Saturday, 29 June 2013

Aibork 5

by Roger Crow

Four: A Matter of Time and Tides

Kate had spent the last 45 minutes searching the 'net for answers to her question.
None were forthcoming.

Bob Jones was staring out of the window when there was a knock at his door.
"What's on Earth is the Cascade of Mercury?"
"Hello Kate, you must have a series of numbers somewhere."
She nodded, unrolled a map, put it on his desk with the coordinates scribbled on it.
"The thing is, when you use an unreality device, it may knock out the immediate threat..."
"But it creates new ones?"
Bob nodded.
"The pearl created a shock wave which largely went unnoticed in space... except for a lump of rock en route to Earth."
Kate masked her mouth with a hand.
"What happened to the rock?"
Bob handed her a buff envelope with a series of glossy photos, each one a magnified version of the last.
The first three were fuzzy and non-descript, but the fourth was clear as day.
"Is that...?"
Bob nodded.
"Oh my."
"The Cascade of Mercury was a response to such an occurrence."
"Will it work?"
Kate ran a hand through her blonde locks and looked to the sky.
Somewhere, up there, an object was heading to Earth, and it could spell disaster for every living thing on the planet.
"No pressure then."
"Do you have any idea what that will do to the Earth?"
"I can't even begin to comprehend."
"Okay, so how do I get to this Cascade of Mercury?"

Two hours later Kate's helicopter touched down.
"So, this is it then," she said.
Bob Jones nodded.
Aibork was waiting for them.
"Nice of you guys to show up," he remarked.
"Why does this thing look like a giant teacup?" said Kate.
"It's part radar, part weapon."
"Does it hold tea?" she asked. No one said anything, so she pressed on, while stepping over assorted bottles of helium. "Who created something like this?"
"Actually, I did it," replied Aibork.
"Why am I not surprised?"
"I designed this when I was 22, what were you doing?"
"Graduating from MIT I think."
"No you weren't, I checked."
"Oh really? What was I doing then?"
"You graduated top of your class in some backwoods University. Two years later you went to MIT."
"Wow, you have been doing your homework."
"I hate to break up the party you people, but you might want to look at that."
Bob Jones was pointing at the dark mass that started to block out the stars.

It started spinning lazily, that large dark mass as it approached the Earth's orbit.

"I meant to ask you, what was it that you gave the President?"
"Let me ask you a question... have you checked the numbers that came up on your grandma's lottery ticket?"
"What is this? Answer questions with a question?"
"Ask her what numbers she won with."
"I feel like I should be doing something more important than asking my granny about her lottery numbers."

The mass started to smoke as it entered the earth's atmosphere.

"Hi, yes it's me, Kate."

Parts of the object started to break off as it rocketed through the skies.

"Is it my imagination or is that heading for us?"
"Go on, ask her."
"Hello dear, yes I've got them here. 6 17 21 28 36 42."
"Now check the coordinates you were given," said Aibork, fiddling with the controls on his device.
Kate took out her phone, thumbed through the photos and found the shot she taken of her hand.
"2463 821271 6"
Kate didn't know what to be more amazed by - the fact that the lottery numbers were the same as the coordinates, only in reverse, or the large shape that was careering towards them.
"Is it my imagination or is that…"
He nodded.

Kate wasn't sure how much damage it could cause, but it would be one of the most remarkable phenomena in human history.
Just then, it started to rain pink candy floss.
Aibork took out a collapsable cane and started to draw a line in the sand; before long it was a square.

The box was 23 ft². Aibork stood in the centre of it.

Twenty feet from the falling object, an Earth ship approached silently. Sat in the pilot's seat, Fe, a woman in a grey jacket sipping a protein shake gently adjusted her controls. Behind her, the pearl started glowing.
On her heads up display, crosshairs aligned with the square in which he stood.

Ripples surged through the ship's skin and made their way forward to the falling object.

"Do you want to give me any idea of what is going on?"
On the shimmering horizon a woman appeared, walking slowly, Omar Sharif-style across the dusty landscape.

The object started slowing.
It was still moving forward, but the descent had been coaxed from its inexorable drop.

Aibork waved.
She waved back.
"This is Meg," said Aibork.
Bob Jones embraced the newcomer, and she lightly slapped his face affectionately.
Then she embraced Aibork and nodded at Kate.
Raising binocs, she examined the slowly falling mass.
"How long have we got?"
"I've done the maths. We have about three hours."
Meg nodded, produced a table and a gas stove, and slipped a collapsable kettle on the top.
"I never knew you could get kettles like that," remarked Kate.
"Inflatable aluminium." Meg remarked. "Your man here designed it.
Aibork looked smug.

The craft continued to slow the falling mass, and at the same time, the White House staff filed out of the Oval Office.
The president ran a finger over the bag he'd been given, and was about to open it when the phone rang.
"We have about three hours sir."
"Good man. Keep me posted."

Meg emptied the boiling water into four disposable cups.
Aibork, Bob and Kate took one each.
"Looks like it's shrinking," remarked Kate.
The others nodded.
Bob started constructing a lightweight aluminium ladder, 12 feet long.
Aibork gave him a hand while Meg started to inflate a helium balloon.
"Start the clock."
Meg produced an over large alarm clock from a rucksack and pressed a button.
The sound of ticking seemed excessively loud for the size of the timepiece.

If the slowly falling mass was a thing of ridiculousness, then it had to be challenged with equal amounts of stupidity.
It seems the unreality pearl needed a boost from the very real owner.

The phone rang.
He ignored it.
After a minute it stopped ringing.
"Mr Aibork. It's time."
He nodded, downed his coffee, and slipped on his jacket.
He was mumbling under his breath an old Richard Harris number from the 1970s.
"McArthur Park is melting in the rain. Ahh Jimmy Webb..."
Meg finished attaching the ladder to the balloons and as it started to rise upward, Aibork stepped on the last rung.
Hooking his elbow over the fourth rung, he waved and smiled at Meg and Kate.
"Goodbye for now ladies. Bob, keep an eye on them please."
Bob Jones nodded and thumbed the Bluetooth ear unit.

In the Whitehouse, the president watched Aibork's progress.
"What's he doing? asked Kate.
"He's going to create a black hole in the centre of that mass."
"Actually, it's more like a semi-black hole," replied Meg.
"So What's your story?" asked Kate.
Meg downed her coffee.
"We go way back."
Kate was hoping for a little more of an explanation, but in her heart she knew she was not going to get it.
Bob Jones sidled over to her and nudged her lightly.
"It's a long story that one," he said.

His ascent didn't take long at all.
The ship which had followed the falling mass opened its cockpit, a hand threw an object at him, and he caught it
Aibork thumbed a button on his jacket and a light flared.
Meg pressed a button on the Cascade of Mercury and it fired up.
A beam of light shot into the sky, hit the mass square on and created a hole.
Aibork's balloon ladder vanished inside.
A minute later there was a crack of thunder and the mass vanished.
"I guess that it works then", said Kate.
"I guess you are right," said Meg.
"But what happened to him?" asked Kate.
"Ahh, he'll be fine. Dinny worry."

