Weekly Ramble No. 16

Car Share starring Peter Kay and his buddy Sian Gibson as a couple of supermarket workers sharing trips to and from work has been surprisingly good. Biggles recommended it to me and after one episode, Siggy and I were hooked. It’s a shame to read today that Kay has decided to ‘quit while he’s ahead’ and that there’ll be no more seasons or even Christmas specials.

War Dogs was not as funny as I expected given that it stars Jonah Hill, Miles Teller and Bradley Cooper. I was wrong to think that it was a dark comedy. It’s based on a true story of arms dealers making some hooky deals to supply the US Army with weapons, and while some moments are amusing it is a deeper film than I expected. It’s a stark illustration of how far rules can be bent and how many blind eyes can be turned until someone puts their hand up and points out that what’s going on is actually illegal.

Life is another ‘based on a true story’ film. It’s directed by Anton Corbijn, perhaps best known for his work with U2 and Depeche Mode, and dramatises the relationship between doomed Hollywood heartthrob James Dean (Dane DeHaan – The Amazing Spider-man 2) and photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson – Twilight). As you would expect, the film is full of really nicely composed shots, natural light, shadow and textures. It’s nice to see Corbijn do a full-length feature in colour rather than grainy black and white.

The story portrays the depressive, melancholy and shy side of Dean in the weeks before he lands the role of his lifetime in Rebel Without a Cause. Stock comes across as a pushy city kid intent on progressing his career through his well-timed choice of subject recognising Dean as the future star he would be (for a short time). It was very good and a welcome relief to all the mainstream films I’ve been watching recently, and not to be confused by the new sci-fi film of the same name out this year!

The Humans by Matt Haig represented the best £1 credit spent on Amazon’s Kindle store in a while. It’s the story of an alien sent to Earth to stop a huge mathematical discovery that will set humankind on the path of interstellar travel. Why? To protect the rest of the universe of course.

Taking the body of the mathematician who made the discovery (and was killed because of it) the nameless alien narrator has to insert himself into the life of the mathematician’s family and friends to discover who knows what and kill whoever knows too much. Along the way he learns about humans, family and love.

The tale is couched in terms of science fiction revolving around the power of prime numbers but is more a darkly humorous commentary on modern life on planet Earth and a discovery or manifesto if you like of what really matters in life. It is poetic, thoughtful and thought provoking and if reading it doesn’t leave you valuing your life, friends and family more than you did at the start then there’s something wrong with you.

Humanz by Gorillaz was coincidentally released last week. It’s a mixed bag of electronica, hip-hop, low-fi and up-tempo dance. It’s maybe too soon to come to any conclusions about the album as a whole but I am finding some tracks almost unlistenable to and others very moreish – for example ‘Momentz’ featuring De La Soul, ‘Andromeda’ featuirng D.R.A.M. and ‘Busted and Blue’.

Gaming-wize I had a bash at the newish Deus Ex game Mankind Divided but after the Lego game I found it rather brutish and a pain in the arse to control. It didn’t seem like the game graphics had progressed much from Human Evolution and although I like the Ghost in the Shell style future portrayed it didn’t really grab me.

Desperate for some fun without the violence, I downloaded the free level for Star Wars Lego: The Force Awakens called ‘The Phantom Limb’ and the extra droid character pack (including a well modelled Lego General Grievous). It didn’t take very long to get all the associated trophies but I was impressed by how well they had told the story of how C-3PO got his red arm in Episode VII – I had previously read the synopsis of the graphic novel which tells the story of how a group of droids gets stranded on a planet plagued by acid rain and it seemed to match up the key elements well without losing the fun of the Lego games.

I then succumbed to the violence and loaded up Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate which has been sitting waiting for me in a drawer for almost a year. I’m so glad that they’ve finally introduced a female main character and some sister versus brother banter as a result. It’s early days yet but as usual I am in love with the atmosphere and the old world city – this time Victorian London inhabited by the likes of Charles Dickens, Alexander Bell and Charles Darwin. Of course, as soon as I could, I climbed up the Houses of Parliament, Nelson’s Column and St Paul’s Cathedral, and had swim in the murky Thames.

The free-running and the fight mechanics have been tweaked along quite intuitive lines and it felt good to pick up the game and get playing without any reference to the controller guide. It’s also nice to get some rewards (such as costumes, helix points and weapons) for playing the other games in the series (regardless of the console used) via the UPlay system.

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