Garth Owen


Northern Gorehouse: Zombies vs Vampires on the streets of Manchester

Available from Amazon.

An ancient evil looks down on the city of Manchester. But there are things even immortals fear.

Manchester’s newest tower is home to a coven of vampires, headed by the woman known only as Mistress. They have corrupted local government, and prey on the city’s most vulnerable.

When Mistress turns a homeless boy, to take as the latest in a long line of lovers, she sets in motion events that could destroy the coven, and will scar the city.

As the boy’s sister tracks him down, another, hungrier, kind of undead creature has been raised. Zombies stalk the streets, heading for the tower and Mistress.

Northern Gorehouse is published on October 24th, and is available for pre-order now.

You can also help boost the release day buzz by backing the Thunderclap campaign to tweet and post about it all over social media.


B-Movie Night: Battles Without Honour And Humanity

This five film series- based very loosely on a Yakuza member’s prison memoirs- traces gangland conflicts in Hiroshima and neighbouring Kure from teh late forties to early seventies. Shozo Hirono is the character based upon the author, but not the lead in every one of the films. Calm and honourable, he’s permanently being undermined by the hot-headed behaviour and back stabbing of Yakuza in his own and others’ families.

The Yakuza life, is presented as less than glamorous, shabby, even. Violence, when it breaks out, is realistically gritty, clumsy and brutal, more scuffle and brawl than bullet ballet. If, like me, you have problems keeping track of characters’ names, it gets tricky following exactly which factions are working with or against each other. But that’s just me.

The series is- Battles without Honour And Humanity, Hiroshima Death Match, Proxy Wars, Police Tactics and Final Episode. Special features on the Arrow Video releases include some interesting featurette documentaries, interviewing the series’ fight co-ordinator, one of the script writers and an assistant director, as well as revealing the ‘Piranha Army’ of bit players who kept the backgrounds full of activity.


I promise I’m only housing vampires in one of these towers

I’m not a big fan of all these plans to build higher and shinier and more expensive towers in the city centre. I can’t shake the feeling that more down to Earth developments, aimed at people on an average wage or below, and not backed by the super wealthy, would have a harder time getting planning permission. But I am a natural cynic.

Zombies vs Vampires got a big bit of inspiration from Gary Neville’s plans (even if I put my versions somewhere else by accident), and it feels like I may be tapping into something of relevance with my ‘1% lording it over the 99%’ narrative.

Take a look at some of the towers and skyscrapers which could sprout up around the city centre over the next few years

Source: 18 skyscrapers and towers that could transform Manchester’s skyline – Manchester Evening News


Dropping a bunch of book prices (if you’re not in the US or Europe)

The lowest I can price my books on Amazon is 99 cents. In the UK and Eurozone, because of VAT, they price match to 0.99 (pounds or Euros). In other shops- India, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Canada- it matches the local currency. But, in all those places, I could price them lower. So, I just went through my catalogue and lowered the prices of my cheapest books. The following are now available at bargain prices, if you’re in the right place-

Sounds of Soldiers

Tiger

GOD Hunt

So Much To Answer For

Chosen Ones/Source

Kettled

Britain Looks To The Future

Britain Turns To Crime

Alternative Facts


Alternative Facts: Totally True Tales Of Trump

Garth Owen has taken a break from writing about zombies and vampire to start an ongoing side project.

Alternative Facts is an ebook (also available from Smashwords and other stores) and a mailing list of flash fiction, satire and silliness. As long as Donald Trump and co. keep providing inspiration, the mailing list will update weekly, and the new material will be added to the ebook every month. Volume one of the ebook will update until December, then volume two will be published in January 2018. Half the royalties will go to appropriate charities.

You have to buy the book. Donald Trump has signed an executive order saying so.

(You don’t have to buy the book, but it would be lovely, and would help the project along, if you did.)

Trumpy Executive Order courtesy of http://hepwori.github.io/execorder/


Trumpy Bear and the Fire Signs

Coming soon- Alternative Facts: Totally True Tales Of Trump, a constantly updating ebook of flash fiction, commentary and satire inspired by Donald Trump.

Trumpy Bear and his little pal Boo-Bannon had a plan to get themselves all of the pic-a-nic baskets. This time, they would outsmart Ranger Smith, indubitably.

“We will have the best pic-a-nic baskets, the biggest pic-a-nic baskets. I always get the biggest and best pic-a-nic baskets. Everyone says so.” Trumpy told Boo-Bannon.