Aibork felt sick, elated, dizzy, excited and nervous. He was displaced, set adrift in a dimension of eccentric space.
There were three possible galaxies open for business. The other two were the Hyperion anomaly, in which space was white and stars were black, and a designer universe called Plaid Fantastic, a chequered world in which the wealthy had lavish parties on silver hemispheres which hovered over lakes of mercury.
Fire licked across the sky in eccentric space, flames born and died in reverse, born of smoking ash.
The Cascade had created this bubble of the surreal, drawing energy from the sun, sucking photons into the saucer and pumping them up and into the slowly falling mass. The semi black hole hungrily fed on the former rock, reducing its size and very slowly its mass. However, the flavour became more dense.
Some rocks were igneous or sedimentary, but this was another phenomenon.
As blue green streaks of light whirled around his face and body, Aibork realised there was something very important missing.
The whirling vortex threatened to consume him, but it was held at bay by the circle of chaos, his pocket black hole.
"MacArthur park..." He whispered. Throat dry. "Is melting..."
Designing a unit which generated mini universes was perhaps his greatest achievement. Forget mastering the controls of stellar cruisers, hyper barges and Quadrillion Skiffs. Anti-grav buggies had been a challenge, but he'd managed to get the hang eventually, and as for super light unicycles, there was nothing to them.
Aibork inched his way toward the pulsing purple beam that beckoned.
Flipping a panel on his wrist scanner, he watched the countdown.
"Burn baby burn." He whispered.
The Boston-sized mass was now a mere three feet across, cooked, baked and ready to serve.
Aibork touched his headset.
"Thanks Fe. I'll take it from here."
The ship hovering outside the anomaly obliged, jetting away in search of fuel.
He nudged the smallmass and it lazily floated through the tear created by his black hole device.

"There's a rift in time; not very big, but wide enough to fast-track an egg-shaped thing back a century."
His words washed back on him as the time tides came in.

'If you want to exploit a rift in time, sometimes you've just got to give things a little nudge,' he thought.

Time tides do wait for one man it seemed.

Aibork -4

by Roger Crow

Three: The Cascade of Mercury

In a canyon on the moon, surrounded by bubbling lava, the pod emerged. Buried on the satellite for 100 years, it started glowing a radiant blue.

As the small party started to climb the enormous staircase, the skies grew dark with rain.
Stretching away into the clouds, the team saw the orb on the horizon.

In the blink of an eye the pod rocketed to earth and arrive atop the staircase.
It looked like a silver egg, mottled colours rippled across its surface.
Aibork took a whistle from his pocket and started to blow a two-tone note.
Kate looked at him and cocked her head, waiting for an explanation.
"Sub-sonic lock. That egg is a lunar probe. Been up there decades, waiting to be released."
"And how do you know that?"
"Because I put it there."
"How old are you?"
"How old do I look?"
"About 45".
"That's about right. There's a rift in time; not very big, but wide enough to fast-track an egg-shaped thing back a century."
"Would that transport a person?" asked Kate.
He shook his head. "Inorganic matter only. And no, you couldn't send lottery number back to your granny. I tried. Doesn't work"
"You tried sending lottery numbers to my granny?"
"Yep. Err, no." Kate was smiling for the first time in an age.

Just then there was the sound of a ripping sheet across the heavens.
"That's my cue."
Aibork approached the egg, put his thumb in a small indentation, and a few seconds later it rocketed into the rift that tore across the sky.
Kate was slack of jaw.
Aibork took her hand and placed the whistle in her palm.
"If anything happens to me, you'll know what to do," he smiled.

The tear in the sky healed, and slowly the staircase turned into a hillside; the battle lizard; the cobbled streets of teeth; the random candy floss manifestation all vanished.
Kate felt her stomach lurch; a hump backed bridge sensation.
"I need a lie down," she said.

Alexandria started returning to normal. The Torpedo Factory art installation shimmered from the ice sculpture it once was and became bricks and glass again; the picturesque streets and shops were as before.

Kate gingerly tested the street for a reaction, but it was solid. Dull. Reliable.
There was no trebuchet, lizards were nowhere, and as for vegetating samurais. All gone.
It was all just a little dull.
That's what concerned her.

Kate was bursting with questions and Aibork knew it.
"The unreality pearl creates shock waves. Normality is a thin miniscus which can be punctured really easily."
She was confused.
He took a half-drunk glass of water from a nearby table and put a stirrer in it.
"What do you see?"
"A stirrer in water. Slightly displaced because of the water... Oh, you're saying it's a bit like what happened just now?"
He nodded.
"And the pearl created that to stop the alien ship doing any more damage?"
More nodding.

Aibork took a step back and steadied himself. Kate regarded him with concern.
"I need coffee and cake." He said.
"Effects of the anomaly?"
"Low blood sugar."

They followed a beckoning Bob Jones who took them to a cosy cafe with a Tolkien theme.
Aibork ordered coffee and cake; Kate had water and a sorbet; Bob Jones had tea. One sugar. No milk.
"We need to know the state of the probe by Jupiter," said Kate.
Jones nodded and handed her a tablet with the latest intel.
Scanning it, she breathed easier.
Aibork also relaxed a little.
"This cake. Mmmm."
Kate showed him the report.
He nodded.

Five minutes later they paid the bill and took to the streets.

"That it then?"
Aibork nodded again.
"No more threat?"
He shook his head.
Kate's happiness soured a little. Alexandria was beautiful again. And just a little dull.

"Post anom-blues?"
She nodded.
"It's normal. Always happens with level threes. Post-Christmas comparisons are the best ticket for explaining it."
"So I'm suffering January blues?"
He patted her on the head. She didn't know whether to feel appreciated or insulted.
"Err, What was that for?"
"Takes your mind off the January blues."
Bob Jones hurried behind them and handed Aibork a bag.
Kate eyed it with suspicion, and waited for him to tell her what it was.
He kept quiet.
The suspense was killing her.
He smiled as they walked down the street.
A waiting limousine opened its doors, they got in and it whisked them away.

Within the hour, they were back in Washington DC. The Reflecting Pool was still being repaired; it was still incredibly hot, but the air smelled of ozone like rain after a hot spell.

"Well, this is where I leave you."
Bob Jones stepped from the vehicle, entered a neighbouring car and was driven away.
"Well, he was a nice guy."
"Yes, for a G-man," replied Aibork.

They arrived at the White House, and were debriefed for an hour by some very serious looking presidential agents.
As the debriefing finished, Aibork handed the president the bag.
"I want to thank you for your excellent work out there."
"Aye, you're welcome sir."
"Would you mind staying in Washington a few days?"
"Is that a rhetorical question?"
"You know it isn't, but you are free to go any time you would like."
"I'm guessing with a few friends in dark suits watching me on every street corner?"
"No, not at all… They dress much more casually these days."
The two men smiled, the president whispered in his ear, they shook hands and parted ways.
Kate bowed before the president, turned on her heel and left the room.
"What did he say to you?" She asked.
"Ah, that would be telling."

