Star Lord and the gang of Guardians of the Galaxy may zip around the galaxy in faster than light ships, outwitting powerful nemeses and rescuing everyone from certain and imminent death but they are at heart ’80s kids – well onetime Earthling Peter Quill aka Star Lord who clings doggedly to his precious Walkman come what may, even at the risk of not escaping space prison the Kyln – and all they want to do is wander their world in glorious 8-bit video glory.
(According to the amazing Bonnie Burton, from whose c|net article this post is sourced, it’s actually 16-bit thus underlining I didn’t play anywhere near enough video games as a child; my bad).
So David and Henry Dutton from Cinefix have given them their wish and you can see them zipping here, there and everywhere, with Ronan in hot pursuit, in this brilliantly-realised gaming tribute to the surprise Marvel cinema hit of 2014.
It is a wonderful way to while away the time, well some of it at least, till the sequel to this good humoured- bright, light fun and yet emotionally-poignant film is released in July 2017.
Right that’s a while away so you need more than this delightful video tribute to keep you going but hey, it’s a start.
Mortdecai, Johnny Depp’s latest foray into playing an eccentrically-endearing man-child who comically says and does whatever pops into his head, aims high.
Under the studied direction of David Koepp who understands that less is more, Mortdecai, based on a series of quirky cult novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli, is clearly looking to be the 21st century heir to be the whimsical ’60s spy capers of Peter Sellers as it tells the story of a bon mot throwing, good life-living dandy by the name of Lord Charles Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) whose main aim in life is the preservation of his moustache and maintenance of the good life to which his aristocratic background has made him accustomed and more than a little debt laden.
He is, of course, deficient in a great many other things besides a regular income, lacking a modicum of maturity, scruples – his main source of income, such as it is, is trafficking in artworks of dubious provenance which has brought him to the attention of his old university friend Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor) of MI-5 who uses his connections with the seedy underbelly of art to solve cases – self-awareness, capability to look after himself and any sense of the consequences of his actions.
His great redeeming feature is that he is madly, passionately in love with his wife, Lady Johanna Mortdecai (Gwyneth Paltrow), a woman possessed of intelligence, wherewithal, a curious mind, in fact pretty much everything Charles lacks she has in pre-possessing abundance, with the addition of the none-too-subtle undying love of Inspector Martland.
If it weren’t for Johanna, and the presence of Charles’ omni-capable manservant and thug Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany) who steps in to rescue him from just about scrape he gets into, with multitudinous comically-obtained injuries to show for his trouble, and only a Lothario-like active sex life to compensate, it’s clear that Charles Mortdecai would be in quite a pickle old chap dash it all (he pops the plum in his mouth in the first scene and fiercely refuses to relinquish it thereafter).
And therein lies part of what afflicts Mortdecai.
While Depp lends him a quirky, over the top charm that somehow manages to make up for his more irritating qualities, and when he is in full flight he is a delight to watch throwing witty asides and clueless, pompous observations around like excessive tips at the tony clubs he likes to frequent, you do begin to wonder quite why anyone would want to be his friend, lover or employee.
That is, of course, one of the defining attributes of the Great Comic Loser that has been a mainstay of comedy since I suspect the dawn of man and to be expected in a comedy of this type but even so, amusing though he is, and I did largely enjoy his performance surprisingly, he begins to grate by the end of the film.
Stripped of all the qualities that makes most men and women bastions of maturity and common sense, and thus utterly unsuitable as sources of comedy, characters like Charles Mortdecai, who says and does pretty much what he likes leaving others to pick up the main pieces he leaves in his wake, can garner laughs that John the commuter on the 7.36 to Sydney city would fail to generate.
But in a film that fails to really pick up any head of farcical steam – you can see the wheels frantically turning but they never really gain traction even when all the ingredients are there to make it happen such as the final scenes where a stolen Goya painting, whose retrieval forms the centrepiece of the gossamer-thin plot, is in play pursued by multiple parties – the deficiencies in Mortdecai’s character begin to become more than a little obvious.
