Weekly Ramble No. 35

Mr Robot Season Three has so far been confusing and a bit slow, but the last episode (5. eps3.4_runtime-error.r00) was brilliantly filmed. It reminded me somewhat of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of ignorance) in it’s almost one-take handheld style following the exploits of Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) and Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday). There’s a great effects shot where the camera follows Angela from room to room in a E Corp’s HQ in a very old-school panning view from above with fake walls, but then it swings out to show half of the exterior of the skyscraper as well as the room Angela is in. It’s a great visual gag.

So far there have been no huge revelations like there were in the first two seasons and the story concentrates of ‘Phase 2’ of the plan to take down E Corp. I’m hoping it’s not going to fizzle out in terms of it’s entertainment levels and I am happy to tune in every Thursday as I find the production style entertaining in itself and I haven’t bored of the narrative style.

Also on Amazon, Preacher Season Two started explosively but since the seeming demise of the main threat to Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy the story has slowed down. The mysterious Grail organisation and a new enemy in the form of Herr Starr have been introduced to the story but, like Sense8 I don’t feel any burning need to binge on the show. Stranger Things it is not.

Stranger Things Season Two on Netflix was perhaps, Game of Thrones aside, the most anticipated new season of a TV show this year. The sensational first season of Stranger Things seemed to happen on Netflix with no fanfare and only word-of-mouth publicity fuelled by social media posts. This was certainly the case for me – I got a recommendation from a colleague based on the knowledge that I was into Stephen King and Winona Ryder. The show reminded me a lot of E.T. with it’s Eighties vibe and a whole bunch of King stories, and the only performance I was disappointed with was Ryder’s who seemed to be overacting throughout.

Season Two picks up a year after the events of the previous season and I’m not going to say anymore than that because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Season two is perfectly pitched and if anything even more Eighties than the first season with references to Ghostbusters, E.T. and Dragon’s Lair plain to see and other references (Star Wars, Gremlins, He Man) a little more buried. However, despite all this nostalgia it would be nothing without an engaging story and brilliant acting from the young cast.

In terms of reading matter, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut kept me amused on my Kindle while travelling to and from Norway again.  Originally published in 1963, the short novel tells the story of a writer investigating the family of a scientist who helped develop the atomic bomb and a mysterious substance Ice-Nine which sounds to him like an even more powerful weapon of mass destruction since it can freeze water solid within seconds and theoretically a small chip of the stuff could freeze an ocean.

The writer inadvertently ends up becoming president of an island nation and joining the secret and wholly falsified religion of the inhabitants he has sworn to oppose. The book is a really funny dark satirical comedy with some powerful messages about the fakery of religion and man’s reliance on technology. The short witty chapters keep you hooked and towards the climax of the story there are some powerful scenes describing the inevitable apocalypse which ensues.

An apocalypse of an entirely different nature is presented in the Manga branded film Yakuza Apocalyspe which I recorded on Film4. It’s a crazy film with a lot of bizarre humour, directed by legendary Japanese director Takashi Miike and starring Indonesian actor and stunt choreographer Yayan Ruhian, who I’ve seen before in the excellent action film The Raid. Crime boss Kamiura is a vampire yakuza. Kageyama, his most loyal underling, is bitten by the severed head of Kamiura after he is killed by kick-ass assassin Kyoken – a member of an international crime syndicate Kamiura refuses to return to. Kageyama tries to resist his urge to bite civilians but eventually succumbs to his blood lust and causes a domino effect of infected civilians who claim to be yakuza vampires and fight with the real yakuza who seem to flounder under this power shift.

Kageyama faces off against the legendary monster boss of the crime syndicate – a bloke who somehow manages to perform amazing martial arts despite the fact he’s inside a frog mascot costume. I could watch him all day. Unfortunately, eventually he is forced to take off his costume only to reveal that while he is a man, he still possesses a frog’s head. Finally Kageyama defeats the frog and goes about putting down Kyoken in an exchange of power punches to the face. Meanwhile the spirit of the defeated frog enters a rock and during an eruption of Mt Fuji he appears as a Godzilla style giant frog. Kageyama transforms into his true vampire form and takes off to fight the giant monster. The end. It’s almost as if they couldn’t afford to film the final big boss fight.

I have been taking mixed pleasure from continuing to listen to the Every Official UK Number 1 Ever playlist on Spotify. I’m near the end now and, some good Elvis tracks, ‘Magic Moments’ by Perry Como and the accidental placement of the Cliff and The Young One’s charity version of ‘Living Doll’ aside, the Fifties isn’t really my bag. I’ve also listened to a couple of Adam Buxton podcasts featuring Simon Amstell who mostly repeated what was in his live show and Kathy Burke (in her second appearance) who is hilarious.

This week’s featured image is a photograph I took of a stretch of public footpath in Bakewell, England.

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