Monday, 3 November 2014

NaNoWriMo, Here I Come!

What more fitting subject for my first blog of November than to spin some sweet words about the joys of NaNoWriMo? Yes, this is National Novel Writing Month, although surely that should now be International Novel Writing Month. I guess InNoWriMo just isn’t quite as catchy.
So, in case you haven’t heard of it, NaNoWriMo encourages people to write a 50,000 word novel in the space of thirty days. That’s about 1660 words a day, which does take a bit of discipline and determination, but is so worth it. And even if you don’t manage to write the allotted words in the time, at least you’ll have had a go, dedicated a chunk of your time to the creative process and probably have written way more than you would have otherwise.
I heartily recommend giving it a go, and before you say “But Momento Maureen, “‘tis already the third day of the month and I have yet to put quill to paper” (I’m imagining you’re feeling a bit Shakespearean today), my answer is “Hush up your mouth!” The first time I did NaNo I started on November 10th and finished my novel in just NINETEEN DAYS! Yes, that is impressive enough to write in capitals.
So, jump in, give it a go. You have nothing to lose but your spare time and maybe some marbles. Now I really ought to stop prevaricating and start writing.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Crack of Doom

There is a crack in my bedroom ceiling.

It's quite long, thankfully not too wide, and if you look at it from the right angle (lying on the floor) it looks a bit like the top line of the bat-signal. It also looks quite similar to the crack in Amy Ponds room in Doctor Who, although so far the only thing that has come through has been water and no dangerous aliens... that I know of.

My bedroom is directly below the bathroom, and when I returned from my shower this morning it had started dripping right on to the bag with all my library books in. Thankfully, that bag is nicely waterproof, otherwise I'd have some explaining to do to the lovely people of Ealing Central Library.

I grabbed the nearest thing to hand to catch the water, which happened to be a random safety helmet I found recently and made my own, then my Dad came along with a much more useful bucket, especially as there were now four drips and the helmet really wasn't up to the job.

Eventually the water dried up, the plumber came and we've been told that we can't have any more showers until they've fixed the horrible, mouldy bits of wood that have been barely holding the tiles and fittings on to the wall for some time now. I don't mind taking baths, but I find it hard not to luxuriate in the tub once I'm in it, which is not very practical when you're in a rush in the morning.

So, for now I am stuck with a fairly ominous crack in my ceiling and a feeling that maybe our house knows that it's going to be demolished in just over a year as part of the regeneration of the estate. Let's just hope it stays standing until we move out.

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Shape of Things to Come

The London Film Festival may well be over, but the BFI still have me in their grip with their new season of science fiction, Days of Fear and Wonder. There are various screenings of film and television shows as well as a few talks, so many of which look really interesting I could easily have bankrupted myself paying for all the things I wanted to see. That seemed like a bad idea, so I've been a bit more selective.

Last night I went to see Things to Come.

 Made in 1936 the script was adapted by HG Wells from his own book, The Shape of Things to Come (although at one point the film was going to be called Whither Man? which would have been amazing!). It condenses the book and cuts out much of the anti-capitalist message from it. It follows the fortunes of the citizens of Everytown, from a terrible war in 1940 (with a worryingly prescient aerial bombardment scene), through plague, to a utopian future based on principles of science, progress and equality.

I love Wells' novels, but it's clear from this that the man was not a gifted screen-writer. The dialogue is very clunky and, at times, more amusing than I think it was meant to be ("However did they cope with walking up all those stairs!"). However, Ned Mann's special effects are amazing, especially when you consider quite how old this film is. They make the war scenes at the beginning really quite distressing.

Things to Come also boasts two pretty impressive firsts. It was the first feature length science-fiction movie with sound and the first film to have an accompanying sound-track album. The music, specially composed for the film by Arthur Bliss, is wonderful, often better than the script at conveying atmosphere and tone.

I was slightly worried as the film began that it was going to be a bit slow, and more concerned about getting across a worthy message than entertaining the crowd. However, it was really fun. The end is so over-the-top and deranged that I couldn't help but love it, especially the final speech delivered by a wide-eyed Raymond Massey wearing a truly ridiculous costume. If that's really fashionable in 2036, we're all in trouble.

If you like classic sci-fi and an old-fashioned spectacle, you really need to check this film out.

Monday, 20 October 2014

London Film Festival: Part Three

If I could sum up the films I have been to see at the London Film Festival in a catchy phrase or saying, it would be "Variety is the spice of life". This certainly holds true for the last two films.

First Cub, my first ever Flemish horror movie. In the Q&A the director, Jonas Govaerts said that he had been inspired by the video nasties, banned in Britain in the 1980's, but he wanted to make the kind of terrifying visual experience he had expected rather than the over-hyped tosh they so often turned out to be. Cub is the story of a Scout troop who find themselves camping in the wrong part of the forest. There's humour, gore, and some surprisingly moving moments. It's a well-crafted tale and I bloody loved it. It also had the best poster of the festival.

I rounded off my LFF experience by seeing a collection of experimental short films gathered together under the title of Pareidolia: Following the Leads. This was, in fact, the very last viewing in the festival, and having had a tiring few days, I wasn't necessarily in the mood for the kind of high-art-weirdness you often get from this kind of film. Thankfully, they were all really good. Mutatis Mutandis, by Kathryn Elkin, was a brilliant combination of story telling, sound and image. How to Make Money Religiously, by Laure Provost, was an excellent play on internet scams and cult religious movements. Rib Gets in the Way (Final Thoughts Series Three), by Steve Reinke, included a whole section of Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, adapted as a children's cartoon. They all had the right blend of humour and insight and definitely provoked conversation on the way home as well as keeping me awake in the cinema, which was no mean feat. 

Oh, and I only just looked it up, but "pareidolia" refers to a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus being perceived as significant, which totally makes sense if you've seen the films.

Overall, a really enjoyable festival. I'll try and get to even more films next year.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

London Film Festival: Part 2

Variety is the spice of life, and that statement certainly proves true for the second group of films I've seen at the London Film Festival.

First,A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the first ever Iranian vampire movie. It was beautiful and hypnotic with a brilliant performance from Sheila Vand as "The Girl". Set in Bad City, the kind of place where nobody comments on the ditch full of dead bodies on the edge of town, it's dark, mysterious, creepy and often funny, making you question ideas of good and evil and the kind of film that will have you talking for hours after. Want two  more things that make this movie a must-see? It contains the best performance by a cat in the history of cinema, and a very different role for Marshall Manesh, aka Ranjit from How I Met Your Mother. As if all that wasn't enough, the director, Ana Lily Amirpour was brilliant at  the Q&A and is producing a graphic novel to accompany the film which is bound to be amazing.

Later that same day I went to a talk celebrating the twentieth birthday of Dreamworks, including interviews with producer Bonnie Arnold (Last of the Mohicans, Toy Story, How to Train Your Dragon) and a very excited Cressida Cowell (author of How to Train Your Dragon).  It was really interesting to hear a bit about the process of turning a book into an animated film, and even more exciting to be part of the first audience in the world to see the first twenty minutes of Penguins of Madagascar, which was hilarious and I'll definitely attempt to find a late-night, child-free viewing when it comes out in December.

