Doctor Strange, 2016 – ★★★

The fractals, bullet time, top shelf actors, and smattering of gags were fun but if Marvel are going to keep insisting on putting the entire planet in peril as their go-to denouement, they should probably focus on making us care about its inhabitants first.

I’m tempted to describe it as a well oiled machine (devoid of human parts) but there were some jarring moments of rubbery people flipping about that kept taking me out of the experience.

Speaking of which, is the degree to which ‘the Stan Lee cameo’ sticks out (like a thumb in a sundae in this instance) some sort of in-joke between Marvel directors? I don’t see why they can’t be subtle with this hallowed duty rather than resorting to jabbing an old man in your eye causing you to go “Oh yeah. This is about as real as a sock puppet’s farts.”

I will admit to enjoying Strange’s surprising method of defeating the big baddy but don’t fully understand why the massive undulating space-head didn’t just imprison the Doctor and move on. I suspect I might as well be asking why Strange MD could breath in space.

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Arrival, 2016 – ★★★★½

4.5 is generous. I’d give it 4.2 if I could, as there are some dumb moments, some bland moments, some formulaic moments, and a very small number of dodgy visual effects.

What didn’t scrape away three tenths of a star, however, was conceptually quite an elegant and interesting tale told beautifully and often carefully, shot pleasantly, scored with gravitas, and acted by all (even through bad dialog) with convincing personalities more complex that the genre usually boasts.

If it wasn’t for the (initially) mysterious and touching b-story, Arrival would probably struggle for 4 stars but it’s otherwise entirely engaging, exciting, and thoroughly worth a watch.

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Feedback (part 2)

(part 1 here)

Stood outside with his eyes locked on the upstairs bathroom window, Jon’s feet felt their way to knocking his trainers upright and shoving themselves into their loose-fitting escape from the cold concrete driveway. He knelt down. His fingers spidered across his large woollen coat until they felt the shiny lining then ran along the collar until they reached the interior left pocket where they slid out his phone. He pressed the home button. ‘Oh god I need to unlock it’ he panicked at the thought of the villain’s shadow escaping his glimpse and somehow magically sneaking up behind him. He quickly looked down and saw number pad was already up. ‘For Emergency Use Only’ it read. “Oh yeah, I can do that.” He pressed 999 and held the phone up to his ear as he reconnected his defensive stare and slid on his coat, swapping the phone between his hands as he threaded them into either sleeve.

A thought struck Jon, ‘What if I imagined it?’. He turned his focus to his back but a courteous elderly man’s voice abruptly entered his ear, “What emergency service to you require?”. “Umm”, his back throbbed, “Oh thank god.”

“Excuse me, sir? If you let me know which-”

“-uh, police, please. Thank you.”

“Transferring you now.”

The events transpiring suddenly became very real. Not in a beneficial way like his senses were taking in the situation or his mind was consciously compiling the evidence required to conclude as to what had happened. Real like the opposite. Real like he’d just called the police and a cloud of doubt had gone from looming over him to now surrounding him.

“You’re speaking to Officer Rimmer. What’s the situation – how can I help?”

“I think there’s a man in my house? I dunno, someone kicked me in my house. I’m outside. I don’t know if they’re inside.” Saying it out loud seemed to help Jon feel more confident. If he said it to a police officer, he was at least certain enough to do that so they couldn’t catch him out for pretending. He was definitely scared. And his back hurt.

“Someone attacked you? OK. Are they still there – could you describe them?”

“Um, no I woke up after. I felt them kick me and I woke up. I hit my head.”

“Do you want an ambulance – are you ok?” The officer, although helpful, was speaking in such a level monotone that it heightened Jon’s paranoia and self-doubt. Did the officer think he was taking the piss?

“No, I think I’m ok. My head and my back hurt. My hand hurts a bit from landing on my guitar. I don’t think I’m cut or whatever. I think I just blacked out for a split second.”

“The person who attacked you – they ran away to somewhere in your house?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t hear them.”

“Sorry I don’t understand. They got in, kicked you, and disappeared?”

“No, no. I don’t know. It felt like I was out for a split second. Like, I woke up but I think I felt my hand land like I’d just felt.”

“Can you describe the shoe?”

“The what? I didn’t see it.”

“No, sir. I mean, did you feel what hit you? Was it a large boot; could you guess their height from where they managed to kick you?”

“It was sort of in the middle of my back, between my shoulder blades.”

“Were you sat down?”

