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  • Now this is music 41: The Lighthouse and the Whaler, Banoffee, Vanic X K. Flay, Dream Police, A Rainmaker

    Now this is music 41 MAIN

     

    The year may be screaming to a close – well not so much screaming as lushly and compellingly flowing fast if you take this wonderful collection of five artists and their amazing songs into account – but there is music, so much music to listen to, which truth be told in the frantic month or so leading up to Christmas is needed more than ever.

    What is particularly appealing about these artists is that though they are largely fairly chilled or laid-back, there is a robustness to their music and lyrics that makes it impossible to simply put them on as background music.

    Its music that demands, in reasonably polite, unhurried ways, to be listened to, submerged into, experienced and it will make your life a better life.

    Well for 3-4 minutes at a time and really that might be all that you need …

     

    “Venice” by The Lighthouse and the Whaler

     

    The Lighthouse and the Whaler (image via official The Lighthouse and the Whaler Facebook page)
    The Lighthouse and the Whaler (image via official The Lighthouse and the Whaler Facebook page)

     

    I am firm admirer of any music artist who is happy to experiment, defy expectations, and play around with the genre they naturally call home.

    The Lighthouse and the Whaler, possessed of a name so appealingly evocative and poetic you assume they must lie around in homespun clothes staring at the sea all day – let’s be clear, this would be a very good thing indeed and one of which I heartily approve – began life as a folk trio formed by vocalist and guitarist Michael LoPresti back in the far away days of 2008 before morphing into their present day rock/folk/pop quartet incarnation.

    With the addition of Matthew LoPresti, Mark Poro and Ryan Walker to the group, Lighthouse and the Whaler has settled into a sound that is pleasingly winsome while still possessing musical muscularity, bolstered by heart-on-their-sleeves literarily-inclined lyrics that are happy to be earnestly sincere without feeling the need to throw some unnecessary cynicism into the mix.

    There is something decidedly joyful about their music but not glibly so; “Venice” for instance, lifted off their second album This is an Adventure and this year’s Venice Remix EP, brims with a giddy effervescence that is instantly appealing.

    Kicking off with some playfully stripped back bouncy keyboard chords and Matthew LoPesti’s emotionally-resonant vocals, “Venice” celebrates the urge to fall in love but as is the way of Matthew’s intelligently-penned lyrics, this is not impetuous, ill-thought out fling of the heart; it takes a cold, hard look at life and decides to do it anyway, an affirmation of life and love if ever there was one:

    In your eyes, I have seen
    All the feeling and the rains
    And death is cold, death is sure
    Why don’t we all fall in love?
    Oh, whoa, oh oh
    Why don’t we fall in love?
    Oh, whoa, oh oh
    Why don’t we fall in love?

    It’s upbeat, wonderful, heart-affirming music that feeds the mind every bit as much as the heart, music to smile and think to, the sort of soundtrack to life that recognises it is a complicated beast but carries on with joy anyway.

     

     

    “Let’s Go to the Beach” by Banoffee

     

    Banoffee (image via official Banoffee Facebook page)
    Banoffee (image via official Banoffee Facebook page)

     

    It is summer in Australia – well technically still spring but it feels like summer is here already such are the temperatures and the general end of year Christmas vibe – and so Banoffee’s call to “Let’s Go to the Beach” is a timely one.

    Known as Martha Brown to her parents and close friends, and possibly the man who delivers her pizzas, Melbourne, Australia-based Banoffee has bottled the glorious release of summer into the song which sounds as playfully relaxed as you’d expect the soundtrack to the most relaxed time of the year to be with The Interns noting that it is “instantly playful through buoyant synths and Brown’s uniquely delicate vocals.”

    Mischievously describing her sound on her Facebook page as sitting in the hitherto unknown “R’n’B, pop, wonky synth singy” genre, Banoffee also goes on to say this about the kind of music she makes:

    “Seemingly as minimal and raw as her previous projects, bAnoffe’s recipe of new wave R’n’B, meshed with gliding synths, syncopated beats and textured, effected vocals make for nothing less than a musical staple with newfound attitude.”

    Certainly “Let’s Go to the Beach”, the highlight of debut LP Two Bright Lakes (released August this year) seem redolent with this attitude, her deliriously happy floaty vocals initially belying the fact that she seems to be delivering a firmly-delivered lesson in boundaries to a friend who wants more than the simple platonic bonds of friendship.

    Sweet and charming the music may be but it is wrapped around a no-nonsense sensibility, the kind of light and dark twinning that speaks of an artist able to deliver bitter pills inside a sugary, dreamy sound that will ease the ingestion of the pointed truths.

    If you want music that is pretty and substantial all at once, then Banoffee is the person you should be listening to.

     

     

    “Can’t Sleep” by Vanic X K.Flay

     

    DJ Vanic x K.Flay (image via official Facebook page)
    DJ Vanic x K.Flay (image via official Facebook page)

     

    A successful coming together of two great musical talents is always a pleasure to listen to.

    In this, the two talented musical minds in question are DJ Vanic, a Canadian hailing from the fair city of Vancouver who found recent success with a high-energy remix of machineheart’s “Circles”, and K.Flay (aka Kristine Meredith Flaherty), born in Illinois but now a world-renowned female rapper and producer with a decade of impressive releases to her name.

    DJ Vanic’s remix of K.Flay’s song “Can’t sleep is heart-stoppingly good, bringing out the best in both artists as EARMILK noted:

    “He cranks up the tempo with a echoed snare, immediately setting an alternate pace to the original. Wide subs and synth wobbles build to a killer sample melody and soaring fills at the break, a combo growing more and more a part of  Vanic’s bag of tricks lately. He accents female vocalists extremely well …”

    It’s an addictive mix of talents, buzzing with high energy, K.Flay’s enigmatic voice and a steadily building rhythm that stutters and pounds, refusing to be ignored.

