Skyscraper. A movie review.

No spoilers!

Dwayne Johnson’s new movie is a cross between Die Hard and Towering Inferno. Despite the derivative premise it manages to be a successful homage to those movies and once again shows why Johnson is the world’s leading action star.

‘The Pearl’ is the world’s tallest and most technologically advanced skyscraper, built in Hong Kong by a super-rich computer tycoon. Johnson was an ex-marine and FBI agent who retired after an explosion took his leg. Now he’s an amputee who runs a security consultancy, brought in to inspect the Pearl’s safety features for the world’s biggest insurance underwriting. His wife (Neve Campbell) and kids have travelled with him and are staying in the as yet unopened residential level. Some bad guys from the tycoon’s past set the building on fire, with nefarious intentions (other than burning the building down, that is). Time for big Dwayne to step up. Along with a whole lot of duct tape.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to dislike Dwayne Johnson. Offscreen he seems like a genuine and affable guy. Onscreen he generally plays to type. What’s different this time around is Johnson plays a disabled man, making him a viable protagonist. Let’s face it, the guy’s so big it’s hard to believe the villains will give him a hard time, but having one leg evens the odds a bit and allows him to play up his disability in a number of scenes.

As a movie Skyscraper is a bit dumb, but it succeeds because it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It’s a full-on action-come-disaster flick, ready-made for the burgeoning Chinese market, with lots of lovely views of Hong Kong and a peppering of Chinese co-stars. Neve Campbell (remember her from the Scream movies and Party of Five?) gets to kick some ass as well, keeping happy that portion of the audience tiring of guns and testosterone-fuelled blokes. Who am I kidding? They won’t go to this film.

In the end it’s all about the Rock hurting himself and others as he takes on the building and the crooks, Bruce Willis-style, but without the jokes. Yep, this is pretty serious, but hey, he’s saving his family so the tone feels right. There are plenty of tense scenes to keep you on the edge of your seat and Johnson displays just enough machismo combined with fear to pull them off.

Skyscraper is the kind of exciting and entertaining romp that you’ll secretly enjoy even if you hate action movies.

Rating: C+

Diver Down. A poem.

Standing on this scarp’s edge,
a precipice, keen and lofty.
Stare down with me
at unknowing depths,
where new enigmas await,
an insinuating breeze.

Dive with me, together;
let the blossoming currents,
those flowers of fate,
guide our way blindly
through the consuming dark
into the great unknown, beyond.

I write a lot of poetry, some of which doesn’t appear on this website. For more poems, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to buy a copy!

Ant-Man and the Wasp. A movie review.

No spoilers!

Marvel pumps out another enjoyable superhero sequel. Amusing but non-essential viewing.

Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-man) and Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne/Wasp) reprise their roles from Ant-man, along with Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) and motor-mouthed Michael Peña (Luis). Along for the ride this time are Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne.

Scott Lang has nearly completed two years of house arrest after the Civil War incident. He has a vision of Hank Pym’s wife, who was trapped in the subatomic quantum universe many years ago. Hank wants to bring his wife back but villainess the Ghost is slowly wasting away and wants Pym’s tech to save herself. So do some other bad guys. Time to save the day.

Ant-man and the Wasp is pretty funny, with Rudd and Peña assisting with the script (I’m assuming there were a few ad libbed jokes in some of the scenes). Unfortunately, I’m one of those dreary souls who prefers more drama—I love humour, but I like my superheroes a touch more serious. It would have been nice to let non-fans know that Evangeline Lilly’s character was Wasp. It’s never mentioned—as a comic book fan, I knew, but some casual viewers I spoke with didn’t make the connection.

Ant-man and the Wasp is an enjoyable evening’s entertainment, but it won’t leave you with the burning desire to discuss the bigger issues raised by the film afterward, because there are none. It’s fun, but ultimately disposable.

Rating: C+

Haiku Friday. Talk – a lone haiku.

Talk

Talk like you want to:
let your velvet expletives
fly free like the breeze.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable and line structure.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

I write a lot of poetry, some of which doesn’t appear on this website. For more poems, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to buy a copy!

Fingertips. A poem.

Fingertips slide
Along the patina of your skin
Seeking gullies in which to hide
Crevices, creases and other things
Sketching highlights far and wide
Feeling their way with rarefied touch
Until they whisper to the underside
Until they’re lost and found and such
In sweat-soaked draperies
And windswept finery
Fingertips slide

I write a lot of poetry, some of which doesn’t appear on this website. For more poems, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to buy a copy!

Square Peg. A poem.

I was always a square peg,
out-of-place in round holes
with all the rounded souls.

An outsider striving
to make his way inside,
always locked out in the cold.

A perpetual stranger,
dwelling amongst strangers
and stranger things, I’d wager.

Hold me and shape me,
mould me like supple clay
into a thing of better ways.

And let this tactile process
knead this square soul
into a rounder whole.

I write a lot of poetry, some of which doesn’t appear on this website. For more poems, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to buy a copy!

The Laid back DM – Mini-Reviews

Hiya all! It’s been a while since I reviewed any tabletop role playing games (“What the?!” I hear you say. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out this link here).

