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.