Life in the Real Desert: Close to Death

Buzzard in desert,
It is safe to say that my day got off to a bad start. The old prospector next door, with his eight noisy mongrels, woke me up when two of the animals began barking at just before 6 a.m. Despite best attempts to head back to the Land of Nod (I was tired as sleep in the night was interrupted by an idiot who was trying to start an engine with no muffler, aka exhaust pipe, attached to it from 23:30 to 00:30, that is half 11 pm to half gone midnight for those who have difficulty with the 24 hour clock) I was unsuccessful, it was too light and I was too annoyed. On top of that it was blooming hot and once awake, both at night and in the morning, sleep was, in the former instance a long time coming and in the latter, not approachable at all.

To exacerbate the poor start to my day, literally yards from my desert dwelling, an elderly neighbour came within a cat’s whisker of knocking me and my bike right off the road. Completely oblivious, at least I hope he was and that this was not a deliberate attempt to help me meet my maker, the sod never slowed down, although to be fair he was not travelling that fast, nor did he acknowledge my shouts of fury and my, very, rude gestures. As my adrenaline surged, I found myself making obscene remarks about his lineage and accusing him of self masturbation, in other words of being a wanker. Had I thought of it, I would have grabbed a rock and sincerely tried to hit the windscreen on the back of his Chevy pickup truck.

I am, it is safe to say, still furious. I still have the huge bump and bruising on my right leg from the other unconscious prat who knocked me off the car park surface, aka parking lot, at Love’s Truck Stop. *A place I have avoided like the plague since that little incident in March.* After my close brush with yet another attempt on my life, I was paranoid about every vehicle that passed me.

I realize that many of my fellow desert dwellers are, as stated in the title, close to death. Failing skill sets, a lack of cohesive attention to tasks at hand, failing health and, in some cases, just a bad attitude full stop, do not make these folks the best of neighbours.

Needless to say, blogging while angry is not a good idea, but, like the Incredible Hulk, sans the green and the increased size, my rage has been running on high since this idiot almost hit me with his bloody truck. All the way to the public library, titles for my first blog post scampered across my imaginary laptop screen, the one in my head, each more annoyed and insulting than the last.

Title’s like, “Rednecks Never Die, They Just Move to Quartzsite,” was the least offensive of the lot. The thing that calmed me down was the continual attempt to rework the old mot, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed Jack is king.” This last internal dialogue, where I kept trying to substitute several annoyed phrases in place of blind, finally allowed the worst of my vitriol to dissipate.

Not completely though.

Just enough to stop the “Hulk smash” urge.

The problem is not just living amongst folks who are closer to death than I am, at least in terms of age. With an existing hole, apparently still in my aortic arch and damage to veins and arteries, as well as in one kidney, I may pop off more quickly than they will. With the exception of a dear new neighbour who has only a short time to live, and this lovely chap will be sorely missed by all who know him, the rest of the population in the neighborhood are a mixed bag who may all outlive me, especially if they persist in trying to kill me with their effing motor vehicles and that is where the problem lies.

These inept drivers may be quite nice away from their cars, trucks, vans and ATVs, although others seem to have the type of bad attitude that brings out the worst in me. If I can keep from becoming road statistic, I will remain tickled to death to have survived my further close brushes with the grim reaper.

Hopefully writing this rant out on a hot and dry day in the desert will help my anger and annoyance to abate further. If not my next update may come from behind bars and not, I hasten to add, the kind that serve drinks.

1 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

The Flash vs Arrow Equals Geek vs Testosterone (Review)

The Flash vs Arrow Equals Geek vs Testosterone (Review)

Two heroes who fight crime equals at least a couple of different ways to approach problems and in the first episode of the CW two-night crossover The Flash vs Arrow the whole plot of Tuesday’s show boils down to a case of geek vs testosterone. The first part of the program pointed out the weaknesses and strengths of both comic book heroes. The plot line, apart from amusingly showing just how differently the two good guy’s work soon becomes a real hero versus hero after Barry Allen, aka The Flash, gets “whammied” by the villain’s red glowing “angry eyes” which infects victims with a killing rage.

