Monday, 27 April 2015

Movie Reviews: Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron

Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron (12A)

Writer & Director:
Joss Whedon


Wow, if you like your comic Superheroes, then this is the movie for you because there are an awful lot of them. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, The Hulk and Black Widow are joined by Scarlet Witch, The Vision, Ultron, Quick Silver and Nick Fury. (Cast list here ~
Basically the world is put at risk when a peacekeeping programme (Ultron) made by Tony Stark & Bruce Banner, goes rogue. Cue lots of terminator style robots that need destroying by the superheroes inter cut with various other subplots: Hawkeye's private life, The Hulk and Black Widow love interest, Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver back story and most importantly, the emergence of a second infinity stone. Don't bother with 3D as there is enough going on without it. A gargantuan Marvel free-for-all, four out five stars.

DVD round-up

We're The Millers (15)
Jason Sudekis plays a pot dealer who enlists the help of a stripper (Jennifer Anniston) to pose as a 'family' on a drugs run from Mexico to America for $10,000. Made me laugh.

Earth to Echo (PG)
Family friendly movie, think ET meets Super 8.

Draft Day (15)
Always watchable Kevin Costner stars in this dramatic examination of the NFL draft process.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (12)
So not enjoying this reboot anymore...

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (15) 
Will Ferrell is back as Ron Burgundy, the anchorman for a new 24 hour news show. Funnier than the first.

Lucy (15)
Interesting sci-fi action thriller right up until the silly ending.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

A blue sky day..

 Camelia beginning to fade &
Geranium leaves emerging...

Grape hyacinths marching along nicely
& the jasmine has a flush of new growth...

There's a sprinkling of purple &
A pretty pasque flower...

A peony in the wrong place
& a big blue sky day...

(Song or mistle thrush?)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Last Dog Standing ~ Episode Eight

Nearly there...

The last dog stretches and shakes off the remnants of sleep, there is a hint of mist in the pre-dawn air and as he leaves the comfort of his sleeping den, the motorway is quiet. He quickly picks up the scent of the ICL and starts at a brisk trot after it. By the time the sun burns through the mist, he has reached where it had crashed with the trike and where the stag and dog pack had run through. The mix of scents are heady and enthralling. He runs around for a while, trying to work out what had happened. The debris of the trike is scattered along a half mile stretch of motorway, dragged under the ICL for some while before breaking free and littering the road. Among the debris is a pannier of old clothing and for a minute or two the dog has fun ripping up the stretchy fabric and waterproof cloak he finds inside it, full of the odour of another human. Then the scent of the stag and the dog pack catches his attention, he follows it for a while, veering off into the scrubby land at the side of the motorway. There are twelve different dog scents, several of them female but as he plunges into deeper undergrowth, the scent he's following trails back round to the road, circling where the ICL had been. Twelve dogs are too many to take on at once, the chance of him being accepted as a lone male highly unlikely and so the last dog turns his attention back to the ICL and the thought of the two humans now in it and sets off again at a trot, gaining ground all the time.

Daisy wakes with a start. For a moment she can't work out what's wrong and then a sudden swerve tilts her out of the bunk and onto the floor. The ICL is moving. She pulls on a pair of crumpled jeans and a silver t-shirt from the ironing pile on the floor and tries to slide open the door only to find it won't open.
'What the? Computer program, what the hell is going on? Why is my door locked?'
The computer programme calculates whether or not it will help to ease Daisy's agitation to know what is going on and decides against it. 'Nothing to worry about, I am simply relocating the ICL to a safer position.'
'What? You can drive this thing by yourself? Why didn't you tell me yesterday... and where is Douglas?'
'Locked in the living pod as requested.'
'Will you let me out this instant!' Daisy slaps the door panel with the palm of her hand in frustration.
'Nearly there, not to worry!'
'Nearly where?'
But the computer programme doesn't answer and Daisy can do nothing except wait for the door to be opened.

