Okay, this is a blog a little bit different from my usual unhinged rants and weird reviews. Instead, I’m hoping to be … bloody hell, can you believe informative? At least, about what I’m doing lately.
First of all, I’ve done the unthinkable (for some) and re-released “Ghost Beyond Earth” under a new name, “When The Ghosts Return”, and with a new cover design. Heresy, I know, but the reality is in this crazy, 21st century world of social media advertising that you need everything to have an impact …. well, now. In fact, NOW!!!! And I wanted a title that lent itself to SEO, keywords and that video clock-thingy website. You can buy it from Amazon here as an ebook or a paperback. Warning, I have little control over the price of the paperback beyond what Amazon charges for printing and delivery, and being over 160K words it gets a little pricey.
Next, the Great Experiment about selling audiobooks direct from my website has kind of fizzled out. The subscription model of sites like Audible and Kobo is hard to beat, so I’ve backed off from selling direct until better strategies come along.
Good news – my books “And In The Morning” and “At The Going Down Of The Sun” have been doing so well that I’ve finally decided to write a new novel in the same style. It’s in the early planning stages right now, but I can tell you that it’ll involve Liverpool in 1942-43, the Western Approaches Tactical Unit (WATU) a clever heroine who takes on the world and the war … and a couple of blokes lusting after the aforementioned heroine. Chuck in some aerial dogfights, a few torpedoes, lots of war action, warm English beer and inedible wartime rations … and you’ll have the idea.
I’ll try to blog more in my usual style … being annoying and cynical. I do enjoy it, and there’s been a whole bunch of new stuff on streaming services I think that are worth my discerning, well-informed opinion and criticism.
Don’t hesitate to say hello in the comments. For those on my mailing list, it’d be good to know who are actually real people and not just bot-generated, trolling, imaginary … virtual thingy people.
The latest series in the X-Files began last weekend. Was it any good? Let me start by explaining…
A few years ago in Melbourne I managed to do some unsupervised shopping (X-Files folks, bear with me here). By “unsupervised”, I mean without my wife. When it comes to clothing I tend to buy shit that’s useful for standing around barbecues and drinking beer. My wife prefers that I buy shirts that offer some kind of… visual improvement.
Anyway, I stumbled across a specialty tee-shirt shop. Three shirts for fifty bucks – bargain. But after a while I discovered it wasn’t easy to choose three designs I liked. There was lots of stuff about Justin Beiber, “I ♥NY” and obscure American basketball teams, but eventually I selected three relatively innocuous designs including one that said, “It Was All A Dream”. (Sound familiar…?)
Months later a mate of mine pointed at my tee-shirt and said, “Bobby Ewing”.
I’m like, “Who?”
“Bobby Ewing, in Dallas.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” (I was never a Dallas fan).
To briefly explain for some younger readers, Dallas was pretty much the first, enormously successful US mega-soap opera and Bobby Ewing was a hugely popular character who the producers killed off at the end of a series. The viewer backlash was unprecedented – especially for before the days of the internet – until the producers were forced to somehow resurrect Bobby and bring him back to life and into the show. How did they do it?
By beginning the next series with the revelation, “It was all a dream…”
Just like the beginning of The X-Files Series 11. What a crock of complete shit. And that’s coming from a number 1, card-carrying, tattooed (not really) X-Files nutjob fan.
At the end of Series 10 we were all going to die. Everyone was going to die. Mulder had the shit beaten out of him, Scully’s plastic surgery was peeling off, the whole world had a deadly virus… then, to top things off, Mulder and Scully apparently get sucked into a UFO. Mulder must have been happy as a pig in poo to be finally vindicated and Scully… well, she’s not going to talk her way out of this one, right? That was THE END. In fact, even the usual, “The Truth Is Out There” graphic was replaced with, “This Is The End”. No more X-Files, although I suspected that Mulder and Scully’s younger dopplegangers, Einstein and Miller, hinted at some kind of future reboot.