Without further ado:

Vagabonds of Dyfed

This lovely little game was the result of a recent Kickstarter. It’s an elegant little system, based on the Apocalypse engine and some additional stuff from a few other games. It uses a simple, trait tag-based system in place of numeric characteristics, but still has traditional Armour Class and Hit Points.

vagabonds of dyfed RPG

The 2d6 + trait roll (with 6 or less meaning things get worse, 7-9 being a partial success, 10-12 a complete success and 13+ being a critical success), allows for lots of narrative options to push the game forward. Light on rules, but big on creativity, this is a game for more experienced game masters and players (some experience with Apocalypse World-based games or FATE is handy, if you’re only used to D&D).

The rulebook—black and white with a square layout, simple instructions, great illustrations and design—is gorgeous and easy to read. You can also use it with all those old d20 D&D modules you have laying around (if you’re old school, like me lol) with minimal conversion.

Ideal for GMs who like flexibility and less rules.

Stars Without Number

A few years back Kevin Crawford started his game-designing career writing a little Sci-Fi RPG called Stars Without Number. This is a revision of it, successfully Kickstarted not too long ago (yes, I went through a bit of a Kickstarter phase).

stars without number RPGD&D in space? Sort of—this OSR ruleset uses d20 systems as a baseline for a science fiction game, minus the fantasy tropes and adding some nice new mechanics like character foci and backgrounds (which are not too dissimilar to feats and backgrounds in 5e), new rules for starship combat and lots of tables to support sandbox-style gaming.

The rule book is in colour, with some lovely art and Crawford’s verbose but not overbearing style (I would like it more if he used bold or italics for highlighting important rules, as all that uniform text tends to make it harder to quickly find relevant bits in a paragraph). The great thing is, even with the changes, it’s still compatible with the loads of Stars Without Number supplements Crawford has written over the years, as well as old d20/OSR adventures. The sandbox element and lack of setting may not appeal to everyone, but this is a flexible system with a wealth of roll-up tables designed to support GM creativity: use the game as you see fit. The d20 rules are recognisable to anyone who has played D&D at some point.

Well worth a look and a lot simpler (and cheaper) than Starfinder. Plus, there’s a free PDF version, too.

Barebones Fantasy Role Playing Game

One of the shortest complete rulesets around, this percentile-based system uses simple mechanics that makes it ideal for beginners.

Barebones Fantasy RPG

This is dungeon crawling on a budget—the monsters are straightforward and easy to run, the spells and level progression limited—but still captures the essence of old school AD&D. The handy A5-sized rulebook is concise: aside from the usual character creation and game system, it also includes tables for adventure and dungeon generation, a bestiary, magic items, rules for magic item creation, and a pocket-sized fantasy setting (Kingdoms of Keranak)—all in 80 pages.

This is a lean and mean system ideal for beginners, which experienced players will still appreciate.

That’s enough for today. Until next time!

Cheers

Steve 😊

After the Cataclysm. A poem.

The cataclysm,
the implosion,
the thing that left me frozen.
Eking out existence
like a hermit crying “why?”,
wandering through a wasteland,
a prisoner doing time.

The aftermath,
a dawn, rebirth,
the world that to me opened.
A brand new meme that screams,
all in high fidelity.
No more wandering for this monk,
no more pity will I need.

I write a lot of poetry, some of which doesn’t appear on this website. For more poems, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Fulfilment. A poem.

I’m mister brusque, mitigated
by your infinite charm.
I’m the wallflower waiting
for your effervescent sunbeams.
I’m the wall of condescension,
you’re the ebullient ladder.
I’m the aching pit and you,
You are my fulfilment.

I write a lot of poetry, some of which doesn’t appear on this website. For more poems, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. A movie review.

The dinosaurs are back! The sequel to massive money-spinner Jurassic World and the earlier Jurassic Park films contains all the big action bluster you expect from a major tentpole movie, and just enough story to keep the audience engaged for the two-hour running time.

A volcano is about to erupt on Isla Nubar, home of the original Park and World movies. The second half of the John Hammond team that started the whole dino cloning thing, billionaire Benjamin Lockwood, wants to save the dinosaurs by transporting them to another island where they can roam free as nature intended. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, reprising their roles from Jurassic World, are on board to help identify and recover the dinosaurs, with a few extra cliché and forgettable characters along for the ride. Needless to say, things go awry (this is a Jurassic Park/disaster movie, after all—there’s an established template to follow).

jurassic_world_fallen_kingdom_ver2

This time around the bad guys want to weaponize the creatures. Don’t expect too much in the way of literary metaphor or social commentary—the story is almost by the numbers, but enjoyable, none the less. There are loads of nostalgic call backs to the original Jurassic Park movie (recognise the upturned car and the broken fence where the T-rex first appeared, and the crushed vehicle that fell through the tree?) and some scenes aping the original (a child escaping a raptor by hiding while the raptor brains itself on the sliding door, the shadow of the beast’s head on the wall, etc.). I can happily report there are enough interesting new developments to keep most audiences pleased, and it sets up some post-apocalyptic pretensions for a sequel.

Unfortunately, while the dinosaur special effects look great (as usual), the dinos just aren’t scary anymore. Too much of a good thing, I guess? You still gotta love ‘em, though—my son, a dino nerd, was engrossed.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a fun popcorn flick—no brains required. It took the story in a new but not unexpected direction and left me looking forward to the inevitable next instalment.

Rating: C+

Anvil. Part 16.