On the hot and clammy street, they said their goodbyes.
"Well, it's been a pleasure". He said
"Yes, I guess that's one way of looking at it."
Kate kissed him on the cheek, found her bike locked to a nearby rail, unlocked it and set off.

The ride up to Capitol Hill was hot and clammy. She pressed buttons at the traffic lights, wondering whether it made a difference; cycled across the road and back to her hotel.
After locking her bike, she entered the lobby pressed the button and waited for the elevator. Once more, it took an age to arrive.
It seemed to take even longer to take her back to her room.

The room was 23 ft². Dark except for a single white blinking light.
Kate lay on the bed staring at the ceiling while the answer phone message winked in the gloom.
It was too hot to sleep, and she was too excited to snooze anyway.
The weird memories of what had gone on over the past 24 hours haunted her. She had no visual scars from the experience, and started to doubt whether it had happened at all.
Swinging her legs out of bed, she went over to the window and looked down the street below.
How could life go on as normal, when so many unusual things had rocked the universe and the day before?
In the world where everything made sense, she started to wonder whether she preferred the anomalous alternate reality.
The world of samurais, trebuchets and strange battle animals.
She pressed the button on the answer phone, and the message played again.
"Kate, it's your grandmother. Oh, I hate using these things. Anyway, I've come into some good news. My lottery ticket came up with six winning numbers. Call me, when you get this mess…"
The message had been peppered with beeping every few seconds. She didn't know whether to laugh, or burst into tears.

The next morning Kate went downstairs to breakfast, turned left followed the street for a minute, turned left again and entered the breakfast annexe of the hotel.
At the next table, a man in his twenties, dark, handsome, slim addressed her.
"Morning Miss, and how are you today?"
"I'm okay, I think."
He looked familiar.
She regarded his glass of water and stared at the stirrer.
She smiled and took his hand.
"My name is Kate," she said.
"I'm Jeremy," he replied. "Jeremy Kwaith."
She noticed he was wearing Kevlar body armour.
"How about that?" she smiled.
"I have a message for you."
He handed her a silvery slip of paper inside an envelope.

'The Cascade of Mercury.'

She thought about it for a minute, searched her memory banks, and realised she hadn't got a bloody clue what that meant.
Jeremy Kwaith took a pen and wrote a series of numbers on the back of her hand.
He tapped a teacup, turned on his heel and left.
She wanted to go after him and ask him more, but there was something about him that made her realise that was not going to happen.


Aibork 3

by Roger Crow

Two: A Matter of Samurais and Candy Floss

Aibork was looking forward to a long bath. He knew the Pearl had done its work. The alien ship hung lifeless in space near Jupiter's red spot, a floater in the eye of the storm.

Kate regarded the readouts on the ship. They were the same as before the chaos.
She sipped her lunch through a straw. It was supposed to be full of vitamins and minerals, but it just tasted like cold ash in her mouth.

It all seemed rather normal.
The base was as it should be.
Fellow shuttlecraft were all present and correct.
Maybe the Pearl hadn't worked after all.

They touched down and ground crew saw to their every whim.
Since Houston had been levelled by a freak tidal wave, Virginia had been turned into America's new space base.

"Something isn't right," remarked Aibork.
"I know. Isn't that the point?"
"No, that's not what I mean. The Pearl should have created an alternate reality, but this isn't it."

And then, as they entered the cobbled streets of Alexandria, it all made sense.
Strolling down the high street, was an enormous lizard. Or rather it looked like a lizard.
"That's perfectly normal. The unreality pearl is known to create lizards out of thin air."
"I can never tell when you are joking," replied Kate.
Taking a handheld device from his pocket, he started to scan the reptile.
"Yes, that's perfectly normal."

Kate had expected a few changes since she got back, but nothing had prepared her for this.
The lizard was wearing battle armour. It glinted in the noonday sun.
"Is it me?" Kate remarked. "Or is that lizard wearing battle armour."
"It's not the battle armour i'm worried about," he remarked, pointing at the rocket launchers on its back.
It looked like a fire-breather. And if that was the case, they were in deep trouble.
As it took a deep breath to incinerate them, a large metallic thud hit the side of the reptile.

They looked to the left, and saw a huge trebuchet firing at the beast.

"His name is Kwaith".
The warrior approach the duo and knelt before them.
"He is the battle lizard."

Aibork nodded.
"What do you think happened here?" said Kate.
"I'm guessing it may have been an EMP."
"That would account for the lack of technology."
The warrior rose and shook hands with the duo.
"Bob Jones, former CIA Langley Director."
"What happened here Bob?" said Aibork"
"A level three alternate reality. It's one of the worst ripples we've ever experienced."
Kate stepped forward. "Is this likely to go back to normal any time soon?" she said.
"It is possible, though we may need to give it a bit of persuasion."

Just then the ground began to shake and a 15-foot tall pink Samurai thundered into town.
Raising an enormous sword, it was about to slice the lizard in two. However, the reptile responded by firing two missiles into its face plate.
The Samurai took a step back, clutching its face.
In the space of three heart beats, the lizard was upon him. The Japanese warrior collapsed into a pile of rotting vegetation.
Kate stared at it in disbelief.
"I'm really starting to lose my grip here," she said.
"Samurais that turn into vegetation. Well, that's a new one on me," Aibork remarked.
"So Bob, where can I get a decent cup of coffee around here?"

Kwaith turned its attention to the trebuchet.
Just as it was about to attack, the ground collapsed beneath its feet.
The cobbles of the road had turned into teeth.
"Okay, now I'm really disturbed," said Kate.
Just then the sun welcomed a dark shape.

"We need to get to the ladder," said Bob Jones.
Aibork and Kate followed him across the street, round the corner and up a back alley, where a huge tower rose into the clouds.

"So let me get this straight," said Kate. "The ground has teeth, there are battle lizards with the missile launchers, and now there is a ladder stretching into the sky. Did I miss anything?"
"Sorry I can't react to that." Aibork was busy removing candy floss from his head.
"I never thought I would be so desperate for a sense of normality."
Kate was desperate to see what happened next.


Aibork - 2

The room was 3 ft². Dark except for a single white blinking light.
The sole container was at the heart of the ship. A ship that was one mile square.
It had drifted through space for the past 14 years. There were no markings on the hull. It didn't appear in any logbook of any Earth system.
To the observer it looked like it was made from black glass. Although it had no visible markings, electron microscopes would have revealed an intricate filigree on the skin of the ship.

As it entered our solar system, the filigree started to crackle like lightning.

Passing Jupiter's red spot, the lightning turned into a storm. A shaft of light, brilliantly white, emanated from its hold, forming a blinding laser.