Finally, for this installment at least, I got old-school with Only Angels Have Wings, the greatest screen adventure of 1939, according to the poster. I've seen it before, most probably on a rainy afternoon when I should have been at school. It's so much fun. The romance between Cary Grant and Jean Arthur bubbles up beautifully in the background to a genuinely exciting story about pilots flying crazily dangerous missions just to keep their business alive (sometimes at the cost of themselves). If you've not seen it, give it a go. It was brilliant to watch on a big screen, even if it did give you an alarmingly clear view of Grant's distressingly short trousers.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

London Film Festival: Part One

Well, with first two of the (I think) seven films we're seeing at this years London Film Festival, it's been a mixed bag.

The first film was a Russian, science fiction epic called Hard to be a God. Before going in I knew it was three hours long, and I knew that it was in black and white. I also knew that it was in the Dare section of this years festival, for films that are challenging both in style and content. None of this scared me, hard-core cinema goer that I am!

However, I think this was a case of expectations not being met. The story is about a scientist who has gone to a planet just like Earth, but stuck in the Middle Ages having re-acted to the start of the Renaissance by killing all the scholars. I thought this was going to be a philosophical spin on the invasion story, looking at the challenges from the point of view of the superior alien. What actually happened was a really claustrophobic film full of stupid people shitting, sneezing, and generally being pustular and gross, with nothing to really balance it out. At the beginning the directors wife said that the film was like Marmite in the way it divided audiences. I love Marmite, I didn't love this. It did make me want to read the book, though, in case that has more of the story I was hoping to be told.

Later that same day we went to see Charlie's Country. Showing in the Journey section of the festival, it tells the story of Charlie (David Gulpilil) who becomes disenchanted with the way the Australian government are treating his community and decides to go back to living in the old ways. It's so brilliantly acted, and so well made that I became totally absorbed and sort of forgot that this was a fictional film and not a fly on the wall documentary. It really was amazing. After the film finished, the director, Rolf de Heer, came out for a Q&A and told us the story behind the making of the film, which made the whole thing even more astonishing and have even more resonance. The film came about after he visited David Gulpilil in prison, where he had ended up in the middle of what appeared to be a serious attempt to drink himself to death. They collaborated together to make this beautiful and touching film. Please, please, please go and see it.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Robot Army!

Today I move one step closer to creating my robot army with which I will conquer the Earth!

Okay, so they're a little on the small side, flat and made of foam, but it's a start.

Big thanks to the people at Yellow Moon for providing me with  lots of things to make and do. Flicking through their catalogue is one of the most entertaining things to do over breakfast.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Tiger Puppies

So, anyone I've seen in the last few days has already heard about this, but the rest of you are in for a treat. A couple of nights ago I had one of those dreams that you just can't get out of your head, and given that it wasn't a hideous nightmare involving the slaughter of innocents, I thought it'd be nice to share it with as many people as possible.

In this dream I had gone into a pet shop and, on an impulse, bought three puppies. These were not just any puppies, however. They looked exactly like miniature tigers! Take a moment to picture them. Tigers that are small enough to pick up with one hand! So adorable! And before you start thinking that I don't know that tigers are cats, and that their babies are called cubs, in my dream they were definitely a kind of puppy because they barked.
"Woof!" Just like that!

On the way home from the dream-pet shop I started to worry that maybe buying three puppies when you already have three kittens wasn't the best idea I'd ever had. What if they didn't get on? I'd have to take the puppies back to the shop, and they were so cute that it would have been heartbreaking. Thankfully, when I got home all the puppies and all the kittens curled up in a big pile together and fell asleep.

When the tiny tiger-puppies woke up they started yapping, so I put them on their little leads and took them for a walk. It was bloody lovely. Now all I have to do is wait for some cunning and not too evil scientist to genetically modify me some tiger-puppies and I'll be sorted.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

People's Climate March

I've had a most pleasant afternoon dancing up the Embankment on the People's Climate March. This link will take you to the main website. It's mainly full of pictures from the New York March, that being where the conference on Climate Change is occurring on Tuesday, but there are events happening all over the world and there are tweets and pictures coming in from those as well.

In London there was a real carnival atmosphere. We lucked out and joined the march right next to the Hare Krishnas. Now, you might be thinking that hours of listening to a bunch of people in orange, chanting, isn't your cup of tea, but today they'd gone for something a little different. The Hare Krishnas had teamed up with an amazing singer and a drummer, being pulled along on the cart they usually use for taking food to the homeless. They'd swapped their tambourines for a bass guitar, a trumpet and (most excitingly) an electric ukulele.

They grooved up the road singing Wild Thing and No More Heroes. We sang Hear the Word outside the gates of Downing Street and cheered to the singer's calls for responsible action on climate change and austerity. We all clapped, whooped and boogied up the road, all the way from Temple to Parliament Green.

It was so much fun!

There were people of all ages, religions, races, classes, whatever, and it was such a good feeling to have such a large and diverse group with a positive message that if we work together we can make a change. If we could harness the energy and positivity from today's march, I don't think there is anything we couldn't achieve.

We could change the world.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

5 Reasons Why You Should Go and See "Pride"

  1. It's jam-packed full of the finest actors our country has to offer, all being their usual amazing selves. Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, Dominic West, to name but a few. Andrew Scott gives such a good performance that I didn't spend the whole film thinking he was Moriarty. Also, given that over half the cast are speaking with accents other than their own, I thought they all did a brilliant job. My mind has just been blown by the fact that Ben Schnetzer, playing the Belfast-born Mark, is actually American.
  2. The costume department have also done a stellar job. Anyone taking part in the current revival of 1980's fashion needs to see this film and then have a think about their clothing choices. From the small town miner's wives' mullets, to the alarmingly bejeweled purple shirt one of the main characters wears to a concert, all of the style horrors of 1984 are up on the screen for all to see.
  3. It will remind anyone who might need reminding why they should never vote Conservative and never read tabloid papers. They both vilified the striking miners and supported homophobia and that should never be forgotten.
  4. It's the kind of film we ought to be making in this country. This is a part of our recent history that could be all too easily forgotten and shouldn't, because it's really a beautiful story about people coming together to fight prejudice and injustice. I was only three in 1984, and it was so interesting to see a film about events that were occurring in my formative years, that I was vaguely aware of at the time without necessarily understanding, including being reminded of that advert warning about Aids that scared the shit out of me at the time.
  5. Dominic West has an amazing dance scene that will fill my heart with joy whenever I think about it for a long time to come.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Blood Moon - I Didn't Forget You!

In all the excitement/exhaustion after the festival, there was one film I saw at the Frightfest weekend which I really enjoyed and neglected to mention. It was on one of the Discovery Screens, home to the smaller budget, interesting little films, that the organisers never-the-less want to bring to the world's attention. In previous years we've never made it to the Discovery Screens, lacking the organisational skills to find out about the films that were on there. However, this year we decided to branch out because, a) the Vue made it really easy to get tickets and, b) we'd heard that one of the main screen films (Nymph) was worth missing.

So we found ourselves in Discovery Screen 2 watching Blood Moon a British made, Western set, low budget monster movie. I'd already come across the director, Jeremy Wooding, during my on-going Sean Pertwee mission, as he directed the incredibly fun The Magnificent Eleven, where The Magnificent Seven meets Sunday League football.

