10 Cloverfield Lane was much, much better than I was expecting it to be. If you have plans on seeing it you might want to stop reading this review now so you go in unspoiled. The short version is this: It’s really good, it’s probably not what you were expecting and the cast absolutely smashes it out of the park.

From this point on there are going to be spoilers so don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m going to put an image of the poster below so you don’t see anything if you just want to go to another website.

If you feel like wasting a day I recommend TV Tropes.

I won a double pass to go and see a pre-screening of 10 Cloverfield Lane and literally couldn’t find anyone else I knew who wanted to see it that wasn’t busy fulfilling their responsibilities. Stupid adulthood, making them do the responsible thing.

They missed out.

10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the best sci-fi films I’ve seen in a while. Yes there are some plot holes, and the ending is, uh, big…but none of that really matters because the movie hits the tone so perfectly and the cast is so good at selling their respective roles. I spent the entire movie with an elevated heart rate because director Dan Trachtenberg draws out the tension in every scene until the air is thick with menace.

The movie starts with Michelle, played to the hilt by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, leaving her fiancee and driving into the countryside. She gets into a terrible car accident, and wakes up in an underground bunker to the news that there has been some sort of terrible attack on the USA, that virtually everyone else in the country is dead, and the only reason she’s still alive is that she was pulled from the wreck of her car by doomsday prepper Howard (John Goodman) who happened to have his own underground bunker set up and ready to go.

From the get go Goodman absolutely dominates the screen. In the confined spaces of the bunker his sheer size makes him a menacing presence and Goodman lends him an intensity that’s scary in its plausibility. There are plenty of people in the world like Howard, and despite his growing paranoia, Goodman never plays him as a caricature. At least at first, he seems like a relatively kind man with some personal issues and an entirely worthwhile end of the world plan.

That kindness doesn’t last.

When Michelle finds her way out of her tiny cell/room and meets the other inhabitant of the bunker, the goofy, genuine Emmet (John Gallagher), Michelle attempts to make her escape, thinking Howard is totally off his rocker and has kidnapped her. Throughout the film it’s not clear if Howard is totally crackers or if something truly terrible has happened and he was absolutely right to make a doomsday bunker and stock it with foodstuffs.

Here’s that spoiler I was telling you about. Last warning.

It turns out both are true. There really is an attack underway on the USA and Howard is also a complete monster. I honestly thought it was going to be one or the other, and by making it both 10 Cloverfield Lane put itself into a position to do something a little different with its premise. Michelle and Emmet are effectively trapped between a sort of familiar (or at least human shaped) devil in Howard, and the unknown horrors outside the bunker.

I’d like to give special mention of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Michelle. Her character does all the things a smart, determined person would do. I never once wondered ‘why didn’t you just…’ as she constantly makes plausible decisions and plans to keep herself and Emmet safe. Her plans don’t always work, in fact some are a disaster, but she thinks, adapts and tries again. And when things go totally off the rails she keeps thinking instead of just reacting. It’s a convincing and interesting portrayal that I bought into completely.

The ending is as I said, big, and in a less effectively paced film might have been too much, but I was so invested by the end of the film that it didn’t bother me.

The violence isn’t over the top, but it’s played for the most part as real rather than say Deadpool‘s cartoonish killing, and it’s all the more brutal because of the confined setting.

The script is excellent, and it gives the actors a lot to work with. Nothing is overstated or explained, and enough is left to audience interpretation to make it intriguing without being frustrating. Writers Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle did a superb job of pacing the dialogue and action so there are just enough lulls in the intensity to make the big moments in the film hit especially hard.

I was given a free donut before I went into the theater and I didn’t eat it because I was so wrapped up in what was happening on screen.

If that isn’t high praise I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

 

I had a much better week last week. I’m still a bit messed up post chemo, but some of things that we’ve been trying to help me get past it are kicking in and I’m feeling pretty good, especially compared to the way I’ve been feeling. I actually made it back to the gym whereupon I successfully glared at some exercise equipment for an hour.

It’s also been a week of learning things.