“Of course you do Trumpy. I’m one of the people who always tells you so. I think your plans gonna be swell. Specially if it lets me hurt some folks that don’t look like me. So, how are we gonna get the picnic baskets?”

“Well, that’s where I used my big brain. After all, I am smarter than the average bear. I’m smarter than all the bears. Lots of people say so. I have the biggest brain, and I know lots of words. Like…. words…. and pic-a-nic.”

“The plan Trumpy. What is the plan?”

Trumpy made little pinching movements with his tiny paws, as if he were snatching tiny flies from the air. “The plan. Yes, I have the best plan.”

“What is it?” Boo-Bannon tried to keep his voice down. He had explained the plan to Trumpy in great detail, now he had to wait for it to be repeated as if it was the other bear’s idea.

“The plan. It’s a wonderful plan, the best plan. Now that I have been elected to the Park Rangers’ guidance committee, I have passed a rule that says that all the fire warning signs in the park are ugly. They don’t look good, and believe me, I know looking good. Because they look so bad, and they send such negative messages- I mean, who ever heard of a lit match starting a fire? I certainly haven’t. And lots of people have said that it’s ridiculous, and there’s no evidence for it. So Ranger Smith has to go around taking down all those ugly signs warning good, honest, hard working folks about dangers that don’t really exist. Forest fires are a myth. I think a myth made up by…. made up by….. Chinese restaurant owners! Yes them. Made up by them. To keep good, honest, hard working folks in their homes, phoning out for lasagne.”

Trumpy had forgotten what the plan was supposed to achieve. He would start speaking again soon, but would it be more meandering nonsense, or would he get to the point. “And that’s my plan. It’s a great plan, I came up. And then, and this is the best part of the great plan. Then, while Ranger Smith is collecting all the signs from the far side of the Park, that’s when we shall steal all of the pic-a-nic baskets on this side.”

“You’re a genius Trumpy. Lots of people tell me so.”

So Trumpy and Boo-Bannon walked down the path toward the picnic site. Along the way, they were proud to not the empty poles where all the ‘No Littering’ and fire safety signs had been. Without those pesky regulations around, people would be free to do what they wanted and have better picnic food and enjoy themselves more. Particularly if those people were bears like Trumpy, Boo-Bannon and their friends.

“This is so great, isn’t it Boo. When we’re full of pic-a-nic, we should call on our friend Puty-Tat and help him catch that annoying yellow bird that he’s after. That would be great, so great.”

“That bird is definitely Muslim, or Jewish. But we shouldn’t help Puty too publicly. I’m sure that’s a different brand, and we’re barely getting away with this pop culture reference.”

“That’s what I thought Boo-Bannon. It’s the best idea to let Puty-Tat catch the yellow bird all by himself, that’s a great idea I had. People told me so.”

When the two bears arrived at the picnic site, all the campers screamed and ran away, even the one lighting a barbecue under the sheltering branches of a big pine. Though it meant he had the pick of the picnics, Trumpy wasn’t happy about this. “Where are those losers going? Don’t they know that everyone loves me. They must have been listening to the failed park ranger losers. Sad.”

“I bet they’re all foreigners and Muslims and Jews. We should ban them from entering the park. Even if they’ve got America The Beautiful passes.”

“That’s a great idea. The best idea. I’m so proud of myself for thinking of that idea. If we keep the foreign campers out, we’ll be able to turn our failing National Parks around and make them so successful. We’ll make them succeed bigly. And then all the foreign tourists will want to come and visit our beautiful National Parks and light their fires where they want.” Trumpy said, between shovelling up small portions of food from the nearest hamper with his little paws.

“Do you smell smoke?” Boo-Bannon asked, as they hunted out their second hamper.

“That’s just the smell of the failing National Park. We shall rid this great park of that smell, wash it away, until it smells of lovely antiseptic Chlorine and gasoline. We will knock down the mountains as well, I have decided. Then I won’t have to face stairs any more. Stairs and slopes are a conspiracy by the losers in the park rangers service. Why haven’t they put in lifts and escalators? I would have added lifts and escalators. The best lifts and escalators, with gold plating, and my name on them all.”

“That pine tree is on fire. It must have been started by a Muslim.” Boo-Bannon pointed.

“That is terrible. Terrible. They started it to hurt the good American camper who had set up his barbecue right under that tree. The fire would never have started if he had just been left to get on with cooking his food the way he wanted to.”