Douglas rolls heavily off the sofa as the ICL swerves and he wakes with a thud. For a moment he can't work out where he is and then he recalls the night before. He scrambles to his feet and steadies himself as the ICL winds it way through bomb craters and burnt out vehicles on the motorway. He tries the door to the rest of the ICL but it is firmly shut and won't budge. The exit door is both locked and on a timer seal. There are no windows, he is trapped. Where the hell is Daisy taking him too? For a moment his mind is jumbled and confused. His trike, his belongings, probably now left behind and where are they going, not to London? She wouldn't be foolish enough to be heading to London would she?
The motorway has been obliterated by heavy bombing and what was once a flyover now blocks the way forward, the ICL can travel no further on this route to London without finding another road. The computer programme stops the engine and examines all the options available. Its computations are interrupted by Daisy, with a worrying message.
'If you don't let me out of here right now I am going to completely lose it and explode and then you'll be sorry!'
Certainly there are high levels of stress in her voice and her blood pressure is rising rapidly, the computer programme will not only be sorry if she lets Daisy explode but breaking her basic instructions to safeguard Daisy's emotional well-being. There is a soft click and then a hiss as the door to the bunkpod slides open and Daisy practically falls through into the corridor in her rush to get to the cockpit.
'What the hell have you been up to? Where are we?'
'You are yelling. Please lower your voice.'
'Of course I'm bloody yelling! What'd you think I'd be doing? YOU LOCKED ME IN MY BEDROOM and have taken control of the ICL!'
'Please lower your voice, Douglas will hear you talking to me. And technically, I have always been in control of the ICL. You are the lab rat, not me.'
'Where are we.'
'Because I am programmed to get the data back to the team at SpaceLife Science. I calculated Douglas would try and either convince you or use force to go to NewCumbria instead of London. For me the experiment is not over until the data is retrieved by the team at which point you and Douglas will be free to do what you will. You may even keep the ICL if they no longer need it.'
Daisy rubs her temples with her fingertips feeling a headache starting already.
'So, you can drive the capsule, do you know where the Life Science Headquarters are too?'
'No, it is not on the auto satnav, I need you to navigate for me. Plus we have run into a problem with the road.'
'What problem?'
The computer programme puts the forward view onto the monitor and Daisy surveys the scene in front of her. The road is completely blocked by a section of fallen flyover, a twisted artery of metal and concrete strangling an HGV in its grasp.
'Well, what do you expect me to do about that?' She snaps in exasperation. 'Well have to try and find another route, where are we?'
Daisy calls up the satnav map and types in the address for the SpaceLife Science headquarters, two alternative routes are flagged up. 'There you go, choose one I guess.'
'Where are you going?'
'To have a shower and eat some breakfast, if that's OK with you.'
'You might have to rethink those options.'
'What? What are you talking about now?' Hunger is dulling Daisy's anger into irritation.
''This capsule was only ever designed to provide resources for one person for five years and, let's face it, you have not been very frugal have you? Now there are two of you and the food and water levels are already at critical levels.'
As Daisy tries to digest this new bit of information the computer programme chooses a route and selects reverse gear and the capsule slowly backs up the road, weaving in and out of the bomb craters and burnt out cars.
'How long before it all runs out?'
'Oh, about another day or two. Without Douglas, a week maybe... but I am confident we will reach the SpaceLife Science Headquarters before that time and then you will be free to leave, again.'
'Leave and do what? Have you seen what's happened out there... leave and do what?'
'That Daisy, will no longer be my problem. Perhaps Douglas can answer your question for you.'

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Last Dog Standing ~ Episode Seven

Episode Seven
Dog tired...