First up my big cat Harry has lost a lot of weight on his new diet. He’s always been a big cat, and I’ve often called him ‘my chubby buddy’ (yes I call my cats inane things). I had the grim realization last week that he’s no longer my chubby buddy, I’m his. Hence the return to the gym.

NASA made these freaking amazing retro travel posters for different places in our solar system. I love the little touches in the tag lines like ‘experience the charm of gravity assists’.

I wrote a haiku:

A frozen wind swirls
the morning darkness total
Where, where are my pants

Carrie Fisher tweeted a picture of her dog Gary which is kind of amazing:

gary

That dog appears to be 200% tongue.

That’s about it other than general working and life stuff. So, tell me, what did you learn/find/do last week?

 

 

 

 

 

I’m just going to say this up front: I loved Deadpool. Loved it. I’m going to go and see it again. Also, please don’t take your kids to see it, it’s an R movie for a reason.

deadpool1-gallery-image

It’s even sexier than this image implies.

Deadpool is a superhero origin movie, but it’s an origin movie done differently…done right. Spoilers coming, nothing major but it’s hard to review a movie without revealing anything at all, so you’ve been warned.

Still with me? Cool.

From the moment the opening credits declare Ryan Reynolds to be God’s perfect idiot, the director an overpaid douche and writers to be the real heroes it’s very clear that Deadpool  isn’t going to be a typical superhero film. Not that anyone who has heard of Deadpool the character was ever in any doubt. The only way Deadpool the film was ever going to work was to respect the foul mouthed, fourth wall smashing, dirty joke filled source material and respect it they did. Deadpool sticks its foot through the fourth wall almost immediately and then waggles its cancerous toes at the audience for the rest of the film.

Deadpool starts off with a serious bout of ass kicking on a freeway before taking a small step back from the carnage to tell a piece of Wade Wilson’s story before he became Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds does an amazing job as both Wilson and ‘Pool. He nails the humor of the character both before and after his transformation at the hands of Ajax (real name Francis), the very British, very badass main antagonist.

And it is one hell of a transformation.

Wade is having a pretty good time with life when we first see him out of the red suit. He’s getting paid to beat sense into stalkers and other miscreants and has found his perfect match in Vanessa (played perfectly by Morena Baccarin), his life is good right up until his cancer diagnosis. Director Tim Miller doesn’t belabor the cancer diagnosis but he doesn’t play it off as nothing either. Wade knows how bad his cancer is going to get, and Reynolds does a great job of selling the desperation lurking behind his endless jokes. I bought why he would turn to the bad guys to help him survive, even though they’re running their facility in an abandoned building that looks…let’s say less than hygienic. 

Ajax gifts Wade with a healing factor fast enough to make Wolverine jealous. I say gifts, but what I mean is: brutally tortures Wade over and over until the healing factor kicks in.

And then things get crazy.

Deadpool doesn’t hold back for one second over its short run time. There are some wildly entertaining fights and brutal kills that are mostly played for laughs. The movie definitely earned its R rating, because where most movies might cut away, Deadpool zooms in. All of this is undercut with almost constant jokes. Some reviewers have said that the jokes wore thin by the end but that wasn’t my experience, I was laughing for the entire runtime  (and the credits…stay after the credits).  Reynolds just has knack for Deadpool’s style of humor, although with that said Morena Baccarin and Brianna Hildebrand (playing Negasonic Teenage Warhead) both sell their jokes brilliantly and I hope we get more of them in the sequel.

I also have to give some serious props to T J Miller who plays Deadpool’s sort of friend Weasel. Miller’s ability to deliver an acerbic line is nothing short of awesome. He gets a couple of the best lines in the entire film, and his interactions with both Deadpool and Blind Al (played by Leslie Ugghams) are some of the best moments in the movie.

I should mention that there is an incredible amount of violence in the movie, from fun superhero movie style fights between Gina Carano’s Angel Dust and a CGI Colossus to some truly vicious hand to hand combat and gunplay.

It’s not a perfect film (is there a perfect film?), it goes for the easy joke a lot (I’m not saying I didn’t laugh, I’m just saying sometimes I’m not proud that I laughed) and the bad guys never really feel all that much of a threat…but it doesn’t matter, Deadpool is a really good time at the movies.

