Monday Review: The World’s End

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I’m a little late to this particular party, as The World’s End has all but disappeared from UK cinemas by now, but I think the US release is imminent, so that is my excuse for posting this now.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the film because, well, I managed to avoid trailers and spoilers because it was pretty much a given that I’d want to see this( I’ve been a fan of Pegg & Frost since they made Spaced back in ’99 – also directed by Edgar Wright, who worked with them on the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy) and I think I enjoyed it more for that.
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Short review

It’s a lot like Shaun of the Dead.

Longer review

Simon Pegg plays high school cool kid turned alcoholic drop-out Gary King, who comes to the sudden realisation that his lifde has not worked out the way he planned because he and his friends epically failed to complete the legendary ‘Golden Mile’ pub crawl after leaving school, so he gets the band back together and they head off to finish the job as 40-odd year olds. It doesn’t go quite according to plan – and therein hangs the story.
As well as being full of the usual film references, laugh out loud moments, slapstick action sequences and inimitable Pegg/Frost chemistry we have come to expect from the Cornetto Trilogy, I loved this film because 1990.
The original teenage pub crawl took place in July 1990, and the whole movie plays out to a soundtrack of the exact indie rock tunes I was loving towards the end of my school career. We went on a pub crawl after the last day of school; it wouldn’t have made as good a movie as this one. Like the five protagonists in The World’s End, I have moved away from the places I spent my formative years, and on the occasions I’ve been back, it has always been with that weird sense of things being the same but indescribably different that the movie plays on. The setting itself, the probably fictional town of Newton Haven, could be one of any number of English towns I’ve visited (as it happens, I haven’t visited the places where it was filmed, which probably just goes to prove my point).

It’s like a lion eating houmous

Anyway, I guess my point is that there may be a lot of reasons why I personally liked this movie; but if you liked Shaun of the Dead you’ll probably find a lot to enjoy here too.
And the cameo by the Cornetto was a great moment for movie geeks.

Slightly Spoilery Bit

Not too spoilery though; as I said, I enjoyed it more for not knowing much about what was going on. But this is where the bad bits have to go, so here they are:
Some of the action scenes did seem like just retreading Shaun. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, and Gary King especially drops some nice one-liners (usually beer-related) in the midst of the chaos.
The epilogue is a little unnecessary, unless they were deliberately trying to spoof Lord of the Rings with its multitude of false endings.
There are pauses for thought too: about growing up in a post-school sort of way, losing track of your past and trying to figure out who you really are, and in an even bigger sense, what it means to be human. Gary neatly sums this up at the end, with words to the effect that ‘we’re the human race, and we’ll do whatever we like’.

In conclusion then…

I could say more – there’s a lot that’s good about The World’s End in many ways – but essentially, you already know whether you want to see it or not. And if you do want to, you won’t be disappointed.
So let’s BooBoo!

Re-Dwarf: Kryten

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Series II

Presumably somebody in the upper echelons of the Beeb thought Red Dwarf was pretty good, because within 6 months of series 1 closing, series 2 was on the air. And from this first episode, things are very different.

For a start, there is the introduction of an additional character, Kryten – although at this stage his appearance is a one-off, as he rides Lister’s space bike off into the galaxy at the end and is not seen again this series. Secondly, there is the introduction of Blue Midget, the daily runaround ship which the boys from the Dwarf take to rescue the girls from the Nova 5.

Kryten

The episode is, as you might expect, very much about Kryten, the mechanoid programmed to serve the humans (‘I serve, therefore I am’) who suddenly finds the purpose to his life is gone. Lister takes Kryten under his wing, returning with him to Red Dwarf in the hope that he will find happiness for himself. Rimmer, predictably, has other ideas, and presents the mechanoid with a task list about 8 feet long to occupy his time.

It’s Kryten, Dave, but not as we know him!

Kryten’s plight brings up questions of purpose, of whether blind servitude is really A Good Thing – or is it better to occasionally step back and take a look at who we are serving. In a way, Kryten ultimately does that – with some prompting from Lister and ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ – and comes to realise that serving Rimmer is not all it’s cut out to be before setting out on his ride to self-discovery.

From a Christian perspective, I wouldn’t say that critical analysis of Who we serve is a bad thing; I don’t for a minute think God has anything to hide about His person or intentions, even if we do find it annoying that he never gives us our full to-do list. God does not expect blind servitude, but considered and willing obedience. That is why He gives us free will, the chance to rebel, to slob about as Lister would recommend. He also offers us the chance to return, as Kryten will, having tried our own way and found it less fulfilling than serving Him.

Another point worth noting here is that at the very beginning of Series 2, in Holly’s opening monologue, the programme appears to set out it’s stall on matters of religion:

As the days go by, we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you’ve got to laugh, haven’t you?

