Friday, 15 November 2013

Reading & Seeing 12


A lot of hoo-ha has been made about this film and for good reason. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are part of a space crew whose mission is severely compromised thanks to an influx of debris (mostly bits of broken up satellites). And so ensues an extremely tense hour and a half of willing the survivors to make it back to earth. Yes, some of it does seem a little far-fetched at points (the Wall-E moment in particular, yet part of me actually loved this too) but for the most part you'll be so captivated by the escalating action (not to mention the truly beautiful cinematography) that it's hard to dwell on those niggly points. I've seen a lot of films that are set in space (I do love my SF as you know) but this one was different. Devastating debris attacks aside, it all felt much more real - from the (very) cluttered and claustrophobic ISS to the terrifying absolute silence of space. The zero gravity scenes were fantastic and the entire way through the space scenes I found myself gripping hold of the chair or mitch's hand (subconsciously hanging onto something grounded? possibly). At 90 mins it's a perfect length, no amount of the screen time is wasted with filler scenes, literally every minute counts. This is a film that needs to be seen on the big screen - it must be incredible at the IMAX. I repeat: do not wait for the DVD. Also on the plus side, the 3D in this film actually works.

Arcade Fire @ the Roundhouse

Despite the fact that I've been an Arcade Fire fan since the days of Funeral, that's a good 9 years ago (an after school wander into hmv to buy it on it's release date), I'd never seen them live before Monday. And, what with their growing success, I'd resigned to the fact that unless I wanted to go and watch them in a soulless and cavernous venue like the o2 arena (which I certainly did not) I'd probably missed the boat. So, when I heard (the night before the tickets went on sale) that there were two dates at the Roundhouse to see them - under the fake name "The Reflektors" - you can bet I was there at 9am refreshing my browser window, with my debit card ready to purchase the maximum of two tickets. As an added bonus to actually securing the tickets, my impatient self didn't have to wait more than a week and half before the gig! And the gig itself? It was AMAZING. Mitch and I arrived early and joined the small queue that had started to form, the shitty weather clearly kept most people in the neighbouring pubs until the last minute). Once inside we collected our tickets to the musical talents of the Mariachi band from the doritos advert - it was then that I knew that this wasn't going to be like any other gig I'd been to. Next, we were given masquerade-type masks followed by the offer of having our faces painted, which I  did, obv. before being ushered into the main area along with about 200 other people to be part of a flash mob! A lady taught us a simple dance routine to one of the band's new songs which we could then perform during the gig (which we did, obvs). At 8:45, out they came and it was awesome. I'd listened to their new album a few times and liked a couple of the tracks but hearing them live was a completely different matter. It sounds corney but they completely blew me away. They all have so much energy – you can't help but dance around and sing along, I couldn't take my eyes of them! It was very new album heavy, which, at a couple of points I thought was a bit of a shame as I'd loved to have heard some more of their old stuff (disappointingly nothing was played from Neon Bible) - but this feeling only lasted all of 10 secs because their performance was so mesmerising. We did get three songs from Funeral (Power Out was probably my highlight) and Sprawl II from The Suburbs (my favourite from that album). For those of you who aren't quite convinced about the new album all I can say is: you should see it live. It was probably one of the best live gigs I ever seen. Never before have I left a show on such an insane high. 

Hothouse (1962)

Science fiction in it's purest form. Earth is unrecognisable thanks to the fact that it's stopped spinning on its axis. The side of the planet which faces the sun is over-run with vegetation: flesh-eating plants, trees and gigantic insects thrive whilst puny humans struggle to survive. Our race has regressed to a more primitive and green skinned state - intelligence, the ability to communicate and reproduce and our actual size have all been dramatically reduced. The story follows a small tribe of humans, and the creatures they encounter, on a journey through a completely unfamiliar future-earth. The creatures are rather disturbing, the landscapes bizarre and the situations quite frightening - the best thing about this book was that it really captivated my imagination. There's probably not much actual science behind the events leading up to the explosion of frondescence but Brian Aldiss' descriptions of the planet and it's omnivorous forests are so vivd that all disbelief is suspended. I didn't for one second wonder whether any of it was plausible, let alone probable, because you're cast off into this crazy world with nothing but the conviction of Aldiss' writing. And it is convincing. I've not read any SF quite as raw as this but I really enjoyed it.

Mockingjay (2010)

The third and final instalment of The Hunger Games trilogy. After basically inhaling the last book, this one took me quite a while to finish - partly because I opted to spend my commute knitting a scarf but also because it's just not as good. There's no actual Hunger Games for a start which, although due to the progression of the plot means that that would be impossible, means that the book lacks the satisfying structure of the previous books. Mockingjay is all a bit chaotic - rebels this, rebels that - and even Katniss is pretty irritating throughout. You're still rooting for her most of the time but you'd like to give her a slap round the face all the same. Suzanne Collins hasn't short-changed you on horrific deaths and main character slaughterings but the ending is a bit of a non-event. The saving grace of the deflated conclusion was probably that our heroine, in my opinion, totally ends up with the right bloke (even if it half-arsed thanks to his character essentially being downgraded into something v.two dimensional in this third book). Saying that though, I'm glad I read them and of course I'll watch the films (only a week until Catching Fire at the IMAX - I can barely contain my excitement). Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh as the endings of the first and second books were amazing - two out of three isn't bad.

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