Saturday, 27 February 2010

Tokyo Gore Police

Now there's a film. A total bizarre, sick-as-hell, blood filled Japanese surreal sf horror.

In a nutshell the plot follows a young police woman who fights Engineers. Engineers are villains who mutate when they are injured, the injured area converting into a weapon of one sort or another - chainsaws, guns etc.

It's like Bladerunner on a bad acid trip. Totally out there. Just what I needed from a Japanese horror film.

Bloody rugby

I am a long time fan of rugby. I support Leicester Tigers and I'm English.

So as you can probably guess I'm not overly happy with the games today.

First off England lost. And not just lost, they lost to a team that I didn't think played all that well. England were just not good enough. Now, compared to the match two weeks ago when they played Italy (and just about scrapped a win) they were a lot better. But when you consider the talents of the players they have on the pitch they really should be able to do more than that.

Anyway that finished I turned over to watch the Northampton vs Leicester match. And yes I realise that the conditions were pretty awful. The pitch was boggy and it rained for most of the match. But despite Leicester having the majority of the possession throughout the game they just didn't look like scoring. Result 19-3 to Northampton.

So two matches watched and two defeats. Darn!!!

Bloody Flu

I'm addicted to this computer based life. So when I've not really spent any time on my home PC for more than a week (and wasn't away enjoying myself in Italy or Belgium) something just has to be wrong.

I've had flu. Plain and simple. For four days over last weekend I really couldn't do anything. Pretty much at all. I'm not after sympathy. I'm not playing the martyr card. I was just ill.

I don't like being ill. I know no one does and I'm not claiming anything special. It was only flu for heaven's sake. But it did expose me to the horrors of daytime TV. Golly that stuff's terrible. Sorry if you like it but I am afraid I just DON'T!

And in the middle of the Winter Olympics too! Now I don't like the the Winter Olympics particularly. Okay falling off a hill (or ski-jumping) is half-decent. And I don't mind a little bit of cross country skiing or speed skating. But only a little.

Still at least there were the documentary channels. I spent a couple of days watching documentaries about Hitler's Generals, the Universe, Ancient Greeks, Rome, bridge building, geology, trains, planes, automobiles, space travel, and all kinds of other bizarre stuff.

Thank heavens TV's moved on from the days of three or four channels.

I mean I couldn't even concentrate on reading. Unreal for me...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Murky Depths

A little while ago I received an acceptance for a book review I sent in to Murky Depths. Yehay! Go me!

Well yesterday I received my contributor copies of the magazine my review is featured in. And all I can say is Wow! This is a seriously decent quality magazine - glossy cover, thick heavy paper for the pages, well printed. This thing is a joy to hold. And then there's the content. They really put a decent product out. I'm proud to be associated with this

Final Destination 3 - or "Been there, seen that, choked to death on the t-shirt"

I've seen the first two of the Final Destination movies - and thought #1 was a great horror flick. Nice concept, some decent actors and some nicely grisly deaths. All round top marks that film.

When the second film came out I went to see it and got what I expected. The same. The spark of originality had gone, and it just wasn't as good. I didn't bother with the third at all.

That is until I saw it on the bargain rack of the local video store. I'm a sucker for a horror movie cheap - and this one set me back a mere three quid. I'm for that.

But was it three quid well spent? I'm going to have to say yes, although I'm glad I didn't pay more. Replacing the big-bad accident with a rollercoaster was different and a little scary - I'm no good with heights so I don't do rollercoasters. Made the scare element quite good. But it did lack the punch of a plane crash. Once you've exploded a jet airliner then most everything else is just going to be second rate.

Once again we have a bunch of people get off just before the accident happens and then once again they start to die in increasingly bizarre ways just to prove that death can't be cheated.

So nothing original at all. Or is there? Well, to be honest - nope! You get what you expect.

But that said it is well made and some of the deaths are particularly violent or painful. And the effects are as up there as they should with this being a mainstream with a budget of over $30 million.

The film's well directed, well pace and decently acted. It has gory action sufficiently often to keep the horror fan well satisfied and I would say manages to overcome the obvious weakness of the same-old, same-old second sequel issue.

Not sure if the two review quotes on the cover "One Hell of a Ride" and "10 out of 10" are entirely justified but this is a very watchable movie.

Back to writing - and reality

The last week has seen three rejections - boo, hiss!

New magazine Bastards and Whores has rejected my double-drabble (two connected 100 word stories) "Soup / Eat Up!". I don;t think I'm going to try that anywhere else.

Crossed Genres has declined my article on Charles Babbage and the Difference Engine.

And to round out the set, my run at House of Horror has come to an end. After accepting the first two stories I sent in to them they've rejected my third Jeff the Demon story "Let's Have Fun with Them". I had hoped they'd take this (obviously, you might say but for a reason).

