BOOK REVIEW CORNER SPECIAL: The Handmaid’s Tale

Hey hey party people.  With the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale showing tonight courtesy of the wonderful Channel 4, we’ve been raiding our archives again to find our original review of the book back when we first read it.

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This one comes to you direct from the summer of 2001, a simpler world, when we studied the books as part of Twentieth Century Feminist Literature at good old Uni, so we should start by giving props to our course co-ordinator for being ahead of her time with this Canadian literary choice.   As a fan of the novel, we’ve got high hopes for the series, not just for its overwhelmingly positive critical reception but also for its casting nouse and incredible looking production values.  But only time will tell on these things.

 

Anyway here’s what we thought when we first stumbled across The Handmaid’s Tale.

Let us know if you felt the same….

 

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JUNE 2001:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood

This was a tough sell at first glance.  Not for its concept (which is equal parts horrifying and mesmerising) or for its author (Marg is a living legend y’all.)  But because it contains two stylistic traits that I have always disliked- a first person narrative and an overwhelmingly passive female narrator.  Having always found first person points of view either self-centred and/or irritating, that did make me hesitate in reading this, I’m not going to lie.  And the addition of such a benign protagonist just intensified that sense of reluctance.

We were always taught that a narrator who speaks directly to you, has to be one of two things- relatable or likeable.  If they aren’t we were told, then the reader won’t connect with them, will feel for the most part like they are being lectured.  Like they are being talked at, not to.  In regards to that idea, I’m not entirely sure which camp Offred belongs to actually.  She has a dash of likeability underneath her inaction but it’s certainly not enough to be truly amiable or admirable.  And her relatability, microscopic rebellions aside, is tenuous at best.  She’s an oddity really, which I suppose is exactly what made her perfect fodder for our syllabus.

Leaving characters flaws alone for a moment, this is a powerhouse of a novel no question though. 

It’s brutal.  Prescient.

And its oppressive, stultifying atmosphere is crafted with absolute and horrifying precision.

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As a fan of etymology, Attwood’s digressions and Offred’s fascinations with wordplay are also an absolute intellectual treat although I’m sure some will find them distracting; or worse, elitist.

You have to give the author kudos too for employing an impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness style in this novel.  Are the incomplete recollections and vague intuitions of the main character maddening?  You bet your ass they are.  They are in fact, not just frustrating, they are actively discouraging and they prick at your skin every time your brain screams for more- more solid information, more reveals.  But therein lies their power boys and girls- they put us, the reader unapologetically in the main character’s (Hell, any character’s) place, offering tantalising glimpses of a bigger picture without ever fully relieving their/our curiosity.  That narrative technique piecemeal as it is, mirrors the fragmented nature of human memory, mirrors its cast’s sense of incompleteness.  And while that may be frustrating on a cellular level, it is also a master stroke of literary style.  Because just like Offred we find ourselves waiting eagerly for tales of Moira, of Offred’s mother, of Luke even- for tales of daring in amongst a sea of routine and tiny micro-aggressions.  We want riots, we want danger just like Offred but all we get are moments.  Brief sensations.  And most of those have in-built reliability issues- are questionably true at best.  We wade through the pages, as our Handmaid wades through the hours on the clock.

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To be fair, a consequence of this narrative decision is undoubtedly that The Handmaid’s Tale is not an easy read.  Or even an enjoyable one in the usual sense of the world.  I’m sure many will struggle with it or even give up on the book before the end.  I can understand why.

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However, while it’s not an easy read it is an IMPORTANT one guys, not just for the fact that every stylistic and authorial decision is so self-assured, so carefully thought out.  It is important for its warnings about theocratic thinking.  Its warnings on patriarchal rule and the natural slide between democracy and dictatorship.  This may be classified as Dystopian Fiction but there’s a sense underneath everything here, that this awful scenario could all too easily happen given political trends recently.  This novel then, is a silent alarm.  A cautionary account, like all good fairy tales.  And if a world made entirely of emptiness and disillusionment like the one Attwood conveys so perfectly is a possible future for us then we need to do something about that.  Now.

I’m not talking marches and lawsuits.  I’m talking platforms and social change.  We need to make ourselves heard more than ever.  That’s the duty Margaret Attwood places on us as readers of this book.  And I for one am willing to heed the call.

I think.

 

CONCLUSION:  Visionary, verbose and very very frightening

MARKS: 8.5 out of 10.

N.B. Oh and if anyone can get through the scene where Offred has to lie on The Commander’s Wife in order to be impregnated (The Ceremony as it’s disaffectionately known) without cringing or closing the book for a second then you have problems, friend.  Goddamn you have problems.