Like the new logo? I put a fair bit of work into it – Steve 🙂

Hansen’s airborne troop carrier hovers at the entrance to the ruined hangar. Shi-Cho taps his foot impatiently on some rubble as the side hatch slides open and he and his troops clamber inside. He makes his way to the cockpit as the others seat themselves on benches lining the rear cabin, opening their visors, lowering weapons and strapping in.

Hansen stands behind his pilot, gripping his sweaty hands tightly behind his back. His tempered South American features are broken by a deep scowl, a tinge of wetness on his uneasy brow. At over six foot, he’s still much shorter than Shi-Cho’s enhanced armature form. He nervously runs a hand through his close cropped black hair.

“I take it Chao got away,” says Shi-Cho as he squeezes through the hatch into the cabin.

“Yes, sir,” replies Hansen without turning. “The orbiter was a diversion, flying on automatic. It appears Chao left in another ship.”

Shi-Cho raises an eyebrow. “You mean my interceptor?”

Hansen wipes a bead of sweat from his forehead. “Yes, sir.” He unconsciously holds his breath and braces himself.

Shi-Cho grins slyly. “Don’t worry, Hansen. We know where she’s headed—my interceptor has a subterfuge beacon installed.”

Hansen breathes again, relieved.

* * *

Lady Quing sips her cup of shoujiu. As head of District 4 and 5 operations, including Verso production and distribution, she holds a prominent position in the Waveruin Triad Council. She is the only Triad leader present at the meeting wearing a business suit, rather than traditional artisilk robes; she disdains ancient formal dress. “Chao’s tower was attacked and almost destroyed,” she says, eyeing the others seated around the ancient oaken table. “An open attack on the Triads by Bester’s private army.”

Lady Chen, a portly older woman wearing a robe much too small for her girth, draws on an e-cig, exhaling invisible vapour into the air. “Do we know the reason for the attack?” She smiles ingenuously. “Perhaps Chao did something to upset our valued trading ally?” Chen oversees District 2 and 3 and the Triad’s more legal trading operations, including prostitution, cybernetics and weapons smuggling. Her innocent expression belies her sado-masochistic inclinations.

Lord Yang—handsome, silver-haired and sporting a zylex carapace in place of a human torso—laughs. “Why am I not surprised?” District 1, protection, racketeering and laundering are among his domains, but he much prefers hunting giant underwave lanfish. Quing can tell from the vacant expression that’s what he’s thinking about now.

Quing frowns. “This is not the first time Chao has moved beyond this council’s auspices. Bester wouldn’t do something like this without good reason.” She finishes her cup and places it on the table, where an invisible subluminal nutriment processor refills it. “I have it on good authority that she may be involved in the recent disappearance of Bester’s daughter.”

Chen rolls her eyes. “Kidnapping.” She takes another puff on her e-cig. “How long has it been since we engaged in something so rudimentary?”

Lady Koga is the only Japanese in the Triad Council and the youngest member. Her unlined face, bald pate and svelte frame look out of place amongst the haggard, greying crime lords at the table. Her multiple subdermal armaments, prodigious martial arts expertise and exceptional strategic acumen aptly suit her roles of assassination, enforcement and managing District 6, the roughest of the waveruin sectors. She leans languidly back in her chair, sipping saki. “The issue is not what she’s done,” Koga says. “I don’t care how much the world’s richest man misses his little cow. The issue is the level of response required. Bester needs to learn the Triad is not to be trifled with.” She stares at Chen, who smiles serenely. “‘Valued trading ally’ or not.” Chen’s smile fades.

The others, along with five other Triad leaders present at the table in hologrammatic form, nod in agreement. Yang grins. “We’re open to suggestions, Koga.”

Koga downs her saki with a gulp and rises. “Just leave it to me,” she says.

* * *

Flotsam station appears in the forward transteel windows like a shiny, rotating tin can, partly silhouetted by the arc of the planet’s dark side. As the interceptor approaches, the canister grows until its bulk fills the cockpit view: a mile-long grey cylinder, its outer face pockmarked with meteorite craters, pimply comms installations and wart-like gun turrets.

“Doesn’t look like much,” says Jimmy.

Chao’s long hair flows like medusa snakes in the zero-g. She raises an eyebrow. “And I suppose your vast experience with all things offworld makes you an expert, little man?”

Jimmy reddens and crosses his arms, the motion moving him awkwardly against his restraint belts in the null gravity. “I’m not that short,” he mumbles.

Granny Chun cradles her pumpgun protectively to prevent it floating away. “Of course, how do we get in?”

Chao gestures to Olsin in the pilot seat. A sliver of opaque plastic the size of a credit chit angles through the air at her head. “Transmit that code on the docking channel.” Olsin grabs the card from the air and activates the communications array. A few moments later, a crackling response: “You are most welcome, Lady Chao. We are honoured you have chosen to join us. Johnson and his crew arrived a few hours ago and advised you might be coming at some point, but we didn’t think it would be so soon.”

“Some unforeseen circumstances,” replies Chao. “When we dock I want you to batten every hatch and engage all defences. We can expect a full assault within the hour—I estimate about fifty ships, maybe more.” Silence from within the cabin and the comms. Chao glances at the blank faces around her. “You really think Shi-Cho can’t track his own ship?”

Alida crosses her chest in an antiquated religious gesture, looking to the heavens above. Jimmy shakes his head and murmurs to himself. Chun grimaces and grips the Anvil’s unconscious body to prevent it drifting. Olsin gulps and looks back at her teammates, wondering whether any amount of money will make up for what’s about to come.

