Ramble No. 66: Odyssey, Shape, Fallout and Dogs

There’s been a bit of a quasi-OCD moment in my brain and I’ve renumbered my rambles to standardise the terminology that I’ve happened upon quite organically over the last few years. I used to work on servers in IT don’t you know…

Anyway that little administrative task accomplished I have time to waffle on about some hopefully more interesting stuff. First thing I guess I should mention is that I might have given the impression (in this post) that I was going to do some more blogs about craft beer over the coming weeks.

However, over the course of drinking another dozen or so of the crafty items from out of a craft lager Advent calendar I am reviewing for Amazon Vine, I realised that while they’re very nice they all taste pretty much the same to me. I’ll admit that I don’t possess the most subtle of palates and so won’t try and bullshit my way through any posts about craft lager. The previous post was easier as the beers were all rather distinct.

As usual with Assassins’ Creed games, I have spent a huge amount of time playing Assassins’ Creed Odyssey and I’m only about 50% of the way through the main story. It was unavoidable that I would compare it to the amazing shits and giggles that I had playing Assassin’s Creed Origins, but I have to say that I think this game surpasses the last one for its size and variety of missions. Also, despite having it set on normal difficulty, I’m finding it rather tricky – especially since the opponents’ ranking seems to keep track of yours.

For instance there was a snake-handler who cut me into shreds when I first tried to take him down in his tent surrounded by his hissing pets. He was level 17 and so I thought ‘oh well I’ll go off and do some side quests to level up a bit and then pay him a visit when I’m a bit beefier and better equipped’. So after about twelve hours gameplay, I return to the guy’s tent only to find that he’s levelled up to level 21 same as me. Imagine my disappointment. In the end I think I rather fluked it by setting fire to him and his tent and then him taking an inordinate amount of damage before the AI system got him out of the flames. Then it was a case of ‘ooh chase me!’ and me running backwards firing more fire arrows at his face and dodging his poison arrows. Fun, fun, fun!

There’s the usual mix of tomb raiding, underwater locations, forts, pirate bases etc. to clear out in a variety of violent and crafty ways depending on how you’ve used your ability points to build up your character depending on whether you prefer hack and slash, sneak and stab, or sniping with various types of arrows (like Thief). I’m having great success with chained assassinations and incremental use of the fast save option while I’m clearing out a location.

The main storyline has the usual Assassins’ Creed plot featuring a hidden organisation controlling ancient Greece, good and bad siblings separated at a young age and a mystery over the main character’s bloodline. Thankfully the modern day stuff is kept to a minimum and as a result the gameplay is as immersive as ever. I’ve accepted that ship battles can be fun after all and learnt some more Greek, but I need to be careful how I use the word malakas!

Among all the gaming, I’ve also managed to squeeze in a few good films.

What We Do in the Shadows is a comedy starring Jemaine Clement (Men in Black 3, Flight of the Conchords), Taiki Waititi (director of Thor: Ragnarok) and Jonny Brugh (a new face to me) as vampires living in modern day New Zealand. The film is going to be made into a TV show soon, which seems a bit arse-about-tit, but I can see why as the story does rather lend itself to the sitcom format. The film was quite funny but not as hilarious as I was hoping.

The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s quadruple Oscar-winning modern fairytale was a joy to watch. I suspect the idea for the film has been knocking around in de Toro’s imagination since he directed the two Hellboy films as the amphibious humanoid character bears a great similarity to the character Abe Sapien. Indeed it’s no surprise at all to me that having just checked IMDB to remind myself of the character name I found that the amphibian man in The Shape of Water was played by the same actor, Doug Jones.

The story is one of the love between a mute cleaner (Sally Hawkins) and the aforementioned amphibian man who is kept against his will in a military laboratory. It’s an adult fairytale by the way – some nudity, sex and masturbation scenes – so maybe not one to watch with the kids or your parents.

The chief of security in the military complex is a bad man called Strickland (Michael Shannon). Both Hawkins and Shannon are excellent in the film and the writing is great. As with any fairytale there’s a need to suppress some of the questions that might naturally arise and if you can achieve this, then you’re in for a great ride. Time passed strangely while I was watching it; before I knew it  two hours had passed and I was left thinking ‘wow!’.

And it was ‘wow!’ again, perhaps for more childish reasons when Siggy and I watched Mission Impossible: Fallout. There was so much hype about Tom Cruise doing his own stunts and breaking his ankle in that jump from building to building in London, but nowhere did I hear about or see him swinging Bond-like from a helicopter or jumping out of a fricking plane like 89 times to get two minutes of footage.

I heard the multiple jumps later when I listened to co-star Simon Pegg interviewed on Adam Buxton’s excellent podcast.

Great action sequences, a really good motorbike/car chase (which seems to get harder and harder for filmmakers to make look original) and a plot so complex that even one of the characters played by moustached Henry Cavill (Superman, and confusingly The Man from Uncle) says ‘why does it have to be so complicated?!’ (I may be paraphrasing). Anyway, really good fun (and funny) and it’s so cool that this franchise just keeps delivering the goods film after film (unlike Cruise’s Jack Reacher films).

And finally… Isle of Dogs is a quirky stop-motion animated film from Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr Fox etc. etc.). A boy crash lands his plane on the island where dogs are exiled by a government run by a secret society of cat-lovers. The boy is helped on his quest to find his dog, the first to be exiled on the island, by a pack of misfit characters.

The animation is brilliant, the voice-acting by an impressive cast of Hollywood names (including Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bryan Cranston and Bill Murray) is great, and Anderson’s story-telling as bizarre as ever. Yoko Ono even has a bit part as Assistant scientist Yoko-ono. A great film for dog lovers, maybe not so much cat lovers.

Oh, and before I sign off, I am listening to the new Muse album now, but it’s too early for me to form a proper opinion about it. It’s sounding pretty cool, but I’ve been concentrating too hard on writing this. Maybe next time, I’ll share my thoughts.

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