Month: May 2014

Meet the new me


Not, as it turns out, all that much different from the old me.

Please do not attempt to adjust your TV set (does anybody ever try that any more?), I have simply given my blog a long overdue facelift.

You see, the old theme was one I had been using since I graduated from university. Which doesn’t sound too long, but every now and then someone or something would remind me that that was a good three years ago. So I felt a change was in order.

It’s nothing terribly radical, and indeed the content will remain largely the same. But I wanted something fairly minimalistic, with a lighter colour scheme. The result is what you see before you. All feedback is, as ever, welcome, so let me know what you think.

I’m also subsuming the Reviews category (and all subcategories) under Geek-culture, as a part of what I see as recognising the two heads which have grown up in the content which I blog. This may evolve further, but I think that generally the categories feature has been under-used, and I mean to rectify this.

My blog did very well in terms of numbers over the election campaign, and I am determined to continue that trend, with more of an equal focus on geekery and political geekery. Julian (Ware-Lane) regularly bemoans “all the sci-fi stuff” on here, but these are my interests, and I think it gives a more holistic sense of who I am. Besides, my blog, my rules.

So as a great man once said, let’s see what’s out there!

The Last Days on Mars – A Review


the last days on mars

Science-fiction and horror go together so well, don’t you think? There’s a rich heritage, from the misty past of The War of the Worlds, via Alien, up to the present day.

There is, I suspect, an intersection at the point of the unknown. We fear the unknown, and yet the great unknowns offered by SF fascinate us as much as they intimidate us. That fear, for me at least, is the one of the things that really interest me, and so I am drawn to films like The Last Days of Mars.

Read on…

X-Men: Days of Future Past – A Review


x men days of future past1

A few weeks back I watched X-Men: First Class, mostly in preparation for seeing Days of Future Past.

Though I quite enjoyed X-Men and X2, The Last Stand was pretty awful (“I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”), and X-Men Oranges: Tangerine Origins: Wolverine was probably worse. I haven’t seen The Wolverine, but since I’m not a raging Japanophile (no offence to any raging Japanophiles reading this) it probably wouldn’t have set my world alight.

Marvel’s cinematic universe has raised the bar, and whilst I wasn’t blown away by First Class it certainly had the ongoing potential to do some exciting prequel work. So bringing it all back to not only the original film cast but putting it into the future is a little on the brave side.

Read on…

Heresy of the Week – Star Trek: Nemesis isn’t as bad as you think


nemesis picard and shinzon

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

Star Trek: Nemesis, when it was released, received an unfairly harsh press. It has an undeserved reputation for having killed the franchise, but as a bookend to the story of the Next Generation crew, it is a lot better a film than it gets credit for.

Read on…

The lesser of two evils: coalition building in Southend


southend civic centre

In the jfilm Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World, there is a terrible joke in which Russell Crowe’s character challenges Paul Bettany’s to pick between two weevils on the tablecloth. Paul Bettany’s physician analytically picks the larger if the pair, provoking gales of laughter from Crowe, who tells him, “Don’t you know, doctor, in the service you must always choose the lesser of two weevils!”

A terrible joke. But somewhat illustrative of the choice facing Southend Labour following the local elections.

Read on…

Her – A Review


her

Remember when Joaquin Phoenix quit films to become a dishevelled rapper, which was later revealed to be an elaborate and deeply odd hoax for a mockmentary film? Yeah, you’d be surprised how many people still pipe up with “Didn’t he quit films to be a rapper?” at the mention of Phoenix’s name.

Which might seem a bit of an odd lead in to a film review, but it should underline that everything Phoenix does has an innate sense of the weird to it.

So he seems exactly the person to star in a science-fiction/romance about a man falling in love with an operating system, don’t you think?

Read on…

“News from Unknown Countries” by Tim Lees – A Review


news from unknown countries by tim lees

(Amazon, 240pp, £3.21)

This review (or a shorter version) was originally published in issue #251 of science-fiction magazine Interzone. You can buy back issues and subscribe to future issues at their shop.

I’m reliably informed that this is the first self-published book which Interzone has reviewed. So no pressure then — I suppose that must be the hand of God on my shoulder, rather than Jim Steel and Andy Cox. I think I’ll leave that comparison where it lies…

Tim Lees is not unknown to [Interzone‘s] pages. His short story “Unknown Cities of America” featured in issue #249 – of the others, three each appeared in Interzone and Black Static, and two in The Third Alternative. When he sent me the collection, Tim said that he saw e-publishing as the future, and viewed this as a sort of experiment. So at least I’m not the only one sailing boldly into the unknown here.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Unknown Cities of America” doesn’t itself feature in this collection, but thirteen other tales do.

Read on…

Hiatus (ish)


With the local elections done, and the future of Southend now in hands other than mine, I am taking a well-deserved (or at least I think so) break to recuperate. My foot still hurts from doing my bit to see two Labour councillors elected in Westborough.

I figure a week in York, the once (and future?) capital of England, ought to do the trick.

So although I will still be blogging this week (and you thought you’d escaped), it will be all of the reviews which have fallen by the wayside in the last few weeks in favour of the push-and-pull of the minutiae of local politics. Hersey of the week will also be making a return, you lucky reader!

If any groundbreaking political news does make it to York this week, I don’t rule out giving my opinions, but it’s far from my first priority. And when I get back to Southend, I’m planning a bit of a makeover (the blog, not me!) so that’s something to look forward to.

But for now, time to rest.

Thank you


Dear residents of West Shoebury,

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you. To thank the 2,675  of you who turned out to vote on Thursday, and in particular to thank the 355 people who voted for me. It is always humbling when anyone shows such faith in you as to make you the recipient of your vote, and so I feel especially privileged that 355 residents have done so.

 

Though I’m never sure whether it is appropriate to admit it, I have enjoyed the campaign. I have been lucky enough to be supported by a number of capable, dedicate and enthusiastic local Labour Party members, and though I did not get the opportunity to speak to as many voters as I would have liked, those I did speak to were switched on, aware and interested in what I had to say.

 

I would also like to thank my opponents, Tony Cox, James Moyies, and (though I saw nothing of him) Charlie Row. It has been a battle of radically different views for the future of West Shoebury and Southend, but I am assured that they were as committed to what they perceived were the best interests of the ward as I was. James, in particular, I wish the best of luck and wisdom as he sets out as your new councillor.

 

Although I was not successful in winning the contest, I still believe passionately in the area, and that Labour policy could help it achieve the greatness that we all know it is capable of. I will still campaign for fairness and prosperity across Southend, and look forward to the challenges that the future will bring.

 

Yours with thanks,

 

Matthew S. Dent
Labour candidate for West Shoebury, 2014

Godzilla [2014] – A Review


godzilla 2014

I am not a particular Godzilla fan, if in honest. I may be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve actually seen most of the historic films around the giant lizard. In fact, my first introduction was the Roland Emmerich film. I recall enjoying it at the time — I was 7 — but I think it’s safe to say that time has not been kind to it.

So I’m going into Gareth Edwards’ version with a fairly low baseline of expectation. Which might well help it, I suppose.

But the trailers have been engaging, with the right level of foreboding, scale and emotion. Whilst you should never judge a film by its trailer, they have showed a certain level of cinematic understanding. But forget that, why don’t we actually judge a film by the film?

Read on…