Chao rolls her eyes. “Amateurs. It’s a wonder you got as far as you did.”

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’m creating week-by-week to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out by clicking here). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Pavement Cracks. A poem.

When I was a child
I skipped pavement cracks;
each one the border
of its own little world,
a patented microcosm
enclosed by grass and cement
and enshrouded by my shadow.

Now, as an adult,
I still skip pavement cracks;
not because I’m superstitious
or supercilious or superfluous,
but because I imagine myself
trapped in those little worlds,
remembering a time
when I was.

I write a lot of poetry, some of which doesn’t appear on this website. For more poems, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

The Year of Living Dangerously.

Is love hard to find?

In today’s fast moving and super-connected society, it can be. And for those of us who are shy, awkward, socially inhibited, or just plain old, it can be dang near impossible (yeah, old people use ‘dang’. What’s that, they don’t? Oh, shut up).

That’s where dating apps come in. No longer much-maligned and embarrassing to admit, they’re an invaluable tool for meeting new people.

My Tinder-esque experiences over the last year varied from the wonderful (a woman who appreciates my sense of humour) to the indescribable (foil hat-wearing oddjobs). I can certainly say the crazy gamut of wild and wanton women made my life interesting.

But the time came to put childish things away. I retired my dating app a few months back (only writing about it now? Sorry, had a few things going on).

I’m not saying I’ve found a perfect love (we’re both at the “like ya a lot” stage); we’re still testing the hot waters with each other, occasionally getting burnt, but not bad enough to run for cover. And that’s as good as anything in this crazy old world. Especially for this crazy old guy.

Now, I have to take my woman (oooh, she hates me calling her that…) shoe shopping. And I’m liking it a lot.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Brink. A poem.

More alike than we like to think.
Along a chasm of separate worlds,
here we stand upon the brink
of more than lowly words.

I long for you, for a subtle touch
and you long for just a thought.
Perhaps we want these things too much,
perhaps it could never work.

But if we tried and tried again,
made dreams from vagaries,
perhaps our love would never wane,
like the sun, land and sea.

I write a lot of poetry, some of which doesn’t appear on this website. For more poems, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Incredibles 2. A movie review.

I loved The Incredibles. Made by Pixar at a time when Disney was just a distributor of Pixar movies, before Disney bought the animation studio and started focussing on the bottom line. The Incredibles has humour, heart, action, conviction, amazing music and is a wonderful homage to 1960’s spy flicks and comic-book family, the Fantastic Four. It is one of my all-time favourite movies.

the-incredibles-2

Which brings me to Incredibles 2. The new film features the same characters, voiced by the original actors (Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson) and starts where the original left off—superheroes are outlawed and Mr Incredible, Elastigirl, Dash and Violet, with baby in tow, take on the Underminer. Elastigirl is recruited by a communications company as the public face of the superhero comeback and Mr Incredible has to stay home to look after the kids and deal with everyday problems and a baby with multiple superpowers.

The premise is excellent and I was sold before I saw the film. Then I actually saw it.

Incredibles 2 has a solid story and fantastic superheroic action sequences that could only be done in a cartoon (live action CGI-realism comes with certain limitations). Mr Incredible’s struggle to cope with maths, Violet’s boyfriend troubles and an uncontrollable infant nicely balance out Elastigirl’s adventure as she attempts to capture the new villain. Frozone gets more screen time, and more of Sam Jackson is never a bad thing. A bevy of new, but shallow, superpowered characters is introduced.

But all too often Incredibles 2 feels like an inferior sequel to a great movie: the humour sometimes falls flat; the villain is predictable and unmemorable; the story drags at times; the sense of connection I felt with the first film wasn’t really there. It often feels like part of the Disney conveyor belt, rather than a sequel that was made because the story demanded it (see Toy Story 2 and 3 for examples of GREAT Pixar sequels made for the right reasons).

Incredibles 2 will make lots of money for Disney. It will sell huge numbers of toys (a primary motivator for Disney nowadays—Cars and its abysmal sequels, anyone?). There will be a sequel sooner rather than later. But it can’t help but feel like another film with an opportunity to be great that fell short because of a parent company’s focus on shareholder dividends.

Rating: C+

The Core of My Being. A poem.

My being is the core of my being.

My being is the core of my being.

My being is the core of my being.

My being is the core of my being.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

 

The road gone…but not forgotten.

It’s been a few years since I disappeared in a puddle of self-limiting self-destruction.

It seems my years of wallowing and despondency are coming to a close. That’s not to say my depression has gone away. My favourite black dog is right beside me as always, although his ever-present bark is lessened somewhat by the muzzle. I guess I’ve arrived at a place where I can safely say I’ve shed some (but not all) of my ridiculously cumbersome baggage. At least I’m not bowed from the heavy lifting. Stronger, perhaps.

So does this mean I can get on with my life? I’m afraid the spectres and banshees at my heels will never go away, but I can live with them a little better than before. Perhaps, with time, they’ll fade. Hopefully, not altogether, though–I need to be reminded of my mistakes. Life is all about consequences and learning from them, after all.

Wow, that’s a lot of clichés. Maybe next time I write a confusing and enigmatic post, I’ll try to avoid them.

Cheers

Steve  🙂

Haiku Friday. Shadow – a lone haiku.

