One foot in front of the other

I am not having any fun.

It’s worse than that. I’m having whatever the opposite of fun is, the Anti-Fun possibly, and I’d really like it to stop

Everything hurts, doing anything takes an insane level of effort, judging by the weather someone has opened a portal to hell over Scotland and the rest of the world seems to have gone nuts while I wasn’t looking. It’s hard to believe that there’s any point in doing anything.

I have done some things recently but I’m pretty sure that nothing will come of any of them.  However, since I’m typing anyway, I might as well type an update about the few things I managed to con myself into doing.

I decided which of my novels to attempt to pitch at Bloody Scotland. I even wrote a bunch of 100 word pitches for it and picked the best one with some help from my spouse and one of my friends. However I haven’t sent it in yet. I don’t know if there’s any point.

I’ve been working out with weights a bit. As much as I could manage what with my health and this insane weather. I have no idea if it’s making a difference or not.

I am continuing to wear compression garments for my Lipoedema. They seem to be working but I’m currently awaiting new compression leggings. I was measured for them on the 9th. The manufacturer still hasn’t got round to making them. I don’t know how long it will be before they do get round to it. I had to make phone calls to chase things up. I hate making phone calls.

I am so bone tired that I need a new word for it. Exhausted just isn’t enough. Neither is knackered. I am heartsick of the continued burden of existence. I see no point in anything.

I’m trying to persuade myself that I’m excited about the new series of Doctor Who and the trailer for Shazam. I haven’t seen Ant Man and the Wasp yet. There’s Captain Marvel to come. And there’s Infinity War part 2 next year. I haven’t read all of Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent Peter Grant books yet.

You’ll notice that there’s none of my stuff on that list. I’m not even pretending to care about my own novels. They are important to me. I love them. I just can’t muster any enthusiasm for the idea of showing them to anyone. What’s the point?

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Took my son to see this movie and it was an interesting experience. My son is autistic and, like me, has ADHD. This means that he finds some movies a tough watch but he still enjoys them.

He found the previous movie, Jurassic World, a bit over stimulating and half way through I had to break out my narrative decoding skills to tell him who would live and who would die. It was the first time I broke down the logic for him and explained how I could tell roughly what was going to happen.

He found the film so hard to watch because he identified so strongly with the two boys, particularly Grey, the younger of the two. He calmed down considerably when I told him that it was a family movie and that meant that they boys wouldn’t die. I predicted that even though the park was packed with kids and escaped dinosaurs that we wouldn’t actually see any of the children die.

Then I explained that it was a disaster movie and that meant that the hero could only die at the very end and by giving his life to save others but that they probably wanted Chris Pratt for the sequel and he’d be fine. I explained that in a disaster movie the people morally responsible for the disaster would die in narratively appropriate ways. So that one guy is going to die in a helicopter crash, that other one is going to get what he wants and it’s going to eat him. I explained that anyone in a uniform who’s name we didn’t know was dinosaur fodder and that he shouldn’t get attached to them.

He’s matured a lot since then but he still found parts of this movie a little too much. I had to remind him that it was a family movie and that they wouldn’t kill the kid in a family movie. Once he’d been reminded of the genre conventions he was able to remain calm by trying to predict the twists and turns.

This time around he not only identified strongly with the child character, Maisy, but also with the velociraptor, Blue. I had to agree. I think the film is ok but it’ll be much better once someone adds subtitles for Blue. Once all the noises she makes are translated I think they’ll mostly turn out to be calling other dinosaurs bitches and insulting Owen (Chris Pratt). I’m pretty sure Blue thinks it’s a buddy movie.

I’ll post a review some time soon but the short version is that the film is very entertaining but also flawed in really annoying ways.

My first Infinity War post

Soon I will write a post full of spoilers about Infinity War. This is not that post. This post is for those people who haven’t seen it yet and are wondering if they should see it since everyone is talking about it and it’s looking like it might be an actual cultural phenomenon.

Yes. You should go see it but you need to see a few other movies first. Some people will tell you that you need to see every single marvel movie but I would argue that you don’t. Here’s a link to a page that has all of them. You’ll notice that there are eighteen films on the list. You probably don’t have the time and the money to watch all of those before some bastard spoils Infinity War for you.

Here are the ones that you need to see in order for Infinity War to make sense. These aren’t the best Marvel films. It misses out two of the greatest superhero movies ever made and includes some of the weakest Marvel movies. It also includes a massive argument between my spouse and I but we’ll get to that.