Within 30 seconds, it had hit the moon, superheating its core and turning the rocky surface into glass.
All scientists would have said this was impossible, but it happened regardless.

On Earth, systems went wild. Scientists tried to figure out what had gone on. There was no explanation.
This was unknown science.

The super-heated core of the moon started to produce lava deep within the satellite.

"No sir, we have no idea what it is."
The White House. Pearly in the moonlight.

Decades of waiting for some random occurrence suddenly came to an abrupt halt. Within 30 seconds, history books had to be rewritten. There was one underlying fact: If it could do that to the moon, imagine what it could do to the earth.

Panic in DC.
"I need to find out what we're dealing with."
"Yes sir, we understand that."
"Well have you got your best man on it?"
"Yes sir. Aibork is the only one that thought this would happen."
"Where is he?"
The President's aide entered the code 2463 821271 6 into a tablet, and a cgi grid revealed a blinking icon approaching the depiction of whatever that thing was.

Twenty feet from the alien probe, an Earth ship, callsign Bronx Rat, approached silently. Sat in the pilot's seat, the man in a crushed velvet jacket sipped a Martini while gently adjusted his controls. Behind him, the disco ball revolved.

"You said this was going to happen!" Kate masked her mouth with a hand.
"I hate it when I'm right."
Aibork felt dizzy, excited and nervous.
"So what do we do now?"
"Whatever’s inside that ship, looks deadly."

The pilot drained his Martini and put the glass at the side of his console.

He found a button to the right of his joystick, and compressed air filled the room. Revealed in the fog was a small metal cylinder.
Aibork found a button on the side and the door opened with a satisfying sound.
Inside was an orange pearl.

"If this doesn't do the trick, we're all doomed."

On Earth it was chaos. Shops looted; banks raided; the stock market crashed.
The tides kissed the world's shores in an unusual fashion - instead of lapping, they had a zigzagging effect.

It was known as the Unreality Pearl. The stuff of myth and legend that one day become a very real thing.
Found in an Italian volcano 120 years ago, the Pearl attracted the interest of the planet.

Stolen, lost and found again, it was eventually blasted into space.
The Pearl did one thing, and it did it rather well. It created an alternate reality.

Many went crazy trying to figure out why or how it worked, it just did.
More than 13.7 million years of galactic evolution, and this tiny thing rewrote the history books.

If the alien craft was a thing of ridiculousness, then it had to be challenged with equal amounts of stupidity.
It seems the unreality pearl was being returned to the impossible shell.

Kate slipped into her spacesuit, snapped the helmet closed around her neck, and it sealed with a satisfying hiss.
It sounded like a word.

"Are you ready for this?" He asked.
"How is anyone ever ready for what we are about to do?" She frowned.
"Do you not think that drinking Martinis so close to the end of the Earth's possible existence is a little strange?"
"Yes, it is a bit odd for me," he remarked while securing the fastenings on his own suit. "I prefer a Piña Colada".

He tried to take his mind off the visions, so he thought of all the vehicles he had driven over the years. The stellar cruisers, hyper barges and Quadrillion Skiffs. Not forgetting the Anti-grav buggies, but the pianos still appeared in his vision regardless. Booze wouldn't erase the sense of doom he felt.

On the alien craft an airlock of impossible geometry received the improbably perfect fitted collar released from the earthship. Not so much a square peg in a square hole. This was some random configuration perfectly knitted together with something of a equal ridiculousness.
In the universe where nothing seems to make sense, this marriage of alien skin and Earth technology seemed to make perfect sense.

Aibork and Kate wandered around the seemingly endless corridors. Lights illuminated the gloom as they walked.
The duo regarded their scanners with intent.
As the soft thrumming of their devices intensified, they knew they were getting into the heart of their destination.

There was no sound on the ship except for electronic cheeps, like birds tweeting.
It was strangely peaceful.
After 11 minutes of hard walking, they finally found their goal.

Aibork thought about the pearl, and how he'd found it drifting in space.
It felt good to be able to return this bizarre thing to its equally unusual host.
Gingerly he took the Pearl from its holdings, and slipped it into a niche in the alien skin.
It scanned the pearl, memorised its DNA, and he removed it.

Kate stood closer to him.
She said with a whisper, "You realise now that we've done this, life on Earth will never be the same?” Aibork nodded.
"Maybe it was always supposed to be this way," he said.
"Melt Red." A voice spoke.
Kate looked around. Nothing there.
That name again. Eerie. Prescient.

As ripples surged through the ship's skin, they made their way back to their own craft.

Like a stone dropped in a pond, the ripples that emanated from the alien craft made their way to Earth.
However, the first thing it passed was a meteor the size of Boston.

Aibork and Kate left the ship and set course for their home planet.
"So, what's your story? You married?”
Aibork shook his head. “Was once. Didn't last. We drifted apart; I fell for a girl born from an alien seed pod.”
“Ah, right. Where was she from?” asked Kate, rolling with the clearly comedic answer.
"Call it a plane of existence; call it a galaxy, whatever it is, it is far away."
He pointed at a galactic map.
"Here is our galaxy."
The image rippled as though made of oil and the view became a white sea with black stars.
“This is hers.”
Kate looked confused. The gag had no punch line so she thought the best thing to do was to keep quiet.
“You should know this place.” He said.
“Shouldn't have to ask,” he smiled.
Kate was more confused than usual, but the worrying thing was, in her heart she felt he was right.

At sub-light speed, they arrived back at the outer atmosphere in a little over an hour.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

World War Z - The Review

Glasgow, or is it Philadelphia terrorised by zombies.
Ooh, then its Korea, on bikes, then Jerusalem, then, er, Wales.
Brad Pitt's zombie travelogue could have failed had it not turned into an episode of Torchwood in the third act.
Pretty good, more for the tense finale than epic bits.
Ben Seresin's photography is a bit too polished for the chaotic tone; the script isn't great, or terrible, and the cast work well together.
An added bonus is the score by Muse.
It's like a serious Roland Emmerich's 2012, with our heroes catching 747s like they were jumping in a taxi. The CG isn't bad, and there are enough physical fx to make it semi believable.
If you've seen the trailer then you'll have seen where the money went.
However, there's a difference between what that suggests and what the movie is.
For the most part its a series of epic set pieces peppered with the odd cosy bridging scene where Brad and his family respond to the chaos.
By the half way mark i'll admit i was tiring of the huge scenes of mass carnage; it's most effective in the cheap finale when Brad and a few survivors try to stay quiet while searching through the corridors of a Welsh research base.
Glass, cans, and doors all sound like they're rigged up to huge speakers, while our heroes try to get to a crucial part of the complex.
It's open ended enough to warrant a sequel, and if there were more small scale thrills in that potential project, it wouldn't be too bad a project.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Jason Isaacs - Skeletons review

