SPECTRE – some thoughts

So, SPECTRE. Mr Craig’s fourth outing as Bond. Will it live up to the promise of Skyfall? Will I be forced to rethink my post on ten reasons why Skyfall is the best Bond movie?

Short version: No, and erm, no.

That said, SPECTRE is good fun. It’s a very good Bond movie. It’s just not a *great* Bond movie.

Some thoughts. Warning, HERE BE SPOILERS.



Still here? You’ve been warned…

Short version:

Ok, so there were some minor niggles and perhaps I’m about to be (incredibly) picky. Bits of it were quite silly and it could easily have lost half an hour off the running time without really batting an eyelid. The cold open is hugely entertaining (despite the helicopter shenanigans), the middle sags a teeny bit, but the final third is quite splendidly Bond in full effect, throttles wide open.

Slightly longer, rambling version.

The pre-credit scene starts off with a lovely, lazy, super-long tracking shot following Bond and his lady-friend through the streets of Mexico City’s Day of the Dead festival, culminating with a fight aboard a helicopter over the crowd.

Question:  Why on earth does Bond try and fight the helicopter pilot AND Marco Sciarra? If he’d managed to knock the pilot out, he’d be left with Sciarra and an out-of-control helicopter really not that far above the square. Sort out the bad guy first, *then* sort the pilot out. Priorities, Bond!

Bond somehow manages to spot that Sciarra is wearing a strange ring and nicks it before shoving him out of the helicopter. A CLUE!

Cue woefully underused Monica Belluci as Lucia Sciarra.


It’s not long before he picks her up at her husband’s funeral, seduces her and promptly abandons her to (hopefully) get picked up by his old mate Felix. Ah, we miss you Felix. Come back for the next one! Whilst it was nice to see a lady Bond’s age (roughly, Monica is 4 years older than our Dan), it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance. Disappointing.

There are some shenanigans with C, played by the quite brilliant Andrew Scott who is all DASTARDLY and EVIL, the it’s not long before Bond is off to Rome. He infiltrates a Top Secret meeting of SPECTRE where we meet the delightfully creepy Oberhauser.

Slightly disappointed to discover the weird device on the table which I speculated could be some kind of VR headset is just a headset for translating the interminable financial reports from the SPECTRE minions. Yawn.
spectre13 - glasses

Anyhoo, before long Mr Hinx turns up. Dave Bautista is one of the highlights of SPECTRE for me, kind of a cross between Oddjob and Jaws, saying nothing but crashing through the scenery like a runaway train. He’s brilliant. More of him pls.

Then there’s a car chase. Bond in his absolutely delicious Aston Martin DB10
spectre09 and Hinx in… oh, something else. Who cares?

The car chase goes on through the streets of Rome, which seemed… oddly light on traffic. The chase goes on…

and on…
and on…

waaaay too long. Long enough to squeeze in Amusing Italian In Tiny Car Comedy Light Relief. Oh dear.

Bond gets away (of course) and  goes to meet Mr White, who’s looking a bit poorly…

Then we’re off to Austria. Proper globe-trotting, this Bond outing. There are shades of OHMSS going on here. Splendidly silly chase scene with Bond flying(ish) a plane after White’s daughter Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and Hinx which results in Bond managing to somehow steer a wingless plane down a mountain, through a wooden chalet and into the escaping cars.

Well, he *is* BondJamesBond, isn’t he?

They meet up with Q who finds out via some handwavingly bonkers computery thing that Sciarra’s ring links Oberhauser to Bond’s previous outings, and identifying Le Chiffre, Dominic Greene and Raoul Silva as agents of SPECTRE.

So it turns out that Quantum is just the super-secret organisation fronting an even super-secreter organisation? REALLY? Hello screenwriters. Can we have a word?

Whatever happened to Quantum, by the way? They had tons of potential, and could easily have been the proto-SPECTRE. Turns out they were just the executive wing of SPECTRE then? Last seen running in different directions following a super-secret meeting at the opera, they must surely all still be at large. Apart from Greene, obviously.

I note with interest that SPECTRE doesn’t go for the whole secret-meeting-at-the-opera approach to secret meetings. They hold their (entirely more boring) meetings in central Rome?

Bond and Swann swan (sorry) off to Morocco where White has somehow managed to build a secret room in a hotel (erm, how?).  Swann fends off Bond’s advances, plans are uncovered (in the aforementioned secret room) and they’re off again into the desert to find the Top Secret SPECTRE base. There’s a classic Bond-on-a-train fight with Hinx, Swann changes her mind and is now madly in love with Bond.