The Stick Of Doom Marvel Essentials list

  1. Iron Man. I didn’t see this in the cinema because I just didn’t believe the hype. I watched it at my brother’s house because he made me. This is the film that built the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). It’s funny and clever and Tony Stark is an arsehole but he’s a brilliant arsehole who is trying to be better.
  2. Thor. Some fans don’t like this film and claim that it’s a little poe faced. I disagree. You need to see this to know who Thor and Loki are and to understand how Loki ended up where he is at the start of Avengers Assemble. I’ve missed out The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2. I like both of them but the Hulk is adequately explained later on and the second Iron Man film is the weakest and adds least.
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger. I love this film. My kids love this film. My Mother loves this film. You need to see this to know who Captain America (Steve Rogers) is, to understand how he’s tied to Tony Stark and to get at least some of the origin of the Tesseract which is going to be a major macguffin.
  4. Avengers Assemble aka Marvel’s The Avengers. So good they named it twice. Actually the first name is how it was released in the UK. This is the film that Justice League was trying to be. You need to see this because it has the first mention of Thanos and the Mind Stone. Also you need to know who the Avengers are.
  5. Iron Man 3. This is the source of the fight I mentioned earlier. While I love this film and I agree that it helps explain Tony Stark’s personal journey I don’t feel like it’s necessary viewing. However my spouse disagrees and feels that both the tech that Tony uses in later films and the mistakes that he makes with it require some context.
  6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This film sets up characters that are going to be vitally important in later films. You need to see this in order to understand what’s going on with Tony and Steve in Infinity War. I missed out the second Thor film, Thor: The Dark World. I liked it but it’s generally regarded as the weakest entry in the MCU and it doesn’t add much to the overall narrative. Also the important bits are explained at the beginning of the third Thor film. Watch only if you really like Tom Hiddleston or you’re desperate to know more about the Reality Stone.
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy. Absolutely vital watching. Loads of stuff about Thanos and it introduces several major characters. Also its a brilliant film and the beginning of the movies becoming a little more fun.
  8. Avengers: Age of Ultron. Yes you do have to watch it even though it’s my pick for the weakest film in the MCU. There’s just too much plot and too many important new characters to leave it out. And even a weak Marvel movie is still better than we thought a superhero movie could be for a long time.
  9. Captain America: Civil War. This is why Tony and Steve aren’t speaking in Infinity War. Also it introduces T’Challa, resolves many of the story lines and introduces Spider-Man. I’m suggesting that you skip Ant Man even though I really like it and I think that it’s criminally underrated. You don’t need to see it to watch Infinity War and you can save it to watch when you need cheering up.
  10. Thor: Ragnarok. Yes I did just suggest that you skip Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. They’re both brilliant and you should watch them at some point but you don’t need to watch them right now. However you can’t skip the third Thor film because so much happens in it that you almost won’t recognise the new and improved God of Thunder if you do. I also suggest skipping Doctor Strange. All you really need to know is that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Doctor Stephen Strange, brilliant but unpleasant surgeon, who became the Sorcerer Supreme.
  11. Black Panther. Much as I love the rest of the MCU you don’t really have to watch any other film in order to watch this one but even a film this good can’t set up Infinity War on it’s own. You need to watch it so you’ll understand what Wakanda is.

And that’s it. Eighteen films cut back to eleven, ten if you skip Iron Man 3. And always watch to the end of the credits. If the post credit scene doesn’t make sense you might want to ask a comics reading friend to explain. Just warn them that you haven’t seen Infinity War yet.

 

I you’ve enjoyed this post then feel free to buy me a coffee with Ko-fi or visit the Shop of Doom (closing the day after tomorrow) and pick yourself up something nice.

Review: The Equaliser

I don’t often do reviews because there’s no shortage of people reviewing stuff on the internet and many of them do it far better than I could. When I do review things it’s either because I’m really excited by the thing or I hadn’t heard much about the thing before trying it. It’s both in this case.

This is the film of The Equaliser from 2014 not the TV series of the same name from the 80s. And yes it is a reboot of the TV series. The protagonist, played by Denzel Washington, is called Robert McCall just like the character played by Edward Woodward. What little backstory we get about the character is very similar.

It’s a welcome addition to the growing genre of ‘Action Grandpa’ films. Mr Washington is a more convincing righteous force of nature than Mr Woodward was and he was pretty convincing if you’d seen any of the British TV series Callan.

Some of the ‘Action Grandpa’ films feel a bit forced but this isn’t one of them. There’s no feeling that this is a vehicle for the ego of a fading action star. It also doesn’t feel like an aging director or writer’s fantasy of relevance in a changing age. None of the action feels like it’s been shot round the infirmities of the lead.

It’s beautiful to look at. It’s not just in the camera work but in the lighting. Mr Washington is often shown emerging out of the darkness like a figure in a Rembrandt portrait. A trick that reminded me of the way Jean Reno was shot in Leon.

The fights are inventive and very, very violent. We are repeatedly shown that Robert McCall is a very bad man. Or at least a man capable of very bad things. it’s not just that violence comes easy to him. It seems to be easier than solving problems in any other way. You can tell it’s an effort to try the non-violent solution first.

It creates a tension with everything else we know about him. Right from the start we’re shown a man who can’t help but help people. He’s charming and engaging and concerned with the welfare of others but we also get the sense that this charm is deliberate. Connecting with people is something he is choosing to do. Friendship doesn’t come naturally to him so he’s reaching out to people by helping them to improve their lives in small practical ways.