This time round it's more The Wolf-man meets Stagecoach, as a group of passengers travelling to a small, frontier town are hijacked by outlaws. While trying to outwit their captors, they discover a much greater threat, a monster that only appears on the night of the blood moon. It's a rattling yarn with a cast of familiar characters, the young newly-wed couple, the sassy business woman, the enigmatic gun-slinger, but with enough little twists to hold your attention and a nice feeling of mounting tension as the monster attacks and the people are slowly picked off.

One of my favourite things about Blood Moon are the sets. It's filmed in the only Western Town in Kent, a place called Laredo, which I am now desperate to visit. The authentic look of the buildings and their content, along with the fabulous costumes make it all the easier to believe that the events are taking place in 1897, Colorado, and not a particularly wet, 21st Century England.

I think the highest praise I can give this film is that at the end I found myself wanting to know what happens next to all the characters, and I would definitely be up for watching Blood Moon 2.

Oh, and everyone we spoke to afterwards said that Nymph was terrible.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

My 100th Post!

Here we are, at Momento Maureen's 100th blog post! For those of you who experienced the brief but delightful wonder of my last blog, you'll know that this is quite a milestone. The question is, what am I going to do to mark it?

Originally I was going to write a sonnet about Evil Dead II, but it isn't finished. Last night I considered penning a quick ode to the new Doctor Who, but I kept getting stuck rhyming "Capaldi" with "baldy" which didn't make any sense and was pretty awful, so you'll have to wait for that one as well.

Having said that, I do have to make a quick digression to say how much I'm enjoying the new series of Doctor Who. Matt Smith was wonderful, and he was always going to be a hard act to follow, but two episodes into the new series and I'm feeling pretty good about it. I'm loving the darkness and ambiguity about Peter Capaldi's Doctor and I'm looking forward to seeing how the series develops. It's got an old school feeling to it that I think is great, and the new titles, with all the cogs and clocks are fantastic.

Anyway, where was I. Oh, I also didn't get around to writing a short story for this blog, or making some kind of exciting photo story, but these are all ideas that will probably show up here as we make the journey to the 200th blog post.

So for now I'm celebrating by watching George Romero's The Crazies (1973) which contains so many elements that return in his Dawn of the Dead that it makes a fascinating watch. Then I'm going to jump up and down and wave my arms around in the style of Kermit the Frog, because nobody celebrates better.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Frightfest 2014: Top Five


No, that's not a scream of fright after a particularly horrifying film. Neither is it due to the horrible pain in my knees after four-and-a-half days of sitting in a chilly cinema. Nope, that is my reaction to attempting to come up with my top five favourite films from Frightfest. As I sat down to type, I'd managed to narrow it down to a top twelve, but that's just silly, so I'm just going to have to suck it up and make my choices.

Here we go. In no particular order:

  1. Housebound was a bit of a surprise. The story of a young woman sentenced to eight months home detention in her parent's haunted house didn't appeal on paper, but it was brilliant. Some excellent jumps, some clever plot twists, some good bits of gore and a moment that had me crying with laughter. Horror-comedy is so hard to do well, and this really nailed it. Rima Te Wiata is especially good as the over-bearing if well-meaning mother.
  2. Another great example of horror-comedy (one of my favourite sub-genres with a strong showing this year) was Life After Beth. I had high expectations, because of my love of Aubrey Plaza, and she didn't let me down, especially with her excellent zombie run. The second film to make me cry with laughter, I'm still giggling and quoting things from it days later. Can't wait to watch this in a zom-rom-com double bill with Shaun of the Dead.
  3. Next, I'd like to recommend The Samurai. This is the story of Jakob, a policeman in a small German town whose main problem is dealing with a wolf that has been bothering the local dogs, until one night he comes across a Samurai in a dress, intent on causing chaos and chopping off heads. A crazy play on fairy tales and the problems of confronting your own sexuality in a close-knit community. The male leads (Michel Dierks and Pit Bukowski) both put in brilliant performances that keep your eyes glued to the screen, for often quite unexpected reasons.
  4. Late Phases is like Dog Soldiers meets Gran Torino. A blind veteran  moves into a retirement community where everything, from the disappearance of the local dogs to the violent death of his new neighbour, has been blamed on animal attacks. But the real danger isn't lurking in the woods and our hero takes it upon himself to put an end to the deaths. Full of subtle nods to genre classics, this film reminded me of how much I love werewolf movies.
  5. Okay, so it's going to have to be done. I know this film divided the audience, but I'm backing Stage Fright because I left the theatre with a massive grin on my face, feeling that all was right with the world, and I'm still humming some of the songs. Yes, it's a musical and, yes, it's very stupid, but it knows how silly it is and goes for it with real gusto. If you love Meat Loaf (and who doesn't?) and seeing annoying Performing Arts kids getting killed (again, who doesn't?) then this is the film for you.
Man, that was really hard! Here's a quick list of the other films I loved: The Guest (really fun, Dan Stevens is gorgeous, out soon, go see it), Zombeavers (exactly as much fun as I was expecting), Dead Snow 2 ( a worthy successor to the first part), The Harvest (moving, disturbing, Samantha Morton is amazing), The Babadook (more creepy emotional journey than scary jump fest, with some astonishing performances), Open Windows (fast-paced, funny, clever and enjoyable), VHS: Viral (the best one yet). I might add The Signal to that list, but it needs another watch for me to decide if I just like it or really love it.

Overall, a great weekend in the company of the ever-loving Frightfest family. Already can't wait for next year.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Frightfest: The Morning Before

I've spent this morning pottering about doing all the little things that need doing before Frigthfest takes over my life for the next four-and-a-half days. My hamster's cage has been cleaned, I've made sure I have enough money in the bank to keep me in steamed buns and peanut-butter M&Ms (all the major food groups), and I've been to the library (okay, that last one isn't really anything to do with Frightfest, but still, it was something I did this morning).

Now I'm just chilling out before it's time to put my glad-rags on and head out. This year I shall be donning a gorgeous 50's style dress which has the benefit of being beautiful, comfortable and warm. I love seeing everyone in their finery on the first night, and I love it even more knowing we'll all rock up tomorrow morning, clasping teas and coffees, in the comfiest clothes we can find.

So, what films am I looking forward to this year? Sin City: A Dame to Kill For should be exciting. The fact that Robert Englund is going to be there for The Last Showing is making me geek out more than a little. The Babadook looks like it could be the stuff of nightmares and Life After Beth is a zom-rom-com staring Aubrey Plaza, so can't possibly be bad. And there's the much anticipated Dead Snow 2. Check out the first film if you haven't seen it and like zombie comedies. It's fabulous.

Having said all that, the film I'm most looking forward to, if I'm being honest is Zombeavers. Yep, that's beavers who are also zombies! What's not to love?

Actually, all of the films look really good. You'll have to wait and see what makes it on to my top five once the dust has settled and I've finally woken up on Tuesday.

Now I'm off to paint my fingernails and maybe have a little doze on the sofa. I'll post again once the screaming stops.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

My Life in Pictures

Here are some things I saw this week, that I thought I would share with you all. Thanks to Stacey and her photo a day blog for the inspiration.

 First, Jago, having a little nap.
 Then Fitz with his head turned away so you can't see how much he's dribbling.
Romero, fast asleep and upside down on Mum's new chenille throw.