The new Series 11 starts, and what do we get? Apparently it was all a dream in Scully’s head and the storyline’s been booted backwards about five episodes. We’re back into the confusing, tired, incomprehensible conspiracy theory of some vague, secret government agenda about alien DNA, chain-smoking and – for fuck’s sake to make things worse – a fake moon landing. What a pain in the arse – and I’m not talking about any alien anal probing here.
I really enjoyed the “normal” X-Files when they’re chasing flesh-eating monsters, homicidal poltergeists and demons in bad, latex body-suits. And I loved the occasional funny episode where they took the piss out of themselves. If Series 11 is just going to be some garbled, over-complicated unravelling of the big “conspiracy”, it’s going to suck. Because the writers have already written themselves into a corner. I don’t care. I reckon the majority of X-Files fans don’t care. We just want more Loch Ness monsters, creepy shit hiding in the walls and light switches that never work when you need them.
But hey, hopefully I’m wrong – and I’ll be watching it regardless with my tinfoil beanie on and wooden vampire stake close to hand.
If you’re interested in zombie stuff, coming back from the Dead, ghosts, ghouls and shit that goes bump in the night, you might like to try my horror stories. The link to the first in a series (so far) of six is below. They’re all available in audiobooks too.
Okay, it’s kind of my fault for not learning my lesson the first time… check this out.
When it comes to “Top of the Lake, China Girl” it’s a bit of a giveaway to tell you – there’s no Chinese girl in the story and not even any bloody lake. Sure, there’s a bunch of Asian hookers, but I’m pretty sure none of them are actually Chinese.
You get to see a bit more of the star actress, Elizabeth Moss… she’s put on about fifteen kilos. Maybe that’s why she spends most of every episode on the brink of tears and about to collapse into a puddle of self-pity. Likewise, her cost-star, Gwendoline Christie (above) has a tendency to go all sooky and needy. My issue is that these are supposed to be gun-toting, hardened police officers. For god’s sake, if you’ve got a problem, just shoot some bastard. Don’t burst into fucking tears and sit cross-legged on the floor and binge-drinking alcohpops.
Talking of hardened, apparently it’s a requirement for inner-city Sydney male detectives in 2017 to appear like, dress and act like 1970’s porn stars, complete with weird little mustaches. These guys give misogyny a bad name – and I don’t mean in the usual, unpleasant context. I mean, they do it so badly. Seriously, if you want to commit any crime in Sydney, I recommend targeting the inner-city and King’s Cross. All the cops stationed there are either women who break into hysterical tears at the first sign of trouble, or weedy little detectives with a stack of Playboy magazines in the bottom drawer.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Moss has a strange habit of standing really close to people who want to attack her – so, no surprise, she gets attacked a lot. Even David Wenham, who’s crippled and in a wheelchair – and achieves looking even more creepy than usual with a really bad haircut – manages to trundle around the desk and start strangling her. For fuck’s sake, Liz! He’s in a wheelchair. Just tip the dickhead over on his side and kick him the nuts. Or shoot him.
Another bloke, the Main Obnoxious Villain, is someone Moss allows to sit right next to her on the beach. She gets all uppity and upset when he suddenly starts gnawing on her nose. And she still doesn’t shoot him.
In fact, the only thing in the whole series that gets shot to pieces is the credibility of the characters, the plot and possibly the careers of several well-known actors. I reckon Elizabeth Moss is a great actress, so I’m intrigued to understand how things can go so wrong. Jane Campion’s got production and script writing credits for TOTLCG, maybe she just wrote the title and left the rest stuck to a table in McDonald’s for someone else to finish – and didn’t bother to check later about the lack of any lakes or Chinese girls in the story.
Nicole Kidman, as it’s well-known, appears in the show doing her bit for Oz TV… a very odd bit. She’s a married woman who has discovered late in life she prefers to be a grumpy lesbian. Apparently lesbians aren’t allowed to go into hairdressing salons and get a decent hairstyle – or maybe she goes to the same place as David Wenham? She has that permanent “finger stuck in a power socket” look. Maybe it’s a result of having to listen to Keith Urban writing songs all time?
I hung in there and watched it through to see who killed the not-Chinese prostitute… and I still don’t know. The storyline kind of whimpered into nothing (a bit like Moss’s character). If anyone can tell me who murdered who, I’d appreciate letting me know in the Comments.