They published the previous Jeff the Demon tale "I Want to Stay" in the January issue of the zine and so they know the character. Selling it somewhere else might be tricky.

Ah well at least I have a couple of new mags who want reviews. Not that it's a guarantee of acceptances but they will at least take them. Now all I have to do is write them.

Everyone needs a goal

If you know me, or if you've read this blog for long, you will know that I am a passionate supporter of the European Union. And yes if you didn't know this you will probably find it odd for an Englishman to be a mad Europhile.

Anyway in a conversation the other day it occured to me how little of this group I actually know. I mean really know. So I've decided to do something about it. I'm setting myself a little target. I am currently, as I sit here typing this, 42 years old. Before I am fifty I would like to be able to say I have been to the capitol city of every EU country. That's currently 27 different cities, although I would like to belive it might be more like 35 by the year 2018 (if the EU ministers decided to get Enlargement back on track following their recent loss of interest - but that's another issue).

Even if I were to limit it to just the 27 I have a few to go. And this is mainly because I realised just how few I've been to.

Being a mad Italophile I have of course been to Rome - and it's a city I would recommend to anyone - and do to anyone who hangs around long enough. Being English I've been to London - hell I used to live there - so that takes my count to two.

My holiday last September saw me in Brussels again - a second wonderful visit. So Belgium can be ticked off an I get to three.

A work Christmas party in the boom years (or about five years back) saw us visit Dublin for two days - my only trip to Ireland as yet, which I know is really poor as it's a short ferry ride across the North Sea. But those two days were wonderful. The Irish are an incredibly hospitable and friendly race and I need to get back there at some point. Anyway - that makes four.

And here's where I begin to struggle. At four. I mean I've never even been to Paris.

I've been to France a number of times but each trip has been by car and I just don't have the nerve to try driving a British (right hand drive) car in Pairs. Hell, to be trughtful I don't think I'd want to drive a French (left hand drive) car there either. I'm not the best driver in the world and I'm honest enough to admit it.

I might increase this count later in the year. We're thinking of popping back to Belgium, only this time basing ourselves in the East of the country, near Liege. And from there it's not a long drive to Luxembourg. So I might well get to count that as five. But that would mean another year over and only one added. I'd only have seven left then to hit the other 22.

So it's time to start planning. I'm thinking of a big trip for 2012 - to celebrate being with my wife for 20 years (yes you can call me a softie). Here's idea one. Fly to Warsaw. That would make it six (assuming I've done the Luxembourg trip). Have a quick look round and then head for the Baltic states. Than way I could get Vilnius, Riga and Talinn and move straight to nine.

But that wouldn't be all. From Talinn you can virtually see Helsinki so take a ferry across and make it ten. Then catch a plan across to Stockholm in Sweden and then drive or train to Copenhagen and we're at twelve. Hell if I can get enough time of work and have enough money to spare I could even drive or train from Copenhagen to Berlin - assuming I haven't already done it by then.

So I have eight years. It could be fun.

Cabin Fever

I figured as the second Cabin Fever film is due shortly I really should get around to watching the first. I'm glad I did. Especially as there were some good bits in the movie.

Now okay the plot has a number of elements that are more than familiar - a group of city kids heading for the sticks to party in a remote cabin (surely they should know), some small town hick types who seem out for mayhem etc etc.

But in many ways the familiar actually works here. This is the kind of horror we grew up with. This is giving us fans of 1980s horror what we always liked and doing it well.

And, and this is the clincher, within the familiar plot structure the filmmakers have given us a darn good "big-bad". One that just about everyone will get a little bit worried by - flesh eating viruses. We live in a world where there's a new health scare every year - Ebola, Bird Flu, Sars, Swine - you come up with a new mystery "we're all going to die" disease and we'll panic about it.

Now I'm not trying to belittle these diseases, after all many, many people do actually die in these outbreaks. But when it comes to it we live in a place where the media seems to almost wet themselves when there's a sniff of a new microscopic killer. Show me a new virus and I'll show you a thousand headlines warning us that the end of the world is nigh!

Ok, maybe I am exaggerating. But in terms of this movie what I mean is that they hit on a real zeitgeist moment here. And it helps that it's a pretty good movie too I suppose.

So now I want the sequel.

Brain Dead Films - back to business as usual

When I last posted an article about Brain Dead Films I was actually quite complimentary. Awaken the Dead was better than I expected, but I suppose my expectations were low. That said I was a little bit impressed, Awaken the Dead held it together as a movie.

However Fist of the Vampire didn't. Essentially someone seems to have decided to make a version of Bloodsport with vampires. It's just disjointed fight sequences with other scenes in between. I'd say more but I really can't remember anything of note in these in-between bits.

