Jack Reacharound

Jack-Reacher-fosterJack Reacher is 6′ 5″ tall. Tom Cruise is 5′ 7″. Jack Reacher weighs between fifteen and eighteen stone. Tom Cruise weighs twelve. Jack Reacher has a 50-inch chest. Tom Cruise… okay so he’s built up, but certainly not fifty inches of unstoppable man machine. In fact Mr. Cruise might be more suited to play me (yes, fine, after he lets himself go for a year… what do you mean “a decade”?) than the drifter, ex-MP, force of nature, and Marty-Stu of seventeen books of increasingly ridiculousity.

In a two-hour buttock-number best summed-up by a Code of Conduct breaker, Jack Reacher is “someone what used to be an army police and now wants justice or something. I dunno.”  After an Iraq veteran is arrested for the murder of five innocents, his only plea is to “Get Jack Reacher” and, like the genie from Aladdin, albeit more magical, he appears to sort things out but, boy, does he take his time.

The movie struggles to decide whether it’s Day of the Jackal or Die Hard, and in the end becomes neither 1970s exploitation movie or high-octane blockbuster.  Instead what’s left is an ultimately lifeless paint-by-numbers piece that fails to stand out from dozens of similar cinematic male fantasies.

Mr “It Was Not A Significant Bullet” does well with limited material as the big bad, as does Oyelewo with a role with even fewer dimensions.  Rosamund Pike, however,  should have her Equity card ripped out of her one-note paws.

Height aside, the “Man With No Name” thing that is the very essence of Jack Reacher requires a level of charisma and menace that Cruise just doesn’t possess.  Ang reckons Meryl Streep, the tiger from Life of Pi, or even the Yellow M&M would have been better choices and who am I to argue?

The only truly memorable aspect of the film is Werner “Yes, I cooked and ate my own shoe; what of it?” Hertzog.  As the mysterious Prisoner, he managed to sound like a man who has stared long into the abyss and sent the abyss packing.

I’m an atheist, but if I’m wrong I’d like to think that whatever god will call us to account will have Hertzog’s voice:

There is only pain, and coldness, and fear…

…and Jack Reacher on an endless loop.

{lang: 'en-GB'}

Absolute Nightmare

Reign of the Nightmare Prince cover

There’s a long tradition among Western writers of lionising ancient ways of life, as if there’s something better about giving up all the trappings of modernity and wallowing about in the pain and dirt. The myth of the noble savage is responsible for such idiotic beliefs as the power of alternative medicine and the idea that anything that refutes the scientific process is necessarily true. Worst of all, it gave us Avatar – a movie that makes Smurfs 3D look like Citizen Kane.

Reign of the Nightmare Prince is just like Avatar – noble savages in tune with nature are attacked by evil technologists who want to take their resources – but differs in one respect; you care what happens. The story’s told from the point of view of one of the alien natives who’s returning from their version of Walkabout to find out monsters are killing off the rest of his people, and follows his attempts to muster a defence in the face of impossible odds.

Although it’s an entertaining and fun read, it’s not explained why the aboriginal population of an alien planet feels so human and a lot of the non-native attackers are almost as one-dimensional as Jake “I see you” Sully. Also, the end was so abrupt it felt like a sixth grader who’s suddenly reached the word limit on an English essay but don’t let that put you off.

If you’ve got some downtime while you’re committing genocide on an alien planet you could do worse than Mike Phillips’ début.

{lang: 'en-GB'}

Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat

I don’t like procedurals. Put CSI Whatever on the TV, I’ll yawn. The Mentalist or Lie to Me, I’ll yell at the screen like a programmer watching The Net. Even Agatha Christie winds me up – I’m sure Miss Marple was responsible for a swathe of death in 1920s England. It takes a lot to make me want to pay any attention to something that even smells of murder mystery.

Pet Noir is a collection of short stories by Pati Nagle, all based around the adventures of a genetically modified tabby cat working as a detective on a space station, and it sounded like it could be different. Unfortunately not. Sure, the trappings of science fiction are there – animal uplift, a space station, cloning – but if you scratch the surface all that’s left is a set of fairly standard cop stories.

The cat in question feels no more than a human pretending to be a cat and the other animals turn out to be mere ciphers, the universe is barely sketched out and the much more interesting story of how human (and animal) society has coped with the massive changes brought about by space travel, new sentient species, and future technologies has been completely ignored.

This time, the future’s so bright, it feels like 1980.

{lang: 'en-GB'}

Eat Your Heart Out De Selby

Could I have approached a book with more trepidation? From a publishing house that seems to specialise in Buddhist philosophy, I expected to be lectured at for the three hundred odd pages, but this autobiographical account of the eponymous odd boy turned out to be more charming than banal.