That’s not to say he isn’t entirely fun to watch; truth is, despite his irritating mannerisms and inability to do anything for himself, he comes to broad, gloriously quirky life thanks largely to Depp’s ability to invest his characters with a loveably eccentric sensibility and channelling the very caricature of an upper crust English aristocrat, complete with the hackneyed phraseology and pronunciation, he is a giddy ride into cartoonish silliness.
And frankly in the context of the light and frothy spy caper folly that he occupies he is perfectly at home, as are Paltrow, McGregor and Bethany, all of whom bring unexpected substance to their various characters (I say unexpected not because I doubt their ability to act and act well, but because the script by Eric Aronson doesn’t leave them a lot to work with).
For what it is, and it is so light and airy that it wafts away on the breeze the moment the credits roll, Mortdecai is a hugely enjoyable summoning of the ghosts of camp, crazy, silly spy capers past (even if it is not quite in their league).
But as noted previously, it never really gets going in any way that carries it with the sort of comic momentum you would hope for to the end, and even though various scenes and characters amuse, and I was amused more often than I wasn’t truth be told, the film rarely succeeds in summoning the kinds of laughs that The Pink Panther movies of Peter Sellers had in vast side-splittingly funny array.
It’s a pity rarely because there is a lot of comic potential locked up in the person of Charles Mortdecai, the latest in a long line of ineffectual British dandies with more pedigree and entitlement than sense, much of which is lost in a movie that, though it is chock full of fine comic fine performances and manifest silliness, never really finds its grooves despite many frenetic attempts.
One of the most, if not the most, absurdly irreverent, hilarious, offbeat, crazy, imaginative, deliriously-wacky, gloriously politically-incorrect (in a way that even Family Guy, hardly a bastion of traditional family values, might blanch at) discoveries of last year was Rick Harmon and Justin Roiland’s Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty.
Being a longtime devoted fan of Harmon’s off-the-wall genius sitcom creation Community, the odds were always good that I would find his and Justin’s madly colourful, zany, narratively-bonkers tale of an irascible, alcoholic scientist Rick Sanchez (Justin Roiland) and his grandson Morty Smith’s (Justin Roiland) adventures through time and space, and family – Rick’s daughter Beth (Sarah Chalke), mild-mannered husband Jerry (Ben Parnell) and daughter Summer (Spencer Grammer) – absolutely irresistible but even I was surprised by just how much I liked it.
Everything from the utterly over the top sense of humour, its graphically colourful visual style, sheer sense of boundless, original inventiveness and imagination and its ability to almost touching and emotionally profound without losing an ounce of its comic momentum made it an instant favourite in my household.
It was, and remains, one of those rare comedy shows, animated or otherwise, that has me laughing out loud like an idiot, caring not what the neighbours may think; other sitcoms and animated shows may make me smile, laugh and giggle a little but Rick and Morty makes me laugh loudly, long and often to the point where my sides hurt and I can’t breathe.
(Part of its appeal no doubt lies with the fact that gleefully punctures pomposity, conformity, political correctness and “the right thing” with the sort of abandon I wish I was capable of in real life.)
So imagine my room-shattering, squealing delight – seriously take a minute and yes used earplugs if you must – when I found out via EW that Oni press is readying a comic book version of the show, “written by Zac Gorman, illustrated by CJ Cannon and colored by Ryan Hill.”
And the good news, according to Kyle Anderson of EW’s Shelf Life, is that “Gorman and Cannon have perfectly captured the insane spirit and skewed visual style of the show.”
Hurrah! Let us away to the Citadel of Ricks with Birdperson and the whole mad bunch to await the release of the comic book on 1 April.
It will no doubt keep us endlessly, decibel-raising laughingly-amused till season 2 of Rick and Morty debuts in the US summer.
SNAPSHOT Fantastic Four, a contemporary re-imagining of Marvel’s original and longest-running superhero team, centers on four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways. Their lives irrevocably upended, the team must learn to harness their daunting new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
I am not, it must be said, a big fan of endless reboots.