    And it captures that restlessness, that ever growing sense that you can’t stop, that you’re too wound up to sleep even though you know you need to and people are urging you too.

    Don’t ask me questions, ’cause I’m tired of confessing,
    And I know that it’s not much to say, but I swear that I’d like to change. I can’t sleep, I hope I stay awake,
    ‘Cause I be running, running, running, all day.
    I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep.

    K.Flay has crafted a compelling track in “Can’t Sleep”, a wound up paean to a life that won’t slow down but can’t be sustained forever and DJ Vanic has amped up the sense of frenzy with all manner of snares, trippy synths and an accent on K.Flay’s amazingly emotive voice.

    I can only hope they collaborate again and soon.

     

     

    “Run For Cover” by Folly Rae

     

    Folly Rae (image via official Folly Rae Facebook page / Photography: Corrine Noel, Jewelery: Lucky Little Blighters., Dress: Minkpink)
    Folly Rae (image via official Folly Rae Facebook page / Photography: Corrine Noel, Jewelery: Lucky Little Blighters., Dress: Minkpink)

     

    It’s hardly a secret that the current digital age moves at breakneck speed.

    TV programs have to rate immediately or they’re pulled after an episode or two by impatient networks, movies sometimes barely last a week in theatres and songs barely hit a person’s ipod or streaming playlist before a tsunami load of other songs are rushing to take their place.

    It’s not an environment for the creatively faint-hearted and the temptation is to pump lots of music and quickly – witness Rihanna and her yearly releases – never giving music lovers the slightest chance of forgetting about you.

    Folly Rae, a half-English, half-Norwegian music artist seems untroubled by this pressure, happily releasing a song here and there and staying quiet in-between, a strategy that hillydilly notes works when you’re producing song as compellingly beautiful and moving as “Run For Cover”:

    “She has a distinct, authentic croon that definitely doesn’t go over the top, but rather hits a captivating sweet-spot that engenders enjoyability. Fresh percussion, deep piano chords, intense electric guitar plucks, and smooth synths constitute the instrumental, and when Folly’s vocals are thrown in the mix, solidly accented electronic indie-pop results.”

    With songs this emotionally-rich and musically satisfying, you’re happy to wait for the next track to drop.

    It’s like the musical equivalent of the Slow Food Movement – stopping to simply sit back and enjoy music that is un-missably beautiful and into which you can soak even when the world around is urging haste, haste for no other reason than to keep moving.

    Folly Rae makes music to be savoured and you will be able to meditate further on her bounteous talent when her EP, also named “Run For Cover”, drops soon.

     

     

    “Sunbelt” by A Rainmaker

     

    A Rainmaker (image via official A Rainmaker Facebook page)
    A Rainmaker (image via official A Rainmaker Facebook page)

     

    Speaking of music to watch the world go by to, how about an entire EP from French group A Rainmaker who have crafted four songs that happily groove along with no apparent need to get anywhere fast?

    The group’s music is light, bright, skipping in a flowery meadow stuff, the sort of songs you could zip along the street too, blissfully not caring that people around you are staring at your contented gait and the big, goofy smile on your face.

    Their joyfully ethereal sound  is reminiscent of the sheer sense of fun and playfulness that French artists like Pheonix and Télépopmusik seem to channel effortlessly; A Rainmaker have noted the influence of artists like Phoenix on shaping their blissfully relaxed groovy-laden songs, as they noted in an interview on KLAP in 2013:

    “The release of Wolfgang Amadeus by Phoenix blew our faces off. We liked everything about this album and it influenced us at some point in the direction that we were heading at first: getting something more rythmic. We added electronic elements to our live set, and it became a very natural thing.”

    The genius of A Rainmaker is that they have been able to take these influences and craft a sound wholly their own, a sound that makes you want to go and live out in the country somewhere, playing only their music as you waft through the fields with music that IX Daily perfectly describes as “shimmery vocals and delicate keyboard ripples. That sensual electronic beat becomes less a backbone and more a beautiful enhancement.”

    It is dreamy, beautiful stuff and frankly I won’t be surprised if all I do this weekend is immerse myself in their gloriously rich and melodious slice of luxuriant unhurried musical heaven.

     

     

    NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

     

    OK Go is a group known for its brilliantly-conceived, cleverly-executed music videos and the clip for their new song “I Won’t Let You Down” more than maintains their reputation for eye-catching choreography and watchability as EW notes:

    “The men of OK Go dance around on UNI-CUBs, personal mobility devices that act similar to Segways but without the standing, and are later joined by a mass of umbrella-toting women. Shot in Japan’s Chiba Prefecture, the video’s dancers open and close their colorful umbrellas as the custom multi-copter camera spins around them, collecting both aerial and street-level shots. The result is a mesmerizing, uninterrupted shot of umbrella-assisted choreography.”

    It is the most fun anyone’s had with an umbrella since Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain”.

     

     

     

    One of my favourite artists in the world is the wonderful, endlessly-talented Annie Lennox, whose amazing voice seems able to channel every emotion ever felt by everyone ever, is once again in impressive form on her new album Nostalgia, which “sees the singer-songwriter take on the Great American Songbook with impassioned takes on songs made famous by Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Jo Stafford and Louis Armstrong”, according to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

    It is sumptuously-made tribute to the music of the jazz and big band age, and came out of a desire to stretch herself artistically:

    “’I was just curious’, says Lennox singer, ‘I thought, ‘I wonder what my voice would be like. Would these songs suit my voice?’ It was like a little challenge. I just sort of got to know them, became friends with them really and had a great deal of joy in the process.”