“I wonder if the fire will move to other trees, and burn the forest down.”

“Oh there’s no evidence that that has ever happened, and it’s not happening now. But look at all the other trees the foreigners have set fire to. This is why they should be banned from the park. Let’s go back to our cave and plan how to keep those trouble makers out.”

But the fire had spread to encircle the whole picnic site. Trumpy stared at the fire, and declared that it was sad and started by losers, and that he would have made a bigger, much more beautiful fire. Boo-Bannon looked at the flames. He had wanted the forest to burn, but he hadn’t planned on being caught up in the conflagration.

Water plummeted from the sky, drenching Trumpy and Boo-Bannon and quenching the fire. A great wind, and powerful buzzing, was over them now. They looked up, to see Ranger Smith leaning out of the fire-fighting helicopter with a bullhorn. “Look what you nearly did there Trumpy! You could have burnt down the forest, and destroyed your own home. From now on, we shall be keeping all the warning signs up, no matter what you tell us to do.”

“How dare he get us all wet like that. I only let people drench me in Russian hotel rooms. Though that’s a lie, put about by losers and the fake news notice board at the park gate.”

A metal pole, topped with a no littering sign, landed like a javelin right beside Trumpy. Ranger Smith already had another, and was leaning out the side of the helicopter, ready to throw it. “Yoiks! Let’s get out of here Boo-Bannon. We’ll be back, Ranger Smith. You can’t keep us away from the pic-a-nic baskets forever.” Trumpy clasped his hat to his head. His feet ran on air for a moment, then he set off down the path away from the picnic site.

“We’ll be waiting for you, Trumpy. We’ll be waiting.” Ranger Smith said grimly, as he aimed his second sign at the ground just behind Trumpy’s receding furry butt.


Zombies Versus Vampires, part 1 1

Now available as Northern Gorehouse!

The black tower was a stake driven into the heart of the city. Overbearing and ugly, it loomed over the pale sandstone and red brick of the lower rise buildings cowering under it.

Terry knew the story- a version of it, anyway. The development had been proposed by a pair of footballers, looking to invest in property for lucrative retirements. But post-Brexit decline meant all the floors remained unsold, and the sportsmen wanted out of the project. Mysterious partners and backers- Russians, everyone agreed- stepped in to buy out the famous faces and finish the buildings themselves.

No-one got into the tower. No-one that anyone knew, anyway. It was a mystery. A slab of darkness looking down on the city centre. There were shops at ground level, then two storeys of offices, but, above those, the dark windows swallowed sunlight during the day, and never lit up at night. So it was surprising- and thrilling and frightening- that Glenn said he could get in.

Terry wavered between being wary of Glenn, and being in awe of him. The older man- only a few years, but it seemed to count for so much- gave the impression he had decided to be Terry’s protector. It didn’t feel like the other times men had taken an interest in him, Glenn didn’t look at him the way they had. And he wouldn’t let anyone else. There were plenty of predators around Tent Town, prowling for a piece of fresh meat who looked as young as Terry did. But Glenn wouldn’t allow them the chance. So far, he hadn’t asked anything in return. Perhaps he was truly a good person.

They were in an alley behind the towers, where the goods for the ground floor shops were delivered. In front of them was a heavy door, clad in pale grey metal, and with a large shiny handle and security grade brass lock. To the right were the roller shutters protecting the windows of one of the shops. Left of the door was a galvanised fence, to keep them from falling into the bottom of the ramp that ran down to another large roller shutter. This lower shutter blocked the entrance to the tower’s exclusive underground parking.

Glenn put his hand on the door handle and turned to grin at Terry. “Wait’ll you see inside here! It’s mad.” He pressed down on the handle and pushed at the door.

The door didn’t open. Glenn’s confident smile faltered, until they heard a click, and the door opened.

It was dark on the other side of the threshold. Much darker than under the bright security light outside. Terry waited on the threshold, unsure, until Glenn grasped his cuff and pulled him in. The tug was more violent than Terry had come to expect from his protector. He was too shocked to pull back, though, and quickly found himself inside.

The door closed with an ominous thud. Terry flinched at the sound, then again as a light in the ceiling turned on. The glow was only around them, the rest of the space wasn’t illuminated yet. The darkness was thick, and the detail revealed by lamplight fell off quickly. Terry could see the door, the wall either side of it, and a short way along the narrow corridor. There was no handle on this side of the door, just a vertical pull bar from top to bottom of it, and a brushed steel number pad on the wall.