Talking of murdering, I’ve mapped out my next horror book. It’s about a school reunion – except one of the classmates who rolls up has been dead for years. Looking forward to writing new stuff again.
By the way, if you want to try any of my audiobooks, I’ve revamped the website page here. And in a few days my books will be available “wide” again at iBooks, Kobo and so on. I’ll be adding links.
The Oscars happened today—that’s “today” for us folks here in Oz. I don’t much care who wins or loses, and in particular I get annoyed at how Australia will draw a very long bow to claim someone or something as “our own”. Mel Gibson is back in our good books, even though he was born in New York. All has been forgiven for Russell Crowe, too. We were quick to remember he was born in New Zealand, when Russ started chucking phones around, but we’ve put all that behind us.
The reason my interest in movies has been piqued is that I was channel-surfing the other night and stumbled across The Ten Commandments. Chuck Heston as Moses was more like Abraham Lincoln in his dressing gown. Only Yul Brynner, playing the Pharoah, Ramesses II, offered more than a passing resemblance to your basic pharaoh—maybe because Yul’s Russian? Plus there was a supporting cast of thousands—none of whom looked particularly Jewish or Egyptian either, but no one worried about that kind of thing back then. All the Egyptian princesses looked like they’d stepped straight out of a Manhattan dress shop.
Which reminded me of a book I read years ago… can’t remember what it was called. I’m not a religious type, but I found this book fascinating. The premise was that Jesus’ body was supposedly found buried in a wall. He secretly survived the crucifixion, lived until he was fifty or so, and was entombed in the wall of a house to avoid any further fuss. But was it the real deal or not? What made the book interesting was the forensic examination of the skeleton and whether or not it even came close to how Jesus may have appeared in life. It was the first time I’d come across the concept that Jesus could never have looked like the rather pale, Anglo-Saxon looking chap you see in almost every stained glass window in every church across Europe. He was probably short, dark-skinned and very Arabic. Sometime during the subsequent centuries He got one hell of a makeover.
By the way, in Australia we have a thing called the Heritage Council. God help you, if you own a heritage-listed house and want to paint it a “modern” colour. It’s a capital offense. At best, they’ll throw you in jail and flush the keys down the toilet. Imagine the red tape and grief you’d get from the local council, if you found Jesus’ body in your kitchen wall? I’d quietly plaster over the hole again and tip-toe away without another word. Or maybe chuck the bones in a skip-bin after wrapping them in plastic and writing “asbestos” on the outside. Nobody’s going to check inside that bag.
Back on the subject, despite the minor flaw of no one in the movie appearing remotely Arabic, or Egyptian, and that Chuck Heston spends most of the movie in his shabbiest dressing gown, The Ten Commandments is considered the seventh most successful film ever, grossing $122 million—in 1956. Not bad.
I reckon it was the special effects—which won the film its only Oscar. Seeing them now, they’re a hoot, but back in 1956 they must have been gob-smacking.
The main story has its plot issues. While everyone is following Moses it’s all piety, good behaviour and tramping endlessly through a really large, crap desert. Lured away to false gods, the Hebrew people are endlessly drinking, partying, dancing and shagging each other stupid. Sure, they had to sacrifice the occasional virgin, but that could have been micro-managed better. Really, why do they always sacrifice gorgeous, young female virgins? If I’d had a say in things in 1200BC I’d be sacrificing fat, ugly, bloke virgins. It makes much more sense.
Anyway, I’m just saying that Moses had a pretty tough sell-job—almost too tough to be believed.
Of course, if someone made a movie from one of my books and I was invited to the Oscars, I’d be there in a flash. I might even buy a new tee-shirt and pair of thongs (flip-flops, to the rest of the world) for the red carpet thing.
My latest mega-production isn’t quite in the same class as The Ten Commandments, but it was pretty epic. I’ve produced and narrated my first audiobook. It’s an adaption of my book, Horror Story Volume One, Death Wish. Below is a link to the book on Amazon, but you can see the Audible link to the audiobook version. If you’ve never tried an audiobook, you can sign up for an Audible trial and try mine for free. It won’t cost you a thing, and Audible won’t either. If you end up not liking audiobooks, just opt out at the end of the trial.