    It is one of the most sublime albums you will listen to this year, trust me on this.

     

     

    Another musical legend still in devastatingly good form is Bette Midler, who recently released her tribute to the harmonies of girl groups, her 25th album It’s the Girls, which features covers of songs by The Chiffons, TLC, The Supremes, The Chordettes, The Shangri-Las and many other talented women.

    According to a quote from Midler on Mashable, it’s a natural outgrowth of a lifelong love of this kind of music:

    “‘I’m cuckoo for the chords,’ Midler said in a statement. ‘I have been a rabid fan of these groups since I was a mere sprout … and although I have jumped feet first into this kind of music many times, I decided to devote an entire record to some of the girl group music that I have loved since I was a kid.'”

    The album beautifully reflects her great enduring of this music, exemplified by this touching cover of TLC’s 1995 song “Waterfalls” …

     

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  • Movie review: God Help the Girl

    (image via IMP Awards)
    (image via IMP Awards)

     

    It was Maria von Trapp herself, the woman whose life story inspired the musical The Sound of Music and who is featured in passing as a sweet visual joke in God Help the Girl, who remarked that “Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”

    Its pertinence to God Help the Girl, the first feature film both written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of whimsically indie pop group Belle and Sebastian, lies in the fact that music, also penned by Murdoch, is key to everything that happens in this coming of age, of ambition and of flowering self-awareness film.

    Wafer-thin though it might be plot-wise – though to be fair which musicals aren’t, a great many of them possessing a transformative ability to move our souls nonetheless – its real power lies in its celebration of music’s power to alter the otherwise desperate direction of people’s lives, opening hearts to greater or lesser degrees along the way.

    In this case, it is that of Eve (Australian Emily Browning in charming form) who, escaping repeatedly from a psychiatric facility where she is being treated for anorexia nervosa, finds herself on the romantically-presented streets of Glasgow  – cinematographer Giles Nuttgens winningly bathes the city in the sort of delicately light-washed hues normally reserved for Paris – alone and with little to her name saving a burning desire to make some music that will mean something.

    In her mind this kind of meaning comes most strongly from the public popularity contest that are the music charts whose traditional gatekeepers, though increasingly not to the degree they were a couple of decades back, the radio, holds the key to achieving her dream.

     

     

    But apart from the idea of dropping of a cassette, yes a cassette, of her songs to some radio DJs she listens to whose banter fill many of the hours she spends lying on her bed lost in her own darkly pensive thoughts, she is unsure of where to channel all her musical ambition, her indecision bringing her to a concert of up-and-coming Glaswegian bands where she meets the introverted, kindhearted but opinionated James (Olly Alexander) who offers her a place to sleep, friendship and ultimately a concrete sense of where to head next.

    Before Eve disappears into the sunset, there are further friendships to be forged, most notably with the winsome Cass (Hannah Murray), who appears to exist in an altogether alternate universe where daydreaming and an appealing disconnection from the pressing concerns of life fill her days, and a pop group to be formed since as James, never short of an opinion makes clear, “If you want to hear your voice floating in the middle of a beautiful tapestry of frequencies… you’re gonna need a pop group.”

    While Eve and James, who pretty much from the moment he spies a despondent Eve sitting on the backstairs of the concert hall, is not-so-secretly in love with her, don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything – he the musical purist who sees it as art, a divine calling of sorts primarily while she regards it as a vocation, a concrete thing to be cajoled into being – they do share a deep and abiding love of music, with its expression filling much of their time.

    This is fortunate of course since it gives Murdoch the excuse to fill God Help the Girl, with songs and parts of songs aplenty, handy in a movie which is both a musical and a melancholic rumination on the confronting of  your demons in the hope that angels, preferably ones with successful music careers, are hovering just behind.

     

     

    Countering head-on the musical conceit which sees people breaking into perfectly-choreographed routines and songs that minutes before were unknown to them, Murdoch has Eve and James remark, in one scene in particular, on the innate silliness of singing to someone like you’re in a staged production number when all you’re really doing is lying around in a small-ish bedsit musing on life and the dreams which underpin them.

    Full to the brim of scenes both Dickensian-lite and musically fey, God Help the Girl largely does a fine job of balancing the grimness of Eve’s often-hidden torment – she is spry and girlishly playful in company; morosely thoughtful in the safety of her own room – and the almost surreal, fairytale-fun of the songs which are presented with all the delightful camp we have come to expect from musicals.

    It’s a risky gambit since either sensibility could have muddied or obscured the other, or worse still created a schizophrenically-split beast that was both giddily charming and intensely bleak and a mess to behold, but it works thanks to the gorgeously-wrought pop songs, the fine performances throughout – Alexander particularly charmingly delivers opinionated lines which otherwise could have cast him as a full-of-himself prat – and a sensibility that suggests being suspended between the harshness of life, and the dreams or aspirations that will soften its spiky, disconcerting edges.

    God Help the Girl, though twee in parts and artfully self-aware in others, is a refreshingly original take – this applies to the ending too which does not play out as you expect it to but rather as it needs to – on the business of figuring out where you want to be in life and what matters to you when you’re there, a meditation on the basic need that everyone has to find meaning somewhere, no matter how varied its expression might be.

     

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  • Do you want to build a meth lab?” Frozen meets Breaking Bad

    (image via YouTube (c) animeme)
    (image via YouTube (c) animeme)

     

    * IF YOU HAVEN’T BINGE-WATCHED BREAKING BAD YET THEN … SPOILERS! *

    Awww Breaking Bad finally has a theme song people and it’s wonderful!