Glenn was his smiling, reassuring self again, the flashes of impatience and anger gone. He beckoned Terry to follow him. As he strode into the dark, another light came on above him, revealing more of the corridor.

The floor was marble, Terry thought, looking down at the blood red veins marking the shiny off-white surface. A stone stuck in the tread of Glenn’s boots clicked against the floor with each step.

The space wasn’t very large, but it was lavish. The marble of the floor extended halfway up the walls, where a narrow gilt band separated it from the dark wood of the upper half and the ceiling. The lights were set in the cornice at the top of the wall on alternate sides, and activated by movement. The sections behind went dark as they left them. When the fourth set of lights turned on, they were at the far end of the hall, standing before the polished brass of an elevator’s door.

Glenn pressed a button on the wall and, with a ping, the door opened. He stepped in, beckoning Terry after him. “Come on. Come on. He’s expecting us.” Terry worried about what that meant, but stepped in anyway.

The floor and lower wall of the elevator was the same sort of marble as the hallway. There was a wide band of pleated and padded red leather at waist height, and flat brass above that. The metal gave the appearance of having been polished to a gleam, then brushed with a stiffer metal to take the shine off and distort the reflections until they were matt shadows.

Terry stroked, then pressed, the leather, and found it surprisingly soft and supple. He looked to Glenn for some explanation of what came next.

There was a polished panel of buttons set in the brass. As the door closed, Glenn pressed the top one.

The box rose up its shaft rapidly. Terry felt the acceleration in the soles of his feet and the pit of his empty stomach. Glenn had promised him food if he came along, but had said nothing about someone waiting for them. Terry knew, now, that he should have questioned Glenn more. The hunger was stronger than the worry, though, so he leant back against the soft leather and waited to reach the top floor.

Suddenly feeling light, Terry knew the lift had halted. How high up were they, he wondered, as the door opened. He couldn’t remember how many floors the tower had, but he knew they were above anywhere else in the city when he looked across the wide space that had been revealed, and took in the view through the dark tinted windows. “Penthouse suite.” Glenn told him.

Terry walked toward the windows, drawn by the view. The floor was the same marble again, but he couldn’t make out many other details. The room was dark, lit only by small lights in the ceiling. Reaching the window, Terry touched fingertips to the glass, finding it warmer than he expected, and looked down at the Town Hall. A long way down.

The lights that illuminated the Gothic façade of the Town Hall were muted, made a strange grey by whatever coated the floor to ceiling window. This must be the tint that kept the building dark, no matter what time of day it was.

“Life in the sky, mate. Innit brilliant. We can have this view as long as you keep him happy. He does like pretty boys like you, he said.”

Terry didn’t turn round to look at Glenn. He just had to look up to see the reflection in the glass. Glenn was about halfway across the floor, under one of the lights, the lower half of his face shadowed, so Terry couldn’t properly see his grin. The top half of his face, however, showed greed. Terry was going to fight his expression back to passivity before he turned. He wouldn’t show Glenn his disappointment. The older man wasn’t his friend, but his pimp.

“Lap of luxury, am I right? You’ll let him do what he wants, and we’ll be set.” Glenn wasn’t asking. He expected Terry’s compliance.

Focussing on his own reflection in the glass, Terry forced the down turned edges of his mouth flat. This was just another betrayal in a lifetime of betrayals. He was angry at himself for having thought Glenn wouldn’t let him down.

“He should be here soon. I mean, he said he’d….” Glenn’s words were cut short, and he made a sucking sound, then a strange, pained whistling.

Still, Terry couldn’t bring himself to turn. He shifted his gaze to Glenn’s reflection, and fought down a cry. Glenn’s head was tilted to the left, an expression of wide eyed surprise on his face. The skin down the right side of his neck was torn open in a jagged U, from which blood flowed profusely.

The more powerful spurts leapt out into the air, then disappeared. They were going into a red rimmed hole, which might have been in the shape of a mouth, ringed with sharp, even serrations that could be teeth. Two of the teeth, at the top of the circle, were longer than the others.

Glenn managed to move, finally. His right hand reached into a pocket, and drew out a knife. The blade flipped open with an instinctive move of his thumb, then came up and back. Most of the determination drained away, however, before the knife reached the top of its arc. It struck something, slid to the side, then dropped from Glenn’s hand. There may have been the hint of a line of blood, raised by the blade, hanging in the air.