Three million years without meeting a single Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Pastafarian would perhaps lead an artificial intelligence with an IQ of 6,000 to this conclusion, and while the matter is not directly addressed in the series, it’s worth remembering that this is the world view in which the series is set.

Re-mastered

Series 2 also has received the re-mastering treatment, with the main difference here being the all new Blue Midget, the ‘Mc’ added to a chicken nugget, and a typo in the end credits. No, really, there is. Re-mastering isn’t all good!

Anyway, watch this episode for David Ross’ playing of Kryten (which appears to be based a little on C-3PO), to compare and contrast with the main character version we will get to know in a few weeks time.

 



CSFF Blog Tour vs Tuesday Tunes: Captives

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It’s all that Becky Miller’s fault you know. Every month she locks me in a room with nothing but Spotify and a laptop until I’ve come up with a suitably eclectic list of songs in some way related to that month’s tour… Is it any wonder I never get to read the books in time?

Oh well, here they are, brought to you from deep within the Safe Lands: the Top Ten Captive Songs…

10. Elu – Captivate
We’ll kick off with the electronic offering for the week, a chilled out piece of trip-hop.

9. The Founders – Captive
Who knew the shape-shifters from out of Deep Space Nine would be able to turn their fluid appendages to ska punk so readily?

8. Flying Colours – Captive Pursuit
And from their to a prog rock cover version of a Deep Space Nine episode. Well, probably not actually, but this is almost as strange.

7. Colonel Abrams – Trapped
Colonel Abrams was sentenced to spend twelve years in 1985 for crimes against multiple time-space continuums.

6. Bukue One – Captivate
Absolutely nothing to do with Star Trek this time – Count Bukue was in the other one.

5. Glowworm – The Captive
The Glowworm is not, in fact, a worm at all, but the common name for the larval form of musician Kevin Davis.

4. Conceptus – Captive Formulas
Conceptus seem to have captured the formula used by some jolly jangly 60s garage band and made it their own.

3. The Kinks – Set Me Free
A proper 60s band this time, because I would never pass up an excuse to include some klassik Kinks.

2. Eowyn – Locked Away
The Christian rock chick named after a character from some obscure fantasy novel, apparently.

1. Ume – Captive
Every so often, locked away in my little Spotify tower, I’ll turn up a band I was previously unaware of, but who tick all my boxes. Ume (pronounced oo-may, fact fans) are such a band. This song is almost perfect, and for that reason, I won’t resent doing this all again next time…

Oh yes, and don’t forget that Captives by Jill Williamson is the inspiration for this little musical excursion, so follow one or more of the links on the sidebar, and see what my fellow bloggers think of the book.

CSFF Blog Tour: Captives by Jill Williamson

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The Safe Lands is a dystopian series in which earth’s population is divided between the infected and the uninfected; the infected live short, cushy lifestyles within walled cities of unending entertainment, while the uninfected live primitively off the land; when the virus mutates and becomes uncontrollable, the uninfected become the hunted; it is believed they hold the cure.


Book One: Captives

This week the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour will be taking a look at the first book in the series, Captives, for which the author’s website gives the following blurb:

When eighteen-year-old Levi returned from Denver City with his latest scavenged finds, he never imagined he’d find his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many—including his fiancée, Jem–taken captive. Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe.

Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Land has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams.

You can find out more about the book by following the tour through the links on your right, or by visiting the author’s website. If you want to find out what actually happens to Mason and the others, buy the book from the clicky’s above, or wherever you normally buy books.

Re-Dwarf: Bodysnatcher

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Bodysnatcher is the ‘lost episode’ from Red Dwarf series 1, the script for which was finished and recorded as an audio story board performed by Chris Barrie to become the headline act when Red Dwarf Re-mastered was released on DVD.

In actual fact not much was lost at all, just used in different episodes. The title of the story comes from Rimmer’s slightly unhinged attempt to create (with the help of the skutters and their sonic screwdrivers – is that the only mention of such a tool in Red Dwarf?) a solid body for himself from Lister’s eyebrows. Lister, having also lost his beloved dreads to this project, gets a little annoyed and switches Rimmer’s hologram off, planning to replace him with someone less psychotic. Unfortunately Rimmer is one step ahead and hides all the holodisks before he is deactivated, leaving Lister with a choice of either Rimmer… or Lister, to keep him company.

Lister 1: Everybody picks their nose.
 
Lister 2: Not with a carrot.

Obviously, he chooses Lister, which leads to the sort of arguing we see with the two Rimmers in Me², the episode which ultimately replaced Bodysnatcher in the broadcast line-up. As well as this idea getting recycled, some of the Cat’s scenes get used in other episodes (because he still hasn’t actually done much to affect the plot in most episodes), and the idea of Rimmer finding a way to become corporeal will crop up repeatedly in later seasons (notably series 3’s Bodyswap).