I’m expecting a message from Chuck soon. I reckon after he’s heard Death Wish he’ll want the movie rights. Hollywood, here I come. If you’d like to get an email whenever I release a new book, audiobook or write a new blog, just sign up to my newsletter above.
Finally, some answers.
One of the great mysteries of our history – alien abductions – has been partially explained by a new picture from Mars. It’s always been a bit of a head-scratcher just what exactly do aliens do with the human beings they abduct. In an ideal world (an alien world, obviously) the abductees are whisked away and, after a bit of harmless anal probing and some restful, suspended animation in a tank full of alien goop, they live a fantastic life on another planet with lots of really neat gadgets, 3D televisions and cheap, working light-sabres. Not surprising, heaps of lunatics are queuing up. A bit like all the nutters who’d happily volunteer for a manned mission to Mars even though we couldn’t bring them back, there are plenty of people constantly jumping up and down in the middle of the Nevada Desert, waving their arms and hoping to get picked up by a UFO. Or maybe at least get interviewed by Louis Theroux.
These are the same folks who think the tavern scene in the original Star Wars IV must be the best place ever to visit. The bar is full of very bad dudes with guns who’ll kill you for looking at them the wrong way, everyone speaks a weird language, there’s a crap band in the corner and chopping off someone’s arm to settle an argument is okay. I usually say to these idiots that, believe it or not, this can be easily arranged – without ever leaving the planet. We can drop them into a pub in, say, Caracas (Venezuela) or San Salvador and they’ll experience exactly the same thing. Briefly, before being turned into a messy statistic.
But back to alien abductions. It’s revealed by these latest pictures that the aliens, in fact, dump their guests off at a layby on their way out of the solar system. Unfortunately, it’s on Mars where nobody except for Matt Damon can survive more than a few seconds. Stupid bloody aliens. Not so advanced-civilisation after all, apparently.
And identifying this particular abductee is possible through the careful application of scientific, forensic processes.
It’s Wendolyn from Wallace and Gromit’s, A Close Shave.
Compare the two pictures (the one on the left has been artfully created by… someone). Pretty obvious, right?
So next time you’re thinking of attracting a joyride in a UFO consider the chances you’ll be booted out the back door on the way past Mars. Where there’s no oxygen, no internet, no Matt Damon and no potatoes to eat.
There are no aliens in my free novella Twice As Dead, but you’ll find ghosts, gunfights and plenty of women nearly as attractive as Wendolyn.
Go to this page for links to free versions of Twice As Dead and all my other (not quite so free) books, too.
Take away the mustache and…yep, he still looks like a psychopathic, meglomaniac, genocidal dictator. Never mind, worth a try.
I’m going to break all the rules and do a blog about Hitler. In fact, I’m even planning to mention Hitler and Foxtel in the same sentence (ah… actually, I just did already). But not quite how you’d imagine this will work.
We recently signed up for Foxtel’s satellite service—and I’ll be blogging about that next time. Our problem is diminishing television reception. Because we live in the country, and among the picturesque hills and valleys of south west Western Australia—our television reception is utter crap thanks to the increasing number of neighbours and their bloody trees. Nothing short of some clandestine, late-night chain-sawing will fix the issue or a really, really big antennae will cost a fortune without necessarily guaranteeing it will work. Foxtel, on the other hand, at its lowest “bundle” presents a reasonably cheap alternative with limited free-to-air channels included.
So what’s this got to do with Hitler?
At the risk of angering some people, I’m going to suggest Hitler and the Nazi’s tyrannical, murderous, despicable reign of genocidal terror had a couple of positives.
First, Hitler and his whole gang of Nazi followers have provided for the world of fictional action and spy films, and books, the most politically-correct villain ever. Think about it. Most of fiction’s Really Bad Guys risk a backlash of people whinging that you’re marginalising a minority—like serial killers and those Nigerian guys on the phone. And next you’re expected to apologise to somebody about something. But if your Really Bad Guy is a Nazi, everyone’s cool about it. A sort of, “Yeah, fair enough”. No one complains, Nazi villains are always no-risk, politically correct evil dudes. Just look at the helmets worn by storm troopers—sorry, star troopers—in Star Wars. They ain’t baseball caps, folks.