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So, there it is, our thoughts as a somewhat precocious Lit student (sorry about that 😊.)

As we said previously, we’ll all have to wait for tonight to see if the show does the book justice but anyone who wants to get in touch with us with what they thought of the novel or the show once its aired, please do.

We’d love to get your take on this…

 

Blessed be the fruit…

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BOOK REVIEW CORNER SPECIAL:

Given the recent explosion of new TV series based on classic books we in our infinite wisdom decided to raid our archives for some of the original book reviews we wrote way back in the mists of time when we first came across some of these literary offerings.  And guess what we dug up from February 2012?

American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

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 How apt, right?!  Especially with the series premiering on Amazon Prime Video this week in the UK.  Only one episode has been released so far and we duly checked it out.  The good news guys, is that it seems promising- drenched as it is in neon gore and peppered with sly machinations.  The opening credits are suitably nightmarish and mesmerising and everyone involved seems to be going for it acting-wise so even though it’s early to say, we actually have high hopes for the show to be honest.

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Anyway, in homage, we’re posting our original book review below for your viewing pleasure.  Maybe it’ll encourage you to give the show a look.  Or maybe you’ll read this and think nah man, that’s not my bag.  Either way, this is what we thought when we read the source material.

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Therefore sit back and enjoy…

FEBRUARY 2012:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

So, if you’ve ever found yourself wondering what you would get if you kidnapped a geneticist and forced them to cross breed-Cormac McCarthy’s The Road with a Las Vegas stranger who had a strange otherworldly sense of humour hiding under all that trashy loungewear you might just come up with something like American Gods.

And if we wanted to coin a phrase for this genre (and if the patent office asks, it’s all ours ya dig) we’d say it was a Bleak Frontier-Epic, although that sounds a little too po-faced for what is essentially also a populist page turner.

Do you know what it was that really made this such an enjoyable read, leaving aside all the labels and soundbites that instinctively follow this book and its author?  It was the inclusiveness of Gaiman’s writing- the generosity behind it.  He never once panders to the audience.  He’s quite happy to hint at mythologies and allude to deities on almost every page but he also never explicitly tells you who these characters are supposed to be.  As a result half the fun of this tale can be found in taking the time to try and narrow down the ones you think you know.  The ones you think you recognise.  It’s a form of trust that really made us warm to Gaiman from the very first page.

The author’s genius isn’t purely down to his benevolence though.  It’s also due to the fact that the novelist is intelligent enough to realise that the human incarnations of these Gods (with their weariness and obvious frailties) are much more interesting subjects than a bunch of untouchable, omnipotent beings floating about up in some distant netherworld.

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If we had to level any criticism at the novel (and its fairly difficult to be honest) we would admit that there were a few chapters in the middle of the story that lost a bit of their focus and urgency.  But in the end, the tautness of the pacing and the intricacy of the wordplay between the characters kept this from being any kind of major problem.  The inclusion of refreshing little asides in amongst the narrative (our favourite being the slave girl and the pregnant colonial girl from Blighty) also swept us right past any unintentional drops in pace.

It seems like a solid bet that all of these things are part of the reason that the book has been hot property in the TV industry.  It’s absolutely ripe for visual production with its vivid scenery and the episodic nature of the plot seems like a perfect fit for any conscientious screenwriter.

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All we can say for sure though is that we will definitely be watching if it ever makes it to the small screen.  It may not live up to the show-reel we have filed away in our heads (our disturbing and messed up heads) but any chance to revisit the world of the son of Odin is well worth the time.

CONCLUSION: A masterclass in the shabby chic of showmanship

MARKS: 8 out of 10.

 

It seems even five years ago it was no secret that the television vultures were circling this book like prey!  We don’t know why it took so long to finally make it to the screen but as we said, we’re pretty glad it did.

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We’ll be watching it avidly that’s for sure.

Comparing and contrasting with the version in our head.

And now that you’ve read our thoughts on the book…how about you?

 

Are you willing to give this lurid, rapacious beast a go?

 

Let us know if you do…

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S is for….

Superfly for a white guy?

 

Nope.  Because this isn’t 1998 and we are definitely not a bunch of unadorned women in the buffola.

 

S then is for sidestep.  Because for this article we’ve decided to move briefly away from comics and movies to take a look at other forms of media that are just as awesome and that have been tickling our old lugholes in the most delightful of ways.

 

Also in a strange confluence of events, all the things we’ve enjoyed recently seem to begin with the letter S so there’s that too.  The universe is telling us to bring these things together.  To bring them to your attention.  And who are we to argue with the Great Beyond.  So listed below are five things we’ve been overwhelmingly impressed by and that we’d like to share with those of you that appreciate talent, regardless of the medium…

 

Hold on to your hats then guys because here’s number one….