28 Weeks Later (2008): Rage Squared

 

28 Days Later

I won’t lie. The main draw for me in this film was Robert Carlyle. I first saw him perform in Cracker he played a mentally unbalanced chap named Albie. He was completely believable in the roll.  I then saw him in the excellent Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle, playing the scary Begbie. I became a life long fan as a result of his performances in those two films. So when I saw that he was going to be in 28 Weeks Later, I knew I had to see the film. He was the only reason, because Danny Boyle would not be in the driver seat for this iteration of the Rage saga.

Unfortunately the  small cozy feel  that  28 Days had is gone. It has been replaced with literally  hordes of people. I personally think the film  suffers because of this. It’s scope is wider and encompasses a broader area. These elements along with having a different director, changes the pacing,  feel and  direction of the film.

Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo 28 Weeks Later starts with a couple, Don played by Robert Carlyle and Alice played by Catherine McCormack who are in a fortified farmhouse with four other people.  They are all essentially  trapped  and it appears that the Rage outbreak is alive and well and spreading across the country.

A horde of  infected  break into the house and start attacking everyone.  Don runs to the end of the hallway and climbs out a window.  He jumps down to the ground and looks up to see Alice looking out of the window and screaming for Don to help her. Don is in complete  flight mode, panicked and desperate, he runs to the river outside the farmhouse. Hot on his heels are hordes of infected and their number increases as Don gets near the river. At the river he gets in a motor boat and barely escapes the area.

28 weeks later, all the infected have starved to death. An American NATO task force has been dispatched to England to begin cleaning up the mess and repatriating people who were outside the country when the Rage epidemic swept the country. Alice and Don’s two children, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) are among the first groups to be allowed back into the country. During a medical examination  Major Scarlet Ross (Rose Byrne) notices that Andy has different  one blue eye and one brown eye. Tammy and Andy explain that their mother also had different coloured eyes.
 Tammy and Andy  are reunited with their dad, Don. He lies and tells the children that he saw their  mother die.  Don also explains to the children that he is the head maintenance man for the safe zone and that he can access any area in the building.
Tammy and Andy  decide to sneak out and go to their old house to get some pictures of their Mother. They are seen by a sniper, Sergeant  Doyle (Jeremy Renner) who reports that the children have left the  area.   Once  the two children  get home  they find more than a picture,  they find Mum . Miraculously still alive she has somehow made her way back . Just as Mum and the kids find each other, the Army arrives and takes them all  back to the safe area. All three are placed in quarantine and Mum is separated from the children and has tests done to see if she is infected.
Both Tammy and Andy are furious with Dan and want to know what really happened. Dan is in a state of shock and says that the children have no idea what it like during the outbreak. He then goes to see Alice using his all area pass. Meanwhile Scarlett has discovered that Alice is carrying the virus but is not showing any of the symptoms.
Don enters Alice’s quarantine area and begs her to forgive him for  running away.  Alice  does and they share a kiss. As the saliva comes in contact with his lips, Don is instantly infected. The virus screams through his system and he kills Alice with his bare hands. Don then single handedly sets about infecting the safe zone.
At this point in the film we  sense that, like a house of cards, the safe zone is going to fall apart.  The virus shoots through the facility with the speed and violence of a tornado. Scarlett grabs Tammy and Andy and they make a run for it. Along the way they pick up Sgt Doyle and the small group try to get out of the now infected safe zone.
Throughout the rest of the film Don unrelentingly goes after Andy. I don’t know if this is because he shares his mothers  eye colours  or some other reason. It is never explained in the film. What is apparent however, it that just about every occupant of the safe zone is now infected. Before Doyle gets taken out of the picture by a flame thrower, another sniper  arranges  for a helicopter to collect the small group of survivors.
The film is very well paced, but I felt that Robert Carlyle was the most interesting thing in the film. That is not to say the film isn’t good, it just isn’t as great as the first one.  Losing Danny Boyle meant losing that sharp focus and intense feeling that 28 Days later had in spades.
Still if you are a Carlyle fan, it is worth the time spent watching the film just to see his performance.