    It’s all thanks to Frozen, which truth be told, is not the first thing you would associate with Walter White and his ultimately corrupting plan to get rich from cooking meth, and the the very animated people at animeme, who simply describe themselves as “The internet, animated.”

    And as Popwatch at EW observes, it encompasses everything you could possibly want in a Breaking Bad theme song:

    “The Disney-esque mash-up serves as a quick recap of the series, from the RV days to Gus’ demise and every fly in between. Sure, there are minor details (and Nazis) missing, but can you really fault a video that works in Jane’s overdose?”

    Granted building a snowman is probably far less illegal; OK it’s not illegal at all, and notably far less corrosive to the soul but it ain’t gonna more than comfortably set your wife and kids up for life after you’ve gone now is it?

    Parody though it may be, and littered with hilarious visual bon mots such as Walter’s pants falling to the ground in public, it actually takes a fairly serious emotional look at the highs and many lows of Walter and Jesse’s descent into the dark side, including its gripping series finale.

    I dare you not to sing along.

     

     

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  • Good grief Charlie Brown you have new movie images! AND a full-length trailer!

    (image via USA Today (c) 20th Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide)
    Franklin, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, and Sally hold “good ol’ Charlie Brown’ and Snoopy aloft (image via USA Today (c) 20th Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide)

     

    My affection for Peanuts runs long and deep.

    I can’t, in all honesty, think of a time in my life when Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the whole Peanuts gang weren’t an integral part of my life.

    The comic strip, which next year turns 65 – I will let you sit a moment with that news – has gone far beyond just being a succession of sweet, charming and funny ink-filled panels for me, becoming also a source of amusement, comfort, wisdom, whimsy and joy, a reminder that though life can get complicated and difficult that there’s nothing a good friend, or if you’re Snoopy, an energetically-realised fantasy can’t get you through.

    And now, as I first noted in this post back in March this year, every one of our favourite Peanuts friends is coming back to the big screen in the first movie to feature Charles M. Schulz’s beloved creations since 1980 (Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!!), Peanuts the Movie.

    The aim of the new movie, which releases 6 November 2015, is to preserve the look and feel of the old comic strips with the only new addition the latest in 3D cartoon technology used to render the film, as one of the producers Paul Feig – the other is Schulz’s son Craig – made clear in this excerpt from USA Today which published the new images:

    “When The Peanuts Movie arrives in theaters next year, producer Paul Feig promises that Charlie Brown won’t twerk, wear a baseball cap backwards or try to “break the Internet” a la Kim Kardashian.

    “I don’t think his butt’s big enough,” Feig says with a laugh.

    In fact, there won’t be a focus on the old-fashioned or the modern when the late Charles M. Schulz’s characters including Snoopy, Woodstock, Linus and Peppermint Patty come to life in the 3-D computer-animated film (out Nov. 6, 2015). Instead, director Steve Martino (Ice Age: Continental Drift) and the filmmakers focus on the timeless quality of 50-plus years of beloved comic strips and TV specials.”

     

    Part of The Peanuts Movie will focus on Snoppy's daring quest to once again take on his arch-nemesis The Red Baron (image via USA Today
    Part of The Peanuts Movie will focus on Snoppy’s daring quest to once again take on his arch-nemesis The Red Baron (image via (image via USA Today (c) 20th Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide)

     

    The Peanuts Movie will, of course, focus on Charlie Brown, everyone’s favourite everyman (or boy) who, according to USA Today, marshals his seemingly unassailable optimism to go “on a quest to get something he’s sure he needs, even though he discovers he’s pretty OK just as he is.”

    Which suits me just fine since what I most connected with growing up, bullied as I was from dawn to dusk, was Charlie Brown’s ability to get right back up and keep trying even when the entire world seemed to be against him, when Lucy had once again pulled the football away when Charlie Brown was about to kick it, when the Little Red-Haired Girl proved elusive once again and when Snoopy, off in his own delightful, imaginative world had once again fail to realise he was actually a dog and should be comforting his life-worn master.

    The thing that was most spoke to me was that Charles M. Schulz didn’t sugarcoat how bad things got for Charlie Brown, but chose to focus on the fact that there was always a way to get back on the horse, that trying again, keeping on, was inherently worth it.

    It’s something that the movie’s director Steve Martino admits he identifies with too:

    “I wake up every day and it’s like, ‘Today’s the day we’re going to win that game! I’m going to kick that football!’ As you have more life experience, those things have more meaning.”

    The deep sense of identification and sentiment that everyone involved brings to the movie promises that it will be a more than worthy addition to the Peanuts canon and a real highlight of next year’s movie releases.

    And yes Snoopy will be performing his iconic happy dance, which may make me do one of my own right here and now.

    Yup it’s happening …

    The Peanuts Movie opens in USA on 6 November 2015 and in Australia on 26 December 2015.

     

    Looks like everyone from Schroeder to Marcie, Woodstock to Sally are as overjoyed as I am to have more big screen Peanuts whimsy coming our way (image via (image via USA Today (c) 20th Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide)
    Looks like everyone from Schroeder to Marcie, Woodstock to Sally are as overjoyed as I am to have more big screen Peanuts whimsy coming our way (image via (image via USA Today (c) 20th Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide)

     

    We also, most joyously, have a full-length trailer for Peanuts the Movie which not only celebrates Snoopy expansive imagination – specifically his never ending battle from atop his kennel to best The Red Baron; now with trailing Christmas lights! – but also comes complete with some adorable festive decorating by Woodstock and friends, and use of two immortal Charlie Brown-associated phrases “You blockhead!” and Good grief!”