 

Highly recommended.

 

 

So, is this real life?

It’s not fantasy because honestly what kind of punkass fantasy doesn’t at least have a goblin king or dyspeptic wizard in it?

I’ve been trying to get back into real life and it hasn’t really been going to plan. Not that things have been bad, but I think a part of me thought I was going to be well enough again to punch life in the face. Maybe not very hard, maybe more of a gentle nudge on life’s shoulder, but something. As it turns out that hasn’t really been possible.

If only there was a switch.

If only there was a switch.

It’s been good to be back at work, even part time, and my workmates are awesomesauce (it’s a word) but that’s all I’ve been able to handle so far. I had visions of being able to get my health, writing, comic, martial arts, work and general life back online all in one go. The weird thing is that I knew logically that doing that was both logistically and emotionally impossible, but it didn’t stop me hoping.

I’ve been reading a site called F*ck Feelings (censoring star use theirs) and it’s helped me be a little more accepting of reality, and not to freak out quite so much about the things that I can’t change, or that will take a long time to change. I doubt I’d make the same demands of someone else in my position, so I’m trying (failing sometimes, but trying) to take it a bit easier on myself. I still have some serious goals for life the universe and everything, but I think I need to calm down a bit on time frames and maybe take on one or two things at a time instead of twenty.

In other news Humpy the Goddamn possum has made his triumphant return to my roof.

He didn’t bring my jandal back. I don’t think I want it back.

While he and my roof seem to have put their torrid affair on pause, he has picked a fight with another, currently unknown, animal that was skittering across the roof last night about to am. There was squeaking, so it may have been a rat. If it was it was a very large rat, a very large angry rat. It and Humpy brought the pain for well over fifteen minutes of hissing, snorting, growling and thundering across my roof like an avant-garde percussion band.

 

 

 

 

I have failed to keep every single New Year’s resolution I have ever made. Even the year I resolved to make no resolutions whatsoever was a wash straight off the bat since that is, in fact, a resolution.

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Every attempt at weight loss, every determined new year effort to cook more, write more or at least make sure I’m wearing pants before answering the door (if you are one of the two Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to the door a while back, early Sunday morning isn’t a good time for me) has gone very badly.

I would like to blame this on the position of the stars, or basic human psychology. I can’t.I have no one to blame but myself (who is by far my least favorite person to blame) The truth is that wild ambitions, poor co-ordination and general laziness is a poor combination when it comes to goal setting and achievement. It’s always gone so badly that I had actually thought that I was through making any plans at any point between December and February just in case (although I would like to note that I didn’t make it a resolution). Still, with everything that happened to me in 2015 it actually seemed weird not to go into 2016 with some goals in mind.

But they can’t be the same old goals or I’ll be doomed to failure. Sooner or later I’m going to answer the door in my undies and this whole business will unravel.

They have to be achievable goals.

They have to be things I can know I’ve achieved at the end of the year.

They, in the end, are these:

1. Don’t die

Seems important to all the other goals. I’ve done it before, so it seems like I should be able to not die for another year. Really if I can’t manage this I’ll be extremely disappointed in myself.

2. Tempt fate

See goal 1.

3. Wear pants

It can’t hurt to try, especially when I’m at work.

4. Write another book

This is what I was doing before the whole cancer business. I wrote one. I’d like to write another one.

5. Fail entirely to be attacked by birdlife.

A surprising number of people I know seem unable to do this, but I think I’m up to the challenge. If not, then I still get goal two on this list.

6. Get rejected 100 times

I should clarify, I mean get my writing rejected 100 times.

I stole this one from writer Sarah Gailey (who has an awesome series of tweets livetweeting the Star Wars movies. If you haven’t read them then you can find them collected here, here and here.) I don’t have any control over whether or not the things I write get rejected or not, but by targeting one hundred rejections it means I’m going to have to write a bunch of stories and send them out. This will be good for me.

Bad for literature as a whole, but good for me.