See? I told you this was classic Bond territory. Quite why Oberhauser wanted to build his top secret base in the middle of NOWHERE (yet hold his meetings in Rome) is beyond me. There was a random meteorite though, so perhaps that had something to do with it.

It’s a great Evil Villain Lair though. Not quite up to Ken Adam‘s legendary works, but pretty good nonetheless. The meteorite was a nice touch.

Oberhauser: Why did you come?
Bond: I came here to kill you.
Oberhauser: And I thought you came here to die.
Bond: Well, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Bond is tortured (eww) by Oberhauser. It’s pretty hard to watch until you get distracted as I did by the fact that Oberhauser, for reasons best known to his evil self, isn’t wearing any socks. WHY ARE YOU NOT WEARING SOCKS?

And what is that white cat doing there?

Oberhauser: [stroking the white cat]    Franz Oberhauser died twenty years ago, James. In an avalanche alongside his father. A man you’re talking to now, a man inside your head, is Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Oh, you’re Blofeld after all? Splendid! NOW we’re getting somewhere. Ed (14) was *very* confused at this point though. I forgot that he has essentially no frame of reference for this revelation and only knows the Daniel Craig era Bond. I wonder how many other people in the audience were going ‘err, who?’ at this point.

I really did like Christophe Waltz in this movie, a lot. Barring the odd fashion choices, obviously. He was deliciously evil in a perky, louche sort of way. I hope we see more of him in the future.

There are more shenanigans back in London. M, Q, Moneypenny and Tanner all step up and get involved in the plot before the final climactic showdown (and if that’s not a tautology, I don’t know what is).

It was great to see the gang working together. Moneypenny had Useful Things to Do, Q had some great one-liners

[Q hands Bond a watch]
Bond: What does it do?
Q: It tells the time.

and M is suitably M-ish. C gets his Comeuppance and there’s a thrilling finale where Bond races against the clock (literally) to save Swann.

Phew! Bond, of course, will return. Will Daniel Craig though? Or is it time for another incarnation?

The Fallout Diaries: Day 2

in which Sturges is annoying

Greetings, fellow Vault-dwellers. Welcome to day 2 of the somewhat erratic Fallout Diaries. We left our hero grumbling about Sturges and his Neverending Needs.

Turns out Sturges is just really really annoying.

Sturges: Oh, we need beds.
Me: Righto, here are some beds
Sturges: Thanks. We also need some water.
Me: Righto, I’ve built a water purifier thing *and* a wind-powered generator, *and* worked out how to link them up. Took me *ages* to find the copper for the wires.
Sturges: We’re hungry. Can you sort us out some kind of allotment?
Me: [spins up minigun] EAT HOT LEAD, STURGES

[reloads from saved game]
Me: *sigh* Sure. Have some melons.
Sturges: We could do with some…
Me: Talk to the hand, Sturges. I’m off to go do some of these quest things The Hat keeps asking about.
[flounces off]

Seriously. I spent forever trying to work out how to get my water purifier linked up to the generator, then realised you could just pick up the generator and move it closer to the purifier. Still need more copper.

Wandered over to Tenpines Bluff to talk to some settlers. At first the guy ignored me, but then opened up to tell me about some raiders who were over at the Corvega Assembly Plant. Could I possibly go and sort them out?

Sure. *checks map*

Duuude. Are you sure they’re causing you bother? They’re MILES AWAY.

Apparently so. I set off cross country. Find old drive-in cinema. Spend a while scrapping all the old cars and metal and shiz that’s lying around then remember something about some raiders.


Resolve to go sort the raiders out.

End up at the Corvega plant. Spend a merry ten minutes trying to barge through the front door, only to be killed many many times. Find secret entrance, use that instead. There are some raider dudes guarding the tunnel (very badly) so am soon in the midst of the assembly plant. Not sure when the raiders have time to be wandering all the way over to Tenpines Bluff as they all seem to be here wandering around heavily armed.

As you do.

Find one particularly gruesome bit where the raiders have a fridge full of skulls. Grim. Try and steal skulls for my own personal skull collection. Fail. Give up.

Clearing the plant took FOREVER. They were EVERYWHERE. Finally manage it and head back to Tenpines Bluff to tell my new friend that I’ve sorted it out for him.