Lady Antebellum -

A Golden Year For Lady Antebellum
By Roger Crow

The biggest problem with chatting to Lady Antebellum’s Dave Haywood is that their song Need You Now rattles around in your head… all day.
And of course writing about the band does little to diminish its power.
Formed in Nashville in 2006, the band, consisting of Dave, Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, caused rumblings in the US music scene in 2008 with their eponymous debut album. That spawned hits Love Don't Live Here, Lookin' for a Good Time, and I Run to You.
It went double platinum, reaching Number One on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart.
The summer of 2009 saw aforementioned smash Need You Now boost their fan base, and test the strength of their collective mantelpieces, with four Grammys, including Record of the Year, among its many plaudits.
That may be the song that most helped them raise their profile in the UK, as well as the rest of the world, but there must have been a lot of pressure to come up with something as equally appealing.
On Golden, for example, their most recent album, the band pulled out all the stops to please the fans.
They have been touring hard for the past seven summers, so with Hillary working on her most personal production, an imminent baby daughter, I imagine it’s good for them to have a bit of a breather this year.
However, it's business as usual next year; Dave promises Uk fans the band will be touring in 2014.

*want more? stay tuned.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Man of steel-the review

Rebooting one of the best loved film sagas of all time was no easy task, but Zack Snyder has done a good job.
Epic smack downs, cool suits, a fine score and dazzling special effects all ensure you get plenty of value for money.
However, it's remarkable for a film that cost more than $200 million features dialogue so clunky it sounds like it was written by a first year film student.
Some of General Zod's lines, especially during the inevitable smack down near the finale, are cringeworthy.
Thankfully, at least Michael Shannon does a great job as the Shakespearean-style bad guy.
Russell Crowe dominates the first 10 to 20 minutes of the movie as the noble Jor El; Inevitably, considering this is a Snyder movie, Kal El's mother looks like she stepped out of 300.
Henry Cavill is rather good as the eponymous hero, while Amy Adams makes a sexy and likeable love interest.
It's also good to see Law and Order veteran Christopher Meloni proving he can dominate the attention on the big screen.
Considering this has to compress so much information into a relatively short running time, Snyder and his colleagues have thankfully managed to keep assorted plates spinning.
Mixing flashbacks with present day action, the screenplay deftly juggles assorted plot points, including the destruction of Krypton, Kal's arrival on Earth, his growth to maturity, and his romance with Lois.
It's not a perfect film by any means, but at least I cared about the hero and heroine. Which was more than could be said for Superman Returns.
In 3-D and D box, this is a treat for the senses.
Hans Zimmer had an unenviable task of creating the score, considering how influential John Williams' original theme had been since 1978.
It could have done with more laughs, and a decent script doctor, but on the whole this Man of Steel soars.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Aibork - new fiction

The Unreality Pearl

"There's a rift in time; not very big, but wide enough to fast-track an egg-shaped thing back a century."


Hamilton, Scotland
November 5,2048

"Do you not want it Erica?" said the 40-year-old bearded man.
The girl shook her head and fought back the tears. Her dad had been trying for years to get her to come to a fireworks display, and each time she refused.
"I dinny wan' it!" she cried.
He supposed it was wise that kids were scared of fire, but for so long?
Erica huddled with her mother as a volley of firecrackers lit the night sky.
"Aw come on. Let's get some baked spuds."
In the burning embers of the fire, a pearl spat onto the ground and rolled past her feet.
Looking around, she knelt down a pocketed the glowing gem, expecting it to burn her hand.
It was icy cold.
She smiled and held her dad's hand tightly.
In the distance they could hear a pianist playing a simple melody.
A wave of happiness washed over six-year-old Erica. Suddenly her future seemed bright.
Unknown to her, she would keep the bauble for a year, and lose it for 33.

One light year away
Deep space
The tree was one of the few growths on the asteroid, far away in negative space.
Its branches weren't particularly alien, but their seeds were.
Inside one of the pods was life, humanoid life, although at this point it was merely embryonic, the germ was there.
Mothered by the one tree, fathered by the fertile asteroid. In the cosmic wind the branches blew.
Into space it was launched. A seed in the cosmic streams.

"What is it Red?" Master of the Rock asked her.
"You sent Kate on a mission to Earth?"
"I did," the tree nodded her branches. A flutter of electricity passed down the branch which held her. She felt its comfort.
"It's failed Omrar; she's been diverted to..."
"The Grimland campaign!?"
"Yes," she replied.
"Koyazki must be preparing for war."
"The conflict is imminent. I must help her."
"I’ve not wanted to involve anyone else, but he must be contacted."
"I will go, if it will help her."
"It will be dangerous; there is a chance you could be destroyed."
Red held her head down, and still felt her friend's pain.
"I must go," she said.
Omrar the tree guardian thought for a while and sent a comforting electric pulse to Red.
"Find Aibork, build the prism condenser. That will access Grimland. From there it's down to you."
"The Ice Lord may help if you can find him. Reports were sketchy after the last campaigns."
Red was impatient to get started.
"I'm ready," she said.
"You have all you need. I'll give you his whereabouts when you need them. Luck be with you."
"Thanks," she said and felt a wave of sadness wash over her as she saw the tree through her translucent shell.
Lightning flashed from between tree and pod. The other pods wished her well with an empathic charge.
Energy was combined in the lightning blast, and soon she was drifting away from the rock, the tree and her friends.

The rock was soon just an asteroid in space, and the gulf swallowed Red. She could just make out the pinprick of light in the distance, a blue-white dwarf flickered remotely in the void, but it spelled hope for her as the seed sailed on the solar winds.

Aibork's blog
’If knowledge is power, it was inevitable an Infowar would be fought at some point in the run up to The Slime War.
Yes, it was a silly name for a conflict, but its ferocity was not dulled by its comical moniker.’

Will Aibork was a boy when the Infowar began in the 2040s. His dad bought a PC and when he was four, and moved on to a weightier computer, leaving his son and a half exhausted machine.
Will took the device, and converted it with his old spelling toy into something with a little more bite.
The PC was converted eight times that year, salvaged radios and bits of computer stuck on, grafted into its circuits to provide a little more power.
Aibork’s dad, a pc repair man, was alarmed by the rate of his son's growth at the console, and his easy grasp at the complex software.
He thought of Huxley gone mad as they looked upon his offspring and coldly embraced a brave new world. And a brave new set of rules.

’The Infowar was born out of paranoia, greed, and oppression.
The Tomorrow War followed The Corporate War, which followed The Design War and The Sales Campaigns.
Victims were the companies, small defenceless units which succumbed to the firepower of the big guns in New York, Tokyo and Amsterdam.
The ammunition was subtle, flash frame adverts which the smaller companies couldn't afford; banned subliminal messages reared their ugly head again when a member of US Government was persuaded to rethink the bill which led to their rebirth.’

Across space, a gelatinous being monitored reports from Earth. Over seven generations the creature had grown to his present size. A great vat of his body undulated, refracting light from beneath himself. His single bloodshot eye regarded a photo of his late wife and shed a tear.