And my lord but there are a lot of them these days with Hollywood deciding to re-imagine, reboot and refashion any number of (usually) superhero properties about as often as they change underpants or hairstyles.
All of which means that I was obviously not enormously pre-disposed to the idea of someone, anyone really, rebooting The Fantastic Four which had its last blockbuster cinematic outing only eight years ago in 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
But a funny thing happened on my way to being cynical about reboots of any kind – the trailer for the newest and some might argue unnecessary big screen iteration of The Fantastic Four by one Josh Trank, best known for the 2012 film Chronicle, actually makes the upcoming movie look pretty good.
Like meaningfully, thoughtfully, what is the nature of man and progress and where will it lead us, existentially good.
Visually it strongly resembles the brooding, emotionally-resonant trailers for Interstellar, a movie that successfully combined big budget action brio with thoughtful ruminations on the nature of life, the universe and everything.
If Fantastic Four, which stars Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic, Kate Mara as The Invisible Woman, Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch, Jamie Bell as The Thing, and Toby Kebbell as Victor Domashev/Doctor Doom, can engender that kind of atmosphere, neither too deep yet too shallow, then it could well be on its way to be that rarest of rare things.
A reboot I actually think is worth taking the time to watch.
Fantastic Four opens on 6 August 2015 in Australia and 7 August 2015 in USA.
Humanity seems to be forever caught in a tension between who we were, who we are now and who we would like to be.
Not everyone is affected by this of course, with a sizeable number of our fellow human beings either unaware of it, or if they do notice its grating presence, distracted by the noisy bells and whistles of modern society such that it is no more bothersome than a far off buzzing blowfly.
Sand, the latest book from master world builder, explorer of the human condition and literary sensation, Hugh Howey, is the book for those of us who cannot escape the grating presence of this tension, all too aware that life is a series of interconnected moments and that we can no more set ourselves adrift from the past or vault unconnected into the future than we can fly to the moon on a wing and a prayer.
We, at least , though have the luxury of choosing to distract ourselves from the interweaving of the past, present and future if we so desire, but the people of Sand, caught in the sand-washed remains of a possible future Earth beset by some form of natural disaster or manmade calamity, are faced with its dread weight every single hard-fought and hard-won day of their miserable lives.
Theirs is an existence marked, or marred by a constant, gritty (literally) battle for survival, their lives dominated either by diving deep into the sand using technology and learnt skill that renders passage through it like swimming through water to retrieved items from cities long ago buried under colossal dunes of granular debris, or spent warding off the remorseless advance of the waves of sand, one heavy, exhausting bucket at a time.
“Life is capricious and cruel and totally fucking random and there is no hope of finding meaning in a nightmare. In a nightmare at least her enraged screams would come out a hoarse whisper, but Vic could not manage even that. Could not manage even a whimper.”
For the family of mother Rose, and children Victoria aka Vic, Palmer, Conner and Rob, abandoned by their once-powerful father to a life more blighted than most thanks to their fall from what passes for the top of the pile in arid Springston to the dregs of society, life is harder than most.
Fractured by the departure of their husband and father who had once been Lord of Springston into a loosely-connected, dispersed collection of hardened individuals (save for Conner who maintains a restless though devoted watch over Rob), the family is all too acutely aware of what their lives once were, but unable to see a way forward to what it could be again beyond running to No Man’s Land, in the footsteps of their father, or fleeing to another nearby town like Lower Pub, hardly a step-up from the town they now occupy.
They are caught in a day-by-day battle for survival until a series of remarkable events forcefully teaches them that the present is not an immutable creation and is capable of being molded and changed, often roughly and without warning, if circumstances and human will permit.
Left to their own devices, it’s highly doubtful anything much about their lives would have changed, but when pirates and bombs and newly-discovered legendary lost cities comes into play, and all the old calcified certainties, such as they are in a post-apocalytic society, are tossed to the fearsome, sand-filled wind, Conner and his family discover than sometimes a future you don’t even recognise will come up and grab you when you least expect it.
