Weekly Ramble No. 7

The Purge has a rather far-fetched set up in which on one night in the USA all crime is legal. This leads to a man protecting his wife and family in a home invasion scenario. While the film tries to have something to say about violence and the inequalities in America society it does so badly and with such a large helping of bloody violence that it left me glad it was only a short film.

The sequel The Purge: Anarchy was a much better film, but that wasn’t particularly difficult and it wasn’t without its flaws. For example we have armour-piercing rounds that kill a car’s engine but fail to kill any of the car’s occupants, and we have an anti-hero who decides to drive across LA to reach his intended victim during the hours of the purge instead of renting a hotel nearby or driving there just before the purge starts. However, the film unlike its predecessor does make you care for the individuals who find themselves thrown together by circumstance and it does try and flesh out the concept of the night of mayhem. It also helped that most of the action happens on the city streets and that Michael Kenneth Williams from The Wire has a bit part.

Talking of The Wire, I also watched Idris Elba: Fighter this week. In three hour-long episodes, Elba vies to become a professional K1 kickboxer. Filmed over the course of a year (in which he took 6 weeks out to film Stephen King’s The Dark Tower – yay!) Elba visits some of the world’s best trainers in places like Thailand, South Africa and Hong Kong. Believe it or not, Siggy is a second dan black belt PKA kickboxer and so we watched the short series together. On the one hand I applaud Elba’s motivation, but on the other I found the show somewhat narcissistic – but that’s actors for you I guess.

David Brent: Life on the Road is a similar, if fictional, tale of a man’s quest to achieve a lifelong dream. In this case it is to end his rock-bottom life as a toilet vending machine supplies rep and become a rock and roll star. Reprising his award winning role from BBC2’s The Office, Ricky Gervais puts in a sterling comedy performance as the deluded titular character who wastes his life savings on trying to realise his ambitions. Touring Berkshire with a mercenary band and his rapper sidekick (who predictably gets a record deal after talent scouts see him perform) Brent is at turns irritating, cringe-worthy, hilarious and tragic. Say what you like about Gervais, I love his comedy which is full of heart and I was happy with him reprising this classic role. Also the comedy songs, like those of Spinal Tap, are actually very well written and performed. Here’s a taste:

On TV, I finished watching No Offence on Channel 4. I found it rather poor overall in comparison to the first series. The final episode in particular was very badly put together. The worst bit (spoiler alert!) was when the bad guy inexplicably tells his getaway helicopter pilot to go away – while he’s in the middle of trying not to get shot and arguing with his mum and the police – the pilot then starts up the helicopter and conveniently provides a deadly spinning tail rotor for the baddie to walk into. Also there’s a suicide vest that needs defusing at the police station and an ex-army bomb disposal expert conveniently in the holding cells. All rather silly and disappointing after the hours we put in watching the show.

Star Wars: Clone Wars Season 3 has been the best so far with much more interesting episode-spanning stories and better and better animation. There were also new characters and existing character cameos aplenty, including: Shakk Ti the female Togruta Jedi master who made her first appearance in Episode II; Si Snootles the singer from Episode VI; Chewbacca and a bunch of other wookiees; Quinlan Vos from the comics; Qui-Gon Jinn voiced by Liam Neeson; and Savage Opress brother of a mysteriously possibly still alive Darth Maul. I know, there’s a teaser if ever there was one.

All the main characters got tweaked to show the passage of time and the facial animation change considerably over the course of the season. There are three very peculiar and mysterious Mortis episodes featuring high-powered force wielders which explore the balance of the force and Anakin’s role as the ‘chosen one’. Also a young (then captain) Tarkin is introduced and while he pisses most people off with his attitude, Anakin bonds with him. I’m really getting into the show as the production quality increase and it becomes more cinematic.

This week saw the return of his royal purpleness Prince to Spotify. It was great to be able to listen to lots of stuff I don’t own on CD. Did we ever find out how he died, or was it covered up? Well a quick Google just told me that it was an opioid overdose which seems to tally with what I think people close to him were allegedly saying around the time of his death. I’m not overly surprised given how experimental Prince was in all aspects of his life and it doesn’t diminish from what a great musician he was. Here’s one of my favourite performances which shows has talent as an accomplished guitar hero (fast forward to around 3:20 if you are impatient):

Lastly I finished reading Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Escape.  The pattern for these little books is now well-established – bit of action in a battle at the start, introduce some conflict with a bad guy, bit of adventure, Sharpe meets a woman, rescues woman, gets chased by bad guy, gets involved in another historic battle, survives… That said, this tale is actually rather good once the first battle, which seems to take up too many pages, gets resolved.

Sharpe is still in Portugal and we get to see the French army’s last attempt at conquering the country. There’s some shenanigans involving a horde of food, Sharpe getting seven bells knocked out of him, an escape through a sewer, a trip on a river and a final siege situation in a farmhouse surrounded by angry Frenchmen. It’s one of the books Cornwell wrote some years after the original series and so it benefits from his experience as a writer and as ever is very well researched and accompanied by an illuminating historical note.

Image credit: Daniel Cheung (unsplash.com)    

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