In a canyon on the moon, surrounded by igneous rock, the pod lay dormant. Buried on the satellite since 1980, it waited.
If inanimate things did wait. The time was coming when its owner would call, and it would go running.

In the distance, Jupiter's red eye watched over Earth. Bloodshot. Patient. Angry.

Aibork's blog
’During the Infowar, slowly, methodically the adverts reappeared. In the tabloids littered with adverts, the messages hidden in photos of wood and steel, sex, death and prosperity. Etched into the grain of the advert, miniscule bites of information that the brain stored and inspired urges at a later date.

They took hold of television, the ’net, cinema and Blu-ray too, grasping the power bit in their teeth and riding that media horse to the finishing line.

The casualties were great and the big league boys survived with mere scratches.
The casualties - the banks - put their heads down and ran with the crowd, like a bunch of rugby players huddled against the opposition, crushing the miniscule little firms for pole position on the market.’

New York, Central Park
The streets were just beginning to fill with traffic as the trashman arrived in the alley with his bin. Carefully he lowered it down and looked to the sky, checking his watch at the first rays of winter sun light.
There was a pause and he breathed out a lung full of warm air. A cat screeched in the distance, and he tapped his foot.

Washington 2079
Koyazki sat at the dinner table looking at the figures for his company's profit. The curve increased sharply in favour of the millions increments and he smiled happily in the knowledge.
His wife, an elderly woman, sat to his left; his daughter a striking beauty, middle-aged, but nevertheless still a looker, drank her soup.
Koyazki nodded to his aid who removed the chart. “Trouble?” Ishima Koyazki enquired.
“Good news, the company is stable and rising.” He said.
“I'm happy. You've worked hard this year Yukio.”

The couple ate their dinner, content in the knowledge their empire was secure. His daughter, Orion was less sure.
Word on the street told of a revolution in information supply and demand caused by a rebel faction.

Yukio carved a generous helping of turkey and handed the bird to his wife and daughter.
Orion smiled and accepted the food. She was troubled by a man who had tried to kill her father, his name was unknown and largely irrelevant, but the attempt had disturbed her.
Something in his eyes had told her he would try again, and if he didn't, someone else would.
“You all right Orion?”, he asked as she toyed idly with the meat.
“It's nothing”, she said.
“Orion,” he laboured the name, inflecting the desire for an answer.
“The attacker…”
That was months ago, and they say he's dead now.
“He worried me.”
“Eat your dinner child.”
She resented the word child, it threatened her maturity.
Where was he? The man with the Fedora and the rain coat? She swore she would find him, and when she did she would make him suffer in the ways he thought were unimaginable.

Aibork's blog
’In the battlefields of Wall Street, the most powerful commodity was software.
At the start of the information offensive there was a saying: ’As long as we have our dreams we have hope’, Another favourite was: ’Somewhere over the rainbow, dreams come true.’
The popularity of the sayings were common in the morale boosters in a time of decaying moral values. Psychologists noted the effect of easily available ’retina nasties’ as the destruction of the fabric of society.
As the threads of decency were slowly but surely unravelled, the fabric came loose and the world descended into a dark age as the Greeks and Romans had claimed thousands of years before.’

"Are you ready yet?"
"Can't find my comb!"
"It's in the dresser drawer, hurry up!"
Aibork opened the drawer and inside was the yellow comb. He began to brush his locks into some sort of order.
"I'll get the car."
"Okay," He replied.
They were a wealthy couple; Aibork a stockbroker on Wall Street; Ellen an art director for one of the upmarket fashion glossies.
Young, successful and wealthy, the party was the launch of a new book by the Japanese artist Koyazki.
They were eventually ready and on their way.

In the Whitehouse, the 33-year-old President Wells watched a monitor: a fuzzy image of a creature, undulating. Unearthly.
It said four words before melting in a sea of static: "My name is Serendaptecles."
He nodded and was debriefed for an hour by some more very serious looking presidential agents.
“You realise that war on two planes could wipe us all out?”
“Koyazki is too powerful over there. He must be stopped.”

The party was boring. Will looked into his vodka; fed up with meeting new and exciting people. Ellen was in her element with them, but he was bored.
The attendees were laughing at a newspaper headline about a homeless man who claimed he’d seen a vision of a giant, one-eyed small intestine.
The headache started around then.
A slight pressure behind the eyes. He suddenly felt queasy. The room started to spin, and he could see a balding man staring at him.
"Fear her with the red hair. She'll burn your soul. Melt it red."
Whether the man actually said the words, or whether he thought they had been said he was unsure. The headache was fierce.
"Are you okay?"
It was John Brogan, a friend of his from years back. "It's just a little migraine. I'll be fine."
Aibork looked up at the man with a bald head. He was on fire.
"Someone help him."
"Help who?" John asked, looking around the room.
"The guy... on fire."
"She'll burn your soul. Burn, baby, burn."
Is that what happened to you?, he thought as the vision disappeared.
His legs were aching, so he went over to the window and looked down the lawn below, shaking a little.
He had no idea he was asleep.

Aibork's blog
’When the next phase in the offensive occurred, the Credit Wars, people started to notice the effects of this crumbling society and the dissolving of ’the rainbow’ or American dream.
Credit Wars were a symbiotic occurrence. Advertisers in league with the banks persuaded customers to part with their money through continuous barrage of subliminal and mainstream adverts.
The biggest offensive of course came at Christmas when the pressure of the TV and shopfronts was unbearable, and get became a common enough ally in the threat to alleviate the pressure.

The ABC one groups survived intact, but the c2s down were wounded by the barrage from the Symbiotic’s dark cousins, and many men and women died leaving greater debts for their offspring and spouses to pay.

The wounded were legion, and throughout the financial wars, the threads of society started unravelling and fraying like a rope in a Saturday morning serial. The heroine hanging hanging from a cliff on the line, strands withering away the structure of the line, dying from the pressure. Below the cliff beckons.

Society rarely had a handsome hero to save it from the fate. There were no white knights in the darkness has a circular saw cut its way to the heroine.
It would have to face the greedy folly of its instigators and weather the blows. In a vague hope that it survived. If the rope broke that was and whether they were hazardous rocks below was a different matter.

The rainbow would save them, despite its tumours and pollution, it would save the day.
Erica was a paid memory, but the most important thing she had to remember, she forgot. Through the mixup in her childhood she remembered an extraordinary amount of detail from not only her history but others.
Her problem she erased, burying it deep down, she merely remembered vague silhouettes of the beast, an outline of her deadly quandary.’

"Where is he?"
"Haven't seen him."
"He's gone to lie down; was feeling a little sick I think", Brogan interjected between Ellen and the party guest.
"Off to the left, down the corridor."
She left the room to seek him out.

Dominic Clark, the man with the circular wireframe glasses, stepped into Central Park, and checked his stopwatch. An action which had been repeated many many times. He armed the timer and started to jog.