Hey - try it if you want. I'm not saying my opinion matters for much. You might get some fun out of this.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Bloodrayne

Why did I watch this? There are so many good films out there I've still not seen and yet I still watched this. One look at the cover should have warned me. Kristanna Loken is standing, with barely contained cleavage, holding two swords. Then I should have noticed the fact that it's based on a video game.

The warning signs were there. I just ignored them.

Now this might surprise anyone who knows me - or anyone who's read this blog - and read of me writing on some seriously bad movies. Surely you might think if I've watched some really BAD movies why would this be worse. And bizarrely enough it's because it isn't. It's better than a lot of the films I've seen, not worse.

Ant that's the problem for me. When you compare it to a lot of the extremely low budget movies I've seen this was a major production. You can tell watching it that it had a decent budget (I remember reading it had about $25m) but it isn't all that much better than some of the films I've seen that cost only tens of thousands.

And on top of it the fact that there are some decent actors in supporting roles (Michael Madsen and Ben Kingsley for two) and yet the quality is still just not there...grrrrr!

It could have been so much more.

A love of books - a new arrival

The greatest thing imaginable to a book lovers is the arrival of new books. There's something quite magical about getting new books - and when they are as wonderful as objects as PS Publishing release it really brings a smile to your face.

Well it does to mine anyway.

PS Publishing had a sale on throughout January. A buy two get one free sort of sale. So I took advantage a little and today reaped the reward. For when I returned home from work a package containing six PS Publishing titles was there ready to be opened.

So now I have six new books to read
 - Richard Bowes' Streetcar Dreams
 - Garry Kilworth's Moby Jack
 - Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine*
 - Quentin S. Crisp's Shrike
 - Nicholas Royle's The Enigma of Departure
 - Zoran Zivkovic's Impossible Stories II

So I have five new books to read - I've already read the Ray Bradbury book; I just wanted a really top quality copy of such a wonderful book.

Only problem is where to start. My reading pile already had a few dozen on it before these latest arrivals. Oh, it's a hard life (and yes, you're right. I'm not being serious).

Mallrats

I like this film. I liked this film when I first saw it - so seeing it in the bargain bin for a couple of quid was a temptation I was incapable of resisting.

But like a number of similar experiences in my past it also worried me. You see far too many times I've revisited something I liked in my past only to find my memory was better than the actuality. Time smoothes away the rough edges and makes you forget the imperfections.

So putting this into the DVD player did make feel a little trepidatious. Fortunately though I needn't have worried. This is a little childish in places - in fact some of the humour is downright puerile but it is funny, and I've liked the characters of Jay and Silent Bob since I first saw them.

It's a simple love story at its core, seeing Brodie attempting to win back his girlfriend and prevent her from falling prey to the manager of a clothes shop in the shopping mall - the place everyone hangs out. But it's the oddly anarchic moments that make it. And thankfully these oddball moments still had the power to make me smile.

It brought another thing to mind though when watching it - there're one or two people in this film I hadn't realised - actors I've watched in a number of other things since such as Claire Forlani. It's a definite case of "I recognise that face".

Saturday, 6 February 2010

1980s movies

A couple of days ago I saw a couple of things up for sale - a 4 DVD box set of the Critters movies and the DVD of John Carpenter's The Thing. Well I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, they are films I saw when I was a kid and they were cheap.

The one thing I've noticed about them when compared to modern movies is pace. Having rewatched The Thing and the first Critters movie they start a great deal slower than more recent films. If these were remade now I can pretty much guarantee that the first five moinutes would have plenty of gore - after all they have to get the interest of the attention-deficit world we've become...

Points for effort

I was at Birmingham (UK) Airport last night to meet my wife on her return from India (a business trip). Arrivals Halls are places I like. It's like the comment in the Richard Curtis film Love Actually when Hugh Grant talks about them being happy places. They are.

As always I was surrounded by other people awaiting friends and loved ones - together with all the expected hugs and kisses.

Standing next to me was this guy - average looking, normal guy. Except for the bunch of flowers. Now most guys have an aversion to flowers - believing that there's something "cissy" about such obvous displays of emotion. This guy seemed on of them. Holding this bunch of flowers he looked very uneasy. But, all credit to him, he did it. He stood there and waited.

And a couple of minutes before my wife walked out, his girlfriend/wife emerged. It was smiles all round, hugs and kisses and delivery of said flowers to much initial success.

The only thing was as he moved towards her and raised the flowers up high I saw a sticker attached to the back of the celophane wrapper with the immortal, romantic words "Special Offer".

Points for effort but he really should have checked the wrapper for giveaway signs of cheapskateness.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Max Payne - What The???