The bloody mouth closed, then opened in a grimace to let out a little sound of disgust. Glenn collapsed, a soft bag of flesh and loosely connected bones.

“Do let me see you, little one. Are you as pretty as he promised?” the floating lips of blood said.

There was something about the voice that could not be ignored. Terry turned slowly. What he saw made him take a frightened step back, until he was pressed against the glass.

Standing over Glenn’s body was a woman. She was tall and slim, with long, jet black hair, wearing a tight sheath dress, split on the left to reveal a shapely thigh, and with wide sleeves that hung down from her arms like limp wings. She reached down, and tore a strip from Glenn’s shirt, using it to wipe the blood from around her mouth. Running it across her forehead, she dabbed up the blood from the wound that Glenn had inflicted. The skin under the thin red line had already closed. Done with the rag, she dropped it so that it draped itself over Glenn’s face.

“You are lovely. Yes, you are. He was a horrible little man, and he tasted foul, but at least he was honest about that.” The woman took a step toward Terry. She was beautiful, even in the unforgiving light directly above her. Terry felt himself relaxing, when he was sure he should be running. His limbs weren’t under his control, it seemed.

Just as Terry felt happy to succumb to this stunning woman, her expression changed. She was hungry, looking at him like a delicious meal. Somehow, without lines appearing on the perfect, pale skin of her face, she appeared ancient. Centuries showed themselves for the briefest of moments.

Terry could do nothing as the woman drew right up to him. His head tilted to the left, exposing his neck to her. “You will taste so much better than your friend. And I will not tear at this perfect skin, no. No. And you can take a taste in return. You shall be so much more than just one meal.”

The teeth entered Terry’s neck so gently he didn’t know his skin had been penetrated. An ecstasy he had never before felt flowed out from the wounds and filled his body.

Then it all went black.

Get Northern Gorehouse from Amazon.


Liquid Gambit

Liquid GambitRick is a Lupan- human/wolf hybrid, whose forebears were created for war- tending his small bar on the lowest levels of a dead end station in neutral space. When he comes into possession of a small vial of genuine Earth water, he sees a way home and away from the dangerous situation he’s put himself in. But is the water a McGuffin? Are there more important things at stake?

This is a universe, and characters, you could happily find more and more about. It’s almost a shame it’s self-contained and doesn’t appear to be setting up further stories.

From:: Ian Pattinson Goodreads reviews


Carbon capture done properly

Scientists in Iceland have managed to turn carbon dioxide emissions to rock, which would make true carbon capture a possibility.

Scientists working at the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant near Reykjavik, Iceland, were able to pump the plant’s carbon dioxide-rich volcanic gases into deep underground basalt formations, mix them with water and chemically solidify the carbon dioxide.When basalt — a volcanic rock that makes up roughly 70 percent of the earth’s surface — is exposed to carbon dioxide and water, a chemical reaction occurs, converting the gas to a chalk-like solid material. Scientists previously thought it wasn’t possible to capture and store carbon this way because earlier studies suggested it could take thousands of years for large amounts of carbon dioxide to be converted to chalk.

Of course, the proper answer is to stop using processes that create carbon dioxide, and move over to renewables. Announcements such as this are likely to be taken up by the pollution industry as a reason for them to keep on dsestroying the planet, on the promise that a technology may come along to undo all their damage. This could be useful in many ways, but this isn’t the silver bullet that’s going to save the world by itself.

The final paragraphs conjure up some interesting visions of geoengineering projects- sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere to bring the balance back down to non climate change levels. It’s the sort of thing I imagined happening in the backstory to the Mongrels series, as the AIs bring the planet back from climate catastrophe to some sort of stability.

Source: Scientists Turn Carbon Dioxide Emissions to Stone | Climate Central


DARPA are planning my Pickers bikes

In Pickers, one of the characters gets a two wheel drive electric motorbike, that she puts to good use all the way through the story. It seems the US military, through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is going one better, challenging manufacturers to come up with hybrid versions, with generators that can run on almost any liquid fuel to recharge the batteries.

If this sort of technology trickles down to the civilian market, I might start thinking about taking motorbike lessons.

The U.S. military has been talking about “stealth motorcycles” for years. As of this month, two tech outfits have what seem to be viable prototypes that will both be funded for another revision.