Then this view on my way home from work. The combination of the Monument and the Shard make it look as though London has slipped into some kind of alternative, sci-fi universe. All that's missing are the hover cars.

Finally, proof, if proof were needed, that there is no such thing as too many peas. I was feeling a bit crappy before Dad placed this feast before me, and the sheer number of peas really made me smile.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Desert Island Books

A little while ago I was listening to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 and thinking how unfair it is that you only get to pick one book to take with you. I mean, the complete works of Shakespeare is pretty good, but it seemed unfair to have eight music tracks and no real variety of reading material. So, over the course of more than a month, I have been working on my Desert Island Books, the eight books that I feel could sustain me while I slowly went crazy in a tropical paradise (the craziness is inevitable, I am no lone wolf.)

Prayer for Owen Meaney, by John Irving
This book ignited a love of Irving's work that shows no sign of declining. It's a beautifully crafted story that makes me want to read it again as soon as I get to the end, and on a desert island I might actually do just that.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker
I've read Dracula at least fifteen times, as well as a whole range of literary criticism on Stoker's most famous work, and I always find something new to enjoy. It's the reading equivalent of a favourite, most comfortable jumper.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Another one that I've read a few times and can't imagine ever getting tired of. I love the world that Gaiman has created and really enjoy his style. So many people I know read and loved this ages before I did, and I owe a big thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for just buying me a copy and telling me to get on with it.

An Angel at my Table, by Janet Frame
Jane Campion's film is wonderful, and the book is even better. The collected autobiographies of New Zealand poet and writer, Frame was wrongly diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent eight years receiving electro-schock therapy in an insane asylum, but it's a much more positive tale than that fact might imply. I love reading books by poets because the language is always so beautiful.

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
I read this about a decade ago and absolutely loved it. It really has something for everyone, humour, romance, intrigue, and it's not as daunting a read as it's reputation makes it seem. I've been meaning to re-read it ever since. Where better than in my tropical paradise?

Bridget Jones' Diary, by Helen Fielding
Again, a book that I've read over and over and always enjoyed. Maybe it's not the height of literary sophistication, but it's really enjoyable and pretty high-class for chick-lit. Sometimes you need a bit of daft romance.

Homeward Bounders, by Diana Wynne Jones
I read this book on a coach trip to Plymouth and nearly ended up in Penzance. In fact, I loved it so much I'm having to restrain myself from writing this whole section in over-excited capitals and exclamation marks (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I'm a late adopter of Diana Wynne Jones' work, which is proof that good writing is enjoyable for all ages. A brilliantly crafted story, which doesn't treat it's audience like idiots, and really inspired me to write.

Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts
This is a wild-card entry because, unlike the rest of the world, I haven't actually read it yet. I bought a copy years ago, but have never quite been in the mood for it, and am a bit concerned that it's been over-hyped. On the beach, under a shady tree, I think I would finally get around to finding out for myself

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Joy of Mini-figures

Here's an example of the wonderful things that can happen when making your own mini-figures in the Lego Shop. Left-to-right, that's Ash from Evil Dead, me, and Shaun, from Shaun of the Dead. They didn't have chainsaws or cricket bats in their selection, so I did my best, and I think we'll all agree that the nice big mug of tea is perfect for the mini-me.

Happy days.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Good, The Bad and The Crocodiles

Although a love of Sean Pertwee is a wonderful thing, sometimes it can lead me to watch films that are not good. I don't mean films that are so bad they're good, or films that are just about okay if you like that kind of thing. Nope, sometimes I end up watching films that are just bad. This is what happened when I settled down for a viewing of U.F.O.

Here's what's good about U.F.O.:

  • It has Sean Pertwee in it playing a religious nutter who has realised the truth about the aliens and is trying to communicate this to others by shouting bible passages in a confusing manner. Pertwee does crazy so well.
  • It has Jean-Claude Van Damme in. What happens to his character in the end was the most entertaining moment of the whole film.
  • It has Julian Glover in for about two minutes. He gets to be old and wise.
  • It represents the efforts of a group of people getting together and trying to do something creative.

Here are some of the problems (other than the plot):

  • The presence of Van Damme is so incongruous and badly written it gives a surreal tint to the film that it really doesn't need.
  • The attempt to show how humanity would crumble in the face of an alien invasion is badly handled and just ends up being unpleasant, especially at the end.
  • THERE AREN'T ANY UFO'S IN IT. Sorry for exploding into capitals there, but it's a pet peeve. There are no unidentified flying objects in this film, there are just a shit load of instantly recognised alien spaceships. Interestingly, the poster on IMDB has the title as Alien Uprising; they should've gone with that.
  • There's not enough Pertwee.
So, that was a bit of a low, but has it damaged my Pertwee love? No, not one bit. Pertwee will always redeem himself. The other evening I randomly put on a documentary called Diving With Crocodiles about crazy scientist types following enormous crocodiles into dark and unexplored caves formed by papyrus on the Nile. At one point they were lost in this cave, with at least two huge crocs and only ten minutes of air left in their tanks. I honestly thought they were going to die, and had to remind myself I wasn't watching a found-footage horror flick. It was pretty exciting and made all the better for being narrated by the fabulous Mr Pertwee.

All is forgiven.

Monday, 14 July 2014

I Made This (with some help from the Lego Movie)

First, the horror...

Okay, not quite so horrific, because I'd already sorted into colours by this point, but you know what I mean.
Then the glory...

Words can't express how much I love that ice-cream van, which made it a bit distressing when I tore it apart to make this...
but it's super-awesome! Here's the whole thing in action...

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Five Things To Do On A Lazy Morning

Five Things To Do On A Lazy Morning

  1. Listen to In Our Time on Radio 4. This will be a bit hard over the summer, because the series have just ended, but it's all there on iplayer. Anyway, every show is the exploration of an idea, theory, person or work of art. They're always interesting and make you feel as if you're improving yourself, when actually you're just sitting at the breakfast table eating your coco-pops*.
  2. Have a nice long bath. It needs to be hot enough to make your muscles all feel like they're melting, but not so hot that this feeling becomes literally true. Also, make sure to add plenty of bubble-bath. Then you can just soak until you're all pruney.
  3. Have a little nap. It doesn't have to be long, and you don't have to get back into bed. Just find a comfortable spot, close your eyes and drift away for a minute or two.
  4. Arrange to go somewhere for lunch. It shouldn't be anywhere too far away, just within pottering distance. This way you're not challenging the relaxed mood you've got into, but will get out of the house, be a bit sociable and blow away the cobwebs before partaking in a nice and lazy afternoon/evening.
  5. Write a blog post in which you share the wisdom you have gained from having such a delightfully lazy start to your day.

*Top tip: Sainsbury's own brand choco rice pops are more chocolatey and better than the more expensive Kellogs variety.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Last Passenger and Why You Should Watch It

Let's all think back to 2013, a mere year ago. Do you remember this film poster?
Maybe vaguely? Maybe not at all? That's pretty much how I felt when I saw that Last Passenger was on television. I had a vague recollection of maybe seeing a trailer once, but it hadn't made much of an impression. Still, the synopsis looked pretty good, so I thought I'd give it a go.

This turned out to be a wise decision.