What makes Sand such a pleasure to read, an odd thing to say in one way give how grim and dark it is at times, is that even in this bleak world Howey has brought so vividly and fully to life – such is his skill at crafting fully-complete worlds that the society Conner and his dispersed family inhabit seems to spring as a whole living entity straight from the first page – there are moments of happiness, joy, satisfaction, shards of humanity still to be found.
In amongst the battle for survival which consumes not just just Conner’s family but everyone in Springston, there is still the chance to first love to blossom, a family to be redeemed and reunited, love to flourish and life to be snatched from the jaws of death, and scores to be resoundingly levelled.
“Love was earned and hard-fought and cherished. It was Marco’s face and his rough palm on her cheek. It wasn’t something a family got for being a family.”
And that is what keeps you reading briskly from page to page, Howey’s profoundly moving gift of getting down into the minutiae-laden back and forth of human existence, the intimacy of relationships, whole or broken, of filling his stories with humanity rich and full and fully alive or muted and dispirited.
His skill lies in exploring these relational dynamics in ways that make sense in milliseconds and doesn’t lose an ounce of their revealed impact by being wrapped in a fast-moving story that, though it often pauses for existential breath, keeps surging forward much like the dunes surrounding Springston.
Sand is an engrossing, immersive read, that explores with intense meaning and readability, that aforementioned tension and how, for those paying attention, and often even for those not, it can explode and express itself anew in ways ways no one could have ever anticipated.
There is a LOT more TV on our screens that there was even five years with the number of original scripted series more than doubling from 80 in 2009 to 180 in 2014.
And the growth is even more impressive, points out Vulture, when you factor who is behind this rapid increase in scripted programming and just how many shows they are placing out there for us to watch:
“Using Nielsen data, [FX Networks chief John Landgraf’s] research department at FX Networks determined that in 2014, at least 328 scripted first-run prime-time programs aired on ad-supported or subscription-based broadcast, cable, and streaming networks in the U.S. (PBS wasn’t included.) Broadcasters still churn out plenty of programming (124 scripted shows), while streaming players such as Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu are now very much a factor (24 shows). But it’s clear cable is behind the scripted surge: As a whole, cable telecast 180 different scripted comedies, dramas, and limited series last year — more than its broadcast and nonlinear rivals combined.”
Wonderful though this all is, it is leading to a weird kind of stress on the part of many TV viewers like myself and my housemate.
Together we consume a prodigious amount of scripted TV – neither of us have much time for reality television when there is so much well-written, acted and produced original programming out there – keeping up with something like 25-30 shows a year, most notably Grimm, Girls, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, The Flash, Looking, Nurse Jackie, Parks and Recreation, The Librarians, Falling Skies, Orphan Black, Community and Game of Thrones (can you see our problem? This isn’t even the full list!)
And together we wonder how on earth we manage to watch so many shows, particularly when I am also a dedicated cinephile, seeing anywhere up to 100 movies a year, book reader (book #4 for the year is currently on the go) and music listener, all while trying to hold down gainful employment.
This graph explains in stunning detail why, though we are grateful for all these fine series coming our way, we also feel overwhelmed by the choices now offered to us.
It isn’t unusual for either of us to talk excitedly about a new show we’ve discovered, or news of one about to premiere in the next few months, or one just beginning its arduous trek to full production, and the follow all that enthusiasm with an almost fearful “How on earth are we going to find the time to watch it?
The reality is we won’t and we can’t and rather than be stressed out by something so wonderful – not for nothing did Vulture begin its piece on the graph by saying “Feeling guilty that you never checked out Mad Men, didn’t have time for this week’s premiere of Justified, or have yet to catch up with all those episodes of Girls on your DVR? Don’t.” – it’s probably best to accept that we won’t be able to take in all this TV bounty and we should just concentrate on the shows currently on our schedule.
And thank the lord that seasons are now just 10-13 episodes long rather than the traditional 22-24, allowing us to occasionally leave the couch and interact with real people, read a book, and yes, smell the goddamn flowers.