OK, I knew going into this that a lot of people thought this was bad. I've read some reviews that slammed it to hell.

but I found it cheap so I thought I'd pick it up and give it a go. Well...? I have to say it's not brilliant. In fact there are times when I thought it was downright rubbish. But it's not completely awful. Yes the drug-induced visions of vengeful angels was a bit naff, and yes the concept of a brooding cop who's lost his wife years earlier is so familiar as to be annoying. And there are some decent action bits and some nicely graphic violence.

But the best I can really say for it is it managed to avoid having me hit the fast forward button (or worse - the eject button). It did have help though - I was busy doing something on the computer whilst it was playing so it didn't have to occupy my complete attention.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Space

Today President Obama cancelled the US plan to return to the Moon. At least as far as the government is concerned. He announced he is turning the space ambitions over to private enterprise.

Well I can understand. The recession has caused government budgets to balloon and space is, at least in the short term, not essential. The problem for me is the phrase "short term".

I think of the debate over space like the row over the environment. Both of these projects are big - far bigger than any one single country can realistically achieve alone.

But, and I'm about to go off on one here, there is an organisation that could handle this. Every one has heard of the United Nations. But I wonder how many realise the range of activities they get up to.

There's the Security Council, the obvious one, passing resolutions to try to get this country or that country to "play the game". Here in the UK with an enquiry into the Iraq War going on we hear all about UN resolutions and whether there was a legal basis for the invasion of Iraq.

But there's more... and don't think I'm patronising you. I'm just being flip. Yes you'll think of UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation - and they do far more than just designate part of the planet as Heritage Sites. But that's another matter. Bck to the UN.

There's also the UN World Food Programme, UNAIDS (the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS), UNEP (the UN Environment Programme - with the recent Copenhagen conference you may have heard of this body), UNDP (UN Development Programme) and others.

So there's plenty there to suggest that we can at least attempt to solve issues by working together. So could space be another such issue. Hand over control of space exploration and, hopefully someday, colonisation to the United Nations.

Next problem - how do you pay for it? Well, and I'm really going to go out on one for this. Oil!

So how do we convince the countries of this world to give up their oil reserves? Well we shouldn't have to. All we have to do is agree that if oil reserves are found in parts of this planet that are not within any country's borders. This will be a tense issue. Over the last year or so there have been heated claims from various countries over rights to oil reserves under the Arctic.

These conflicts of interest between nations are potentially very dangerous - especially as the Earth enters an era when fossil fuels become less and less available and more and more wanted. I can see wars erupting over these diminishing resources. But my worries on this are somewhat a sideline to my thoughts here (and might potentially be resolved by these thoughts).

If the UN is given the rights to these deposits then it can allocated drilling rights to various countries and organisations - for a price. And then use this money raised to fund space exploration - which would also give the various countries and companies of the world a chance to get this money back and maybe ease the feelings of losing out on the initial oil claims.

So it is, in theory possible. But is it worth it? Is there more to space than simple science and a chance to take some seriously funky pictures of swirls of dust?

In my honest opinion - yes. But this is when youtake a long view. We normally look at our own small little slice of time, unable to see all that far beyond next week (figuratively speaking).

We have top move back from time a little and take a wider view. View time in terms of decades or even centuries. And when we do so we must consider that it's not just oil that is beginning to run short. We are consuming our planet at an incredible rate.

If we continue at this rate it won't be all that much longer until all kinds of resources become extremely rare.

However all is not lost. Up there, beyond our thin atmosphere is a near incalculable number of objects, big and small. And they are made of stuff - some of which we are definitely going to need if we want to keep filling our lives with pointless gadgetry (oh, and reasonable bits of hi-tech contraptions like life-support machines, computers and the like).

So if we have the ability to get into space at a price that is affordable - which you will only get by doing it. Make one and it's expensive. Make ten thousand and you figure out how to make them cheap.

So if we fund lots of different scientists, engineers, technologists and entrepreneurs, but in a non-typical government way (private enterprise model) then in a reasonably short period the cost of getting to the Moon will become more affordable, and if private enterprise has anything to do with it they'd already have put something on the Moon to greet you when you arrive with all kinds of tantalising merchandising offers. Glass of wine from the first extra-terrestrial vineyard anyone (well why not - that would keep my wife happy, not to mention a sizeable portion of the French population).

But space is such a long term investment kind of thing that private enterprise alone is not going to be able to fund it based on eventual possible gains - I can't see any chairman being able to sell his shareholders to the thought of let's spend billions now on the possibility that your children will gain. But if our mythical UN organisation sponsors things a la X-Prize then it may well work. And more over private enterprise will do one thing for sure that government may just hope might happen. Technology developed by the private sector will not be exclusively space tech. You can bet anything you own on them making money on the side.