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  1. S-TOWN (podcast, iTunes) – or as listeners to this incredible podcast will know it, SHIT TOWN, to give it its full name. To get the negatives out of the way this Podcast has been accused by one article (published by Rolling Stone of all places) of whitewashing the story of this town, of failing its black listeners but to be honest that seems a little unfair to us.  Since the real story at the heart of S-Town didn’t reveal itself to host Brian Reed until long after he had gone down to Alabama, he really couldn’t have actively whitewashed the plot if he wanted to.  Hell, he didn’t even choose the narrative, the narrative basically chose him so we don’t put much stock in that particular criticism; sorry Rolling Stone.  Some others we’ve seen have also accused the podcast of being way too male centric.  s town 3But honestly knowing now what we know about its central character, the inimitable John. B. McLemore, and his unusual proclivities we sincerely doubt he would have been anywhere near as open or honest with a female journalist that came to visit so we’d also advise you to take that indictment with a grain of salt too.  However, leaving all that pessimism aside if you are looking for a tragic and heart-warming podcast that ends up in a place you never saw coming, that is the absolute definition of unpredictable then give this one a go.  Oh and if you don’t cry at episode three then no offense, then you are dead inside.  s town 1We have to add that caveat.  For legal reasons, you understand.

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  1. Sarah Kendall’s Australian Trilogy (BBC Radio 4 iPlayer)– to be fair, we hadn’t heard of this female comedian before and we basically listened to this on a recommendation from a friend who works for the BBC. But what a recommendation it was!  Because this three part series (each episode roughly an hour long) is hilarious storytelling at its best- real, heart-breaking, witty and due to the fact that each instalment ends with a line that will punch you in the gut (and rewrite everything you just heard), it’s quite unforgettable too.  sarah kendall 2 Seriously, this is a narrative delivered with a unique voice at its centre, something the BBC hasn’t always excelled in offering lately.  So if you’ve ever wanted to listen to a unique snapshot of small town life in the land of Oz then this stand up show is right up your alley.  And given Kendall’s previous (it turns out she has performed solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and pops up regularly on BBC2 and BBC4 comedy programmes), you can expect more wonderful narrative theatrics from her in the future.  Which we are more than excited about.

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  1. Swerve (Webseries, YouTube)– once again we have to say, Canada (and Skeleton Key films) has managed to drop a thought provoking and mesmerising webseries in our collective laps with little to no fanfare. Directed with flair (on a pretty tiny budget) by J S Armstrong and acted impeccably by a trio of women (Sharon Belle, Emily Amatalo and Kat Inokai) this is a fascinating look at three random lives that become inexplicably intertwined by an impromptu visit to an isolated cabin in the woods. swerve 3 Currently crowdfunding for a season 2 (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/swerveseries-season-two-going-home-youtube-series#/) with a number of new actors/characters announced should it reach its goal, this series is refreshing in its use of a female voiceover/narration and intriguing both in its visuals and plotting.  For our part, we were mesmerised by its stripped down script and hints at darker themes.  swerve 1We get the feeling there is more quality to come.  And so if the idea of a webseries focusing on a group of lost women intrigues you as much as it does us, then check this out post haste.  You’ll thank us in the long run.

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  1. Serial (podcast, iTunes)– Yes, we know you’ve probably heard of this one given that its already dropped two series to critical acclaim and no we haven’t been paid by the producers who make both Serial and S-Town. We wish.  But we had to put it on the list you see because goddamn is it well made.  Looking into a different legal case each season (Season 1: Adnan Syed’s arrest for the murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore 1999, Season 2: Pfc Bowe Bergdahl’s desertion from his military post in Afghanistan and subsequent capture by the Taliban in 2009) this podcast combines wonderful music, an incredibly likeable and discerning host in Sarah Koenig and a languid expansive approach to these stories to make their telling both inexplicable and mesmerising. serial 2 The fact that there are also extra behind-the-scenes details to unearth online for those of you who want (and need) more shows just how collaborative and welcoming the makers are.  And because the series is so well researched and open-minded and its production is run with such consummate skill and passion, this podcast deserves every accolade it gets.  We are currently waiting on tenterhooks for season three to be released y’all.  And we don’t even know what tenterhooks are.  But we’re on them.  We are so on them.