    It’s good to have you back Charlie Brown …

     

     

    And in case you missed it earlier in the year, here’s the teaser trailer for The Peanuts Movie

     

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  • The Walking Dead: “Consumed” (S5, E6 review)

    Carol is looking more a little worse for wear in "Consumed" but if she has proven anything of late it's that it takes a lot more than a banged up face to stop this lady in her tracks (image via Spoiler TV (c) AMC)
    Carol is looking more a little worse for wear in “Consumed” but if she has proven anything of late it’s that it takes a lot more than a banged up face to stop this lady in her tracks (image via Spoiler TV (c) AMC)

     

    * BEWARE OF SPOILERS … AND ZOMBIES … AND THINGS FALLING (EVEN IF YOU MAKE GOOD TIME) *

     

    The Walking Dead has remarked more than once on the transformative effects of the zombie apocalypse, siding usually with the fact that it is NOT a Good Thing.

    This stands to reason since killing your fellow man, even if it’s in the interests of your own survival, and fending off the, well, walking dead, does tend to have a corrosive effect on your soul (not to mention what the lack of social niceties, rule of law and tickets to the opera will do to a person).

    If the apocalypse inspired a book, and its author – who frankly should be collecting food and knifing zombies through the head rather than writing; or should they? After all, Beth still songs so why shouldn’t someone still write? – taking its inspiration from the classics, it would likely title its tome It Was the Worst of Times, and the Even More Worse of Times, and everyone living through what feels like the end of days would nod in solemn agreement … and go back to shredding what little was left of their humanity.

    One person might disagree with this bleak assessment though, and that person would be Daryl (Norman Reedus), a man who has more reason than most to side with the Glass is Half Empty school of apocalyptic assessment given the number of people he has lost to walkers and his fellow human beings.

    Somehow, despite a pre-apocalyose history of being at the brutalised receiving hand of domestic abuse, losing countless friends, and his brother Merle (Michael Rooker) during the apocalypse, and in “Consumed”, finding himself without weapons with which to defend himself in the eerie rubbish-strewn confines of a wrecked downtown Atlanta, he believes that it is still worth “trying” to hang in there.

    After all, as he reminds Carol (Melissa McBride) after a passionate speech by her on the overwhelmingly consuming effects of the dark and soulless times in which they live, they ain’t dead yet and hence are therefore still ahead on points:

    Carol: “Me and Sofia stayed in that room [at the women’s refuge they shelter in at one point] for a day and a half before I went running back to Ed. I went home, I got beat up. Life went on and I keep praying for something to happen. But I didn’t do anything. Not a damn thing. Who I was with him got burned away and I was happy about that … Well, not happy … And at the prison, I got to be who I always though I should be. What I shoulda been … and then she got burned away. Everything now consumes you.”
    Daryl [pauses and then says]:  “We ain’t ashes.”

     

    Fresh out of crossbows, Daryl resorts to kicking, pushing and employing the mother of all escape routes, tips ambulance off a bridge with he and Carol, all on the premise that while they live and breathe, there is hope (Photo by Gene Page/AMC)
    Fresh out of crossbows, Daryl resorts to kicking, pushing and employing the mother of all escape routes, tips ambulance off a bridge with he and Carol, all on the premise that while they live and breathe, there is hope (Photo by Gene Page/AMC)

     

    It’s not that Daryl has suddenly become the Blue Bird of Happiness of upbeat zombie apocalypse survivors; simply that in his own homespun, matter-of-fact way, an outlook which has grown as he has matured over the last five years – Carol remarks at one point that “You were a kid. Now you’re a man” – he has come to realise that the simple act of being alive means you get to choose to survive, to save others, to find missing friends (such as Beth) and even rescue complete strangers.

    Carol, a character who has likely grown the most out of anyone in their group during the five seasons of The Walking Dead, knows this all, of course (lone Terminus-busting messiah anyone?); but worn down by setback after setback – her speech comes after Beth’s escaped friend from the hospital Noah (Tyler James Williams) has relieved them of their weapons, leaving more than a little vulnerable and in Carol’s case, temporarily pessimistic – she’s prone to forget the enormity of the lessons learnt.

    Which is why Daryl, which whom she has formed a bond akin to that of siblings who have lived through the most harrowing of abuse and survived; theirs is the bond of shared experience of the worst kind (the ties which bind them are more familial than romantic; sorry “Caryl” devotees) has to step in to remind her from time to time.

    Carol: “Without weapons we could die. Beth could die.”
    Daryl: “We’ll find more weapons.”
    Carol: “I don’t want you to die. I don’t want Beth to die. I don’t want anyone at the church to die. But I can’t stand around and watch it happen either. I can’t. That’s why I left. I just had to be somewhere else.”
    Carol: Well, you ain’t somewhere else, you’re right here … TRYING.”
    Daryl: ” You’re not who you were and neither am I.”

    “Consumed” goes to great lengths to remind us of just how much Carol has been through though via judiciously-placed flashbacks which take us back to her exile by Rick (Andrew Lincoln), where she puts on a brave front but breaks down in grief a little while down the road, her witnessing of the fires from the prison battle (she arrives too late to help), the burying of sisters Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) and Myka (Kyla Kennedy), and the aftermath of the storming of Terminus where she is shown, utterly spent, wiping the blood of her zombie camouflage off her person.

    Most tellingly though, by virtue of the fact that she and Daryl have to shelter overnight in the women’s refuge she very briefly called home, we come to understand all the more how deeply years of abuse and neglect by Ed impacted her psyche in the most deleterious and corrosive of ways.