Last Passenger is about a group of passengers (unsurprisingly) on a commuter train from London to Hastings. The train is emptying out at each station, and when a widowed doctor (Dougray Scott), travelling with his young son, sees someone injured on the track, they soon realise that something terrible is happening. What follows is a finely crafted and incredibly tense thriller. It's old school, Hitchcockian stuff. From the beginning I was suspicious of nearly every character, spinning crazy theories about what was going on, all of which were wrong. At the end I had my hands clasped over my face and was literally on the edge of my seat.

So I thought I'd write this post about it, because it's a film that deserves to be seen. It's a real shame it didn't get more of a push at the box office. It's not necessarily jam-packed with huge movie stars, Kara Tointon is the female lead, but everyone in it is really good. Special mention to Joshua Kaynama as Scott's son, and to David Schofield, because he's amazing in everything. There are some really good British films out there and I wish they were given a bit more attention.

If you like good acting, a well told story and a whole heap of tension, then this is the film for you. If just one more person watches Last Passenger because of this post, I'll consider my day a success.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Frightfest 2014: The Sleepy Queue

Yesterday morning my dad and I woke up at 3.45am in order to go and queue in an alley for four and a half hours. There is pretty much nothing else in the world I would do that for except for Frightfest, and it's actually a lot more fun than it sounds. It's not even as though we were being that hardcore. The people at the front of the line had been there since 6am the previous morning. I guess there's a thin line between dedication and madness.

Anyway, we'd decided that we needed to get there before people started arriving on the first tubes, because that's the big rush. Having said that, if we'd arrived a bit later we would have been around the corner in the sun and not freezing in Leicester Court, where the sun never shines. And we also wouldn't have had to stare at the poorly designed posters in the windows of the Hippodrome. I really hope they didn't pay much money for those posters, not only do they look shit, but they are written in pretty bad English.

But I'm making it sound awful. It's not. We took turns going to get coffees and chai teas, kept nice and full on croissants, and had remembered (mainly thanks to my mum) to take camping stools with us so we could have a nice sit down. We said "hello" to lots of people that we've met in the past, and chatted with the people in the queue next to us. I say this all the time, but there is such a lovely, friendly atmosphere at Frightfest and it's brilliant to meet new people to chat to in between films. We've met a lot of those people in the Sleepy Queue.

And if we hadn't got there at 5.25 in the morning, my dad and I would not currently be in possession of festival passes for seats right in the middle of the front row of Screen 7 at the Vue West End. We had put no effort into thinking what screen we wanted to be in, hadn't even looked at the spreadsheet that's someone has kindly put on the Frightfest forum. What we're interested in is leg room, and that's what we have.

So, very excited for the end of August. I love the anticipation you feel in the time between buying the tickets and the festival itself. And that all starts in the Sleepy Queue.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Romero v. Raimi

The weekend just gone I had the immense pleasure of going to the Prince Charles Cinema for Romero v. Raimi: Battle of the Undead Trilogies. Since then I've pretty much had a massive headache, but I think that's more to do with eating vast amounts of flapjacks in the middle of the night, and not anything to do with being subjected to vast amounts of blood and gore on the big screen.

I was so excited before it started. They re-released Evil Dead a while ago, so I've seen that at the cinema, and I saw Evil Dead 2 at some sort of cinema-bar type thing, but that's not the same, and I'm way too young to have caught any of them on their cinematic release. None of the films disappointed.

Still, given the title of the event, I found myself forced to consider which I preferred, Romero or Raimi? Before the evening began, I was leaning towards Romero. I mean, this is the man, and these are the films, that brought us the zombie as we know and love it today. I can't imagine what I would do with my time without him. My book and DVD shelves would certainly be a lot emptier. By the end of the night, however, I'd remembered exactly how much I love old-school Sam Raimi, and he's got to be the winner, just for having made Evil Dead 2 and bringing Bruce Campbell into my life.

I mean, it has everything. Horror? Yes. Humour? Yup. Jumps? Certainly. Big splattering bouts of blood and gore? You betcha. What more could you possibly want? Oh, a million catch-phrases you can quote along to? "Groovy." "Who's laughing now!?" Done. A gorgeous male lead you can love forever? Sorted. The scene where Ash is battling his evil hand must be some of the best physical acting of all time.

Watching Evil Dead 2 at an age that the censors would probably consider far too young is one of the films that really got me into horror, and for that it, and everyone involved in it's making, will always hold a special place in my heart.

PS: Sorry if this makes no sense. I really need some painkillers.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Return of the Paper Zombies

The Story So Far...

Back last summer I set myself the task of making eight of the paper zombies from my Make Your Own Paper Zombies Calendar. It was meant to be fun. It was meant to be easy. It was neither. It took all day, was really fiddly and left me grumpy and covered in paper-cuts. By the time 2013 ended and all the zombies were made I was looking forward to the day where I would send them to the paper-recycling hell where they so truly belong.

In fact, I was fairly certain that I had already recycled them, until I was sorting out some stuff in my room and came across this...
Yes, horror of all horrors, it's a bag of disembodied paper zombies. 
 It was as if they's crawled out from the fiery pit and made their way back to my room just to torment me! Will I never be free!?

So now, once again (or, more probably, for the first time), I have taken these undead, folded little bastards to the recycling bin, where I'm hoping they will be mushed up and turned into something less evil. I even took a picture, just in case they return to haunt me once again.
Die, paper zombies, die!

Looks a bit like he's trying to climb out in that picture. Creepy. Maybe I should have removed the head and destroyed the brain?

You'd be surprised at the weird looks you get stuffing small paper figures into a recycling bin.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

RIP Rik Mayall

About a million years ago, when I was at university, I had a trial day as a kitchen porter at a fancy vegetarian restaurant in Brighton. It was as close to hell as I ever wish to come. I washed things in scalding water in a windowless and airless room for eight hours with only a fifteen minute break and lots of people shouting at me. I went home and stood in the shower crying. All I wanted to do was curl up in bed and sleep, but my brother and future sister-in-law had come down from London to take me to see Bottom Live and so I had to pull myself together.

We got to the theatre, sat in our seats and I pretty much planned to just zone out until home time, but I couldn't because it was brilliant. Within minutes I was laughing my bum off and by the end everything from earlier had been forgotten and I was in a fantastic mood. I was lucky enough to see two other Bottom Lives (or should that be Bottoms Live?) and they were both brilliant, but that day will always hold a special place in my memory.

So, I was very sad to hear that Rik Mayall died yesterday, but pleased that I got to see him live because he was hilarious, and whenever I feel down I can just look at this picture and remember the time when Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson saved an otherwise disastrous day...

Friday, 6 June 2014

The 70th Anniversary of D-Day

The sun is shining, it's a beautiful day and I was going to post something quite frivolous, but I've just sat and watched a couple of hours of the D-Day Memorial on BBC1 and couldn't just let it pass. Instead of anything I could come up with, I thought I'd share with you the poem that was read as part of the service, written by a veteran of the Juno landing. It's not the fanciest poem in the world, but I found it moving because it's by someone who was really there

By Cyril Crain

Come and stand in memory
Of men who fought and died
They gave their lives in Normandy
Remember them with pride.

Soldiers, Airman, sailors
Airborne and marines
Who in civvy life were tailors
and men who worked machines.

British and Canadian
And men from USA
Forces from the Commonwealth
They all were there that day

To Juno, Sword and Utah
Beaches of renown
Also Gold and Omaha
That’s where the ramps went down.