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  1. California Bloodlines by John Stewart (Spotify)- it seems weird to recommend an album to you as number five, we know. But since this collection of songs has a narrative at its core and offers up a look into a small piece of American history we kind of feel justified in placing it on this list. Truth be told, Stewart is a massively underrated figure in the American Folk/Pop music scene.  After a great career with the Kingston Trio he struck out on his own and recorded this masterpiece of an album in 1968 with Capitol Records.  Of course Trio fans at the time didn’t know what to make of it but in terms of musical ability this album is a slice of fried gold. john stewart 2 And if that isn’t enough to convince you then maybe the fact that this is the same guy who penned tracks ‘Daydream Believer’( for the Monkees) and ‘Gold’ (which was covered by Stevie Nicks)  will give you a nudge in his direction.  You won’t regret it.  We certainly didn’t. His mellow folksy tones provide the perfect languorous background to your day.  And if they don’t, we’ll give you your money back.*

 

Disclaimer- *we will definitely not give you any money back.  Sorry.*

 

Anyways, these are the five recommendations we have for you this month from the downtime  moments in our crazy lives.  Let us know if you manage to check any of them out or if you’ve already given them a try.  The first to comment gets a mystery prize…^

 

Disclaimer- ^we also have no mystery prizes.  Oops.^

 

 

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GRAPHIC NOVELS YOU SHOULD READ/SHOULD BE MADE INTO MOVIES RIGHT-FREAKING-NOW…

We’re sorry to say that the cover illustrations for this YA party-noir graphic novel oversold it somewhat.

 poseurs cover

To its credit, it does contain some cool stripped down visuals, and a series of scenes where the two main female leads compete to wear the most outlandish costumes possible does make proceedings visually interesting for a time.  But to be honest the fact that the cast of characters are in general massively privileged and unsympathetic undercuts any originality the book might have had.  And with an overarching plot that is just plain predictable the combination of these two factors pushes this into the mediocre category by the end.

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That sounds harsh we know.

 

But the problem is that Poseurs just doesn’t feel as satirical as it would like to be.  Don’t get us wrong, Mac’s dialogue (a kind of hybrid Hollywood language all of its own) is entertaining.  But beneath the wit and the veneer there are no dark revelations to be found on the plight of America’s aimless youth here.  There are no insights into today’s celebrity obsessed culture.  Simply a succession of ludicrous plot twists that destroy any sense of authenticity that might have given the novel a grounding in real life.  Jenna’s leading Mac on also felt distinctly anti-feminist to us, which needless to say was a massive turn off.

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In a nutshell, everything felt as if it were described using strokes that were way too broad to be knowing.  Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t diverting at times but did make things feel kind of unexceptional in a world brimming with talented GN artists and writers.  Perhaps we expected more insight from a journalist/author like Deborah Vankin with such an impressive resume under her belt (think long standing Arts and Culture writer for the highly esteemed Los Angeles Times.)  Something more than glib repartee and attempts at breaking the fourth wall that felt gimmicky and snide rather than fresh or innovative.

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Maybe the fault lies with our expectations then.

But all in all, Poseurs was a disappointing read and in desperate need of input from someone who understands the history of teen angst.  Thinking about it, someone like Damian Chazelle or Will Gluck could definitely turn this into a successful TV or movie enterprise for sure, possessing as they do an ear and an eye for young adult nuance.  But as it stands, Poseurs languishes as a distinctly average offering in the Graphic Novel genre, sad to say.

 

There we said it.

Don’t hate us.

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#TBT: Old World, Fresh Eyes: SUPER MARIO BROS

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So a new year is upon us dear readers, huzzah!  But since it’s a bleak and threatening Charlie Brooker-esque future that appears to be lurking just around the corner, we decided to turn our ride around and focus our attentions on the past for some sweet nostalgic relief.

Thus we found ourselves cradled in the bucket seats of our Delorean DMC-12, our target date set to May 28th 1993 and the speedometer hitting 88mph before  boom, there we were!  Sitting in some ringside seats for the eagerly anticipated Super Mario Bros movie.

Now before we go any further, you don’t need to say it.  Why on Earth would we waste our time on re-watching this critically savaged monstrosity especially when we’ve all heard the stories about the nightmarish production, where a completely new script was handed in ten days before principle photography and where the directors entire storyboard was burned since it bore no relation to the new plot.  Hell, where six plus writers went to town on the script at different stages and producer Roland Joffe stepped in at the final hour to complete filming himself.

Well the answer is that somehow despite all of these problems, we still kind of loved the movie when we were little.  Truth be told there was something oddly charming and incredible watchable about its technicolour craziness.  And maybe for most that was a cruising-past-a-car crash voyeuristic kind of charm, but we genuinely freaking loved it so the idea of taking another look at this gamer classic had us very excited from the get go.

 

And so, the great re-watch began.

