Weekly Ramble No. 22

Boy it’s hot in the UK at the moment. 31 degrees celsius according to my weather app. British homes aren’t built for the heat – it’s cooler outside than in. All my windows are open but there’s hardly any breeze so the heat just hangs humid and heavy and insulated. It’s nice to sit in the garden and chill when the weather’s sunny, but this heat is Greek hot and living in Loughborough means there’s no sea to run into to chill when it gets really sweaty. It’s a British tradition to complain whatever the weather I know, so I’ll stop now…

Siggy had was out a lot last weekend and so I managed to get done what I needed in the first draft of my new novel. It’s going to get a test read from a friend and then we’ll see whether any more work is required. For now it’s nice to have a break and not have to think about it for a while. I had it done, dusted and mounted up privately on Lulu by the time I went to see Wonder Woman (follow the link to my review).  I also saw The Mummy during the week and enjoyed it in a perverse kind of way.

Before all that though, we had a curry night around a mate’s house and watched T2 Trainspotting which, while not as good as the original and quite reliant on nostalgia and fandom of the first film, was quite entertaining. The soundtrack was a bit disappointing given how great the soundtrack of the original film, but it was great to revisit all the characters.

All the performances were great and I just wish we had rewatched the original before we saw the sequel – given how reliant it was on the events of the previous film. Danny Boyle’s use of colour in storytelling was as adept as ever and while my friends complained that the film was slow, I thought it was fine – and you know what I’m like when it comes to pacing.

Also on Amazon, Siggy and I, watched The Accountant which is a Ben Affleck film along the lines of John Wick but with a much more complicated plot. Affleck’s character is so skilled at everything while coping with a challenging mental condition that it’s actually less believable than John Wick if that’s possible. It was however, thoroughly enjoyable if you like that kind of thing, which I do.

Watching the accountant very much put us in the mood to watch John Wick Chapter 2, which we did last night. It’s a bit like T2 in that it’s not as good as the first film, but there is plenty to like about it. It’s pure unadulterated adult action with plenty of nasty gunshots, blood splatters and extreme fisticuffs. I’m a big fan of Keanu Reeves ever since The Matrix and seeing him alongside Laurence Fishburne for even a short scene was great. Siggy and I sat there quoting The Matrix and not really paying attention to what was going on in the film. It didn’t really matter because it was all pretty simple – guys want to kill Mr Wick, guys get killed.

On the tellybox we’ve been enjoying First Dates and Loaded. Loaded is a comedy about four overnight millionaire game developers coming to terms with their new found wealth and the pressure to come up with another best-selling game. Nick Helm, Jonny Sweet, Jim Howick and Samuel Anderson have all appeared on other shows mostly as supporting actors and it is good to see them as the four leads and the group dynamic is captivating and given the time to really develop interestingly over the hour long episodes.

Talking of games, if I am perfectly honest WipEout Omega Collection was somewhat of a letdown in the end. There’s not enough variation in the racetracks, the spaceships or the soundtrack. It would be nice to be able to earn customisation of your vehicle as you do in Need For Speed and the single player mode gets rather boring after a while despite the speed of the game. Essentially it is just Mario Kart in a sci-fi guise.

However, when you take WipEout online and race against up to 7 other players across the world, then it becomes much more enjoyable. There’s something about racing against real people that the game AI doesn’t give you. I spent a few good hours whizzing around various tracks and enjoying tournaments comprising of multiple races and being awarded badges and experience for things like avoiding mines or passing over the most speed markers.

Also on PS4, I pretty much completed Assassins Creed Syndicate. Well 90%, with only the crimes add-in to complete, about 25% of the helix glitches uncollected and treasure chests unopened. I did what I usually do with AC games and did lots of side missions and powered up my characters’ skills and weapons, collected tonnes of money and gang perks, before doing much of the story missions.

Some of the story missions were pretty glitchy and mostly linear, but I enjoyed the cut scenes. I didn’t really enjoy the male character – he was a bit of a dick – and preferred the novelty of playing the female character who seemed a little better geared up for my gameplay style – lots of sneaking about and nimble kills instead of brute force. That said various missions did quickly devolve into a huge button mashing fight leaving me surrounded by a John Wick style pile of corpses.

The Batman-style grappling hook/zip line thingy is a good addition to the game – making it a lot easier and less tiresome to get up the side of buildings. I found the combat system was pretty good too – far less frustrating than some of the other versions of the game. The brother-sister storyline was a fresh angle to take and as usual there are lots of historic characters featured in the game including her majesty Queen Vic. I must say, unless I’m just getting really good at playing AC game – which is highly unlikely – I found this game rather easy in comparison to previous versions.

Music-wise, I haven’t had much time for tunes, but I have been enjoying the second live CD from the new Kasabian album in the car and was delighted to get notification from Spotify that Lorde’s new album was available. Melodrama by Lorde is a good follow up to the great Pure Heroine containing her distinctive vocals and experimental voice-sample and beat-based dance music. The stand out track for me at the moment is the low-tempo track ‘Liability’.

This week I finished reading Sharpe’s Fury which has Sharpe in Spain in 1811 fighting against the rampant French. The book is mostly based in Cadiz and features the battle of Barrosa. It’s one of those later books that was shoe-horned into the series and while it has some interesting action sequences was a little too formulaic for my taste. In places it reads as if descriptions of battles have been cut and pasted from previous books. There’s very little novel about it to be frank.

There’s going to be a little break in the blog for the next couple of weeks, but trust me when I say that I’ll be back with some good stuff in July.

Image: close-cropped detail from a photo by Jakub Kriz (Unsplash.com).

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