Shadow

The lone flower in
the field is shaded by the
shadow of your doubt.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable and line structure.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

The Poetry Writing Process

Okay, a few people asked me this. I thought I’d oblige with a post.

I write the majority of my drafts on my iPhone, while I’m walking, watching TV, or sitting on the toilet (my compositional repository of choice). My writing very much depends on my mood and what has impacted me that day. I generally write better material when I’m depressed or in a dark state of mind.

As to process, I set up a draft on my iPhone, which is either edited or ‘done in one’ (a first draft not requiring edits). Generally, most of my drafts stay on my phone until I revisit them a few days or weeks later. My editing process includes reading the piece aloud, adding enjambment, line breaks, punctuation, altering words or lines as needed. I edit whenever I return to my notes on iPhone. Sometimes, I edit older poems after writing a new one. This also depends on the amount of time I have, location and mood.

Sometimes editing can change the meaning of one or more lines, which can subtly change the context of the overall poem. Sometimes it’s just a change in the words used to convey a metaphor or simile. Very occasionally the poem is scrapped and I start over with something completely different. Generally, I find something that I like in everything I write, even if it’s only a scrap of cloth. That scrap can be shaped into an everyday shirt or a tux, depending on my mindset.

My favourite poet is T.S. Eliot. I find a wistfulness and solemnity in his imagery and love the way he uses language to alternately hide and expose meaning within his poems. My favourite poem of his is The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock; it moves me with the way it flows and insinuates its way into my emotions. He’s the sort of poet I aspire be; if my poetry was only a fraction of the quality of his, I would be happy.

Excerpt From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

Cheers

Steve 😊

Solo. A movie review.

No spoilers!

I read the scathing and toxic reception of fandom to Solo, a Star Wars Story, read the critics’ poor reviews and generally dismissed the movie without giving it a chance. I’m happy to report that a friend dragged me to see it, and I was not only pleasantly surprised, I got to see a movie that was as good as, if not better, then Rogue One and The Last Jedi.

solo-official-poster

Solo stars Alden Ehrenreich as the young version of the character made popular in the first three Star Wars movies by Harrison Ford. He doesn’t quite fulfil the roguishly charismatic promise of Ford, but then, that’s to be expected. He does, however, play the part well (better than reported) and works convincingly with the other stars— scene-stealing Danny Glover as Lando Calrissian, always reliable Woody Harrelson as Beckett, his distrusting mentor, and Emilia Clarke as Kira, young Han’s inscrutable ex-girlfriend.

Solo is a heist movie, and it shows some of the formative moments in Han Solo-history: how he gained his name, met Chewbacca, got the blaster, won the Millennium Falcon, completed the legendary Kessel Run in record time/distance. The action is great, especially the train set-piece. There’s a nice little link (no matter how unlikely it may seem in retrospect) to the formative Rebellion. Solo ably shows the start of Han’s journey from optimistic and unlikely hero to cynical reprobate. There’s also the promise of a sequel with Jabba the Hutt and a cool cameo from a character mired in pre-Disney extended Star Wars universe history (looks like they didn’t scrap everything after all). Let’s hope DVD and streaming sales make it happen.

I really enjoyed Solo. It’s well worth a look and certainly much better than some people might indicate.

Rating: B+  

Vault of Years. A poem.

I crawl the vault of years,
hunched and broken,
bereft and decaying.
Unforgiven and unforgiving,
trapped in webs of deceit,
waylaid in poisonous shrouds.
Are you here to free me?
Or join the gallery?
Come crawl this vault of years
with me until eternity.

 

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

 

Far. A poem.

I climbed the path on the mountain of no return,
and viewed the valley, so treacherously far below.
From here everything seemed so far away,
so inconsequential and purposeless.
And there I would sit, through rain and snow,
living an inconsequential and purposeless existence,
looking down on a world that teemed with wonder and nuance,
but was too far away for me to know.

 

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Looking for Alaska. A book review.

I promised to review the last of John Green’s books left for me to read (ironically, his first). I finally finished Looking for Alaska, yesterday. You can find the other reviews at the links below this one.

Looking for Alaska, like many of John Green’s books, is a young adult book featuring a number of quirky high-school characters, a love story (unrequited love, in this case), a tragedy and a mystery. Telling you any more would ruin the story, and I want to steer clear of spoilers.

Looking for Alaska

Pudge is a socially-isolated boy who is sent to boarding school in Alabama, where he meets his short but smart roommate ‘the Colonel’, part-time rapper Takumi and the love of his life: sexy, enigmatic, adorable and frustratingly annoying Alaska Young. They get up to all sorts of antics that expand Pudge’s horizons and broaden his understanding of friendship and existence.

Green likes to write from life, and most of these characters appear to be based on himself and his school classmates (right down to Green’s love of famous last words). There are a number of glaring similarities to characters from his other books, and after reading every book he’s written in a short time frame, I find that they suffer from ‘too much of a good thing’ syndrome: while I loved the book overall, the characters were a little passé. Having said all that, if I’d read this book before his others, I might not have felt this way. The ‘mystery’ of the third act was also incredibly obvious and left me wondering how bright these supposedly smart kids actually were.

If you’re a John Green fan you’ll love Looking for Alaska. Or you’ll find it a bit too similar to his other works. Either way, I love Green’s writing and look forward to his next effort.

 

* For reviews of Green’s other books, click on The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns and Turtles All The Way Down, An Abundance of Katherines

Keepsake. A poem.