 

And you know what…don’t judge but we still kind of loved it.  Yes it’s campy.  Yes, the continuity is all up the spout and nothing makes any kind of logical human sense but there’s an energy to proceedings that can’t help but infect you (like fungus….)

We were however left with a series of questions and thoughts after watching it again that we felt obliged to note down.

We’ve listed these below so feel free to sit back boys and girls and if you’re able to get hold of a copy maybe even watch along as we go to see if you see what we see …

ACT ONE:

EXT.  REAL WORLD BROOKLYN- DAY

  • Ah yes, now we remember how it starts, with the famous prologue!  There’s no getting around this, even we can’t argue that is isn’t a terribly CGI’d eyesore that exists purely to explains the films backstory (where the meteor that killed the dinosaurs sent a few unlucky ones into an alternate universe to evolve on their own path.)  Knowing that this was an extremely late addition to the movie (in fact according to one of the many screenwriters on the project it appeared to have been added after the first test screening of the film confused the audience bigtime) simply doesn’t help.  It really is a huge misstep and it seems obvious to us at least that Mario should never have been a narrator.  That tenacious little plumber is a man of action, a doer and having him give us the preamble just doesn’t fit with his character.
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  • QUESTION 1: When we return to modern times why don’t the nuns in Brooklyn seem at all perturbed by the fact that a baby left on their doorstep hatches from a giant egg?! We know the Catholic Church is supposed to be all embracing but… come on.
  • QUESTION 2: Would you really call a plumber for a broken dishwasher?  Wouldn’t that be more of a job for an appliance repairman?  Wouldn’t you ring Hotpoint or Indesit instead?  Maybe that’s just us. It probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
  • And we’re sure the Props Department had their hands full kitting out a five storey old cement factory for the film but having seen the level of detail in the background of the film we’re also sure they could have come up with a wittier title for the local newspaper than the Daily News?!
  • FUN FACT 1: There is some quality product placement for Evian though, guys when Mario’s van overheats.  Right in your face.  Check it if you don’t believe us.
  • You know what, the double date with Mario & Danielle and Luigi & Daisy was actually kind of cute.  Right up until Danielle, quite possible the palest woman in the history of the world tried to convince Daisy to come to her salon for a tanning appointment.  Was this a case of don’t get high off your own supply do you think or do what I say not what I do?  Answers on a postcard, peeps!
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  • QUESTION 3: Why does everyone use Luigi’s name so much when Daisy is kidnapped?  It must have been said at least fifteen times in the space of five minutes.
  • FUN FACT 2: We genuinely want some of the LSD the special effects guys were taking when they designed the portal to the alternate Brooklyn.  Seriously, we’re not even joking guys.  Anyone able to hook us up?

ACT TWO:

INT. ALTERNATE BROOKLYN aka Koopa’s Kingdom- DAY

Also known as the visual equivalent of Blade Runner meets Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

  • QUESTION 4: Why would Security here have a designated Plumber Alert?!  How many times have plumbers challenged the status quo and spread dissent through the kingdom at this point?  Someone totally needs to write a story about what happened previously…
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  • Which quickly brings us onto the Big Bad himself…Mr Dennis Hopper.  And Man, what a guy!  Channelling Donald Trump to a T in the role, he’s both crazy and immense.  The only criticism we could actually think of is whoever told him to tone it down with the T-Rex hands thing he was doing is a fool.  A fool!  More T-Rex hands pleas!  T-Rex Hands for President!
  • Mario’s surname being Mario we’ve learned was a complete invention of the scriptwriters.  We don’t know how we feel about this. Is it Genius or Lame?  We can’t seem to decided.
  • FUN FACT 3: Also in the police mugshot scene Bob Hoskins appears to be the exact same height as John Leguizamo! This didn’t seem right to us so we did some fact-checking and in fact John is actually one inch taller than Bob.  Artistic License strikes again!  Nice try though guys.  Aren’t the movies magical?
  • Koopa’s disguise as a Lawyer is Larry Lazard of ‘Lazard, Lazard, Conda, Dactyl & Cohen.’  This genuinely made us smile.
  • FUN FACT 4: If you’re eagle eyed enough look out for the wire visibly pulling the Bros stolen cop car off the car they landed on.  It’s pretty blatant.
  • FUN FACT 5: Fiona Shaw is brilliant. Also, she has an incredibly tiny waist.  That is all.smb-yoshi
  • In case you hadn’t noticed on the first watch, here is some advice given to Daisy when she meets Koopa’s pet/prisoner Yoshi- ‘try not to move your hands around like a small wounded animal.’  We have spent the last half an hour legitimately trying to do exactly this and we still can’t work out how you achieve it.  Anyone got any ideas?!
  • To tiptoe onto a slightly more serious topic for a moment, the treatment of women in the movie did in fact leave a nasty taste in our mouths this time around, particularly Dennis Hopper’s perv-tastic reactions to Daisy.  If you’d like some more evidence you can also check out Mario’s reaction to Big Bertha in the club after he tries to seduce her and she belts him one.  ‘She’s just shy,’ he says before following her and sticking his face right in her boobage.  We hesitate to use the word rapey about any of this but there’s definitely something here which isn’t to our taste.  And in fact if we could change just one thing about the movie it would probably be these semi sexist overtones to be honest.smb-bertha
  • QUESTION 5: Did Fiona Shaw actually drink a worm?!  It sure looked like it.