28 Days Later…(2002) Don’t Get Mad

I will admit to becoming an instant fan-boy of director Danny Boyle after just one viewing of Shallow Grave (1994) and became a devout follower after watching (three times) Trainspotting (1996). So when I saw a trailer for 28 Days Later…  I could not wait to see the film. I knew Boyle would do a brilliant job in the Horror genre. The baby scene in Trainspotting so freaked me out that even after watching it three times, I had to cover my eyes half-way through. Unfortunately, I had to wait.

I had to because I worked nights, delivering newspapers. Six nights a week. So on my only day off, rather than see films at the cinema, I slept. All day. So  I had to wait for the video/DVD to come out and rent it. Even on the ‘small’ screen the film delivered. So much so that I bought the special edition DVD the minute it came on the market.

Boyle has taken the Zombie genre and shifted it slightly to the left. Because the zombies in 28 days Later…are not. They are mindless, they are going to eat you if they catch you, but, they are not dead.

28 Days later opens with multiple scenes of crowd violence and rioting in numerous countries. The camera moves back from the violence and we see a wall full of monitors all showing different forms of crowd violence. Strapped to a table in front of the monitors is a chimpanzee. The chimp has electrodes attached to it’s head. Three Animal Rights Activists break into the  animal testing centre where chimpanzees are  undergoing, what appears to be horrific tests.  The activists  are there to record for posterity the abuse the animals are receiving and to let the poor things go free. A lab technician tries to stop the activists explaining that they are all infected and highly contagious. The technician explains that all the chimps have been injected with an inhibitor called Rage. He also explains that it can be spread through saliva and blood.  The activist’s ignore his warning, and threaten him. The first poor creature they let loose  immediately attacks them. The activists are infected instantly.

28 days later bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed. He gets up and finds the hospital deserted. Leaving the hospital, he finds all of London is deserted.

So begins the film. 28 Days Later boasts a small cast. For a lot of the film we follow Jim, Selena (Naomie Harris), Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Megan (Megan Burns) as they flee London and head for an Army safe haven they have heard about on the radio. Constantly on the look out for infected people and ready to run at a moments notice. It seems that Rage was very contagious, with most of the population either suffering from it or getting killed from the infected.  While the four are travelling cross country we bond with them just as they bond with each other. When they reach what looks like their destination, it appears deserted. The Army vehicles are empty, the outposts are deserted and civilian vehicles litter the motorway. Frank makes everyone stay put and he starts searching for people who are not infected.

He walks up to a pylon where a crow is pecking at a dead soldier. A drop of blood falls from the infected body and hits Frank in the eye. The change is immediate. He has gotten the Rage virus. As he moves to attack the remaining three people in his party, an shot rings out. The cavalry arrives in the form of a small rag-tag group of soldiers. They are lead by Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston) who after dispatching Frank gives the survivors a lift to where the rest of the soldiers are bivouacked.

The small group of Army men are using a deserted mansion that the soldiers have fortified against the infected.  When the small group arrive at the mansion the Major takes them on a tour of the house. They all begin to feel uneasy when, as part of the tour, the Major shows them one of his men who has been infected. They have chained him up behind the house for “observation.”  This “observation” seems to be the soldiers taunting their infected mate and beating him when he comes near. The uneasiness that the three feel is for a good reason. Unfortunately The soldiers have not saved all three of the group at all.  It is revealed that the only way the Major West could get the soldiers to stay was to promise them women. Jim is taken out to be executed and Selena and Hannah, who is only about thirteen, are taken upstairs to get ‘presentable’ as a prelude to gang rape.

Jim escapes his executioners and makes his way back to the mansion. Once there he lets the infected soldier loose. While the infected is rushing through the mansion to kill his former colleagues, Jim goes to rescue the two girls.

This film was an adrenaline pumping, heart stopping film. The music in the film helped to set the mood. Especially the use of In the House, In the Heart which has been used at least twice more in other films. The music makes us the audience feel sad, lost and, as I’ve said in another blog, slightly melancholy. The film was very low budget, but it doesn’t feel like a low budget feature. The actors all give brilliant performances and really help to sell the story.

If you were to make a list of Films that just have to be seen, 28 Days later …would be at the top of the list.