19 Jun 2014

Reading & Seeing 18

X-MEN: Days of Future Past
I've been SUPER excited about this ever since they released the trailers (last year?) and thankfully, it lived up to all of my expectations. Double doses of Prof X and Magneto in the form of the most awesome quartet since the old 80s/90s cartoon of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - check. Healthy bit of time travel/messed up future where the earth is doomed and controlled by machines - check. A mix of the old characters and tonnes of new (to the film franchise) ones - check. 70s costumes - check. It was basically everything I could've wanted from an X-MEN film. The cast is fan-f-ing-tastic (Macavoy, Fassbender, Mckellen, Stewart, Dinklage, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page - I could go on), the action is ace - everyone's talking about Quicksilver's scene and rightly-so (prob the best bit in the entire film) and I barely even noticed that the film was a whopping 131 mins long! Although Wolverine is at the centre of the film he, rather refreshingly, is not the focus - Macavoy, Fassbender and Lawerence are the lynch pins and it's bloody entertaining. Also, it reminded me of an episode of the X-Men cartoons where they have to go back in time to prevent machines destroying the world - I wonder if that's what it's based on... I think if you haven't watched any of the other X-MEN films you probably won't get much out of this but to everyone else: go see go see - definitely worth watching on the big screen too.

Everyday Sexism (2014)
I read this as it was the chosen book for this month's Blook Club. I'm so glad they suggested it as I doubt I'd have read it of my own accord and I tell you, that would have been a mistake. In case you're unaware, the book was born out of the project of the same name to document people's (mainly women's) experiences of sexism, harassment and assault as a means to highlight how bad the sexism problem is even in today's, supposedly more equal, society. The book was written and complied by journalist and project founder, Laura Bates. I cannot recommend this book enough. Yes, many of the experiences mentioned in the book are absolutely horrific but it's important that these stories are brought to light. We should all be aware that these things are happening to women on the street in broad daylight, in night clubs, at school, in the work place, literally everywhere. I started reading the book with the mindset that "sexism can't really be that bad in this day and age" but I was so very wrong. It is. It really really is. After reading the first 20 pages or so, I started to realise that I too had been on the receiving end of sexism within the last week. One of Bates' arguments is that certain comments and situations have become so normal (being heckled at by builders, pervy men saying inappropriate things on public transport) that I'd (we'd) just brushed over the fact that those situations are not OK and not something to ignore. It really has changed the way I think about how differently men and women are treated, particularly by the media. As well as stories of harassment, there's also some great examples of women fighting back - there are some excellent one liners which I will use the next time I'm heckled. I could literally talk about how important this book is forever but I won't. What I will say is this: I've recommended it to all my friends, so I will do the same on here.

The Martian (2014)
The self-published book that was bought up by a publisher and re-released which then was bought by a movie studio who are now making a film of it. This had a lot to live up to and, after a pretty shaky start - I nearly gave up at 11% - it was a pretty enjoyable read. Nothing beautifully written or wonderfully descriptive, I didn't get any real sense of what the Martian landscape was like or how our protagonist, abandoned astronaut, Mark Watney, really felt about anything. It read more like a movie script with much of the narrative taken from Watney's log. There was a lot of 'science speak' - making oxygen, growing plants, removing carbon dioxide - which was lost on me and much of what happens to Watney probably isn't plausible but hey, why ask to many questions when all you want it a bit escapism from the daily commute? Unsurprisingly, this was a v.quick read and though I did ultimately enjoy it, I have a feeling this might be an instance where the film is better than the book...we shall see.

Slaughterhouse Five (1969)
I reached the grand old age of 27 before finally reading this classic by Kurt Vonnegut and I'm not sure why I waited so long! The narrative follows the disjointed life of Billy Pilgrim who time hops, quite randomly, through-out his existence. One minute he might be experiencing his time as an American prisoner of war in Germany 1945, the next, accepting the role of president for the optometrists association in the 1960s and the next in bed with his new bride on his honeymoon. As well as his time travelling capabilities, Billy is also abducted by aliens (the Tralfamadorians) and placed in their 'zoo' to be observed. Despite these fantastical aspects, it's the parts of Billy's life that take place during WWII which are the most haunting, particularly the fates of the American PoWs and the civilians of Dresden. The nonlinear plot, means that you sometimes need a couple of lines of the next time hop to find your bearings. It also gives a sense of what it must feel like for Billy being shunted around and dropped at assorted points on his timeline. Although it has time travel and aliens throughout it didn't feel overtly SF, war and it's affects seemed to play a bigger role. It's one of those books which I would've loved to have studied at school. It's also full of that famous (most tattooed?) quote: so it goes, which almost collects every, seemingly isolated, incident together. Something I'd recommend for sure.

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