Second, Hitler and the entire Nazi empire have provided endless grist for the documentary film industry. Without Adolf and his jackbooted lads there would be no SBS, let alone a History Channel. Foxtel’s “Documentary” package would collapse. There are documentaries about Hitler’s childhood, his politics, his shoes, his girlfriend, his dogs, his favourite pudding and that he wore his undies inside-out for luck before every invasion… alright, I made that last one up. But Hitler and Nazi documentaries are an industry all of its own, employing thousands of people over the decades. I’ll admit, I’m interested in this stuff. It was, for want of a more compassionate description, a fascinating period in history.
Now, you’d expect the first prerequisite for any documentary about Germany and World War Two is that the actor playing The Great Dictator should actually, at least vaguely, fucking resemble Hitler a bit, right?
Nope, apparently not.
It’s not like we don’t know what Adolf looked like. Okay, he doesn’t have a Twitter account (I hope, I’m not going to check) but there are plenty of pictures and movies. It’s not difficult to research what Hitler looked like.
Despite this blatant and easily accessible information, documentary producers insist on casting just any old noddy as Adolf and sticking a silly mustache on them. It’s like the mustache is all it takes.
Last week on Foxtel it was the “Battle of the Bulge” story. Hitler, planning his last great offensive, resembled Mr Spock with a Mars Bar glued to his top lip. Then it was “Nazi Megastructures” and Adolf, unhappy with the price of concrete at the Berlin DIY store, was possibly Meg Ryan—the mustache may have been real. Seriously, it’s like documentary film makers believe that Denzel Washington can do Hitler, as long as they stick a stupid mustache on his face.
How hard can it be to find an actor who at least roughly resembles Adolf? A bit short, a bit lined in the face, a bad comb-over… most of the judges in MasterChef will do the trick. Fucking Yoda is closer than some of these so-called Hitler doppelgangers. It’s ridiculous, annoying, historically inaccurate and just plain lazy on the producer’s part.
There should be some kind of test. Show the producers pictures of Kanye West, Donald Trump and Walt Disney. Ask them which one looks most like Hitler. Anyone who picks Walt Disney should get fired.
By the way, one of my horror books, Footprints in the Snow, is based in World War Two and during the Battle of the Bulge. It’s got your standard, nasty, homicidal Nazi sergeant and a ghostly abbey in the middle of a snowbound forest. But if you want real evil, wait until you meet the Mother Superior and the rest of the nuns.
It’s not free, but give me a break. At US$2.99 it’s only slightly more than the budget allocated for Adolf Hitler lookalikes in Foxtel’s History Channel documentaries.
Follow this link to the right page and scroll down for the book.
A month or so ago my nieces came to visit and we had a movie sci-fi marathon with lots of big fuck-off space ships, laser guns, aliens and exploding planets—just good, wholesome family fun. At the end of it all, Marlee said, “You should watch Ex Machina , you’ll enjoy it”.
Who am I to argue? She can speak Japanese and along with her sister Paige they can recite, word-for-word, the entire script of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Impressive shit.
So the next time my Better Half was out of the house (she doesn’t watch anything that hasn’t got John Cusack in it—although the Hemsworth brothers are making inroads) I rented Ex Machina, got a six-pack of ales, a block of chocolate, a packet of chips, put on my Star Trek onesy and settled in for some serious one-on-one sci-fi.
With, I should add, absolutely no idea what the movie is about.
Here’s a rough idea (yes, this may spoil any future viewing for you).
A nerdy, IT-savvy gaming dude called Caleb wins a contest with a first prize of spending a weekend at the secret, secluded retreat of Nathan Bateman, who’s a genius, computer-programming guru. Under any other circumstances all sorts of predatory, paedophile warning bells would go off, but this is sci-fi, so don’t panic. Caleb arrives by private helicopter in the middle of the countryside somewhere and enters this ultra-secure, hidden luxury villa.