7. Go places, do things

I like staying indoors and writing things on computers. This does not lead to me getting out a lot. I have no intention of stopping writing things on computers, but I’ve been stuck indoors for four months and I think my life in general would benefit both from going to places that are not my house and then doing things that don’t involve glaring at a screen until words appear on it. At the moment this is tough, I’ve got all the get up and go of a concussed sea slug.

8. Read books

I’m in the middle of reading one right now so I think unless something goes terribly wrong in the next day or two I’ve got this one on lock. If anyone is interested it’s called Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen. It’s a monster story set in the Wild West (or at least, a Wild West) and it’s fantastic. I’m going to be sad when this one is over, but fortunately it’s the first in a series, so I have more to look forward to.

9. Eat something that is both delicious and unhealthy

We can do this. You and me. We can do it. We can be heroes.

10. Do something for a charity

Actually I can do this one right now. I signed up for kiva.org and made a small loan to an entrepreneur. Kiva is a microlending organization that organizes small loans for businesses in the developing world. Their repayment rate is close to 100%, and they do an enormous amount of good in the world. What’s more, Kiva itself doesn’t take a cut of the loans, all the money goes to those that need it. Yes, this is me prodding you to do something for a charity too. Doesn’t have to be Kiva of course, pick your charity and go to it.

 

What are your New Year’s resolutions, achievable or otherwise?

This year has been a real shitweasel.

It’s hard to sum up everything that went wrong here, especially because some of it happened to other people and they might want to include it in their own ‘2015 was a mythical weasel made of excrement’ posts, but as a brief guide for new readers:

I got testicular cancer, the week after I got out of hospital my Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer, the week after he got out of hospital I discovered my cancer had spread to my lungs and I needed extensive chemotherapy, my brother was involved in several car accidents (none of his causing), I had a terrible reaction to the chemo and barfed my way through November and some of December.

A possum humped the living hell out of my roof.

And yet…

It hasn’t been all bad. Before all this cancer business I got a job I really enjoy writing for radio and that’s waiting for me in the new year. My brother got a new job and I’m seriously proud of him for snagging it.

An almost literal army of people came out to back me while I went through cancer and the chemo. I have never felt so loved or appreciated by so many people in my entire life. Funds were raised, parcels were sent. Friends and family both near and distant stepped up to help me even when I was exactly zero fun to be around.

My wife saved my life both literally and figuratively.

I have no way to properly thank anyone except to say how grateful I am for everything, and how happy I am to still be here. I think I’ve mentioned this before but when they found the cancer in my lungs I asked my surgeon ‘If I was dumb enough to refuse chemo, what would happen?’

‘You don’t make Christmas’.

‘Oh.’

I made Christmas. I made New Year’s Eve. I get to see everything both good and bad that 2016 has to offer.

I’m looking forward to it.

Happy New Year everyone.

– Andrew

These dogs expect you to enjoy your new year. Don't let them down.

These dogs expect you to enjoy your new year. Don’t let them down.

 

 

 

 

I really enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film wasn’t perfect, but I don’t care. It felt like Star Wars to me, and I walked out of the theatre with a huge smile on my face and the desire to see it again.

SW-THE-FORCE-AWAKENS

So. Happy.

After I saw SW:TFA I suddenly realized that it was Christmas time. I’d been looking forward to my results, then seeing Star Wars, so much that I had almost forgotten about Christmas. Almost.

 

I’m not a religious person, if people ask I describe myself as a hopeful agnostic, and I quote them a slightly mangled Asimov quote I like to think sums things up on my worldview:

“I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”

And yet…I love Christmas. Our house is always decorated (mostly because my awesome wife loves Christmas too and always puts in the effort whereas I mostly ask where she’d like me to hang things). I love the getting together with family, and I’m very very lucky that my family is so close that it’s relaxing to hang out with them instead of a teeth clenching effort. I love the food and the semi-coma that I’m in afterwards. I’m lucky to have that too.

Hell I’m lucky to be alive.

What I’m trying to say, badly, is that no matter where you are or what you celebrate, I hope it’s awesome. I feel very lucky right now about a lot of things, and I hope I can pass some of that luck on to you.

And go and see Star Wars if you haven’t already.