The figure stood in the doorway, her coat over one arm, a shoulder bag over another. Placing the bag on the floor and her coat over the chair, she turned the lamp on.
Light washed Will’s face and he stirred in his sleep. She lit another lamp and the shadows changed again.
A third and the dark of the shadows vanished.
The angel of light went over and kissed him on the forehead. He felt the touch and stirred. The bright lights he felt were just a symptom of his drinking, but the kiss had felt real enough.
"Are you okay?"
"I need some rest."
Will was led into room where the light was soft and a fire burned in the hearth.
He lay back on the sofa and closed his eyes.
The dream came to him like a song, a vision.
A tree on a rock in space; white space, its branches blown by the wind, and those funny looking seeds on the tips of the branches...
What the hell were they?
Aibork turned in his fever-strewn sleep, sweat dripping down his back in rivulets.

Koyazki had a few problems. He was married, although not happily, he had a standard hangups of a man getting on in years; the benefits of an information empire, a beautiful daughter and wife, and friends all over the world. However his greed for power stretched him to breaking point.

Will knew about Koyazki and his secrets; was aware that he needed taking down a peg or two.
The US President and average businessman may have heard of Koyazki, but Aibork was no one, and that's just how he liked it. Somewhere under the radar.
Way down low.

He heard his name, but not from his wife; it was a young woman, 17-years-old.
It was Ellen, she sat on the couch her hands on his shoulder.
"Who are you?" He said in the dream.
"Melt Red. I'm on the way."
The voice was quiet now, Ellen's grew stronger.
"You alright?"
"Don't know. Might have flu."
"Were you delirious?"
"Did you have… a vision?"
He said nothing.

One light year away.
The small band of humanoid creatures stood in a circle clapping their three-fingered hands. They removed ear defenders and smiled.
In the centre of the room was a piano, splashed with lavender coloured blood.
“Prepare the ship,” commanded the leader to his army.

As the Co-Marrill approached the great gas giant that was Jupiter, Captain Stone regarded the bloodshot eye.
"Bring us in closer," He told his commander.
"Aye sir, bringing us about," he said.
Stone and the crew secured themselves into their rocking seats as the Co-Marrill entered a gulf of bad space.
“Everything okay sir?”
He nodded.
“Thought I saw something in the spot.”
“We've scanned it sir. Nothing there.”
Stone, a man in his late fifties nodded. Three years he and his crew would be out here. Charting dust and ice. Watching out for stray rocks
“The JacketMen on tour.” He remarked, and his commander smiled.
“Aye sir.”

Washington DC
June 5, 2080
It was exceptionally hot in Washington that summer.
Cycling around the city felt more like an endurance test than a pleasure.
Kate left Capitol Hill and pedalled towards the traffic lights, not bothering to press the button; she knew it was a fake with a spring inside.
A man in his twenties, dark, handsome, slim approached, but said nothing before crossing.
She briefly saw his name tag. Kwaith. Thought it was strange and forgot about it.
Kate ran a hand through her blonde locks and looked to the sky.
Somewhere, up there, an object was heading to Earth which could spell disaster for every living thing on the planet.

A mile away, boxer Gary White clashed in the Potomac ring with a mighty opponent called The Duke. Blood flowed readily as arms were pummelled by his combatant.
White swung his fists this way and that, parrying attacks and hammering into bones and flesh. He fought by the side of the vertical window, his face reflected in the glass.
The fight was almost over when events took a strange turn. The window broke as a dustbin was hurled through the glass.
The Duke dodged the falling object and shards of glass.
“Damn kids!” He chased three of them up the road, but they vanished.
Gary felt a little odd, like déjà vu.
“Strange,” he thought. “This happened before. But not through glass.”
He wondered if it was time to change professions. One too many blows to the head.

Kate cycled halfway across the city to the Lincoln memorial. It was just a shame the Reflecting Pool was still being repaired.
As the boring monotone voice on her MP3 player briefed her, she cycled past the White House and back to her hotel.
"Level two anomalies come in all shapes and forms..." It droned. But then there was a far stranger section which made little sense.
“...slime warriors are an all-consuming darkness which choke the breath from babes and the old, ruin crops and waste the healthy...”
Static. More boring details and then...”It is they who fight and war with the believers, and they whose flayed bodies float in the atmosphere. They will seek revenge on the Almighty Ur Rul.”
Kate stopped and replayed the message. That didn't sound right. She was a little scared.

The lift took an age to arrive, and when it did it took precious minutes to take her back to her room.
Despite the bizarre message, she felt a little flat, like that period after Christmas.
The mission had been off and on so much she didn't know how to feel anymore. Six months of training at NASA and now Kate felt it was for nothing.

Back in her spacious room with two TVs, kitchen unit, huge bed, seating area and writing desk, she activated the tablet on her bed, threw off her clothes and stepped under the shower.
That weird message. Haunting.

Ten minutes later Kate emerged from the bathroom and returned to the bedroom, towelling her hair.
The stereo was playing a Storm and Thunder track from years ago.
She saw two messages winking on her tablet.
"Kate, it's your grandmother. Oh, I hate..."
She smiled and pressed the next message, which changed her mood entirely.
Four words which both chilled her blood, and filled her with adrenaline.
'We have a go.'

More than 4,000 miles away, in Hamilton, Scotland, he also stepped out of the shower.
Impossibly hirsute, a throwback to a bygone age.

The phone rang.
He ignored it, as did the raven-haired woman in his bed.
After a minute it stopped.
Cold callers probably, or travel writers desperate to try out his designer holiday destinations.
The Hyperion Anomaly, 'Air Quotes', or Plaid Fantastic would wait for paying customers.
All products of his 'Cascade', creating bubbles of the surreal for rich thrill-seekers. If they wanted to have lavish parties on silver hemispheres hovering over lakes of mercury, that was their choice.

There was a knock at his door.
"Mr Aibork. It's time."
He nodded, regarded the stirrer in his glass of whisky, the over-large alarm clock next to it, and slipped on his jacket.
He flicked the light on the hem to check it worked while mumbling under his breath an old Elkie Brooks number from the 1970s.
The walls were full of antiques; a postcard of a volcano; a photo of a silver egg with mottled colours; an arty, black and white snap of pond ripples from a dropped stone; a shed photo; a picture of a tree with weird branches; strange ephemera, and a Lawrence of Arabia poster.
Below it, a sheet of A4 with a guide to anomalies was divided into three columns.
Diagrams of eclectic objects and characters adorned it. Among them Iguanas, ancient warriors, and cloudy pink material.
He regarded the blue print of a framed design and wiped dust from the frame. It looked like a teacup.

Packing a lightweight aluminium ladder into a backpack, along with a collapsable cane, and an inflatable kettle, he headed out.
"Be careful," whispered Meg.
"I'll be fine. Dinny worry."