Set in the south of England in the late fifties and early sixties, an odd boy describes the journey from childhood to adolescence of a boy that’s different from all of his peers and will strike a chord with anyone who has felt like they didn’t belong. The narrative is told through his twin obsessions of blues music and art, it describes a cold upbringing tempered by the friends and delta blues musicians who became his real family.

It’s far from perfect, however, the author seems to obsess about explaining every minute detail through a use of footnotes that the late Flann O’Brien savaged in The Third Policeman. Nothing is left to the reader, with the narrative rudely interrupted to explain such esoterica as the BBC or skiffle. We have Wikipedia, we don’t need to understand every detail.

But apart from that, the first volume in what I suspect will be a long series is an interesting, if light, diversion. Perfect for lying on a rock beach during the Easter heatwave.

{lang: 'en-GB'}

Fresh Steamed Soul

Steampunk. Ooo-kay.

An anthology. Riiiight.

A self publishing co-operative. Hmmm

Soul-transfer. Oh God no.

This could have been so bad.

This could have been worse than the worst kind of Mary-Sue fan-fiction.

Actually, Book View Café’s shared universe collection The Shadow Conspiracy II was pretty decent, if rough in places.  The usual steampunk tropes are there: Babbage’s invention of the computer two hundred years early, Lady Ada doing the science bit, zeppelins, romantic science, and lashings of adventure, and running through all the stories is the conspiracy for which the books are named. The ability to transfer the consciousness from human to steam-driven automata has been discovered and is being used by various dasterdlies for NO GOOD.

Anthologies are, by their nature, hit-and-miss affairs, but even the worst of the stories here are pretty decent, if forgettable, yarns. Standing out are Kimbriel’s Abide with Me – a tale of parental loss and hope – and Nagle’s Claire de Lune, which pits Vodon against a moustache-twirling villain.

While soul-transfer provides a pretty decent MacGuffin, there’s very little sign of any conspiracy (shadowy or otherwise) and any real future plot advancement will likely never happen.  Not to worry, it took six seasons of Lost before the audience realised it, so they should be able to push out another four volumes.

These types of work have a habit of trying to be too clever and, without a ruthless editor, usually end up being awful but Radford and Bohnhoff did a good job of keeping any amateurish edges hidden.  It’s not much more than the price of a pint, so you can do worse than picking up a copy.

{lang: 'en-GB'}

No Drinking, No Smoking, No Cursing, and Always Wash Behind your Ears

Don't be naughty

I loved the original short movies. I got very excited when the trailer came out. I even braved the Christmas shoppers on a lunchtime hike from Waterloo to Carnaby Street to see their attempt at viral marketing. I’m happy to say that the movie itself didn’t disappoint.

On paper, it sounds like a complete farce.  A Finnish comedy-horror about miners unearthing the real Father Christmas, who isn’t as jolly as the Coca-Cola corporation would have us believe.  Instead of sneaking into people’s homes and exchange presents for gingerbread, Santa delivers spanked bottoms and boiled children.  It’s then up to a bunch of reindeer herders and the only nice (if rather odd-looking) child to save the day and rescue the naughty kids.

It might just be the foreign language making it feel less of a spoof, but the movie itself has turned out to be one of the best Christmas films in years.  A great mixture of creeping suspense, some genuinely scary moments, and a great heart that Disney hasn’t had since the Fifties.

I’d be interested to hear what a Finnish person thought of it; the audience at the Cambridge Picturehouse seemed to be in tears of laughter at random scenes, so much so that I was seconds away from standing up and brandishing my laminated copy of Wittertainment’s Code of Conduct. Either they were high or Finnish, in which case I’m missing out on some subtleties of their culture.

Don’t let the threat of sniggering Scandewigians put you off, however.  Go and see this movie before Santa puts you on the naughty list.

You definitely don’t want to be on the naughty list.

{lang: 'en-GB'}

Douchebags vs. Aliens

skyline movie promo
Image by Sappymoosetree via Flickr

I should have known better. I didn’t listen to Dr. Kermode. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 10%. But I knew better.

Skyline is the worst movie to come out this year. It’s a confused mess of a movie that makes Sharktopus look like Citizen Kane and manages to make root canal surgery feel like a viable alternative to a night out in the cinema.

Just like 2008’s big monster movie, Cloverfield, it starts off with a party designed to help the audience get to knows and care for the main characters, but all that seemed to do was make sure we wanted the aliens to get the job over with sooner. Really, we’re supposed to care that a motley collection of self-obsessed hipsters are about to have their brains sucked out by a betentacled vagina?

The acting was more wooden than the Billy aisle of an Ikea store, the sound effects so loud and overwrought that even Michael Bay would think twice, and it was a relief to see the credits. How something so bad ever got a cinema release is a mystery fit for Mulder and Scully.

It’s Douchebags vs. Aliens and I’m on the side of the betentacled vaginas.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{lang: 'en-GB'}