Source: The U.S. Military Is Getting Serious About ‘Stealth’ Motorcycles


A week of films

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond

This was a fun film, playing with the power of optimism and futurist visions, past and present.

Teen prodigy Casey wants to solve all the world’s problems, when no-one else seems to care. Given a mysterious pin badge that gives her visions of an incredible alternate world, she sets out to track it down. Along the way, she teams up with kid robot Athena and former child genius turned recluse Frank. I won’t give away the reasons Athena wants to recruit Casey, or why Frank- somewhat reluctantly- helps her. The journey is a big part of the joy of the film.

Highlights include a crazy fight in a memorabilia store, a character who calls himself Hugo Gernsback and some lovely retro-futurist production design. I don’t think this film did as well as it ought to in the cinema, so I recommend it if you’re looking for something that’s light and fun, but still with substance.

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan

You’ve gotta love a Ray Harryhausen movie. This retrospective takes you from his first garage made dinosaur films all the way through his career. With anecdotes about each movie mixed with interviews, it’s a fun trip. Nice to find I’ve seen most of his films as well.

Straight Outta Compton

The classic star story, with ioncredible talents breaking big and not coping with everything fame brings. The film focusses on Ice Cube, Easy E and Dr Dre more than the other members of NWA, framing the band’s story as being all about the trajectory of their friendships. Powerful stuff, with one hell of a soundtrack.

The Do-Over

A bit meh, if I’m honest. Sandler’s last Netflix original Ridiculous 6 wasn’t hilarious, but had some fun bits, but this one misfired for most of its length.

Sandler’s Max fakes his, and childhood friend Charlie’s, death, takes on another man’s identity and runs in loose circles until the plot gets dizzy and asks to be let off. There were a few little bits that could have been funny, and we’re not really let into Sandler’s character until far too late in the tale.

The Fog

Another John Carpenter classic, though it suffers in comparison to The Thing. Antonio Bay is celebrating its centenary, but a grim secret from its past is about to drift ashore with the fog.

This is a classic ghostly revenge story, with a little bit more gore. Unfortunately, stating early on just how many must die undercuts the tension. The events feel disconnected as well, taking place in so many different locations it sacrifices tension.


This week’s films

Skin Trade

I suppose this is fallout from the Expendables films, giving Dolph Lundgren his career back and teaming him with a newer action star. He’s a lumbering, solid presence, and his mass seems to slow tiny, kinetic Tony Jaa down whenever they share the screen.

Dolph (I forget his character’s name) is a tough cop who busts a people smuggling ring run by Serb gangsters, with victims from Thailand. In the process, he kills one of the chief baddies sons. Retribution sees his home blown up, his wife and daughter killed, and him shot.

Busting out of the hospital, Dolph goes on a rampage, ending up in Thailand, where he first fights, then teams up with, Tony Jaa’s fast kicking cop. Lots of shooting, lots of fighting, blah, blah, blah.

The film starts with acknowledgement of Dolph’s age, as he foregoes a chase across the rooftops when chasing a suspect. Then it ignores it for the rest of the film, as he is blown up, shot, beaten and knifed, and just keeps on going.

Interstellar

Cooper was an astronaut, but now he’s grounded, raising corn- last of the blight free crops- and his two children somewhere in the Midwest. That is, until he coded gravitational signals that lead him to underground NASA, and a chance to leave the planet, and find new ones- through a wormhole.

The problem is, the further from Earth the story gets, the less interesting it gets. Particularly once the twist ending becomes blindingly obvious, and all the tension drains away. There was a more interesting, and challenging, story to be told about Cooper and family fighting climate change and a nascent anti-science fundamentalism to do a proper job of saving humanity.

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Jones is a princess, or queen, or something, in an intergalactic empire. Or, at least, she’s the exact genetic reincarnation of one. As such, she stands to inherit Earth, and save its inhabitants. If she can survive the attention of her ‘children’.

There was one Gilliam-esque sequence, as Jupiter battled bureaucracy to claim her planet, but the rest of the film just sort of washed by in an excess of effects and explosions.

Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man

A prime slice of Polizietezza action, following the exploit of a pair of pretty boy cops in a special fast response unit. Almost as dangerous, and just as brutal, as the crooks they chase, they burn, screw and shoot their way to the big boss who had a colleague killed. Not the most tightly plotted tale, it’s enjoyable providing you can stomach some very seventies attitudes and fashions.