I hear you,
I see you;
your mirror face
tells no lies
but hides the truth,
like a waxing moon
hiding the sun
from the subtle stars.

I hear you,
I see you,
I hold you;
you are wine
within my mouth,
light within my vision,
tincture at my touch.
My keepsake.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Zeitgeist. A poem.

Zeitgeist                    all             around       

me.

It’s          willing              and            able

     but         I’m     not         sure        if

I

want                 to                buy             what

it’s                   selling. 

This              spirit           of        the            times

              has             not               enabled                

me

         the             way               I           thought                it                

would                      should                        could.

I

guess                    I’ll                  just        wait

  this               one                out.

 

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

 

Tag. A movie review.

A bunch of friends play tag for 30 years: for the month of May, they attempt to tag each other with the winner reigning supreme until the next year. One of the friends has never been tagged and he is about to retire. Time for the team to take him down! The whole idea of the game is it keeps these childhood friends in touch, even though they live in different cities and states. I guess they haven’t discovered Facebook, yet. That’s the premise of Tag, with the punchline that it’s based on a real tag game that has been going for 30 years. Yep, that’s right, a bunch of old guys actually chase each other around every year in the real world (there’s a nice video montage at the end of the movie showing the real taggers).

Tag-Banner-Poster

The ensemble cast includes Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress and Jake Johnson. This movie has a number of slapstick comedy moments, and a few awkward gags that never quite land. Jeremy Renner plays the guy who’s never been tagged, who’s so good that his mind drops into a Sherlock Holmesian-style analytical mode whenever someone attempts to tag him. John Hamm, the ultra-competitive CEO and Jake Johnson, the slacker stoner, are involved in a brief romantic triangle. Aside from that, the story is wafer thin: a number of tag scenarios with Renner escaping the others as they attempt to tag him. There are some laughs, but I guess I would have liked a bit more than pratfalling comedy.

You can forget about any real drama—those moments fall flat as well. The characters are basically far too two-dimensional to give this film any weight. And the female characters are even less developed than the males.

Tag is fun most of the time, but it’s also eminently forgettable. Like many other comedies you will see this year, it promises so much and only just delivers.

Rating: C

On Writing and Editing Poetry

Explain your editing process. What works best for you? Do you take risks? Are you objective? How have you taken the poems through its steps to completion?

The Song Poetic. A poem about writing and editing poems.

The toilet provides solitude,
composure in a setting sometimes peaceful,
sometimes filled with the keen echoes of urgent battle.
It is here that fingers flicker with grace and iniquity
across the silky screen of my smartphone,
where auspicious notes take shape,
mellifluous harbingers of lyrical intent.
In minutes an ode is formed, a symphony is saved,
then forgotten until the next; sometimes minutes, sometimes days.
 
I return in no short time, or perhaps too short time,
to read and ponder, as you do, to consider
already considered notions of pomp and circumstance.
Sometimes the music is given voice, in all too muted tones,
whispered like dark secrets to a musing world.
Delete that line, change that word,
antonym or synonym, hyperbole or metaphor
magically enchanted with a wistful edge
that would hold a man to ransom (if only he were not so deaf).
What risk lies in changes? The page will not consume itself
in bitter apprehension, or come back to haunt
my sleepless nights, like an insomniac ghost.
 
The supple net awaits, for me to cast my feeble musings
on the virtual sea, where they be caught
or slip into watery depths, obscured.
Perhaps, all for better, or all for worse,
one man’s love is another man’s curse.
 

Stephen Thompson 2017

I came, I saw, I edited.

I read my poems out loud once they’re written. I often return to them, sometimes several times, to edit and change lines, words, imagery. Sometimes they’re written and done in one, without any further editing. Sometimes my poems start off being longer, then get whittled down as the twisted bracken and rotting undergrowth is macheted away with the poise of a manic chainsaw juggler. But not often.

The poem above was written in one — I read over it, changed a few words and line breaks, but the length stayed the same, as did the imagery and intent. I read it out loud a few times. It took me, all up, about 15 minutes to complete. Most of my poems take less time, but then they’re generally shorter. Some poems just seem to flow from some undammed river of consciousness.

Editing requires patience as well as objective and subjective vision. I wish I could say I have more patience, but I don’t. I’ve often published poems I’ve looked back on later and said “DOH! I wish I’d edited that.” Sometimes I can be objective and subjective enough to edit succinctly, other times I’m too attached to the poem.

I truly believe that the reader is free to interpret a poem any way they choose, as poems, like songs, affect each of us differently. They wind and wend and burrow their way into each person’s soul, connecting or disconnecting as they see fit.

Editing poems is like editing stories: you step back, re-read it, reshuffle and rewrite, and then hope for the best. But I’m always hoping for chocolate, even if it just turns out to be vanilla.

Cheers

Steve 😊

Paper Hearts. A poem.

My heart was torn,
tiny pieces shredded
like origami shapes
fluttering on the wind.

Just like every
paper person
in my overcrowded mind,
an overcrowded sea
of paper people,
with shredded paper hearts,
like origami shapes
fluttering on the wind.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Backstab. A poem.

You are the prowling shark
loitering in choppy waters
waiting on a hint of blood
to fuel your hungry needs.

You sniff and search
for snippets to exploit,
building trust with deception
to cover your misdeeds.

You are a betrayer of trust,
a parasitic worm,
embedded in my flesh,
consuming heart and soul.