“No, I was standing up, using a pedal. An effects pedal for the guitar.”

“Could it have been a punch sir?”

“Uh, I don’t think so. It sent me right against a wall a few feet away. I’m not super heavy but I don’t think I could be punched like that.”

A thought struck Jon and the cloud of despair solidified into a force that slapped him into an awareness of the possibility that he’d rather not have noticed.

“Sir, you were playing an electric guitar did you say?”

Fuck. Even the policeman had figured it out.

You can’t hang up on a police officer.

Play along? Play it stupid? Fuck.

Maybe honesty? Jesus.

“Uh yeah, in my living room with an amp. That’s how I landed on the guitar.”

“Do you know if the sockets you were using were surge protected?”

“Ah fuck. I think so.” ‘Honestly stupid’ it is.

“Right. Because it sounds like you might have electrocuted yourself.”

“Ah. That does make sense.”

“I can send you an ambulance sir if you’d like to be checked over?”

“No. I think I’m ok. Just a bruised ego.”

“No worries sir. If you change your mind or think there’s evidence you might have actually been-”

“-no I think I’m OK but thank you. I’m sorry, I think I was just shocked.”

“It’s understandable sir. You sound like you’ve been, well, shocked. You sound like you’re OK now but feel free to call again if you feel unsafe.”

“Thank you”.

“You’re welcome sir.” The phone hung up.

Jon sighed an exhausted back-aching sigh as he looked down at his trainers. He’d shoved them on too fast and squashed the backs down beneath his heels. He stood back out of them and picked them up. He unlocked his door, went inside and looked at his guitar and amp. “Fucking surge protectors then. I’m not doing that again. I could be fucking dead.”

“Almost”, came a voice from the landing.

Jon was struck with terror and his body felt like it had caught on fire with the impending sense that his bladder was about to explode. He ran for the door, fishing out the bundle of keys he had just used to lock it. Jon shook in desperation as he rattled through the silver and copper metal shapes that all suddenly looked and felt indistinguishable, fighting the urge to turn to see the figure he could hear walking down the stairs behind him. Jon slid a winning key into the lock and grabbed the door handle but two large hands in woollen gloves grab his head and slammed it against the framed bubbled windows of his front door, causing the glass to crack which pinched the skin on his forehead. Jon’s vision tunnelled and went dim as he slid to the floor. He landed on his knees, curled up, and covered his head but no further strikes landed on him.

He looked through a crack between his hands and saw a tall rotund man in a brown bomber jacket and ripped denim jeans picking up his guitar. “Would you like to hear a solo, Jon?”

Jon felt behind himself for the keys but they were gone. He turned back to the man and saw his red embossed metal Fender logo keyring hanging out from one of the wool-edged bomber jacket pockets.

Jon considered the open areas of the house that surrounded himself and the man. The kitchen was probably reachable but the windows above the sink were tiny. His bedroom window upstairs was big but it didn’t have a lock. The bathroom! Plus, Jesus, this piss! There’s the window overlooking the front dormer window of the living room and it’s got a lock.

Jon took a deep breath then realised there wasn’t a method to this and sprung to his feet, ran upstairs two steps per stride at a speed he didn’t know was possible, swung around the bannister at the top of the stairs and catapulted himself into the bathroom. He was running so fast that he couldn’t stop himself hitting his shins on the bath but spun around fast enough to slam and lock the door before the man could grab the handle.

Jon’s thoughts went again to the piss before the man started shouldering the door. The noise was incredibly loud and low; it didn’t sound like it would break easily but it wouldn’t be long before that kind of force would take the hinges off or rip the lock out of the frame.

“Fuuuuuuuck!”, Jon screamed at the door in fear and anger, “Fuck Off!”, Jon kicked the door, “Fuck oooooff!”, his voice broke and tears streamed down his face has he kicked the bath behind him. He could hear the amplifier downstairs screaming back up at him.

Panic and the need to escape took over. Jon turned to the window. It was already open. He climbed into the bath, leant his torso over the window ledge, and looked down at the roof of the dormer window. “There’s no other way. Height or not.” Jon heard the door crack as he grabbed the window frame and propelled himself through the window.

His foot caught on the window catch causing his body to roll before the latch tore through his skin and released his weight.

Jon landed on the felt of the roof with less pain that he expected but the momentum of the fall caused him to continue to roll off the roof legs first.

He landed on his feet and fell forward onto his hands causing him to sprain his wrists. The pain forced him to immediately fall off his hands onto his side on the wet grass.