ACT THREE:

INT. ALTERNATE BROOKLYN/REAL WORLD BROOKLYN- DAY

Hands up, the swaying scene in the lift, you know the one we’re talking about is just…well, one of the weirdest things we’ve ever seem committed to celluloid.  We didn’t realise it until after watching that at this point the script contained precisely no scenes for the Brothers getting to their next location and so co-director Rocky Morton came up with this idea on the fly, using the idea of snake charming to hypnotise the Goombas and allow the Mario Bros to make a bid for freedom.  We can see what he was going for, don’t get us wrong but the scene is still beyond bizarre.  Nothing you can say will ever convince us otherwise.smb-dance

  • FUN FACT 6: Anyone who can deliver the line ‘Please meet your father…the fungus,’ gets props from us for not corpsing at any point.  Richard Edson, we love you.
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  • Oh and building on the weird scene vibe from earlier, the mattress ride down the frozen pipe as Mario and the girls find themselves being chased by a bunch of Goombas is also completely inexplicable.  We get that Mario ducks down pipes all the time in the games but still. WTF, man.  WTF
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  • QUESTION 6: Did anyone else notice that every time she is on camera one of the girls abducted from Brooklyn appears to have a cigarette in her mouth.  Which surely begs the question, how many packs did she have on her when she was abducted?!  And where did she store them on her person?
  • Bob-Omb!  Love it.  Love everything about it.  The little guy has an impressively long…fuse.
  • QUESTION 7: Was that the twin towers shown briefly when the two worlds merged towards the end?
  • FUN FACT 7: Keep any eye out for some Schwarzenegger style punnage from Mario towards the end.  ‘See you later, Alligator!’- we see what you did there.  Keep it up.
  • Oh and FINALLY QUESTION 8: If Koopa’s world still has no resources left how are Daisy and her Father going to turn things around even if they stay?
  • SIDE NOTEL Roxette- hell, yeah!

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That was quite the experience!

And all right, maybe the movie’s internal logic doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and it screams exuberant nineties excess but we’ll always have a soft spot for it in our hearts.

Anyways let us know if you take the opportunity to rewatch this gem or if you have any answers for the questions above.  We want this blog to be a collaborative experience so come on down, one and all.

Your country needs you and your opinions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GRAPHIC NOVELS YOU SHOULD READ/SHOULD BE MADE INTO MOVIES RIGHT-FREAKING-NOW… #277 LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE IRON PROMETHEUS BY MIKE MIGNOLA & JASON ARMSTRONG

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Fun Fact Y’All: If reading Graphic Novels has taught us anything (besides how to rock a mantle or successfully build a functioning yet self-effacing alter-ego) it is to temper our expectations before we pick up a new one.  That sounds incredibly pessimistic we know and oh, how we wish it wasn’t true but the sheer number of books we’ve picked up, butterflies flapping wildly at our midsection only to realise they are trite clichéd productions built around formula and reusable tropes, would quite possibly blow your minds.

 

And yet.  When Lobster Johnson caught our eye in the local comic book store, Mike ‘Hellboy’ Mignola’s name stamped across it in black; with its pulp noir cover and aura of supernatural menace we just couldn’t seem to help ourselves.  The butterfly’s were back in swarms and our hands kinda shook with anticipation as we handed some of our hard earned queen’s pounds across the counter.

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And after all, how could things go wrong with all that visual goodness we thought?  How could we not get excited given its author’s pedigree and its claims of offering up a shadowy kind of pastiche on classic authors like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler?

 

How indeed.

Well dear readers, we’re afraid to say that somehow, someway they managed it.  They did the impossible…

So yeah, sad face emoji.