As part of the plan for the re-watch was to look at how religion is reflected in Red Dwarf, of interest in this script is this brief insight into Rimmer’s philosophy on life:

If you don’t have rules, what are you left with?

Here Rimmer takes legalism to a literal extreme, insisting on undertaking a role call to establish the extent of casualties in the explosion which has quite plainly killed everyone but Lister. Rimmer’s blinkered respect for the rules leaves no room for adaptation when circumstances have clearly changed way beyond the need for the original rules; he fails to see what is really needed here is not rigid adherence to irrelevant rules, but compassion for the remaining crew member as he grieves everyone he ever knew. Surely it is ok to change or even discard the rules when the world in which they are being applied has changed in a way the rulemakers could never have foreseen? Not everyone sees it, but I believe Jesus showed that love and compassion is better than blind legalism; they don’t go out of date as readily either.

Later, Rimmer is hypothesising about why he and Lister are the last vestige of the human race:

It can’t be luck, because then nothing has any meaning. There has to be some kind of purpose.

Obviously, Rimmer has taken this ‘purpose’ to be the creation of the next stage in human evolution – Homo Rimmer – and starts fantasising about Rimmer City on Rimmer World… another idea which will become a frightening reality in a later series.

At the end we also see how Lister really does need Rimmer, who is able, even in his hologramatic form, to save Lister from burning Red Dwarf down. Holly, in his (not quite) infinite wisdom, was right in that what Lister needed – someone to keep him sane and alive 3 million years from Earth – was not what Lister himself would have wanted – a girlfriend or a drinking buddy.

Funny how we sometimes need to burn our metaphorical spaceship before we’ll accept that maybe the all-knowing Holly who looks out for us actually does know best…

Watch this episode for an interesting peek at what might have been, yet another take on fighting with yourself, and some interesting philosophical tidbits.

 



Tuesday Tunes: Twelfth Doctor Edition

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You will, of course, have noticed that this blog did not carry the obligatory Twelfth Doctor post on Sunday evening, or indeed yesterday; that was because of reasons. Now, however, we are here to put right what once went wrong – no, wait, wrong time traveller – we’re here to celebrate the arrival of a new Doctor, and because it’s Tuesday, we’ll do it through the medium of tunes.

So here it is, fresh from Spotify’s own Zero Room, the Top Ten Twelve Doctor Who Tunes hit…

12. Silver Sensei – Gallifrey
Silver Sensei took his name from the serial where the Cybermen went to Japan to learn Zen Buddhism. It’s one of the lost episodes, I think.

11. Federal Drugs Administration – Dalek Girlfriend
I’m not saying anything. I don’t have enough regenerations left. (Contains a fleeting sexual reference near the end.)

10. Rose Billie – Because We Want To
Yes, it’s unashamedly 90s cheesepop, but you didn’t really expect me not to go there did you?

9. Alex Valentine – Tardis Heart
Now we’ve got all that cheesy silliness out of the way, here’s something a little more classy: a bloke with a guitar, singing about love or something.

8. Geof Whitley Project – Timelord (50th Anniversary of Dr Who)
Because samples.

7. Tom Baker Says – You Really Got Me
Samples heavily from the serial where Davros used a half-dalek version of the Fourth Doctor to infiltrate the Kinks. It’s one of the lost episodes, I think.

6. M31 – Doctor Who (M-Theory Original Mix)
There are a lot of renditions on the classic Doctor Who theme out there, so it seems only right to open one; this one seems intent on cramming several variations into an unbuilt motorway in Berkshire.

5. Dr. Noise – The Doctor and The Master
Shouldn’t that be Doctor Noise?

4. The Prisoners – Revenge of the Cybermen
Catchy retro-ska number that couldn’t sound less like a cyberman.

3. Orbital – Doctor?
Yes, it’s another version of the TV theme, but I like this one because it pre-dates the revived show, and sounds the way it should did when I was growing up with Four and Five.

2. Amy Lee Radigan – Can I Be Your Companion
There’s also a lot of Doctor Who fan songs on Spotify, but you can go find them yourself. This is my favourite. (Contains an anatomical rhyme for ‘All of Donna’s wits’.)

1. The Timelords – Doctorin’ The Tardis
Because I want to.

Songs are not affiliated to any specific incarnation of the Doctor.

(And for the record, I’m glad Twelve is not a woman, for non-sexist reasons, and that he is older than me again. Should be interesting!)

Listen along

Screen-barfing: What I learnt at Camp NaNoWriMo

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It’s all over bar the collecting of the legendary ‘Winner Goodies’… and do I have a first draft to show for it?

Um, no, actually, I do not.

I have attained my self-inflicted target for the month of July (20,000 words towards Bit #1 of The Ambivalence Chronicles), but given that when discovery writing, as I was during July, it generally takes me about 10,000 words of crap to find an interesting shape for the story, an awful lot of that is going to get trashed fairly early in the editing process.