At this point I’d begun to notice—so far— a distinct lack of big fuck-off spaceships and laser canons, but Marlee promised, so I cracked another beer and kept watching…
It turns out that Caleb’s been sucked into being a guinea pig for a Turing test. Put simply (very simply) a Turing Test is supposed to determine whether a computer can think and behave like a human being. In a kind of reverse, double-whammy, Nathan is also testing Caleb to see if he can withstand the wiles and seductive attractions of the computer.
The computer, no surprise, is nothing like an airport check-in terminal or anything you might be reading this blog on. Instead, it’s a feminine android called Ava that looks like a cross between Oscar Pistorius and Angelina Jolie—with a light bulb on the back of her head. Myself, being firmly in the Jennifer Anniston camp, I couldn’t find Ava remotely attractive, but don’t forget Caleb is a nerd whose idea of online porn is the Christmas edition of PC Magazine, so he falls for Ava in all kinds of twisted, this is wrong on so many levels ways. It doesn’t help when Nathan explains that Ava has “pleasure circuits” in all the appropriate places and Caleb is quite welcome to give these a try… close to a Eewww moment really. The next time I see C3PO say, “I need lubricating, Master Luke” it’s going to push all the wrong buttons now. Let’s be real—all the technology in the world doesn’t alter the fact that Ava is just a few lithium batteries away from being one of Nathan’s blow-up dolls. Even if this is some sort of nerdy, blokey, weekend away, you have to draw boundaries about exactly what you share.
Definitely not the sort of “warped” I was hoping for. I wanted big, fuck-off spaceships warping into light speed – with laser canons.
Anyway, before long, the film has lots of underlying, mind-bending themes about the ethics and practicalities of artificial intelligence, just what is human anyway, and the growing question of exactly who is testing who? Ava is plainly smarter than your average food blender.
Interesting, fascinating, thought-provoking… but without a single, big fuck-off spaceship or laser canon in sight. Not even a proper droid on three wheels that bleeps shit all the time. I’ve been robbed of my sci-fi DVD rental money. Would it have hurt the film’s producers to chuck in a wookie or two? Maybe a cameo by Doctor Spock?
The film builds to a creepy kind of climax—when I say “climax” I’ll let you find out for yourself, if those weird-arse “pleasure circuits” are involved—and here’s the really interesting thing about Ex Machina.
The end of the movie has spawned a whole bunch of furious debates about how the film should really… well, end. There are blogs about whether Ex Machina is “three minutes too long” or not. If there are hidden agendas or meanings. Even if the film itself has become a victim of a manipulative, artificial intelligence to sow the seed of the coming android revolution and we’re all going to be killed by our washing machines. Eventually, Ava will be added to the list of people suspected of shooting JFK and abducting Elvis. It’s become that kind of conspiracy.
None of which was ever intended by the movie’s writers. They just thought, Hey, let’s do this for the ending, because we’ve already paid a fucking fortune for the helicopter and we want to get our money’s worth. Or something.
As a writer, it’s intriguing to see people read all kinds of strange, non-existent messages behind your stories. In a way, it’s what you want—a bonus of frenzied, online paranoia and free promotion (ah… like this blog, I suppose). So I have to hand it to the writers and producers of Ex Machina and say, “Well done. You’ve inadvertently created a cult classic”. Bastards. When’s that going to happen to one of my books?
All right, I’ll admit that Ex Machina is worth watching. But if you find Ava even slightly attractive I strongly suggest you take out a restraining order against your refrigerator and microwave oven. You have problems.
My free horror book, Bedtime Story, actually does have a backwards satanic message in it. Okay—it’s not exactly backwards, but it is sort of satanic. In a ghostly, demonic, possessed kind of way. However, I should point out it definitely hasn’t got any big fuck-off spaceships, laser canons or exploding planets—but I never said it did, right? (yes, I’m looking at you, Marlee and Paige). Did you notice the FREE thing? Click the link below and scroll down for a download.