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To be fair, there were parts to the GN that we liked; this wasn’t an absolute shit-parade.  The idea of beginning each chapter with almost identical panels and using these to set the scene (with a few subtle differences thrown in for the eagle eyed) is a small but smart idea employed by the author and artist.  It actually lent the story (convoluted though it turned out to be) a much needed sense of continuity and grounded the multiple storylines whenever they threatened to throw the whole thing into entropy.

 

The storyboard artist Jason Armstrong’s use of light and shade in the work (that’s chiaroscuro for the pantaloon wearers among you) also gave the narrative a gravitas it might not have had otherwise;  the novel’s muted colour scheme doing the same.  In fact, the grimy steampunkish artwork was probably the best part about the whole affair, containing a vibrant sense of motion in its thin lines and a sinister set of subdued visuals that fit perfectly with the rundown setting and noiresque plot.

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However, that’s pretty much where the compliments end unfortunately.

 

The plot itself, a mishmash of scientific/religious horror quickly became way too convoluted to be admired, the inclusion of multiple foes (the Devil, Nazi’s, policemen on the take) confusing us every time we tried to get a handle on what was happening.  It didn’t help that that the similarity in look of the different monsters was bewildering either.  More than once we even found ourselves having to flip back a few pages to work out who our heroes were fighting this time, which is really not something that endears you to a novel, you know.  It’s great for the author we guess, as it forces their reader to spend more time with their work, delving deeper into it but in terms of pace and sustained threat it’s an absolute killer.

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Hell, even the characterisation was lacking (unusual for a Mignola production) and you know that you’ve hit a problem when you find yourself much more intrigued by a side-character (Mr Sacks) than the protagonist himself (Lobster J.)  We actually feel kind of mean saying all this given the fact that the authors took the time to include their original sketches and comments at the back of the book.  This was a generous gesture incidentally, as it allows you to see the evolution of the concept, and the levels of collaboration and commitment offered up by everyone involved.  The problem is that the overarching story they drew up together after months of discussion and revision just wasn’t engaging enough to hold the interest, at least for us.  As much as we’re fans of ambiguity and leaving narratives unexplained, Lobster Johnson seemed to take this idea way too far- leaving a messy, chaotic conclusion behind in its wake.  And for all it’s street smarts (the true history sections will undoubtedly raise a smile especially the running gag about Guillermo Del Toro making a Lobster Johnson movie), any sense of good old fashioned fun or enjoyment just isn’t sustained throughout.  It drops away after a few pages only to re-emerge again later for a few minutes.  It’s a natural consequence of valuing set piece over character motivation we suppose (are you listening, Michael Bay?)  You get all the spectacle you could want but not the heart and even worse, you risk severing any emotional connection that you might have forged with your reader.  Which to us is just a big old bag of nope unfortunately.
In terms of reworking this for the big screen, it does have potential of course.  Del Toro would indeed bring some beautiful clockwork/steampunk visuals to the affair and his rich vein of inner darkness would bring the American cityscape to life in a new and compelling way.  Script duties could go to a number of talented people in Hollywood- Jonathon Nolan perhaps (who gave Batman back his pain) or indie-god Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter/Midnight Special) ; writers who could inject some emotional peril back into proceedings.  Casting wise, someone who gives good stony-face would also be required: we were thinking maybe Fassbender or Elba but given that old Lobs rarely takes his headgear off, the floor’s wide open on this one.  Maybe you even have your own ideas on this?  If so, we’d love to hear them.

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In fact we’d love to hear your thoughts on Lob John as a whole.  Did you love it?  Hate it?  Get bored and use it as a small uncomfortable kind of pillow?  Either way let us know.  Because we need some distraction from our own sense of disappointment on this one and some hate mail/agreement would do nicely.

 

Cheers.

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THEY DON’T JUST MAKE GEESE YOU KNOW…

We all know that Canada is awesome, right?  Their Prime Minister is a ridiculously handsome tattooed dude who openly hangs out at Toronto Pride and knows how to dance Bollywood style.  They have the worlds smallest jail cell (24sq metres fact-nerds) and they have a restaurant chain called Tim Horton’s where you will almost always hear a who.

But did you also know that right now in the global shit-storm that is 2016 they’re pretty much number one at kicking ass in the entertainment industries too?

No?

We know what you’re saying.  What the hell are we talking about?  How can they compare with towering US imports such as Westworld and American Horror Story or even Good Old Blighty’s more restrained offerings like The Night Of and The Fall.

 

It’s a fair question.  But luckily you’ll find listed below all the reasons why the Canucks are leading the way in artistic innovation, so sit back and strap yourself onto your moose because here comes the good stuff, friends….