Outside his apartment, a woman, 40-years-old, short, dumpy with a pleasant round face was dancing in her dressing gown.
"Evening Erica,"
She waved at him as he entered the stretch limousine and it whisked him to the airport.

The dancing woman sashayed up her drive, and closed the door.
Unscrewing the top on the first bottle that came to hand, she emptied a third into a plastic beaker, scooped in a spoonful of ice cream and crumbled a Flake on top.
It was 7pm and she planned on spending the rest of the night in a blissful drunken state, until midnight when she'd go back to work at the hospital.
On her wall was a signed photo of singer Valerie Storm. She smiled and cried a little as she thumbed her CD player and fell asleep.
"Omrar" she burbled. "Ultveya," and then the snoring began.
For an hour she slept, until without warning she sat bolt upright and said: "I was born of the pod on that tree. The asteroid was my father."
That made no sense.
She sighed and slumped to the floor, cradling her chin on her knees. Holding a bedside photo of her ex, she kissed it.
"I miss you," she said.
Then Erica was asleep again.
Had Aibork heard her he would have been struck with a sense of déjà vu.

“Wonderful day,” said the driver.
“Aye”. Aibork was meditating. Conversation was the last thing he wanted; the road had upset his stomach.
“Wonder what the Chancellor will do ’bout the taxes,” said the driver. Will was silent. The little man with pockmarked skin turned in his seat and looked to him.
“You a vicar or somethin’?’”
“Something.” Replied Will.
“Very quiet back there. Didn't know if you were still alive.”
“I'm not very good company.”
“A woman?”
“Tell me ’bout her.”
“You don't want to know.”
There was silence save for the wheels ticking over the Tarmac. The driver looked back to Will.
“Long journey. May as well get it off your chest.”
Will sighed and raised a smile.
“Her name was Red...”

Within an hour of reaching the airport, he was on a plane bound for Washington.
It was one of his favourite commutes, especially in business class.

Halfway across the Atlantic, the 747 entered a sea of bad air.
Aibork produced a tube and snorted a blast of minty oxygen. Suddenly his stomach settled.
He thumbed his bluetooth.
"Have Alpha unit on standby. Five miles from point zero."
"Aye sir," came the reply.
"And tell Fe to get ready."
More confirmation.
Aibork drained his tea, and ran a finger around the cup's rim.
On his desk was a folder with a series of Hubble II photos featuring what looked like a craft made of glass.

Hours later, he was rushed from Dulles Airport; ignoring security and customs, Aibork was taken straight to the White House.
The sky was beginning to darken and he could see the Northstar winking blue

Sunday, 9 June 2013

After Earth - The Review

M Night Shyamalan. There was a time that name was synonymous with must see movies, such as The 6th Sense, Unbreakable, and The Village.
But in recent years he's had a hard time coming up with the goods, dropping the ball with Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender.
After Earth, his new movie, is one of those vanity projects A-list stars like Will Smith get to make when they have enough box office muscle.
It plays out like a video game; Guide Jaden Smith to his crashed spaceship's tail section miles through savage wilderness while dad Will scowls a lot at the first crash site and barely moves thanks to a knackered leg.
MNS's last movie had the Avatar bit removed in case it confused viewers of James Cameron's film. However, the influence of Avatar is obvious. Exotic jungle; Swooping action scenes; Hero guided by another via hi-tech gizmos.
I'd expected more of a car crash than a ship crash movie, but despite clunky dialogue and Jaden not having the charisma to pull off his leading role, this is engaging enough.
However, it would have been better with Will as the central figure. He may want to project his brilliance into his son, but sadly the tech isn't available to synthesise charisma, and this oh so serious movie needs a chunk of that to work. Sadly it just gets by.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The new Joker?

Need a new Joker Hollywood? this is your man. Rhys Wakefield #thepurge. Terrifying.

Byzantium - the review

It's a while since I've seen a vampire thriller as good as Byzantium, the new movie from Neil Jordan. In fact it's been almost 20 years since Jordan has made a film this good. A glorious, gothic drama featuring standout performances from Gemma Arteron and Saorsie Ronan, who steals the film as a wide eyed, eternal 16 year old.

Both are vampires, the latter is sworn to secrecy, but with a life story several generations old, it's little wonder she has a hard time containing it, so she writes it down in glorious longhand,and throws it to the wind, where the crumpled pages are collected by a neighbouring pensioner. Before long he meets his doom, but as he welcomes death he adheres to her moral code. She only feeds from the frail and dying.

After leaving one temporary home they arrive at another, an off season seaside resort. Arterton befriends a grieving hotelier (Daniel Mays) and manages to inveigle them into his home.

However, the mother and daughter are being tracked, which leads to a violent showdown.

The script is absorbing, the performances are well played, and Neil Jordan uses familiar touches that make us feel like we are watching his greatest hits; a scene in a lift is reminiscent of his critically acclaimed 1986 drama Mona Lisa.

Though i only managed to survive bits of the Twilight saga, for me Byzantium is everything that series wasn't. Well acted, beautifully scripted and cleverly directed.

With Hollywood only interested in setting up franchises these days, there is none of that convoluted 'will there be a sequel?' nonsense. Just a truth to the material that leaves you feeling more satisfied than many films in 2013.

Sam Riley, sounding and looking more like a young John Hurt than ever, offers good support, along with the ever excellent Daniel Mays.

The Purge - the review

Siege movies touch a chord with most of us. After all, who doesn't want to protect their home from invaders?
The Purge* is one of those movies that came out of nowhere with very little hype and for most of the duration is a gripping affair.
Set in the near future on an annual night where killing is legal, it centres on Ethan Hawke and his dysfunctional family. He earns a crust selling state of the art security systems, mostly to his swanky neighbours, who seem miffed that he's made so much cash from their sales.
During lockdown, a homeless African American is let into this des res fortress by the clan's obligatory gadget-loving son. Before long, masked assailants demand he is released into their lethal custody, but as all hell breaks loose, there are a few twists and turns and the tension builds.
As a thriller the movie ticks all the boxes, even if it does resort to well worn-cliches such as the fridge gag - closed fridge, protagonist opens door blocking view, closes door, antagonist revealed.
The cast are most excellent, especially Hawke and Lena Headey as the besieged marrieds, and the lead psycho, Aussie Rhys Wakefield, who would make an excellent Joker, is convincing enough. Ivy League nutcases seem so much more chilling than many generic villains; see Funny Games for further proof.
The finale is inevitable, but the wheels are in danger of coming off, especially during a predictable twist. One antagonist lets the side down with their dazed MO supposedly enough to warrant manslaughter. Sorry, I didn't buy it.
At 80 plus minutes, it doesn't outstay its welcome. It's also open ended enough to warrant a sequel. Highly recommended.

* During the movie I had a nagging reminder of The Assault on Precinct 13 remake, with Ethan Hawke. Little wonder as it was scripted by the same bloke, James DeMonaco.