Oh, and it looks like we’re not alone in our sense of being overwhelmed by TV goodness with musician Brett Domino voicing in song what we’re all feeling …
All the packing, the organising, the lugging and hauling, the sweating, the exhaustion, the dislocation; none of those words scream fun,the experience most analogous to a trip to the dentist or being held captive while the tax code is read to us.
But in this delightfully sweet and whimsical, and profoundly moving (in a way that only Pixar seems to manage normally) short film, one house in a derelict neighbourhood, fearing the inevitable slide into the ruin and desolation of his neighbours decides to up sticks and head out on a cross country Forest Gump-like safari, accompanied by his attendant canine-like dog kennel.
Alone in his quiet progression across the countryside, and through the seasons, he is joined by an ageing gas station building, overgrown by plants and one collapsed piece of wood away from being derelict, who nonetheless sets off for one last grand adventure.
There is love, there is loss, there is contemplation and the joy of being alive and taking in the wonder of the world around you but most of all there is an exquisite contentment and peace to this utterly remarkable short film, which was a recent Vimeo staff pick, and which picked up a slew of awards and film festival screenings.
It is touching and deeply affecting and reminds you that we should all take some time to appreciate the quiet joy of simply being alive.
Maybe moving, well some moving anyway, isn’t so bad after all.
As you fire up the barbie and throw on the snags, throw down a few “cold ones” and wonder whether you should start dessert with the Iced VoVos, the pavlova or the lamingtons, thoughts may turn to the Aussie movies you’d like to see this year.
Well fear not, there are plenty of options on the table and I’ve chosen five to get you started.
Struth you’ll be spending all year at the flicks won’t ya cobber? (translation: Wow you’ll be at the movies all year won;t you my friends?)
Set in the 1950s, The Dressmaker is a bittersweet comedy about a glamorous young woman who returns, after many years in Europe to her small home town in rural Australia in order to right some wrongs from the past. When Tilly (played by Kate Winslet) comes home, she not only reconciles with her ailing mother Molly (played by Judy Davis) but, with her sewing machine, and haute couture style, she transforms the women of the town in such a way that she gets sweet revenge on those who did her wrong. She also falls unexpectedly in love, which leads to her greatest loss and her most destructive deed. (synopsis via and (c) official The Dressmaker site)
According to Luke Buckmaster, writing in The Guardian, the director of The Dressmaker, based on Rosalie Ham’s novel of revenge and stylish dressmaking in small town Australia, Jocelyn Moorhouse has described the movie as “Unforgiven with a sewing machine.”
While you can always rely on such pithy though memorable taglines to fully justify seeing a movie, the fact that this one comes with Moorhouse as director, stars like Winslet, David and Liam Hemsworth and much-lauded cinematographer Don McAlpine, means it will be worth securing a seat for this one as soon as you can.
Oh, and maybe run up something on the Janome to impress the cinemagoers.
The Dressmaker opens in Australia and New Zealand on 1 October 2015; USA release date not specified as yet.
Partisan is directed by Ariel Kleiman (of 2011 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner Deeper Than Yesterday), who co-wrote the script with Sarah Cyngler. Alexander is like any other kid: playful, curious and naive. He is also a trained assassin. Raised in a hidden paradise, Alexander has grown up seeing the world filtered through his father, Gregori. As Alexander begins to think for himself, creeping fears take shape, and Gregori’s idyllic world unravels. (synopsis via First Showing)
Premiering at Sundance 2015, where it is showing as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, Partisan, starring French actor Vincent Cassel looks like one of those chilling excursions into the darker sides of human nature.
Filmed at a winery in Victoria, which was made to look suitably European for the film, the film is all about one man’s idea of what you must to protect the ones you love.
Given the fact that his son Alexander is an assassin, you can bet that he’s not talking about installing more locks on the doors or extra fire alarms.
Partisan premieres at Sundance on 25 January before opening in Australia later this year.