Try talking to him and he ignores me AGAIN. Miserable swine. I promptly steal his entire tato crop whilst he’s not watching. He doesn’t bat an eyelid. Finally get him to recognise that I’m there and he’s all like YAY NO MORE RAIDERS CAN I BE A MINUTEMAN NOW?

Cool. Sure. Whatevs. Make way back to Sanctuary Hills. Avoid Sturges and his bleating. Build MASSIVE ARMOURED WALL in front of the main bridge into town (ignoring the fact that any raiders could, erm, just come in ANYWHERE ELSE. Get annoyed that one bit of the MAW won’t *quite* join up.

What exciting adventures will happen in Day 3? Will I *ever* work out how to use the Xbox to take screenshots (the smart money is on no). Will Sturges survive to the weekend? Will The Hat let me borrow his hat?

Tune in next time…

The Fallout Diaries: Day 1

a badass ‘tache, a cunning hat, iron man, duct tape and floating pooches

Welcome to Day 1 of The Fallout Diaries: Weird and Wonderful Tales from the Wasteland.

Catchy title, eh?

I’ve emerged blinking into the sunlight from Vault 111. I’ve got a badass ‘tache, some Avatar-esque scars and am READY FOR ANYTHING.

Check out my ‘tache. Badass, eh?

After some chat with Codsworth and meeting up with Dogmeat (who I promptly re-christen Mutley), it’s off to the Museum of Freedom in Concord. I wander into the building only to have some people start shooting at me. How rude.

At this point, Ed is all “WHY ARE YOU JUST STANDING THERE? Shoot them!!”

I can’t see where they are! I run around a bit before dying. Oops. Respawn.

Back into the room. Finally figure out where the bad guys are. Shoot them back. Ha!

Up the stairs and eventually come across this dude.

That is a very cunning hat. Make note to try and steal it when he’s not looking.

I realise that I’ve not quite figured out how to equip myself with new clothes, which results in me wearing a leather chest harness, a bandana and precious little else. I look like someone auditioning for The Village People. It’s a look, certainly. Not great for your post-apocalypse though, and those undercrackers aren’t going to be great for deflecting bullets.

Make note to work out how to wear clothes.

The Hat and I chat about stuff then we end up outside on a balcony being shot at by more people. Seriously, I must have got out of the wrong side of the vault this morning. My new chum and I return fire! We’re like Badass Tache and the Hat. What a pair!

Oh noes! Apparently Mutley is under fire! The Hat jumps from the balcony and I, heroically, leap after him, only to die horribly.

Note to self: Do not follow The Hat. He is clearly several orders of badassness more badass than you.


Finally work out that I need to go and get the power suit from the roof. I now look like this:


Sufficiently badass (if slightly rusty), I go and wipe out a big creepy crawly bug thing with my GIANT GUN OF DOOM that no-one had noticed until now, then decide to investigate the local shops. I do like a spot of shopping.

Glad to see duct tape is still a thing in 2077 post-apocalyptic Boston. Useful stuff, duct tape.

Promptly steal everything, including all the coffee cups. In Skyrim I ended up with a houseful of troll skulls (despite Farkas trying to tidy them up all the time). Maybe my Fallout collection will be coffee cups.

Also amuse self by stealing all the clothes off the raiders. I shoot him in the head with the GIANT GUN OF DOOM just to be sure. He’s now very very dead. Suspect may regret using all my GGOD (GIANT GUN OF DOOM) ammo on corpses. Oh well.

Teach Mutley some new tricks. He’s very good at finding stuff and being generally awesome. Find myself saying ‘Good boy! Who’s a good doggy?’ a lot at the TV. Glad no-one else is here to see. Also teach him how to float. Clever Mutley!

We wander back up to Sanctuary Hills where The Hat has decided that we should all live as one happy family. Fair enough. Despite having just arrived, he says he’s heard from someone over yonder who needs some help. He’s *terribly* busy so could I go help?

Yes, Hat. You’re terribly busy wandering up and down the street. Oh, go on then. Look at map. Decide Yonder is a really long way away.

The Hat then tells me that some dude called Sturges needs some help. Wander over to see what’s up.

Sturges is, co-incidentally, also *terribly* busy but is fed up of sleeping on the floor. Could I possibly make him a bed?

Hmm. Suspect that they’re taking advantage of my good nature. Make Sturges some beds. He then starts whinging about needing a water supply, but is *terribly* busy (staring at a wall takes a lot out of you, apparently). Mutter something about getting right on with it.