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  • WEBSERIES: OK so first off, purely in terms of output Canada is knocking it out of the park when it comes to webseries produced in the last year.  And yes the quality can be mixed at times but overall the general standard of the scripts, acting and cinematography is pretty darn impressive. haunted From crowd-funded thrillers such as Haunted or Hoax to professionally produced uber hits like Carmilla or Inhuman Condition (both made by Smokebomb Entertainment/hosted by KindaTV) these Internet based shows are offering up high concept stuff complete with quality visuals. inhumanAnd if you don’t believe us, just try asking the hundreds of Creampuffs who turned up to New York Comic Con simply to get a glimpse at the actors/producers on the Carmilla panel.  A panel you should note, at a major Comic Con event not for a movie or TV show with an outlandish advertising budget but for a humble Canadian webseries that gained momentum simply through word of mouth.

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  • LGBTQA+ REPRESENTATION: Yup, not surprisingly the Canadians are also leading the way in promoting and representing the queer community- offering us not just gay and lesbian characters to love/hate but bisexuals, pansexuals and non binary ones too. The Carmilla series mentioned above is a great example but on top of this you also have fantastic show creators like Emily Andras mapping out a new more open-minded TV terrain (check out her newest offering Wyonna Earp where one of the central relationships involves two women) and other writers such as R J Lackie who continue to add to the LGBT fun in digital media hits All4One and Couplish.  gaycationNot good enough?  Then how about big league actors such as Ellen Page throwing their weight behind the movement; her latest TV docutainment series Gaycation garnering positive responses worldwide and bringing issues of homophobia and heteronormitivity to the attention of the masses.

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  • THE QUALITY OF THE ACTORS: And yes we know, the world seems overflowing with American, Australian and British names on the billboards not Canadian ones at the moment, right? Are you sure about that though?  You want to put some money down.  After all, what about the cheeky charmer himself Ryan Gosling?  He’s already hit our funny bone with The Nice Guys this year and will soon be seen changing it up in La La Land, an old school musical from the director of Whiplash.  What about Twitter Maestro Ryan Reynolds?  He was main man Wade in Marvel’s sarcastathon Deadpool back in February and a month later rocked it out serious style in Kevin Costner spy thriller Criminal.rache  And what of the women? Rachel McAdams, say?  Last known for her sober role in the real life drama Spotlight she’ll soon to be blowing minds in Scott Derrickson’s superhero debut Dr Strange.  And this ain’t just a big budget thing, folks.  Even on the small screen the acting master-class given by Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black (where she plays so many different roles that no-one can actually remember how many there are) won her a primetime Emmy this year (and deservedly so.)tat  So anyone who tells you Canada ain’t a major player on the acting scene… you have our full permission to ninja kick them in the face, yeah?

 

  • DIRECTORS: Canada’s always had a surplus of great director.   Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg (fantastically known as the King of Venereal Horror) and Sarah Polley to name only a few.  But this year has seen a surge of talent return to the big screen with full force.    Denys Arcand (Oscar Nommed for Les Invasions Barbares in 2003) is finally behind the camera again working on documentary short Burghers of Vancouver after a hiatus in the industry. cameron James Cameron is currently working on Avatar 2 after lighting up the silver screen with last years (uh, divisive) Terminator: Genisys.  Denis Villeneuve is following up the big hit Sicario with 2016’s Arrival and then the super mysterious eagerly awaited sequel Blade Runner 2049, due in cinemas next year. reitman Add to that Ghostbusters Legend Ivan Reitman producing his ass off with five new projects in the work while his son Jason (already having completed short film Roast Battle) currently films Tully, a Diablo Cody scripted comedy starring Charlize Theron  and you basically have one big visual tsunami of Canadian talent heading our way.  Surf’s Up Bitches.

 

  • MISCELLANEOUS AWESOMENESS: Eh, we kinda feel like we’ve already made our point to be honest. However, if you were still umming and ahhing like a Bible Belt Voter right now then as a kindness to you we also proffer the following as evidence of Canada’s greatness:

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  1. Margaret Atwood and Nathan Fillion’s hilarious put downs on Twitter to their haters (see @MargaretAtwood and @NathanFillion for deets)
  2. Leonard Cohen’s newly released Album You Want it Darker coming out to great applause from Rolling Stone and other music critics.
  3. The cutest and most polite social media battle of this year between Daniel Munro and Ian Mendes over Donald Trump’s comments about women.tweet
  4. And the fact that at the beginning of this month a man in Ontario was charged with impaired driving after running HIMSELF OVER with his own car. Not someone else.    So who pressed charges?!

 

Anyways that’s it.

Canada 1, Rest of the World 0.

 

*Drops the mic (Myers) and walks off stage*

 

*Exeunt chased by a freaking bear*

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