How many times
will I forgive your trespasses,
only to feel your dagger deep,
the wounds reopened anew.

.

There are some truly soulless, unethical and underhanded people in this world, who continually take advantage of those who open their lives to them. This poem is for those misanthropes.

We will always forgive those who trespass against us, but it doesn’t mean we can’t vent about it in the meantime.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Arrival. A poem.

I waited
and waited
and hoped

and you arrived.

Without acclaim,
without excess,
but not without baggage
of your own.

Seared with silent wounds
in mirrored grace
and Savoir-Faire.

And all the waiting and the hope,
all the self-hate and the scars,
all the loneliness I had known,

receded like the tide,
trawled by an incumbent moon.

Now you’re here,
your smile a nascent whirlwind
threatening to drag me
kicking and screaming
from this storm cellar.

Threatening to hold me
endlessly.

I’ll try not to let go.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Anvil. Part 15.

The distant sound of automatic gunfire and plasma rounds echo from within the skeletal remains of the Chao Triad building.

In the interceptor, Olsin’s finger pauses over the tether recall button. She notes two murky shapes in the dirty haze behind Granny Chun.

“I think you had better rethink your options,” says Lady Chao as she exits the dust, an HPR Launcher hefted on her shoulder. Assistant Alida crouches trembling behind her, eyes tight, hands over her ears.

Chun raises her pumpgun, eyeing the Anvil’s unconscious form protectively. “Of course, it seems we are at an impasse,” she says.

“You will take me with you in that interceptor,” says Chao. Alida squeaks from behind and Chao rolls her eyes. “I suppose you’d better take my assistant as well.”

“Of course, why should I? Because we were lovers in a past life?”

“Nothing so prosaic. The fleet outside is about to be conveniently distracted. And you have no way of finding the girl without me.”

Chun’s eyes narrow and she lowers her weapon. She glances at the hovering interceptor behind, at the Anvil’s bulky form beside her, and sighs. “Of course, you’ll have to leave the launcher behind. It’s going to be a bit squishy onboard.”

* * *

Captain Hansen hasn’t received word from Commander Shi-Cho since the hangar explosion, but Shi-Cho’s interceptor exited the building and is now hovering outside the damaged bay. He stands behind his pilot, his airborne troop carrier suspended less than a hundred metres away from Shi-Cho’s craft, awaiting further orders. Hansen frowns impatiently as the interceptor holds its position, blocking any views or scans of the hangar’s interior. “Open coms to the Commander’s ship,” he snaps to his pilot.

Suddenly the top of Chao’s headquarters erupts as a nearspace orbiter thrusts itself into the air, rear afterburn decimating the plasteel panels around it. “That’s Chao’s escape shuttle,” says Hansen. On open com: “All ships, intercept and take that orbiter. We want Chao alive!”

* * *

Olsin turns to the side door as Chun climbs in, guiding the Anvil’s tethered body to the floor between the rear benches. Jimmy swears as Lady Chao and Alida clamber in unceremoniously behind them.

“And the trip just got better, yet again,” he says, rolling his eyes.

“I suggest we forego the pleasantries and get out of here while Shi-Cho’s fleet chases my orbiter,” says Chao, strapping into her seat. “It won’t take very long before the ruse is uncovered.” She notes Olsin in the pilot chair and frowns. “The mystery of your escape is solved. I’ll discuss this with my ex-guard later.” Chao flexes her durasteel fingers. Olsin gulps and glances back to the control panel.

Chun aims her pumpgun at Chao. Alida quivers in her seat and pretends to be elsewhere. “Of course, just remember you’re my guests,” says Chun. “Play nice.”

“How many more guests are coming along on this little jaunt?” says Jimmy under his breath, scowling and folding his arms.

Olsin’s fingers flicker over the control panel; the multi-turbine engines rotate to the rear and the interceptor shoots away from Chao’s ruined headquarters as Shi-Cho’s fleet pursues the orbiter into the ionosphere.

* * *

Shi-Cho shakes his head as he rises from the rubble. The last thing he remembers was holding the armature’s skull in his fist, closing his fingers around its jaw, awaiting the inevitable cracking of bone and sinew. Then an intense light followed by blackness.

His autorecall plays back the scene: a full power discharge from the enemy armature overwhelmed his parasite flange, the resulting power surge causing a massive EMP disruption that his bioscreens couldn’t block. He went down like a sack of ricemeal.

Shi-Cho glances around as his vision clears. The other armature has disappeared. He stumbles through twisted metal and plasteel debris as his power levels creep back to normal and infrared and ultraviolet ocular sensors take in the surrounds. Internal protein revitalisers repair skin cuts and abrasions. Reformative layering processes rebuild his outer body armour.

Shi-Cho returns to the remains of the hangar, unrecognisable from the ordered launch bay it was previously. His interceptor is gone. So, too, is his fleet. “Damn,” he says.

* * *

Shi-Cho’s interceptor exits the atmosphere and glides silently through the vacuum of the periphery. The turbines close and retros engage across the hull as Olsin manoeuvres the ship into an orbital lock.

“Of course, nice work,” says Chun. Olsin turns her head and grins, then snaps it quickly back as Chao glares.

“Time to earn your passage,” says Chun to Chao.