    Yes, she has risen well above all this and yes it has all been burned away as she observed, but it is hard to completely erase the scars, to keep coming back time and again in a world which knows nothing of happily ever afters and new starts, and plenty about the ending of all good things.

     

    Daryl and Carol are simply bonded by [resent circumstance; they are bonded by shared life experience and an understanding that of how bad life can be and hence how good it is to still be alive to change things, both for themselves and others (Photo by Gene Page/AMC)
    Daryl and Carol are simply bonded by [resent circumstance; they are bonded by shared life experience and an understanding that of how bad life can be and hence how good it is to still be alive to change things, both for themselves and others (Photo by Gene Page/AMC)

    Visually “Consumed, which sees Daryl and Carol doggedly tracking the car bearing the white crosses through the Georgian countryside into the broken-down overgrown mess that is what’s left of downtown Atlanta and the hospital where Beth is imprisoned by what is best described as a misguided mercy cult of sorts, repeats with great effectiveness the motif of fire.

    You see it in Carol’s various flashbacks, and in the flaming writing pad that Daryl uses to distract a herd of zombies so they could reach a building they need to get into to spy on the hospital; over and over again in the most poetic and emphatic ways you are reminded of the burning away that Carol refers to, of the consuming of old things and the phoenix-like rebirth of the new.

    You are also painfully reminded that it’s a process that goes on and on and on, a continuous process of renewal in the midst of more death and destruction than anyone has ever seen, and it’s unceasing nature, as Carol rightly observes, can be a lot to bear, almost too much at times.

    Carol: “[You] said we get to start over.”
    Daryl: “Yeah …”
    Carol: “Did you?”
    Daryl: “I’m trying [Carol contemplatively stares out the window into the night] … why don’t you say what’s really on your mind?”
    Carol: “I don’t think we get to save people anymore.”
    Daryl: “Why you here?”
    Carol: “I’m trying.”

    But as Daryl reminds her, all they can do is hang on and try.

    It’s a rare message of hope where there should be none, a reaffirmation that the reason that everyone in Rick’s group is still “trying” is because against all the odds, they still have that rarest and most precious of commodities – HOPE.

    (And a sense of humour it seems as some of the wryly, witty lines in “Consumed” made clear – after she and Daryl were forced to flee a herd of zombies on a bridge by tipping an ambulance onto the ground below, Carol quips “We made good time down”; earlier when they are forced to squeeze through the narrowest of spaces to get where they need to go, Daryl jokes “Good thing we skipped breakfast this morning.”)

    And their hope is often justified.

    While Noah does steal their weapons at first, they are able to steal them back, show him some mercy – there is also another touching scene where Daryl kills and respectfully burns the sheet-shrouded bodies of a zombiefied mother and child trapped in one of the refuge’s rooms, all while Carol, who wanted to show them mercy earlier, sleeps – and gain what they most needed – information on where Beth is and how to get to her.

    Granted “Consumed”, one of the strongest, most poignant and emotionally-resonant of The Walking Dead‘s episodes to date, doesn’t end on the most hopeful of notes with Carol badly injured and in the hands of the hospital psychos – the look on Daryl’s face as he and Noah are forced flee the city to get help is heartbreaking – but it establishes again and again through masterfully-executed visual cues, and some astonishingly open and soul-laid-bare dialogue, that while they are alive, hope indeed remains.

    Even in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

    * Hope feeling a little dented by the ending of “Consumed”? Fear not! As the promo trailer (+ some sneak peeks) for next week’s episode “Crossed” makes clear, Rick and the tribe are on the case, ready to rescue Carol and Beth, regardless of the odds …

     

     

     

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  • Movie review: Living is Easy With Eyes Closed (Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados)

    (Image via Flicks NZ)
    (Image via Flicks NZ)

     

    In this age of blockbusters, television events, and reality TV, it is to forget that not all the transformative events in life are writ large for all the world to see.

    Many things, even the really important things, simply just happen, quietly and out of sight, and no one, besides the people directly involved, are ever any the wiser.

    It is clearly something that Spanish director David Trueba understands all too well, infusing his comedy-drama Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados) with an understated charm and grace that belies the great changes wrought in its characters’ lives.

    A road trip movie of sorts set in 1966, it is essentially about one man’s quest – lonely English-Latin teacher and diehard Beatles fan Antonio (Javier Cámara in brilliantly nuanced form), based on a real man Juan Carrón Gañàn, who uses the songs of the band he loves, particularly those penned by his hero John Lennon such as “Help!”, to guide his lessons – to meet his musical hero who is filming How I Won the War in the seaside town of Almería in Spain.

    A man who clearly longs for more in life but is a little afraid to pursue it, he decides in an uncharacteristically impromptu move to drive to the town one weekend, an act which though accompanied by a fear that if he is late returning he will be censured by his easily-angered boss, must be undertaken since he fears not meeting John Lennon even more.

    On his way to the most important meeting of his life, one for which he has a prepared a speech which he is constantly and earnestly rehearsing, he picks up teenage mother Belén (Natalia de Molina), escaping from the cruelly over-protective clutches of Doña Mercedes (Celia Bermejo) and her prison-like home for unwed mothers, and Juanjo (Francesc Colomer), a teenage boy running away from home, largely, and impetuously, in protest at his domineering father’s (Jorge Sanz) attempts to cut his Beatles-esque hairdo.

    All three come together in an unexpected temporary family of sorts, their arrival in Almería not so much the end of things – the original plan involved each person going their separate ways once there though neither Belén nor Juanjo knows what that is exactly – as the beginning of a journey within themselves which alters the trajectory of their lives, ostensibly for the better.