“Newcomers to the remote Australian desert town of Nathgari, Catherine and Matthew Parker’s lives are flung into crisis when they discover their two teenage kids, Tommy and Lily, have mysteriously disappeared just before a massive dust storm hits. With Nathgari eerily smothered in red dust and darkness, the townsfolk join the search led by local cop, David Rae. It soon becomes apparent that something terrible may have happened to Tommy and Lily. Suspicions run riot, rumours spread and public opinion turns savagely against the Parkers. With temperatures rising and the chances of survival plummeting with each passing day, Catherine and Matthew find themselves pushed to the brink as they struggle to survive the mystery of their children’s fate.” (synopsis via Teaser-trailer.com)
It’s every parents’ nightmare.
Your kids go missing in a place you barely know, and as you search desperately for any sign of them it becomes patently obvious that something most terrible is afoot, both within the family and without.
Granted the just-released reviews out of Sundance haven’t been the best – see Indie Wire and The Guardian – but everyone is praising Nicole Kidman’s performance and with the Australian desert a major character it may be worth a viewing just to soak up the stark, mysterious moods of the red centre.
Strangerland premiered at Sundance on 23 January 2015; wider release dates unknown at this time.
A young boy from Australia named Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) has a passion for flight and ends up competing in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. He faces distraction and hostility from a school bully, as well as his unemployed father Sam Worthington, still grieving over the death of his mother in an automobile accident, and his chief rival the spoiled win at all costs Jason (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke) the son of a respected golfer (David Wenham). He is inspired by his devil-may-care former World War II RAAF fighter pilot grandfather (Terry Norris), an eagle he feeds on his way to school and later a Japanese paper plane champion Kimi (Ena Imai).
(synopsis via Wikipedia)
This looks delightful.
One of those films where the protagonist triumphs against impossible odds and everyone walks out of the cinema happy.
And that’s exactly what it appears to be according to Karl Quinn, Fairfax Media’s National Film Editor:
“Robert Connolly’s latest is unabashedly a film for and about kids, though parents dragged along will find its simple charms hard to resist. At its centre is Dylan (Ed Oxenbould), a 12-year-old living in the middle of nowhere with his recently widowed and utterly depressed father (Sam Worthington). Young Dylan has discovered he has a knack for creating and flying paper planes, and works his way up to the world championships in Tokyo; along the way he wins the friendship of a school bully, woos a Japanese girl via Skype and raises the funds for his airfare with the aid of his teacher (Peter Rowsthorne), his grandfather (Terry Norris) and the scone-baking skills of the good ladies of the local CWA. Really, all that’s left is to drag his dad out of his torpor. Every box is ticked in this feel-good effort that is aimed like a perfectly folded dart at its target audience without ever making the mistake of talking down to them.”
Paper Planes opened in Australia on 15 January 2015 after premiering at a number of film festivals in late 2014.
SNAPSHOT Kill Me Three Times is a darkly comedic thriller from rising star director Kriv Stenders (“Red Dog”). Simon Pegg plays the mercurial assassin, Charlie Wofle, who discovers he isn’t the only person trying to kill the siren of a sun drenched surfing town (Alice Braga). Charlie quickly finds himself at the center of three tales of murder, mayhem, blackmail and revenge. With an original screenplay by James McFarland, the film also stars Sullivan Stapleton (as a gambling addict that attempts to pay off his debts through a risky life insurance scam), Teresa Palmer (as a small town Lady Macbeth), Callan Mulvey (as a wealthy beach club owner simmering with jealousy), Luke Hemsworth (as a local surfer fighting for the woman he loves) and Bryan Brown (as a corrupt cop who demands the juiciest cut). (synopsis via Coming Soon)
You have to love Simon Pegg in much pretty much anything.
His devil-may-care, cheekily sardonic take on the characters he plays are a joy to watch and judging by the trailer, he is full glorious flight in Kill Me Three Times.
My, my, my but we have become a dark and despondent lot haven’t we?
Besieged by terror acts unspeakable, climate change, economic woes and a general decline in societal civility, humanity seems to have decided as one that the only way to deal with all this pessimism and darkness is to play out any and all worst case scenarios in books, movies and TV.
And one of the big daddies of all worst case scenarios is the end of the world, which we have seen brought to cataclysmic reality in shows like The Walking Dead, The Last Ship, Falling Skies, Defiance, Revolution, The Strain and the just-premiered 12 Monkeys among many, MANY others.