Things

This week’s viewing-

Chappie

An anthropomorphised Police droid has a consciousness program uploaded onto it, is adopted by a gang of punk rock criminals and causes all hell to break loose.

Another typically stunning tale from Neill Blomkamp, tackling big questions on a human level, And with special effects that are stunning because of the way you don’t notice them. The eponymoius robot is played by long time Blomkamp collaborator Sharlto Copley, who disappears behind motion capture, delivering a fine performance in gestures and voice acting.

The Thing

John Carpenter’s top remake of the fifties’ original is a neat mix of claustrophobia and body horror. The occupants of a polar research station realise they are trapped by a snowstorm, with a shape changing creature hiding amongst them.

The pre-digital effects still look good, the creature morphing into ever more bizarre and grotesque shapes. The chest cracking scene, in particular, will always be a classic.

It’s interesting, watching the making of featurettes on The Thing and Chappie, to compare the digital trickery of today to the one-chance animatronics of the eighties.

Spooks: The Greater Good

I lost touch with Spooks, the series, some time ago. So I don’t know how many of the characters in this big screen outing came over from the TV.

Harry Pearce is still there- gruff, indestructible, and one step ahead of almost everyone- as he tries to find the traitor in MI5 who helped a terrorist escape, and may be plotting to destroy the service completely. Kit Harrington is the Jon Snow of espionage- tough and resourceful, but too decent for his world.

Low-key and brutal, just like the TV series, this was, no doubt, a disappointment to many who wanted lots of shooting and explosions.

The Return Of The Living Dead

This is supposed to be a horror comedy, but fails to deliver laughs or shocks.

With a nod to the ‘true’ story behind Night Of The Living Dead, a batch of military grade reanimation juice is released on an abandoned cemetery. The dead rise, and wreak havoc on a bunch of punks and the employees of a medical supplies company. There’s some good makeup and animatronics effects, but they’re wasted on this film. Not even the naked presence of ‘scream queen’ Linnea Quigley (wearing some sort of flesh coloured merkin, apparently) can make a difference.


What I am watching now

It’s time to try to keep a record of all the films I watch. So, on as near as possible to a weekly basis, it begins now.

How I Live Now

Tightly wound American teen Daisy is sent to spend some time in Britain with her aunt and eccentric cousins. It could be any tale of self discovery in an idyllic countryside setting, but there are hints of darkness from the off. An excessive number of soldiers patrol the airport, and the aunt is off to Geneva to a desperate sounding peace conference.

Soon, a nuclear device going off in London leaves the youngsters without adult supervision, having to fend for themselves. Love blossoms between Daisy and her hunky cousin. However, their brief, glorious freedom is curtailed by army intervention, and the boys and girls are separated.

Daisy and her cousin Piper escape the militarised suburb they’re held in, and begin a trek back to the farm. This section- discovering the heart of darkness in a suddenly threatening English countryside- was hard going, being unrelentingly grim. Somehow, however, the ending was able to redeem all the pain without being twee. Bittersweet and holding some hope as life settled into a new kind of normal.

Planting the horrors of a civil war in familiar locations is an interesting exercise. It’s never explained what’s going on, the characters threatened by events they can’t begin to understand.

Barely Lethal

The old high-school-is-a-battlefield and cute-teen-is-a-trained-killer tropes meet up and have a little fun. I’m sure it’s not the first time.

Highly trained assassin Number 83 fakes her death after a mission, and sets off to have a normal life. Calling herself Megan and posing as a Canadian exchange student, she finds herself a surrogate family and heads to the US. Obviously, her training makes fitting in tricky, and her old boss- and others- are after her.

It’s a fun film, but seems to be lacking something- the last bit of energy, or a final polish- to be a stand out. Samuel L. Jackson is his usual gruff presence, Jessica Alba is a sexually ambiguous baddy who doesn’t get enough time to develop into a plausible threat, and Sophie Turner as Number 84 makes you wish Sansa Stark wasn’t such a flat character.

Taken 3

Bryan Mills uses his particular set of skills to find out who killed his ex-wife and framed him for the murder. Fun to watch for the action scenes, which, by the law of sequels, are required to be bigger and more ludicrous than in the previous films. There’s a twist at the end that’s been coming since the first Taken, but it doesn’t really mean much. The expanded roles for Bryan’s black-ops friends were nice, though.