The battle raged in Normandy
Many lives were lost
The war must end in victory
And this must be the cost

When my life is over
And I reach the other side
I’ll meet my friends from Normandy
And shake their hands with pride.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Romeo and Juliette: The Alternative Ending

Romeo and Juliette
The Alternative Ending

As Juliette lay in pretended death,
Poor Romeo chose death upon a knife,
But as our hero took his final breath,
He saw his love arise in undead life.
The potion Friar Laurence did prescribe,
Designed to save from being forced to wed,
When Juliette that potion did imbibe,
She was accursed to join the walking dead.
She pulled the blade from out her lover's chest
And with cold hands she tore his clothes apart;
She sunk her teeth in Romeo's pierced breast
And fed upon her dying lover's heart.
So Romeo and Juliette unite
As evil zombie creatures of the night.

This was inspired by attending an event at the Royal Festival Hall where a host of highly talented actors read all of Shakespeare's sonnets. Apologies to the bard.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Battle of the Damned: A Review

I watched Battle of the Damned because it contained three things: Dolph Lundgren, zombies and zombie-killing robots. Pretty exciting, yes?

Here's why it was bad:

  1. They weren't proper zombies, but rather people infected with an escaped bio-toxin with effects not dissimilar to those of 28 Days Later. They were really quite easy to kill and it just seemed like bad planning that had lead to the unnamed Malaysian city having to be quarantined. Film makers of the world, don't promise me zombies and then not have zombies in your film. Oh, and having a smart-arse character point out that they're not really zombies doesn't help.
  2. The story behind the robots was that they'd walked (apparently across the sea) from Japan where they'd malfunctioned and killed lots of people, but that's okay because they'd been fixed. It just seemed to be a massive coincidence that they were there and were able to tell the difference between healthy people and the crazy infected people because of a difference in body temperature.
  3. None of the characters were sympathetic and I didn't really care if they lived or died, mainly because the story was really poorly developed, including a "twist" at the end that could have provided lots of tension if they'd bothered to incorporate it earlier.
  4. It committed the cardinal sin of being a good idea that was just badly executed. I mean, zombie-killing robots and Dolph Lundgren! How could that go wrong? By taking itself too seriously and not just going for crazy action awesomeness, that's how.
But, because I like to keep things positive, here are some good things:

  1. Dolph Lundgren's character was called "Max Gatling." That's amazing.
  2. The robots were incredibly polite and a pleasure to watch, even if their story-line made no sense.
  3. There was some excellent "crazy infected people" acting from the extras. In fact, cut everything else out and have them running around and then getting into a big fight with the robots and this could make a reasonably entertaining short film.
In summary, take it that I've seen this one on your behalf and let's hope that next time I get all excited by a movie containing zombie-killing robots, it's as fantastic as it should be.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Zombies vs. Unicorns


Okay, deep breaths, calm down Momento. Let me start at the beginning...

I sat down to write my blog and was feeling a bit uncertain about what to post. The best thing I could come up with was a list of all the bad blog ideas I'd had (which will probably turn up at some point in the future). Then I thought to myself that it has been a while since I've written anything about Zombies vs. Robots and I decided to have a little trawl of the internet for an awesome image that I could share with you all. However, as I typed the word "zombie" into the search box, I noticed the third or fourth suggestion was "zombies vs. unicorns" and my life was changed forever.
 Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but still, pretty bloody cool! It's a collection designed to settle that age old row over who makes for the best short stories, the hungry undead, or magical horses with a horn on their head? As far as I can tell none of the stories have an actual fight between the two, which is a shame, because a unicorn might prove pretty handy in a zombie apocalypse. It could spear them right through the brain. Anyway, I've ordered the book, so I will happily confirm that for you soon. It's aimed at a young adult audience, with some pretty good writers (Garth Nix, Scott Westerfeld), so my expectations are high.

Now, I'm guessing I'm going to end up on

in the argument over which is better, but you never know...

Sunday, 25 May 2014

London's Sweetheart

It's been a bit of a weird day. Let's ignore the amount of trouble I had just getting up and dressed (I'm sure we've all had moments where we discover that everything we want to wear is dirty/full of holes), and lets ignore the fact that the one time I want to use the Jubilee Line before 11am on a Sunday is the very Sunday when it's not running until 11am. We can even put to one side the inherent weirdness of the production of Alice in Wonderland I saw at the Greenwich Theatre (pretty good with some amazing gymnastics, although I think most of it went over the heads of the majority of the audience, who were quite young children). Nope, what's been weird about today is that I seem to have become famous without realising it.

You know when you see a famous person and it takes you a minute to work out who they are, and during that time you're giving them a bit of an odd look? I've been getting that look all day. More than that, imagine opening a door to discover some famous person that you've always thought was quite cool was standing on the other side waiting to come through. You might look a bit surprised, then you might smile and hold the door open and let them come through. Well, that's also been happening to me all day. No-one's come up and explicitly asked for my autograph or anything, I've just been getting these looks of pleasant shock followed by unexpected friendliness.

The way I see it, one of three things must have happened:

  1. Everyone in London has started reading my blog and realised it's totally awesome.
  2. I have a look-alike who is a talented and lovable television personality, who I've somehow never come across.
  3. I've been having the best hair day ever.
Whatever the reason, people smiling at you and being nice is pretty great, so I would say that I'd like it to carry on, except that it culminated in a woman on the tube glaring at me and then rubbing her thighs. The dark side of fame.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Godzilla: A Review (and an unrelated rant)

I went to see Godzilla thinking I knew exactly what was going to happen, but actually having read nothing about it, and don't worry, as always, no spoilers. I spent the first half an hour or so thinking it was a pretty slow build up to a fairly obvious conclusion, but I was wrong, and thank the Gods for that.

The important thing to remember is that this is a film by Gareth Edwards, the director of Monsters, and feels a lot more like that than the Roland Emmerich film we're probably all best off forgetting. In fact, other than the title, pretty much the only thing these films have in common is that they both contain a gigantic lizard.

Edwards' Godzilla is a thoughtful film, focusing on the human element of the story, which made it really accessible. It also comes up with quite a good back story explaining the whole thing. But that doesn't mean there aren't some kick-ass bits of action, lots of buildings being trampled and plenty of explosions. All good things.

If you like big monsters, plenty of noise and explosions, accompanied by a well thought out story, and an amazing soundscape, then this is the film for you. Also, its got the fabulous Bryan Cranston in, which gives any production extra points, and the gorgeous Aaron Taylor-Johnson getting to play a proper grown-up for a change.

Now, that completely unrelated rant I mentioned in the title. I was listening to The Public Philosopher on Radio 4 this morning. This week Michael Sandel was talking to people at LSE about why and whether we should vote. Now, I'm not going to go into all the issues raised, please follow the link if you want to listen, but I just wanted to share how enraged I get at the casual way people decide not to vote. In the UK, unless you are a wealthy, landed man and a member of the Church of England, then someone fought to get you the vote. Go and use it. If you don't vote, then please realise you have no right to complain about anything, from the NHS to the state of the pavements and the price of fish. And if you really feel like all the candidates are a complete waste of space, then write that clearly on your ballot paper. Sure, it won't count as a vote, but all the candidates have to be shown all the spoiled ballot papers, so at least they'll know how you feel.