Bored of being asked to do shiz for random dudes. At least The Hat has an awesome hat. Resolve to go sort out the people over yonder…

Tune in for the next exciting[1] installment of The Fallout Diaries: Weird and Wonderful Tales from the Wasteland.

I’d love to know what you think so far. Are you playing Fallout 4? Do you want a hat as cunning as The Hat’s? Just how badass *is* my ‘tache, anyway?

And yes, I’ve finally worked out how to take screenshots rather than using my phone to take pictures of the telly. Cunning, eh?

[1] Actual levels of excitement may vary, or in some cases, be absent entirely

The Fallout Diaries: Weird and wonderful tales from the wasteland


Fallout 4 is the first of the Fallout series that I’ve played. Initially it was just another game until I found out that it was made by Bethesda, the creators of Skyrim.

Sidenote: I *love* Skyrim. I lost weeks and months to the game when it came out. I would spend hours wandering around getting horribly distracted from the main quest (80+ hours of gameplay later and I think I’m still only about a third of the way through it).

There was so much to see and do – if you could see it, you could (generally) go there. You could spend an hour mining and forging new weapons, decorating your house, joining up with one side or another and questing into the mountains. You could even get married – my Skyrim husband Farkas and I had a lovely ceremony attended by many of our Companion friends, at which point he promptly went missing for *weeks*. Turns out he’d decided to walk home halfway across the map. Silly boy. Then he insisted on tidying up my collection of troll skulls but brought in a decent-ish income. He also didn’t seem to mind my follower Lydia turning up at my house at all hours of the day and night. The troll skull tidying got on my nerves though. I might need a divorce.

And this one time I was wandering through the mountains when a horse fell out of the sky. I kid you not. I suspect dragon involvement, but you can never be too sure. Then there was another occasion where I was called in to sort out a bear on the rampage, then discovered it in a locked house in Markarth behind a locked gate. How on earth did it get in there?

Then there was the time I was wandering around in my enchanted glass armour wielding twin glass war axes when a skinny dude in a loincloth leaped out brandishing what can only be described as a stick, screaming that I was going to die.

Dude. See the shiny glass armour? See the very *very* sharp glass war axes? *THUD*

SEE? See how easy it is to get lost in the game?

Where was I? Oh yes, Fallout.

So, when I found out that Fallout 4 was built by the same people, I got more excited. Pre-release, I watched a ton of reviews, read a load of articles. Excitement level grew.

Now the game is here. I foresee many adventures, some of which may be worthy of the Fallout Diaries.

Who’s with me?

Artists at work

I love watching artists at work. For novices like me, it’s a great insight into how to structure a drawing.

Here’s Graham Pilling from armyofcats.com working on an illustration of an abandoned manor house based on an image by Polish photographer Pati Makowska (http://patimakowska.deviantart.com)

And if wildlife is more your thing, here’s my wonderfully talented cousin Jina from Jina Gelder Illustrations drawing a bluetit

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

I loved this book. It’s utterly charming and a real character-led ensemble piece. And, as I mentioned in my ‘on reviews’ post I realised that whilst I’ve posted up a fair few five star reviews over the years, here is a book which was so good, which I loved so much, that I really needed to rethink how I handed out my ratings.

It’s a book filled with a wonderful, diverse cast. The dialogue crackles between the characters. The worldbuilding is detailed and inventive, and though there are times when you realise there’s an infodump going on, you find that you just don’t care as you want to know more about these characters, their lives, their worlds.

The story starts with Rosemary Harper taking up her new job aboard the Wayfarer, home to a motley crew of seeming misfits. There are strong echoes of Firefly at play here (ragtag group aboard a beloved ship with a charismatic captain), but this is very much its own book. Soon our gang are off on a job across the galaxy, on their long way to a small, angry planet.

And it is a very long way, and we have so many adventures, meet so many species and planets and find out so much about the intricate worlds that Becky Chambers has spun together.

There’s sheer joy to the writing, it flows and bounces along through happiness, sorrow and adventure. Becky has created so many memorable characters here – Kizzy, Sissix, Dr Chef and more – and they’re all wonderfully realised. I could sit and listen to them chat all day. You really need to meet them for yourself.

This is my fourth five-star book of the year, but stands out at the top of the list by a long way.

Here’s Becky talking about her book. If you don’t want to read it after this…

Go, read it. But be warned, like Firefly, you’ll be sad when it’s over.