One of the more intriguing of these variants of this genre are the shows that deal with the Rapture, that Biblical idea that God will transport the good and the virtuous (who falls into that camp is a matter of great conjecture depending on where you stand) before plunging the world into a nightmarish fiesta of Satanic brutishness; specifically shows that either deal with its aftermath such as The Leftovers (thought it never references the “R” word explicitly) or its possible averting such as Sleepy Hollow.
Joining this sub-genre’s ranks now is The Messengers which looks at what happens when five unconnected people – a preacher, a scientist, a mother, a high school student and a fugitive, caught up in a blast move from a mysterious object that falls to earth, finds themselves linked in ways they can’t explain to each other and to a mysterious stranger of nefarious intent who, as is the way of these things, arrives naked on the planet, determined to wreak havoc.
The five hitherto strangers find out that they have been selected to stop the apocalypse, a mission that will have profound effects for not just their lives and those they love but humanity as a whole.
Quite whether they’ll succeed is another matter entirely – in the old days when happy endings were largely in vogue you would have unreservedly said yes; but now? Not so much – but you can be guaranteed there will be fire and brimstone, Fuastian deals aplenty and another long look into the dark night of humanity’s soul.
We really aren’t a bunch of campers any more are we?
Saying goodbye to a TV show you love is never easy.
These days, of course, you never really say goodbye to a TV show with streaming, good old fashioned DVDs, cable re-runs and yes fan-fic keeping the characters you know and love alive long after the credits have run on the finale.
But even so, there is still something about a final episode that is filled with melancholy, in much the same way that farewelling someone who is going to live in another city or country is tinged with a niggling sense of loss.
You know you’ll see them again but it won’t be as often, and when you do connect, whether it’s over Skype or via email, there won’t be the same freshness or richness of experience that you got from seeing them live and in person.
The same applies to TV shows which though their episodes can be viewed over and over again until kingdom comes or the zombie apocalypse erupts, whichever comes first, will lack that initial joyful sense of discovery that first run episodes always seem to bring.
So with that in mind, how you say goodbye is vitally important.
The history of TV is littered with TV shows that didn’t quite nail their finales as most people would have wanted – think LOST, Seinfeld and How I Met Your Mother for starters – but I can safely say that quirky, much-loved British sitcom, Miranda, starring the delightfully offbeat Miranda hart, won’t be one of the them.
To keep persevering with the farewell to a friend analogy, the final two episodes of Miranda, “I Do, But To Who?” and “The Final Curtain” – broadcast in UK on Christmas and New Year’s Day; yes I have waited a while to watch and review them giving some indication of how reluctant I was to bid Miranda goodbye – were like warm, lingering goodbyes that contained everything you love about the friendship, all those special shared moments that belong to just you and your friend, those quirky in-jokes and silly word plays, bringing a sense of completion that though you will always love them, things won’t quite be the same and farewells of some kind must be made.
And Miranda said farewell in this manner very well indeed, particularly with her closing to camera piece, a hallmark of the sitcom which regularly broke through the Fourth Wall with gleeful, mischievous, intimate abandon:
“Dearest chums. I don’t know about when or if we’ll see each other again but thank you for being the most amazing friends. Love U.”
It was a particularly special way to finish things off because Miranda had always been about co-opting its audience into the narrative of the show, almost as if they were good friends coming along for the ride, unseen but valued members of the cast who never got to speak a line but were as vital to the storylines as any one of the characters.
And what a cast of characters they were.
There was Miranda’s overbearing, interfering, “what I like to call” mother Penny (Patricia Hodge) whose catchcry of “Such fun!” was usually uttered when the event in question was really only going to be enjoyable for her, and best friend Stevie (Sarah Hadland) who ran Miranda’s gift shop for her, often quoting the song “Proud” – What have you done today to make you feel proud?” while holding a headshot on a stick of its singer Heather Small (when she wasn’t being pushed off stools by Miranda, a recurring and always hilarious piece of slapstick).