And if you’d like an email announcing my next blog or news of my writing and music (nothing else, I promise) just fill in the newsletter sign-up on the right.
Get Bedtime Story for free by going to THIS PAGE and clicking on the links.
Jason Bourne shoots people while listening to “Better Gardening” podcasts. How cool is that?
I don’t know about the rest of the world—it’s probably the same—but here in Oz, whenever a new franchise movie is due to hit the cinemas, the local TV stations do a run of the previous releases.
With Jason Bourne recently hitting the screens (that’s the name of the movie—Jason Bourne—they really put their creative heads together for that one) the entire Bourne series got a run, but I only caught the last two movies, The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy.
No surprise, there’s a common theme through all the Bourne movies. Jason is an ex-CIA (or something) operative who’s more than a bit pissed off with having been tortured, shot at, abandoned, betrayed, ignored and never getting his own parking space at Langley with “Dangerous Dude” painted on the ground—and he wants some kind of retribution or score settled. It has this “you’re forcing me to kill everyone, so it’s not my fault” vibe happening, too. So despite JB being a psychopathic, highly-trained government assassin who’s gone off the rails, he’s one of the good guys.
The people trying to kill Jason are the good guys, too—temporarily turned bad, because Jason’s being so anal and annoying about the whole getting tortured, no car park space thing—and they have this bewildering level of access to every camera, traffic light and satellite ever launched, tracking Jason’s every step to a ridiculous degree. You’d think they probably have a camera inside the toilet in the Big Brother House. Unthinkable, I know, but…
I get that Bourne movies border on super-hero status and you’re not supposed to question the more fantastic aspects, but you can’t help being a bit “WTF?” about the silly amount of electronic surveillance. Despite this, Jason does the usual tricks of wearing an alfoil hat to avoid detection and being attractive to female operatives who should probably shoot him to get a Christmas bonus—but don’t—and he escapes to live unhappily ever after, or until the next film.
Which is The Bourne Legacy and well confusing, because Jason Bourne’s not bloody in it. Matt Damon once said he’d quit doing Bourne films, so I spent the first half-hour or so trying to decide if our new hero, Jeremy Renner, was actually supposed to be Jason Bourne or not (James Bond movies have been switching lead actors for years, so…), but it turns out that Renner is another nameless, super-secret, invincible government spy, but the good guys have gone feral again and want to kill him, too (they’re not keen on think-tanking different options, it seems) before Jason Bourne puts out a blog about the fucked-up CIA mission statement debacle and spoils everything. I found myself muttering dark, naughty words at the same absurd depiction of electronic surveillance that can see and hear absolutely anything. Then again, I really want one of those special microphones, so I can hear my wife talking to me when she’s got her head inside a cupboard, or the fridge, or she’s at the other end of the house and gets pissed off when I inexplicably don’t hear her… (blokes in a relationship know what I mean). But anyway, The Bourne Legacy also has Rachel Weisz dressed in a blue singlet, so anything else can be overlooked. And the way the bad guy gets killed in the end is cool.
Then I tried watching Eye In The Sky, a movie with the starring role owned by a total electronic surveillance concept, supported by a grumpy Helen Mirren as a British Army colonel who wants to use a drone strike to blow up a house in the slums of Nairobi, a place filled with suicide bombers and Public Enemy Number One type villains. Problem is, a ten-year-old girl sells bread outside the house, and the moral debate rages about possibly killing the girl for the greater good of wiping out the evil fuckers inside. As the increasing surveillance reveals the level of the threat rising, the tension and arguments go up as well. There’s another subtle theme—that the UK and US will responsibly target terrorists and wait until the bastards go to the toilet, so the air force can pop a cruise missile through the dunny window, whereas anyone else (meaning the Russians) waits until the terrorists go to the shithouse—and carpet-bomb the whole town. But that’s by the way.
When an African operative sat outside the house in question (in the ‘burbs of low-rent Nairobi, remember—hardly an internet hotspot) and used his smart phone to operate a remote-controlled, miniature drone disguised as a flying beetle—and beams the vision in real-time to Mirren in London, who subsequently uses facial-recognition software to instantly identify the bad dudes… well, that hit my for fuck’s sake threshold and I gave up. Nail-biting stories and moral dilemmas aside, that sort of uber-technology shit just annoys me. Lisa sat through the rest of it and reckons the film wasn’t all that bad—pretty amazing for her, considering John Cusack wasn’t in the cast, so it can’t have been all bad.