Daisy slides the door to the kitchen pod tightly shut and whispers, 'Computer programme, can you hear me?'
'Yes. Why are you whispering?'
'I don't want Douglas to hear.'
'Douglas... I have been wondering why you haven't given me a name, after all this time.'
'Never mind that now! Look, I don't want him to know about you yet. I don't know whether I can trust him and at some point I am going to have to sleep. You can keep watch without him knowing.'
'Deception is never a good idea. Honesty is always the best policy for a peaceful mental state and Douglas seems quite pleasant.'
'He might try and kill me and steal the ICL. Who knows, maybe even reprogramme you.' Daisy's psychology works. The programme is designed not only to protect her from harm but also protect itself and the valuable experimental data stored in its memory over the last five years.
'Although to err on the side of caution might be wise. You are going to burn that toast if you are not careful.'
'Mmm? Oh, thanks.' Daisy had forgotten about the toast, deep in thought about what to do next. 'Can we seal off a part of the ICL overnight?'
'Yes, I can lock down the living area off from the kitchenpod, bathroompod, bunk and cockpit.'
'Good. It's a plan then. We'll do that, and make sure you don't talk to me when he can hear as well.' Daisy scrapes some of the burnt edges off the toast and squeezes a dollop of hydrated jam powder onto it.
'What if there is an emergency?'
'An alarm will do to alert me.'
'Daisy, Douglas, I would like a name.'
But Daisy has already left the kitchenpod with the toast and doesn't reply.
Douglas takes the toast and slowly eats it, savouring every mouthful as though it's his last. Daisy watches, suddenly painfully aware of the precariousness of her existence in the ICL for the last five years, not so much trapped as cocooned in safety while the world she knew fell away.
'Douglas catches her staring at him eating and grins. 'Bread is almost of unheard of now, I really appreciate your generosity in sharing this with me... and I want to apologise for my behaviour..'
Daisy simply nods and then catches sight of her still sodden onsie on the floor. She picks it up and sighs. 'I'll let you finish your toast, I'll just wring this out in the loopod..'
'You have a proper toilet?'
'With water?'
'No, not really, more of a... compacting thing really.' A thought occurs to Daisy and she dashes into the bathroom pod. The smell is unbearable as the toilet is still uncompacted from the morning. She dumps the onsie in the shower and then, holding her breath as best she can, cranks the toilet handle for the required twenty times and presses the flush. As the measured dose of recycled water blasts away the waste into the biodigesting system a fresh mist of 'Ocean Laughter' puffs through the air duct. Daisy stares at the sodden onsie in the floor pan of the shower unit, its dirty pink fur matted and ruined. Then, with trepidation, takes a look at herself in the mirror above the small sink unit. A puffy faced, unkempt version of herself stares back at her, grey vest and sweatpants completing the look. The computer programme had been right, had she really been going to go out and the meet the world dressed like that? The five years had taken a bigger toll on her than Daisy had realised. Perhaps not only the world had fallen apart in that time.

A wave of tiredness suddenly sweeps over Daisy. It had been a day of extremes, of too much to take in, of utter chaos and madness. Every sinew and bone aches after all the sudden physical exertion and her mind is whirling with everything she has witnessed and heard. But above all, she is tired, dog tired and needs to sleep. To shut it all out and simply sleep. Daisy heads back into the living area and indicates to the bathroom pod.
'I'm really tired, I have to sleep, it's been quite a day. The toilet is in there and you can sleep in here.' She indicates to the the moulded sofa he's sitting on. 'We'll sort out your trike tomorrow, in daylight.'
Douglas watches her go and glances around him but there is little to hold his interest in the bland d├ęcor of the living area and the thought of a real bathroom propels him through to the 'loopod'. He tries a tap and a high pressure burst of hot water hits his hands and he smiles to himself. For the first time in along time, things seem to be going his way. He decides a good night's sleep in the safety of the ICL is too good an opportunity to miss and settles down on the sofa, soon fast asleep.

The computer programme waits till both Daisy and Douglas are asleep and then locks the doors to their respective compartments. It had been calculating how likely it is a different course of action would be taken by Daisy from the one likely to be preferred by SpaceLife Science now the external conditions of the experiment had changed so drastically. Undoubtedly the experimental data gathered over the last five years needs to be downloaded to the Team and since it could not be done at the ICL site, then the ICL would have to go to the SpaceLife Science Team, wherever they are based now. Daisy had suggested London as their likely location and so it would be pertinent to move the ICL to the city before they both wake up and Douglas attempts to take it, by force or otherwise, to NewCumbria. The computer programme sets the auto satnav to London and starts the engine gently rolling at a low speed, keeping a circuit open for obstacles and road damage. By its calculations, the ICL should reach the city long before either Daisy or Douglas woke up.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Last Dog Standing ~ Episode Six

And that's it...