“Fear not for I am into this like whipped cream all over Gary Barlow!” (Stevie referring to planning Miranda’s girls weekend away before the wedding, which naturally enough didn’t quite go as planned)
Who can forget good friend Tilly (Sally Phillips), one of Miranda’s private school friends, who was most well known for saying “Bear with, bear with” while she checked incoming texts, usually in the middle of conversations, and referred to Miranda by her school nickname Queen Kong (an appellation chosen on account of Miranda’s stature, and which she hated it).
And, of course, the love of Miranda’s life, Gary (Tom Ellis), the chef of the restaurant next door, with whom Miranda had an on-again, mostly off-again relationship until – SPOILER! – true love ran its course and they married in the final episode at the wedding reception for the owner of the restaurant Clive (James Holmes) and his partner Jim the Customer, a man who kept walking into Miranda’s shop where he was usually involuntarily swept into the dramas of her life.
(The impromptu exchanging of vows followed one of the most pricelessly funny scenes in the whole series, when full of re-discovered love for each other, Miranda and Gary and all of Clive and Jim’s guests as well the grooms themselves galloped to the reception to the theme song of Black Beauty).
Each of these characters were given their moment to shine in the final two episodes, most notably best friend Stevie, and Gary naturally with judiciously well-used and none-too-long flashback sequences give us a chance to remember the interactions between Miranda and her wacky friends and family members.
That was really one of the highlights of the two final episodes, the way in which Miranda balanced the recurring jokes and motifs – Stevie getting pushed off the stool, Miranda’s “Fruit Friends”, the appearance of both Gary Barlow and Heather Small, Tilly’s use of “Bear with”, Miranda’s pratfalls, Penny’s uttering of “Such fun” and “What I like to call”, the episode-ending song and dance routine, and a host of others – with Miranda getting the happy ending she’s longed for through all three seasons and sundry specials.
As with any sitcom worth its salt, the path to true love and completion wasn’t a normal one and there were jokes and slapstick aplenty, but bravely, there were also gravely serious moments, an unusual infusion into Miranda’s usual lighthearted vibe, which worked well.
After all what good are giant roadblocks to eternal happiness such as – SPOILER! – Miranda and Gary calling it quits after they’re engaged because he won’t say “I Love you” and Miranda admits she doesn’t trust him to stick around as a result, or Miranda finally telling Penny in no uncertain terms to butt out of her life, if they aren’t going to mean something.
In most sitcoms, scenes that serious would be a deadening blow to comedic flow, and while they are unusual in Miranda they worked perfectly, rounding out Miranda’s character and giving us the sense that she was getting what she deserved and needed, and growing up at last.
“I just don’t want to do my life without Gary.” (Miranda realising what she wants, what she really, really Spice Girls-like wants)
But not too much as she hastened to assure her friends who, worried in the aftermath of her breakup with Gary that she was depressed thanks to her forgetting to eat (!), starting to say “sex” like normal people (normally she’d garble it), drinking her fruit friends (but not Aubrey the Aubergine thank god!) and forgoing making a giant bouncy castle for adults because it was “childish” (!) , had staged an intervention in her apartment with the therapist she’d infamously had a session with in an earlier episode (“Just Act Normal”, S2, E5).
After all, even though she now knew who she was, and had realised she needed to cut herself adrift from her mother, she was still going to do whatever it took to “jolly the world up” including but not limited to “galloping with gay abandon”, “always finding a euphemism in anything”, always singing if someone inadvertently sang a song lyric and loving the word “plunge … PL-UNGE”.
In other words, the kooky, pratfall-prone, awkward Miranda of old would remain but with many of the quirky, slightly odd attributes we have come to love very much intact.
In that regard, “I Do But To Who” and “The Final Curtain” which also saw Tilly find true love, and Stevie find, ahem, a traffic warden, was the perfect way to say goodbye to Miranda, full of grown up moments, classic tropes and quirks, a happy ending and a lovely sense that though we were saying goodbye to Miranda, she was going to be just fine.
We on the other hand without her … well, now that’s another matter entirely isn’t i?