Okay, maybe the powers-that-be can do this stuff. Maybe the CIA can watch Jason Bourne scratch his arse anytime it wants and Helen Mirren can virtually buzz around the house rafters in deepest, darkest Africa and not bump into the ceiling fan, but it’s kind of hard to believe. Mind you, I suppose it doesn’t do any harm for the Bad People of the world to think it can be done.
It’s no wonder we’re all a bit paranoid. The other day I inadvertently went In through the Out door of our local chicken takeaway—and panicked for the rest of the day expecting the Chicken Shop Police to take me away… scary shit.
Maybe the movie industry needs to go back to the good ol’ days? When surveillance meant a decent pair of binoculars and bugging the next room needed a wine glass held against the wall. It could collectively lower our expectations of all those super-secret spy organisations. People won’t be so quick to blame the government when shit happens.
And I can go back to buy chicken with chips and gravy again.
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If you want to read a free spy thriller… ah, without a spy, but lots of guns and car chases, try Twice As Dead. Links below.
See? Even Darth Vader gets a hangover – and seriously needs a dentist.
The opening few minutes of the original Star Wars back in 1977 blew our science fiction socks off. That imagery of a big fuck-off battlecruiser sweeping from somewhere above the cinema to fill the entire screen was like every novel by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke and let’s throw Philip K Dick in, too—all encapsulated into sixty seconds of our wildest, science fiction imaginations. The point is we didn’t have to imagine anything anymore. We could watch it. Blue screen technology had arrived with light sabres, laser guns, androids and Princess Leia dressed in a bed sheet (she made up for that later).
Smash-cut to the 21st Century and we’re still happily gobsmacked by the latest CGI, animation and blue-screen shit. We just love a good spaceship. It doesn’t need much else to keep us happy.
Which possibly explains why the Star Wars script writers are getting away with rehashing the same old plot and characters. We’re like an infant in its crib with a mobile of Tie Fighters dangling above. Chuck in a Millenium Falcon and everything is just awesome. We’ll poo ourselves with excitement.
But the latest Star Wars instalment only just gets over the line. Sure, I loved watching it—and no doubt I’ll watch it again and again, because that imagery is just brilliant—but the story? It’s like J.J. Abrams told his scriptwriters, “Go watch the first movie. Then make Luke Skywalker a girl and change the colour of the bleepy android. The rest can stay pretty much as-is”. Lazy-arse writing at its worst.
Recently I watched Star Trek, Into Darkness, and again the stuff happening on screen is just stunning. You can forgive Simon Pegg’s appalling Scots accent and ignore the concept that a young Captain Kirk is nothing better than a womanising, sports car-hooning, drunken bar fly—but they still let him drive the quadzillion-dollar interstellar Enterprise for fuck’s sake. And Spock snogging Uhura? What were they thinking? Spock doesn’t do sex. He just doesn’t. Story-wise, it’s okay as long as you don’t try to relate anything with the many movies released over the last few decades. The connections are there, but… why bother? And the idea of Benedict Cumberbatch being a villain is unthinkable. That’s like having Winnie The Pooh maul a Girl Guide to death. Just wrong.
But the science fiction day has been saved by Deadpool. Okay, it’s not space opera, but for something completely out of the box I thought it was really clever with plenty of stuff to offend just about anyone—you can’t ask for more than that—with lots of violence, sick humour and cool ideas. Talking of boxes, I stumbled across The Boxtrolls the other night. You either get it, or you don’t—and I got it. It’s like Charles Dickens meets Pixar with a splash of Roald Dahl. Don’t watch it straight or sober. It won’t make a scrap of sense.
Next up, demanded by my nieces, is apparently Ex Machina. I’m told the ending is highly confusing, controversial and can really piss you off—or not. Sounds like just my kind of thing. I’ll let you know.