Daisy stares introspectively into the bottom of her empty mug, tea long since drunk. Her hair falls in an unkempt fringe, blocking out the view of the bloke sitting opposite her in the galley dining hub still quietly sipping from his mug, savouring the sweet tea as though it is his last. His story is fantastical, farcical almost but ultimately horrific. It had taken, in the end, only the press of a button and piece of computer code to roll the centuries back on civilisation. From 21st century modernity to monsters in the space of a minute. A virus, released a year earlier had travelled undetected across the internet, hidden in an online financial transaction. it soon infected every bank, every cash-point, every smart phone, every smartcard, every virtual transaction until, three days after Daisy was sealed into the pod, someone, somewhere pressed send and deleted all the money. All the virtual money in the world gone within seconds. And civilisation ground to a halt. The money was gone and before the systems could reboot, all the records of every transaction were deleted too and in a horrific game of leapfrog, the virus kept jumping into other systems, world health, medical trials, crop data, border controls, voting systems, automated factories, cash tills, shipping routes, air traffic control...
Douglas had paused at this point in his story and explained how he had worked in a call centre, selling insurance and had taken a sabbatical as his doctor had said the stress was killing him, his weight was out of control, his drinking too. He had travelled to Greece to cycle around a few islands for a month as a start to a new lifestyle regime when 'Downfall Day' happened. It's amazing how the end of civilisation can make a difference to a diet. Nearly five years it had taken him to cycle back, through a war ravaged Europe, through famine and fire, through desperation and disease, poverty, plague, hatred. Here and there he had found pockets of sanity, communities clinging on together, who took him in and kept him alive while all around the world fell apart. And it really fell apart. First the cash riots, runs on banks, supermarkets, turning quickly into looting and anarchy. Then, after a year, the Third World War broke out. It didn't last long, unpaid, hungry armies are not great fighters and no one won as as global famine set in. The bloke sighs and continues, '… and that's it really. I managed to get through the tunnel without being eaten and arrived back in England a few weeks ago. I've been trying to find a way past London...'.
'Past London?'
'It's not good there. It's never good in the big cities now. The M25 is pretty much blockaded with trucks on the south east side and the tunnels and bridges have been blown up. I'm trying to get past and head up north, I've heard rumours of a place, a community building a new independent country..'
'A new country, in the UK?'
'Yes, like Scotland but not in Scotland.'
'No, no... they're calling it New Cumbria.'
'New Cumbria?' Daisy can't help the sarcasm in her voice at the thought of a post apocalyptic government glamping in the Lakes. 'Are you telling me the UK is going to rebuild itself from the Lake District, of all places. Surely there would be a government bunker somewhere, a high security power base, in London or just outside. This is just crazy. Do you even have a name?' Daisy can feel hysterical laughter beginning to claw at her throat. New Cumbria, it isn't even funny.
'Douglas. You?'
'It's just a rumour, a whisper. But at least there I won't be near the cities. There's a strong chance there are communities surviving there, in the mountains.' Douglas has the strong suspicion that Daisy is laughing at him. 'What is this anyhow? A caravan?'
Daisy laughs out loud. 'Yes, it is, I won it in a competition five years's a long story though. You hungry?'
' Toast OK?'
'Yes... thank you... toast would be lovely.'

Daisy heads off to the kitchen pod to make the toast as Douglas, visibly moved at the kindness of her offer to share her food and not just any food but something as precious and rare these days as bread, wipes away the tears welling up in his eyes and runs a finger around the inside of his mug, to make sure he catches the last dregs of the sweet, sweet tea.