The supporting cast is excellent. They don’t get a lot of screen time because the camera spends so much time focussing on Mr Washington (and who can blame it) but any cast that features Chloe Moretz, David Harbour and Bill Pullman is worth a look. Even with very little screen time some of the supporting players do get interesting character arcs that mostly avoid the cliches of the genre.

My only criticisms of the film are that some of the dialogue is a bit stilted, there’s a couple of small plot holes and there are some very heavy handed literary references.

Recommended if you’re in the mood for an action film with a bit more depth and a less frantic opening than the usual fare.

Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy V2

More than a week ago now I took my son into see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. I’ve already said that I recommend it to anyone who likes action, sci fi, superhero or family movies and anyone who aspires to be a writer. Now I’m going to talk about why I recommend it so highly. There will be mild spoilers.

GotG V2 is a fantastic example of how you tell a compelling story with a large cast of characters that has a strong central narrative but takes time to give most of the supporting casts their own story arc. You never get the feeling that the secondary characters exist only to further the hero’s quest. Even though Starlord/Peter Quill is clearly the primary character every other character is the protagonist of their own story.

If you want a masterclass in info-dumps that don’t feel like info-dumps, exposition that reveals character, and backstory that informs the action then you need to see this film.  There’s a massive amount of narrative stuff that has to be shoehorned into the film without slowing it down and somehow it works.

GotG V2 is a film that does not compromise. Just as Volume 1 was unashamed of the ambulatory tree, the talking racoon and the dance off Volume 2 is unafraid to set a massive fight scene in the background of baby groot putting on Peter’s tunes and dancing and reveal Peter’s father to be a planet.

There’s a lot of lazy storytelling in the world and action films are usually rife with it but not this one. No-one ever does anything for reasons of plot. Every action taken by every character is driven by that character’s internal logic. Yes they do stupid and illogical things but they do them because they are frail and flawed in entirely believable ways. And those flaws are revealed to stem from their personal traumas and struggles.

Throughout the film people make terrible decisions because of the terrible decisions of the past but one of the film’s themes is moving past that to make better decisions in the future. Some characters double down on their previous poor decision making and some learn from their mistakes. Guess which ones have the more positive arcs.

I really have to stop talking about it now or I will drop some serious spoilers. This is not the last you’re going to hear from me on this subject. In the coming weeks I’m going to take some of the themes of the film apart and show you why I think they’re remarkably good.

A writer is always writing

The thing about writing is that there is no down time. Regardless of what they’re doing with their hands or their brain or where they currently are a writer’s imagination is always at work. Once you get into that mindset there’s no getting out of it.

I took my son in to see Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 this weekend. I’m not going to talk about the film yet. All I’ll say now is that if you even slightly enjoy action movies, family movies, superhero movies, or soft sci-fi you should go and see it at the next opportunity. Also stand by for spoiler heavy posts about it in the coming weeks. If you’re a writer you should definitely go and see it even if you don’t usually like the kind of thing that it is. I will be talking about why in future posts once more of you have had the chance to see it.

After we saw the film we went for coffee. Well, I had coffee, my husband and son had some milkshake type thing from Costa. We got to discussing the details of the film and what we liked about it and what were its narrative components and my son did something that made me very proud and also reminded me that a writer is always writing even when they think they’re parenting.

My son, who is only 12 years old, broke out the word hubris. I wasn’t even talking about the classical flaws but he correctly identified a fantastic example of that one while I was still talking about how people sometimes behave like dicks because they’re afraid of losing themselves. I can’t wait to see the kind of critical essays he writes for his English classes.

Do the thing now

If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently (and I really should have learned it a long time ago but sometimes I am hard of thinking) it’s that you should always do the thing now. Don’t put things off. If you can afford it, if you’re physically able, if you have the time or you can make the time. Do it now.

Clean up the mess as soon as you notice the mess. Wear the nice outfit while it still fits. Go see the film before someone spoils it for you. Tell the people that you care about that you care about them while they’re still around to hear it. Don’t wait for some far off perfect future to write your novel. Do the thing now.

I wanted to go and see Logan on Monday. I was really tempted to book the tickets on Sunday but I didn’t and when Monday came around my other half wasn’t really feeling it and we didn’t want to cook and see a film and we couldn’t afford take out and tickets and so we didn’t. We put it off.

Then we got some bad news. News so bad that it colours everything. I could still go and see the film but I’ll never enjoy it as much now as if I’d gone on Monday. And with every passing day the temptation to spend the ticket money on something more sensible grows. It becomes more and more likely that I’ll never see the film.

It will become the latest in a long line of lost joys. These are the things that would have given me a tiny spark of joy but didn’t because I didn’t do them. I put them off. Or decided they weren’t sensible choices. I waited and the moment was gone.

This does not change my positions on technology and computer games though. Leave the early adopting to people who get a kick out of being first. Let them deal with all the bugs and the glitches and the exploding batteries. Buy the fancy new kit when the price drops in anticipation of the next model coming out. If you can stand to wait for the computer game at all then wait for the game of the year edition or the Steam sale.

Not that I expect I’ll be able to follow my own advice. I give it 6 months before I make exactly the same mistake again and I’m back here saying this all over again.