Rant over, Beautiful Reader. Now, go and see Godzilla. It's awesome.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Waaa Haaa Haaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The title of this post is not meant to indicate that I am being tickled to death by chinchillas. It's okay, I'm not. What it does refer to is the fact that it's half past midnight, I'm actually quite tired, but I'm too excited to get to sleep right now, so I thought I'd share the events of my day with you.

You see, along with cats, zombies and Sean Pertwee, one of my great loves is Arsenal. Today, Arsenal were in the FA Cup final, tipped to win against Hull, and get some lovely shiny silver-ware for the first time in close to a decade. Unfortunately, I had inadvertently booked tickets to take my mum to a Bruce Springsteen sing-a-long event at the Prince Charles Cinema, making good on the promise for a cinema trip my brother and I were giving her for Mothering Sunday. And because the match now kicks off at 5pm, I only got to watch the first 25 minutes before we had to leave. That would be the first 25 minutes in which Hull managed to score twice, Arsenal got one back and it generally looked like the dream of ending our nine year dry spell was turning into a nightmare.

So, there I find myself, humming along to Springsteen because I really don't know most of the words and fretting about the football. Thankfully, I had a lifeline through my friend Stacey, sending me updates of important events. Important events such as the fact the we equalized, took it to extra time and then won!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When this news arrived they were playing an emotional and contemplative song, so I had to sit quietly in my seat, wriggling with excitement and gently stomping my feet. I let loose with "Born to Run" and "Dancing in the Dark", singing loudly and dancing as wildly as the seats in the Prince Charles will allow.

Since then I've come home and watched the match. I've been a bit teary and then changed me facebook profile picture to something more appropriately Arsenalesque (which is totally a word no matter what spell-check says). And everything that I've written sounds so much more eloquent that what's going through my head, which really is just happy, excited noises like "Waaa Haaa Haaaaaa," "Wooo Hoooo," and "WWWWWWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH."

If none of that makes sense, then I apologise. Like I said, I'm really quite tired. Also, I'm writing this while partaking in yet another one of my loves, watching professional wrestling. I sure have a whole lot of love. If you want to see some awesome shit, check out Pro Wrestling Guerilla. It's amazing.

Thank you for making it through my waffle, Beautiful Reader. Come on Arsenal, you beautiful creatures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Scream Machine: A Story What I Wrote.

Scream Machine

The benefit of being locked in an office is that I have paper and a pen so that I can make a record of what I know and there are plenty of places to hide this letter once I’m done.
            I’ve been working at WebbEllison since they built the second Dream Machine. They were still only conducting medical procedures at that point, small DNA hacks to treat illness, or prevent people from contracting diseases for which they had genetic pre-dispositions. We encode our patients’ DNA and then use our data centres to find healthy codes and construct a new DNA sequence. We then inject the patient with microscopic robots which recode the DNA throughout the body. On average it takes a month for the body to realign after a hack.
My job is to secure the patient in the Machine, apply the treatment and monitor their vital signs while the microbots make the initial changes. I trained as an anaesthesiologist, and we do try to numb the pain, but when every single cell in a body is changing, there’s very little we can do to dull the agony. We call it the Scream Machine in the office, where the patients can’t hear us. I listen to those screams for hours every day. It wasn’t too bad when the treatment was helping to save someone’s life, but now…

Six months after I started working here, Allison Webb called a meeting to announce changes within the company. Rumours had been flying around for weeks that we were going to start offering non-essential procedures. Roger Ellison, the man who had discovered the DNA hack technique, had been against it, stating that it was wrong to perform such an intense procedure for the purpose of rich people’s vanity. At the meeting Webb claimed that he had been bought out. She had commissioned four new Machines to be built and said that we would be moving to new premises, with more space and more staff to process the increased work load.
            That was on the Monday morning. On Friday night our team worked around the clock to move to new data centres. Over the next week the machines and medical equipment were transferred, and three weeks later I did my first DNA hack that wasn’t to save someone’s life. The patient was an actress who I’d seen in a film only a couple of days before. She was beautiful and successful, and as I listened to her screams I wondered what the hack was doing. I saw her six months later, a little thinner with a feline look to her eyes and wondered whether she thought the pain had been worth it.
            Soon I was doing far more vanity hacks then medical procedures. I thought these people were crazy, but our pay kept going up and it was easier to ask no questions and just smile at the millionaire making himself younger and better endowed or the eccentric pop star leaving the clinic with purple skin and butterfly wings. By that point we were even advertising on television. The name “Dream Machine” no longer referred to the fact that it granted people’s wishes of a healthy life, but because it could “create the you you’ve always dreamed of being.”
            I feel ashamed of myself for not becoming curious sooner. I started seeing a lot of young women in my Machine room who were barely old enough to have legally signed a consent form. But it wasn’t until a young woman was wheeled into the machine room already unconscious that I started to dig around. That was maybe a fortnight ago.
            I befriended a man from accounts. I won’t say who, I don’t need anything else on my conscience. We got talking about how much the procedure cost, and he let it slip that these young women weren’t paying for these operations, but were mostly being paid for by a single organisation, MaximCorp. As far as he was concerned, they were just some soulless company who probably had investments in a modelling agency. I nodded agreement, but my curiosity had been peaked.
It was shockingly easy to find the relevant information on MaximCorp, and from there easy enough for someone in my position to discover the truth. A night on the internet was enough to inform me that MaximCorp are a subsidiary group of March & Philps International. MPI, in turn, are major share-holders in WebbEllison. So, what were a multinational corporation doing paying their own company for women only just past the age of consent to go through a procedure that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds? If my suspicions were right, the answer wasn’t going to be available on the internet, but I had other means.
I flirted a little with a programmer from the data centre, and took him out for a drink. Again, no names. A couple of bottles of wine later he confided that he was thinking about leaving the company, that he didn’t like the direction things were going. I managed to steer the conversation around to the young women, admitted I knew they weren’t paying for the procedure themselves. He looked nervous, his eyes darting around the room as if someone might be listening.
Eventually he told me that he had programmed the DNA hack for some of these women, and that they always had the same thing done. Some of the things were fairly regular for a vanity hack, increased metabolism, body shape, that kind of thing, but there were two things that made them stand out. Their DNA was hacked to make them more obedient and increase their sex drive. My worst fears were confirmed. He was, we are, a party to sex trafficking.
He looked pale when he told me and I felt sick. I asked him how he could do it, knowing what was happening to these women and he told me that he was scared. He knew people who had raised objections to Allison Webb herself and been sacked. That didn’t seem like such a bad thing to me. I’d already decided that I wasn’t going in to work the next day, but everything changed with what he told me next. Not only had a colleague of his been fired, but he had tried getting in touch with them afterwards and they seemed to have vanished off the face of the planet.
That’s when I started thinking about all the things the Machine could do. It could change someone’s DNA beyond all recognition, change their appearance so their own mother wouldn’t recognise them, make them so they were no longer human, no longer physically capable of being of revealing the truth. They wouldn’t even need to kill them, but if they did, no one would be able to identify the body.
We left the restaurant and went our separate ways. There was clearly no point in complaining. I needed proof, something that I could take to the police, and I had an idea of where I could get it. The Machines are little more than chairs. They mould to the patient’s body and restrain them while twenty needles, embedded within the chair to correspond with vital points in the body, inject the microbots throughout their system. The Machines don’t contain a record of how the DNA is changed, but they do hold a memory of the original DNA of everyone who has sat in them. It was a safety measure in case the patient’s DNA needed to be reset for any reason.
I went straight back to the clinic and into the first Machine room. That was where the original Dream Machine was kept, the Machine that Allison Webb used. I accessed the panel and started searching through the memory, hundreds of names, thousands and there it was, a record that Roger Ellison had been hacked on the same day that Webb had announced Ellison’s departure. I couldn’t remember hearing anything about him after that, but I’d been too busy to give an ex-colleague much thought. I collapsed on to the floor and was still sitting there, trying not to throw up, when Allison Webb entered the room with a security guard and I realised that in the horror of my revelation I had completely forgotten about anything as banal as CCTV.
Now I’m here, locked in this office. I presume Webb is trying to work out a way to delete someone from the Machine’s memory, and I doubt it will take long, given that she’s the genius who invented it. Then they’ll come for me and it will be my turn in the Scream Machine, and who knows what they’ll do to me there. They might destroy me completely, as I have helped to destroy those girls. I can only hope that whoever finds this letter will take it to the police and that the truth will finally be known.