Chao eyes her long red nails, one of which has broken, and sighs. “You’ll want to avoid the Hoopworld that encircles the planet. As you know Bester owns it—if you so much as place a foot anywhere on it you’ll be seized by his people. You’ll need to find a place to refuel if you want to find the girl.”

Jimmy fiddles with his beard. “And now I’m a wanted man with no options. Just gets better and better.”

Chun checks the Anvil, its body floating gently in zero-g between the passengers in the space between the rear benches. The various glowing power and revitaliser cables connected to its frame twist like snakes. The armature is not breathing, the process simulation having ceased to divert power to internal recovery processors. The left arm is a shallow stump at the shoulder, where subdermal mesh has sealed the wound and covered it with synthi-flesh.

Chao smiles. “It seems your friend has met his match.”

Chun frowns. “Of course, how about you tell us how we can get to our real destination.”

“How do I know you won’t space me before we get there?”

“Because unlike you, I have a sense of personal honour. I give you my word we will not harm you if you help us retrieve Violet.”

“And I assume that you also don’t want my assets to hunt you down like dogs once you have her.”

“Of course; that too.”

“There is a freeport station over darkside, called Flotsam. It’s owned by a dummy corporation that belongs to my Triad consortium. Take me there and we’ll find the girl together. We should have enough fuel to make it. You can refuel there or book passage on an offworlder, if you so choose.”

Chun grimaces. “So, we’re going to a space station you own. Of course, we have to trust you won’t have us killed when we get there.” Jimmy frowns and fingers his beard. Olsin visibly gulps.

Chao smirks. “Well, my love. Life wasn’t meant to be easy.”

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’m creating week-by-week to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out by clicking here). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Laze. A poem.

Blessed indolence,
you play me for the fool
like a round of hold-em,
until the time arises
when work calls
sanctimoniously
and I rise to the occasion.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

My Self-hate. A poem.

My self-hate:
just enough
to immolate
my lowly self.

My self-hate:
the razor
that can’t wait
to open me.

My self-hate:
the only thing
that takes me
breaks me
sends me
hurtling headlong
to my grave.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Sand Head. A poem.

I wanted to put my head
deep down in the dust,
but it was too hard to breathe
amongst my crowded thoughts.

I guess the best laid head
was like the worst laid plan:
too many consequences,
like
infinite
grains
of
sand.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Deadpool 2. A movie review.

No spoilers here!

No doubt you’ve read a thousand times that Ryan Reynolds was born to play fourth wall-breaking, motormouthed mercenary superhero Deadpool, so I won’t repeat it. Oh, I just did. Sorry.

Deadpool 2 is a fun and incredibly violent movie. Yep, it’s not for the kids. It’s funnier than the first, but much of the humour often seems aimed above the average teen audience’s heads. It features the debut of X-force from the comics (umm, think second-tier X-men), lots of pop culture references, music from the 80’s, great visual gags, whiz bang action set pieces and a surprisingly emotional core tying it all together. The Terminator-style storyline is what I’d call “superhero conventional”, but the humour and action lifts it above the average.

Deadpool 2 is lots of fun. You’ll love it if you like superhero movies, Ryan Reynolds, offbeat humour and the 1980s. If you’re averse to blood and violence you may want to give it a miss.

Rating: B+

Meteor. A poem.

You are the meteor
slicing my heavens
to the quick,
scorching my atmosphere
without regret.

And when you hit my ground
cleaving my earthy heart and
spreading its detritus
far and wide,
I’ll willingly accept your carnage
with arms as wide
as oceans.

Because when we are one,
the strata
and fossil record
will tell our story
forevermore.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Anew. A poem.

All my dreams

returned to dust
whence they sprang,
embittered and tweeted
into the ionosphere.

I am guilty

of a life lived lost,
of times counted down
but launched anew,
in an empyrean embrace.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

The Narrative Poem.

Here’s another response I did for uni. You might want to try it out.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Write a narrative poem of no longer than 15 lines about your childhood. Remember the narrative poem is a journey. Take the reader on a journey of your childhood.

Free

Stephen Thompson

This new yard, so voluminous and green, where every potential meets possibility.
Far away from the housing commission ghetto that predicated deeds,
where every child was built on foundations of paternalistic greed.
Here, the air is plain and untinged by the sedentary.
Here, I can run free.
 
This new school, so quaint and reassuring, where unfamiliarity is as anonymous as mediocrity.
Far away from the amorphous tincture from which my primal learnings seeded,
from where the outcome for every child was branded into flesh.
Here, the opportunities avail themselves, a future not yet set.
Here, I can learn. Free.
 
This new life, so fundamental and correct, where philosophy waxes agnostically.
Far away from dreams cluttered with rusty cans and shoebox schemes,
from fundamentals like crack whore 101 and burglary.
Here, a path lures me from the box that long confounded me.
Here, I can be truly free.

I grew up in a low rent housing commission area, riddled with drugs, crime and violence. When I was the tender age of eleven, my family moved to another suburb nearby. It was the exact opposite of the one we’d left: quieter, safer, subdued. We didn’t have any more money and we weren’t especially privileged, but the move opened up what seemed like a different world, even though it was geographically only a few kilometres away. A world of nascent opportunity.

Looking back now, hindsight is clearer than the proverbial deer in headlights.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Haiku Friday. A lone haiku.

Embalmed. A Haiku.

I’m embalmed by life.
I will lie in state for you
to consume your fill.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable structure.

Okay, okay, I know you know that already!

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

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