artist’s love of the spotlight and her need to constantly be in bright, if demanding glare.
It is not a blindly slavish devotion with her music recognising both the benefits and the curse of being in the public eye.
While fame has undoubtedly given Lady Gaga and her Haus of Gaga (a creative collective based on Andy Warhols’ Factory), which includes, according to WWD.com, “van Lamsweerde and Matadin, Brandon Maxwell, the Haus fashion director, her hair and makeup artists and other artistically inclined friends”, an amazing platform on which to exercise her extensive musical talents, it has also demanded a great deal of it as she admitted announcing the release of “Applause” on 19 August this year via her Little Monsters social networking site:
“ARTPOP as they pry the single from my bleeding fingers. It’s a scary thing to revisit those things underneath, the pain in your past. but all I found was raw passion.” (source: digital spy.com.au)
Whatever the pain involved in bringing the new album to fruition, it is also meant some profoundly satisfying collaborations for the delightfully idiosyncratic artist with ARTPOP involving some deeply profound artistic collaborations with artists such as Inez & Vinoodh, Robert Wilson, Marina Abramovic (who also recently mounted an exhibition with Jay Z), and Jeff Koons, which will be exhibited, after a fashion at an ArtRave on November 10.
It reflects the fact that Lady Gaga sees herself, according to complex.com, as “an artist first [having] previously collaborated with visual artists like Nick Knight, Steven Klein, and Terence Koh. Photography duo Inez & Vinoodh also directed her “Yoü And I” series of fashion films and photographed her for V magazine.”
This flurry of artistic brilliance will all feed into an app that is being released with ARTPOP which promises to be “a musical and visual engineering system that combines music, art, fashion, and technology with a new interactive worldwide community.”
While the sound of the album itself is still a closely guarded secret – all Inez van Lamsweerde would say, quoted on wwd.com, was that ““It’s true Gaga. You can’t get it out of your head.” – we don’t have long to wait to find out what the next stage of this remarkable pop icon’s sound will be like.
If the art accompanying it is any guide, we’re not going to be disappointed.