I wrote this story for the Sci-fi London 48 Hour Flash Fiction Challenge. I didn't win, but ho-hum. I like to think it holds the gem of a good idea and I may turn it into something longer and better someday. Meanwhile, I heard on the news a few days after I'd finished it, that scientists have discovered a way to alter people's DNA in order to treat genetic disorders. I'm sure it will have better results in reality. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Great Films and Beautiful People

Every now and then I come across something or someone who is so awesome that I feel the need to make sure everyone else knows about them/it. Today, I want to share with you, Beautiful Reader, my love of Brit Marling.
Now, given that she's beautiful, successful and younger than me, obviously my natural reaction was to hate her, but this has proved impossible. Here are a few reasons why I hope you will also love Brit Marling...

  1. Having got a degree in Economics from Georgetown University, she turned down a job offer from Goldman Sachs in order to pursue her art.
  2. Not satisfied with the roles being offered her as a pretty, young, blond woman, she taught herself to write screenplays and created strong roles for herself in films that are both thoughtful and thought provoking.
  3. The films she has written and produced include The Sound of My Voice, where she plays a cult leader claiming to be from the future, and Another Earth in which a planet completely identical to our own is found to be hurtling towards us. She made these films simultaneously in 2011 and both were accepted into the Sundance Film Festival, because they are both brilliant.
  4. Brit Marling also wrote and produced The East where she plays a PI going undercover in an anarchist group. Not only is it a well thought out and well filmed story, but it also stars Ellen Page, who is fab and Alexander Skarsgard, who I love, as I love all the Skarsgards. Lets have a picture of him too...
I took me so long to choose that picture, they were all good. Look forward to a future post about my love of the family Skarsgard.

So, in summation, please watch one of those three films, or all of them, because they're really good. Brit Marling is awesome and if this blog brings her films to the attention of one more person, I will feel my work is done. All she needs to do now is write a zombie film.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Zombies With Mustaches and Other Happy Things

I was just sitting here thinking, I really ought to post on my blog. At the same time I was getting real pleasure out of the cheat on Plants v. Zombies that gives the zombies mustaches. When they die, and their head falls off the mustache flies off, separately, into the air and lands nearby, proving it was a fake mustache all along. It's only a small thing, but it tickles me every time. Why would a zombie be wearing a fake mustache? Genius. If you don't know the game I'm talking about, then please check it out, I think I've blogged about it in the past. It will bring you nothing but joy (and maybe a little frustration if your brains get eaten).

Anyway, I thought I'd just list a few other things that make me happy, while attempting to not be too cloyingly cute. And I'm not going to number them, because that implies order and would hide the fact that I'm just making this up as I go along.

  • Zombies with mustaches.
  • Fat squirrels.
  • The fact I've written "space womble" on my wall (long story).
  • Taking screen breaks to converse with Tommy the Hamster (and the fact I just accidentally typed Jamster, as if he's some kind of tiny musician/dj).
  • Those things you get in bakeries that have some kind of marshmallow, sprinkled with hundreds-and-thousands in an ice-cream cone. No idea what they're called, but their existence makes the world a better place.
  • The fact that if you type "cute zombie pirate" into Google images, this picture by enkana comes up...
  • Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens... No, wait, that's Maria from The Sound of Music... She's got a point though.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Movies

For the first time in three days, I'm not going to the cinema. There was The Raid 2 on Thursday ( I love Gareth Evans, if you like brilliantly choreographed, violent martial arts films, you owe it to yourself to watch both this film and its predecessor). On Friday I saw the first three Indiana Jones films at The Prince Charles Cinema, reminding me yet again why they are some of the greatest films ever made. Last night I was back at the Prince Charles for Empire Records, which was so good I wanted to immediately watch it again. And tomorrow I'm back there yet again for The Dark Knight trilogy.

So, in order to stop myself feeling at a loose end today I decided to share some Easter movies with you, Beautiful Reader.

For kids and adults alike, try Hop. It could just have been a cute little film about the Easter Bunny, but the voices of Russell Brand and Hank Azaria give it an edge that make it really funny. Also worth a mention is Rise of the Guardians. It's actually about Jack Frost, but Easter plays a crucial part in the story and Hugh Jackman's Easter Bunny is fantastic. And, of course, you can get all Arthurian with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. "He chose... poorly."

For 1950's epics, I'd have to go for The Robe. For me, it is the perfect example of a Hollywood movie from the Golden Era that is trying to be big and important. It is knowingly grand and has moments when people just look meaningfully past the camera for a minute or two in order to express emotion or signify they've just learnt something important. It can make the film a little slow, and even a little silly, but if you go with it and get in the mood, then it's wonderful. Also, I love Richard Burton and Victor Mature.

I suppose if you want a bit of Passover action you could watch The Ten Commandments. Yes, it's technically well made; yes, it's got Yul Brynner in it; but even six years after his death, the mere mention of Charlton Heston's name is enough to send me into a violent rage and I just can't watch anything with him in. Deep breaths, Momento Maureen, deep breaths.

If religion is your thing, then you can't go far wrong with Jesus of Montreal, in which a group of actors staging a controversial Passion Play find the story being echoed in their own lives. It's beautifully made, and gives everyone a chance to say Lothaire Bluteau, which is a brilliant name. Say it with me... Lothaire Bluteau. Nice. I should also mention Godspell. It's painfully dated, but worth watching to see Victor Garber as a hippy-clown Jesus, before he got type cast as stern father figures... or maybe just look at the pictures online, I found it a bit much.

Finally, inevitably, let us move to horror films. This afternoon I shall be cracking open my box set and watching Critters 2. Not only is it a worthy sequel to an awesomely ridiculous horror-comedy, but it's also set at Easter! There's a church service and a guy in a bunny costume and everything! If you like really silly, gross things, if you liked Gremlins, then you owe it to yourself to give these films a watch.

And of course, on a day that celebrates a man coming back from the dead, what better than a zombie movie or two, or even the ten recommended in this brilliant article. Let's be grateful that Jesus resurrected without wanting to eat any brains, or this could be a very different holiday indeed.