     

    Antonio befriends the local bar owner Ramón who becomes an integral part of the story of all three individuals (image via Film Izle)
    Antonio befriends the local bar owner Ramón who becomes an integral part of the story of all three individuals (image via Film Izle)

     

    What is most appealing about Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados), which draws its title from the first line of the John Lennon-penned Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever” which the singer-songwriter wrote while in Spain in tribute to a country he came to love, is that it never overplays its dramatic hand, embedding the clearly life-changing events within the slowly-unfurling, almost-Quixotic context of Antonio’s unwavering mission.

    There is no blatant emotional telegraphing of emotional angst, though it is there in quietly expressed moments such as when Belén is told by a drunk Antonio that he could marry her if she would marry him, his reaching out from his loneliness greeted with an appreciative smile  from a vulnerable woman with few options who seems to momentarily consider the proposal, nor overselling of each of the characters’ somewhat fraught personal positions.

    Difficult, challenging and fearful though their places in the world might be at present, they are simply presented as part and parcel of the business of living, of coming to grips, for Belén and Juanjo particularly who are still figuring what life might look like and how to navigate it, with its unpredictability and frequent lack of firm answers to tough questions or clearly-marked signposts.

    The larger context to the entire movie, though again this point is never belaboured, is that it all takes places in Franco’s Spain, a country where fear is a common currency, mostly for the young, and it is this fear that Antonio, a teacher to the last, does his best to remedy in the lives of his two young charges, stressing to them the need to fight your fears and go on in life anyway.

    It is a lesson he heeds too at the end of the film when he finally, and it must be said, gleefully, confronts a man who has been bullying the local bar owner he has befriended Ramón (Ramon Fontserè) whose disabled son is treated as a surrogate younger brother by Juanjo who, like most teenagers finds himself at a loss once the initial source of his rebellion is exhausted.

    Charming, understated and charged with quiet meaning, and life lessons that are naturally learnt in the course of one extraordinary week rather than artificially grafted onto the narrative in a clumsy attempt to emotionally manipulate an outcome, Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados) is that rare cinematic beast – a heartfelt, moving film that, deftly directed by Trueba, is content to simply let events unfold with no guarantees of where they will ultimately lead, much like real life itself..

     

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  • Movies starring movies: They’re not just DVD cases anymore (short films)

    Be afraid very afraid in Portal Party's fantastically imaginative short films starring DVD cases of actual movies (image via YouTube (c) Portal Party)
    Be afraid very afraid in Portal Party’s fantastically imaginative short films starring DVD cases of actual movies (image via YouTube (c) Portal Party)

     

    Do you ever look at your shelves of DVD movies – at this point I am clearly talking to only people over 25 since I am guessing Millenials would view DVD ownership as somewhat akin to inviting a caveman to draw ochre paintings on a living room wall – and wonder what else could you do with them besides watching the movies they contain?

    No? Pity, because Portal Party, who are behind a brilliantly imaginative series of short films called Movies Starring Movies that star DVD cases of actual movies in lieu of actors, have mostly done just that and decided that life is too short to have those cases simply sitting around doing not much of anything most of the time.

    The films are very cleverly plotted, make judicious uses of the titles selected – brainstorming for the films must be an absolute hoot I imagine with everyone shouting titles out like their lives depend on it – and are beautifully produced, and dare we say more than a little bit amusing.

    It’s an ingenious way to bring short films to life and I can’t wait to see where they go next.

    I am hoping for either Alien Invasion or Romantic Comedy, both of which could be fully staffed from my DVD shelves alone.

    Call me Portal Party! My DVD cases are ready, willing and, ahem, somewhat dusty.

    Let me just go clean them …

    (source: Laughing Squid)

     

     

     

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  • Bee and PuppyCat: The quirky animated adventures of a girl and her unusual new friend

    (image via YouTube (c) Natasha Allegri)
    (image via YouTube (c) Natasha Allegri/Frederator Networks)

     

    SNAPSHOT
    Bee and Puppycat follows Bee, ever the reluctant hero, who becomes entangled in the adventures of a puppy (…or is he a cat?) as they travel between reality and the void of Fishbowl Space. (synopsis via Laughing Squid)

    Remember the old Superman series lead in where people would gasp and say “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Superman?”

    Good, well that’s so 1950s people.

    What you should be saying now, or will be saying soon anyway, is “Is it a cat? Is it a puppy? No, its Puppycat!”

    There, much better!

    The reason you will be driven to use this phrase will likely have everything to do with the surging popularity of Bee and PuppyCat, a web-based series that manages to be adorably anime-cute while harnessing a fair degree of Daria-esque humourous snark.

    Conceived by Natasha Allegri, an artist who gave up college study to forge a career in the animation industry, eventually ending up writing for Cartoon Network’s gloriously loopy Adventure Time, and brought to the web thanks to the founder the YouTube-based studio Frederator Networks, Fred Seibert, it is, as The Wall Street Journal‘s Mike Shields, “a little bit out there”:

    “For one, the main character, a single 20-something girl named Bee, takes in a pet that she’s not sure is a cat or a dog. At one point Bee falls asleep eating a pan of lasagna and has a feverish, anime-style dream. Bee also eats all the candy off a temp agency worker’s desk during a job interview and accidentally opens an umbrella on a potential date’s crotch.”