Ken jumped into the Ambivalence and followed the cloud like some kind of Dodge-based Moses crossing a dinosaur-infested Sinai.
 

A full-length (c.50,000 word) NaNo would have given me 30-40k of usable draft to kick about until it resembled something vaguely readable, but 20k was, it turns out, as much as July could afford me. So while I do not by any means have a first draft to build upon, I hope that I can sculpt the month’s writing screen-barf into an extended outline for a first draft that I can work on under less frantic conditions.

So what have I learnt at Camp NaNoWriMo? Well, for one thing, my hero, Ken Humorous-Surname, reverted to his original late-teens age. I think. The bad guys for the larger series showed up, which was handy, as did the Magical Negro – although none of the characters have specific racial backgrounds at this stage.

Besides that, there was a weird subversion of the Clark Kent/Superman ‘never seen in the same room at the same time’ idea going on too, and a couple of other characters whose true allegiance I need to torture out of them before the story is done.

So, I guess that sort of dictates my writing for the next few weeks; but, for now at least, I should be sleeping.

Monday Review – Doctor Who: The Cave of Skulls

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The Cave of Skulls, for the uninitiated, is the title of the second episode of Doctor Who, waaaaay back in November 1963. It follows on directly from An Unearthly Child, which I took a look at a couple of weeks ago. It’s rubbish.

No, really, it is. The Doctor has kidnapped a couple of well-meaning teachers and taken them off to the stone age for no adequately explained reason, and there he has to be talked down from almost braining a caveman with a rock, among other fairly unpleasant things. Quite why the Doctor started out with such an epic mean streak I’m not sure, other than perhaps because nobody really knew who or what he was. Certainly the programme’s creator’s could not have seen the show thriving 50 years later; even the Time Lords, Gallifrey and the very concept of regeneration were years off at this point.

In fact, just about the only important (to the wider Whoniverse) observation to be made during the stone age adventure was that the Tardis had not changed its appearance to blend in with the background. Yes, that broken chameleon circuit dates back to week two of the show, and still hasn’t been fixed.

Back when I first started, at the very beginning, I was always trying to be old and grumpy and important, like you do when you’re young.

OK so we’ve agreed that the Doctor is trying to be old and grumpy and important, as he would go on to admit as a later incarnation; thankfully Susan is there to reign him in and bring out the grandfather in him. But that is far from all that is wrong with this first serial.

The main problem with the four-parter generally referred to as An Unearthly Child is that nothing much happens after the pilot episode has set the premise up. Our four heroes annoy some cavemen, argue among themselves, invent fire and then bog off back to the ship – a term used far more often than Tardis in these early episodes.

I don’t recall it having been specifically mentioned whether they had landed on prehistoric Earth or some other planet; possibly it doesn’t really matter. I think it was assumed to be Earth, setting up the time travel device as a way to introduce some nominally educational aspect to the series (which was, after all, a children’s programme from the outset).

Essentially what I’m trying to say is that without that strong pilot giving a hint of a deeper mystery to unfold, on the strength of the first story I probably wouldn’t have become a fan. Unless, that is, they came up with something pretty darned spectacular for the second story…

 

Who’s Who For The 50th?

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I get the feeling there’s going to be quite a bit of Doctor Who news over the next few months, as we get closer to the show’s golden jubilee.

This weeks (possibly apocryphal) Who news is that a classic Doctor may make an appearance in the 50th anniversary. Which would be nice, given that my appetite has been whetted by the last episode’s glimpses of Doctors past.

However, it can’t have escaped everyone’s notice that most of the pre-reboot Doctors are, well, a little older than they were when they regenerated. Admittedly a generous application of handwavium allowed Peter Davison to bring Five back for a special mini-episode a little while ago, and they can do wonders with make up these days, so I’m told.

He’s not the Doctor, he’s a very naughty boy!

They can also do wonders with hats, of course, and Four was well known for his hat, second only to hs scarf and his tin dog. Seven, he had a hat too. And an umbrella. You could hide a multitude of sins under that combo. So that’s three Doctors we’ve got in the cast straight away.

Which leaves us with Six – most divisive Doctor ever – and Eight.

Paul McGann is, of course, the obvious choice, having not regenerated on-screen. He may, indeed, have regenerated into the missing Doctor, John Hurt’s Doctor, before coming over all Mancunian for the 21st Century. The Hurt Doctor then did whatever he did ‘not in the name of The Doctor’, explaining Nine’s initial angst in the first rebooted series. All makes perfect sense to me.

Which of course probably means I’m way off track, even if there is any truth behind this particular rumour – after all, Steven Moffat said recently that he has lied his arse off for months about the 50th.

I don’t believe him though.