He looked at his wet green-stained hands, hoping to see no signs of a break. There were black lines on some of his fingers. He imagined holding a guitar. The black lines lined up with where the strings would be.

He had electrocuted himself.

Who was in his house?

Jon was beginning to think God didn’t want him to have a piss.

Footsteps approached Jon from across the road along with the comforting voice of someone not trying to kill him, “Oh my god! Are you ok?”. A middle-aged woman in a parker stood at his feet, keeping to the pavement, “Do you want me to call an ambulance? My God, I saw you fall”, she looked up at the window audibly congratulating herself. She looked back down at Jon, “Are you OK? God, are you pissing yourself?”.

Jon closed his eyes and smiled, “Fuck God”. He could hear a guitar solo being played. It was pretty good, the kind he’d always wished he could play.


I originally wrote this on Prose. Visit https://theprose.com/danielpratt to see my other writings. I also edit and spellcheck things there more regularly 🙂

Feedback (part 1)

Being attacked is a lot like writing a guitar solo. Neither ever seem to happen in the present tense. In the moment of such an event occurring, your subconscious is struck with an unavoidable lightning bolt of innate purpose; it takes control of you so fully that the most your conscious mind can manage is to watch the events unfurl like a drunk tourist taking photos of everything with the wrong settings. Once it’s over, your recollection is over-exposed, full of ghostly illusions, and more than likely shadowed in the darkness of your own hand puppets.

Jon was standing in the living room with one bare foot on the cold beechwood floor, the other see-sawing on his wah pedal, his eyes closed so tight he could see colours, strumming and plucking with one hand, the fingers of his other sliding and stabbing and and bending across the entire neck of his gold-green Fender Mexican Strat.

He felt someone kick him in the middle of his back so hard that he found himself waking up lying down with his face propped up against the skirting board beside the fireplace with the taste of metal in his mouth and a throbbing right temple.

He tried to roll over but was stopped mid-twist by the neck of his guitar swinging into the ground and thrashing out a distant open drop-D chord. He rested his forehead briefly as he devised a way to move. In doing so he sighed and a black-ish red snot splatted against the wallpaper, “ughh, brilliant” he gargled before being forced to swallow half a mouthful of irony mucus. He reached back his right hand under the strap and took it in front of his head then pushed himself off the wall, sliding himself along the polished floor away from the bloodied wall and guitar.

A snapshot of his back being kicked sprang to mind and he spun around, looking towards his front door. He didn’t want to see anyone but felt a throbbing urgency in his chest as his body chemistry and brain fought between cowardice and revenge.
They settled on 50/50. His eyes widened enough that he felt the cool still air against them, as if to display the intentions of a mad man, while his paranoia helped him rapidly scan his house for evidence.

He started with the kitchen to his left as it was closest and had no door, thereby necessitating his attention whether he wanted to go in or not. He couldn’t see or hear anything coming from inside so confidently jumped to his feet and trampled loudly to the fridge and slapped it hard enough that its fans briefly stalled before winding up again. “Right!” he whispered to nobody.

Jon felt the sensation that a large figure was creeping up on him and spun around. He held up his hands in horrified defense and quickly realised the living room was still empty. He turned and took in the whole kitchen environment again just to be certain something hadn’t somehow spun around with him. Nothing. Back to the living room. Nothing.
Before the front door began a set of stairs. Jon rapidly flexed all of his fingers at random, as if he was about to perform surgery, but more like he was trying not to piss himself. He sucked up his sphincters and pelvic floor and quickly but quietly tip-toed to the foot of the stairs.

He looked up to the landing and saw nothing but the doors to other rooms. He suddenly remembered the door behind him, slid around and looked through the bumpy glass for any sign of movement in the short path up to the house. Nothing. He spun back around and started trying his damnedest to think of ways he could convince himself, on his own, to walk upstairs.
He noticed he was crouched by his shoes so grabbed them and his coat which was hung up, carefully opened the front door, waddled outside on his knees, gently closed it, took the bundle of keys out of his inside coat pocket, felt his way to the correct key while keeping watch of the distorted stairs, locked the door quietly, and put on his shoes.

Jon looked up at the bathroom window and realised, more now than ever, he really needed a piss.

(part 2 here)


I originally wrote this on Prose. Visit https://theprose.com/danielpratt to see my other writings. I also edit and spellcheck things there more regularly 🙂