Weekly Ramble No. 31

On Spotify I discovered the eponymous debut album by Prophets of Rage a rock-rap supergroup made up of three members of Rage Against the Machine (and Audioslave) – bassist and backing vocalist Tim Commerford, the amazing guitar hero Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk – two members of Public Enemy – DJ Lord and Chuck D –  and Cypress Hill’s B-Real. Being a big ol’ fan of rock-rap and especially RaTM it was great to hear something very similar with Morello’s distinctive virtuoso guitar playing. Here’s their website: http://prophetsofrage.com.

After a long hiatus, I returned to reading Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. By far the most enjoyable short story that I have read so far within the book has been ‘Ur’. I love anything that links to the Dark Tower series and despite it being an advert for Amazon Kindles, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The idea that authors in this world might have written more or different books in parallel worlds is very thought provoking.

I also enjoyed the story of violent baseball player ‘Blockade Billy’ which was an unexpected treat (I saw that he had written a story with that title some years ago, but was never able to get my hands on it until now), and ‘Under the Weather’ in which the reader should smell a rat immediately and know what’s coming. What’s good about that particular story is how the main character is willing to deceive himself even after his pet dog has snacked on the hand of his dead wife’s corpse. It was like watching a twisted mash-up of American Horror Show and Mad Men.

This week I rediscovered the science fiction TV show Lexx on Amazon Video. I had only seen a handful of episodes in pieces when it was originally shown in the late 1990s (on Channel 4?). I remember it being a particularly odd show and my memories were correct. It seems to draw on the film Dune for some of its design choices and also Manga with its insectoid cyborg hybrid technology. The effects are dated, the format square, the pacing terrible (especially in the first season which has a small amount of really long episodes), the acting quite awful and its approach to women pretty sexist (I lost count of how many times Xev gets tied up or semi-naked – in fact there’s one particular shower scene where the ‘semi’ is removed completely), but it’s still rather good fun.

However this week’s viewing for me has been dominated by Star Wars Rebels Season 3 which I held out for in physical form so I could enjoy all the related extras – five episodes are accompanied by audio commentaries, there’s the usual episodes of Rebels Recon for each episode and a bunch of short spotlight featurettes covering the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn to the show, the return of (a more ‘Rogue One’ looking) Saw Gerrera (voiced by Forest Whitaker), the final showdown between Ben Kenobi and Maul and the linkages to Rogue One.

Yes, Obi Wan in his old man Ben Kenobi guise faces off again and for the last time against Maul. Maul is present in a number of episodes, fails to turn Ezra to the dark side of the force, but talks him into helping him open the Jedi and Sith holocrons and thus learns that Kenobi is still alive. He finds him guarding a certain young Skywalker on Tatooine and while we know that there can be only one winner in the subsequent lightsaber fight it is quite a moving end to a long story arc for the demoted Sith apprentice. I’m a bid sad to see him go to be honest. Obi Wan is uncannily voiced by Stephen Stanton who also voiced Grand Moff Tarkin – so uncanny was it that it had me whispering ‘how have they done this?’ and coming up with a wacky theory about voice sampling and clever computer programming.

As well as this satisfying ‘loose end’ being tied up, there was lots of good character development for all the characters in the Ghost’s Crew apart from Zeb (who had his story told in the last season). Sabine especially got much more fleshed out in this season.

We also had the introduction of ace pilot Wedge Antilles – rescued from Imperial training by Sabine; The Bendu an odd in-between Force-aware hulking creature – nicely voiced by Tom Baker; and of course Timothy Zahn’s character from his books Grand Admiral Thrawn. The character fell out of the canon and into ‘legends’ when Lucas did his Disney deal and is now back in the canon which must please the author. I thought the books were pretty lame to be honest but I liked the character and it was certainly a big moment for fans when he appeared in the show.

It was easier to accept the absence of Darth Vader in this season with Thrawn’s much more measured approach to discovering the hidden rebel base and defeating them. In the double-episode season finale he doesn’t quite get to crush them as he would like – all that slow build-up of knowledge is for nothing when Kanan pisses off The Bendu. The mysterious creature metamorphosizes into an electric storm and drives everyone off his planet.

In terms of design, the makers were able to borrow from Rogue One (e.g. we see some Imperial Death Troopers accompanying Thrawn in his ground attack) and I could see how they’re getting closer and closer to matching up the stories so, hopefully, the Rebels storyline will bump up against the events of Rogue One (and perhaps even cross over into the story given that both Chopper and the Ghost feature in the film and Hera Syndulla is called over the tannoy system at the rebel base).

It was a really enjoyable season but (apart from the Maul storyline) I didn’t feel there was anything in there to match the excitement of the Ashoka Tano vs Darth Vader fight in season two.

Image – (c) Adam Greaves from Comic Con Birmingham.

 

 

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