    What is most astonishing about Bee and Puppycat is that it has created, on the basis on just one 10 minute episode – it raised an impressive $872, 133 to create further episodes which have just launched – a fervently-devoted fanbase who have embraced this unusual tale of a girl and her indeterminate species friend with remarkable enthusiasm as Shields observed:

    “To date, the initial Bee and PuppyCat short has garnered 10 million YouTube views. That only tells part of the story. For example, fans flocked to the show’s Comic-Con panel last month dressed like show’s the characters. The online retailer We Love Fine sells dozens of Bee and PuppyCat-branded items, ranging from handbags to t-shirts. There are Bee and PuppyCat Squishable stuffed animal toys. The show has sparked a robust Tumblr fan art community. Keep in mind there has only been one episode.”

    With that kind of groundswell of support behind it, and a delightfully idiosyncratic storytelling sensibility that helps it stand out from the animation pack, the arrival of the new episodes, initially hosted on YouTube channel Cartoon Hangover for one day (November 6, 2014), Bee and Puppycat is shaping up to be one of the biggest success stories of the brave new digital media world.

    And who knows? You may just hear somewhere yell out “Is it a cat? Is it a puppy? No, its Puppycat!” too if you’re really lucky.

    * You can sign up for news about Bee and Puppycat at Frederator.com

     

     

     

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  • Deck the halls with rabid monsters: Doctor Who Christmas special teaser trailer

    Be careful Doctor! Argue too much with Santa Claus (Nick Frost) and you might just find yourself on the naughty list for eons (Image via Screenrant (c) BBC)
    Be careful Doctor! Argue too much with Santa Claus (Nick Frost) and you might just find yourself on the naughty list for eons (Image via Screenrant (c) BBC)

     

    Ah Christmas.

    Chestnuts roasting by an open fire … Jack Frost nipping at your toes … Yuletide carols being sung by a choir … and Alien-esque monsters chasing you around the North Pole … wait, WHAT THE WHAT THE?!

    Well it is a Doctor Who Christmas special after all and you really can’t expect things to quite go the cosy, traditionally-festive route now can you?

    Of course you couldn’t, especially not when Santa Claus (Hot Fuzz‘s Nick Frost) has appeared at the door to the TARDIS while you’re in transit to announce that The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) have some unfinished business to attend to.

    (If you recall, they parted under less than ideal circumstances at the end of the season finale “Dark Water”/”Death in Heaven” when – SPOILERS! – Clara lied to the Doctor about her Cybermen-ised boyfriend Danny (Samuel Anderson) being alive and the Doctor lied going home to Gallifrey which he said was exactly where it should be, with each thinking the other was better without them … not really warm and fuzzy and well Christmassy is it really?)

     

    (image via Screenrant (c) BBC)
    (image via Screenrant (c) BBC)

     

    And not when, like countless other heroes/anti-heroes/idiot in a box with a screwdriver, trouble seems to follow you around like your long dead/not so dead childhood friend who’s prepared – SPOILERS! – to stage an undead-as-Cybermen invasion of Earth just to be pals again.

    Christmas then isn’t so much about decking the halls or waiting to see if reindeers really know how to fly (let’s hope so given what’s after you!); it’s more like running from your life in the frigid snowy landscape of the North Pole from what EW rightly called “terrifying, slavering beasties” and hoping against hope that Santa Claus is capable of more than just making wooden toys and X-Box consoles.

    Starring the usual suspects Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara – for what is rumoured to be her final story as a companion – as well as guest stars Nick Frost as old St Nick and Michael Troughton (son of Second Doctor Patrick Troughton), among others, it’s looks like anything but business as festive usual for the Doctor.

    Doctor Who Christmas special will air in UK on Christmas Day and in Australia on Boxing Day.

     

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  • Weekend pop art: Pixar is wonderful … and you can quote me, or rather Risa Rodil, on that!

    UP! (image (c) Risa Rodil via Behance via Paste)
    UP! (image (c) Risa Rodil via Behance via Paste)

     

    The films of Pixar, from their debut feature film Toy Story (1995) through to their latest release Monsters University (2013), have always inspired a tremendous amount of devotion from their legion of fans (and anticipation with the excitement about next year’s releases Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur reaching fever pitch already).

    And with very good reason too.

    The films are, almost without exception – I am not a huge fan of Cars although even a less than superlative Pixar film often stand heads and shoulders above lesser animation mortals – gorgeously drawn, richly characterised, intricately plotted and packed to “infinity and beyond” with all the humanity and warmth you could ask for.

    Even their shorts, which accompany each feature film and are brilliant works of arts in and of themselves, are a joy to behold.

    So it makes sense that Pixar also inspires a lot of artistic homages from talented fans, among them Risa Rodil from the Philippines who has a real gift of taking some of Pixar’s most iconic quotes and rendering them in visual form with drawings as infectiously wonderful as the films themselves, which naturally enough she adores:

    “This is a personal project I started over a month ago. I am a huge Pixar fan and this is my own tribute to show how much I love these films.”

    Her posters are as joyfully rich, delightfully detailed and pleasing as the films they are drawn from and you should definitely check them all out at her site on Behance and then buy some of her T-shirts or mugs or posters at either Society6 or Redbubble.

    (source: Paste magazine

     

    The Incredibles (image (c) Risa Rodil via Behance via Paste)
    The Incredibles (image (c) Risa Rodil via Behance via Paste)

     

    Monsters Inc. (image (c) Risa Rodil via Behance via Paste)
    Monsters Inc. (image (c) Risa Rodil via Behance via Paste)

     

    Finding Nemo (image (c) Risa Rodil via Behance via Paste)
    Finding Nemo (image (c) Risa Rodil via Behance via Paste)

     

    Toy Story (image (c) Risa Rodil via Behance via Paste)
    Toy Story (image (c) Risa Rodil via Behance via Paste)
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