Ramble No. 67: Seals, Pigs, Ants, Wasp and Dragon

Since my last ramble I’ve been to a work Christmas do involving a self-indulgent DJ who held a minute’s silence after playing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ignored everyone’s requests. But Siggy, Bobby, Nelly, Bazza and I had a good time which was nice.

Before that, and after while nursing my hangover, and between racking up over 80 hours on Assassins’ Creed, I got through a few more books and films.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos is a typically odd tale about how a group of people get marooned on one of the islands and eventually, 1 million years later, have developed into seal-like creatures and are the only remaining humans on the planet.

The story is more around the events of how the various larger than life characters ended up on the cruise ship which runs aground and why a search part wan’t sent out. It also features some great insights into mankind much akin to those found in Matt Haig’s The Humans.

There are linkages to some of Vonnegut’s other stories, and this one is longer and rather better constructed than the others I have read; which while greatly entertaining seemed rather disorderly.

Lee Child’s Make Me is an excellent Jack reacher story which I can’t say too much about as I’m in no-spoiler mode for this post (for a change). The only gripe I had with it was that there’s a burial at the start of the book which it turns out was rather unnecessary given the circumstances and the locality of some big ol’ pigs. Saying that the pigs wren’t hungry that day seems a bit lame and i couldn’t understand why Child just didn’t go back and rewrite that bit.

Also interestingly (well to me anyway) the book features the first instance of the phrase ‘tony suburb’ which I actually thought was a typo until it occurred again. Nelly Googled it and told me it means a trendy area. it’s one of those Americanisms that those readers of this blog who come from the US will laugh at me for not knowing. All this time I’ve never read it before honest.

… and then it popped up again in Haruki Murakami’s short story collection Men Without Women. Twice in the space of two books. Weird.

Men Without Women is a thin book containing a mixed bag of seven short stories. There are moments of pure Murakami ‘magical realism’ which delighted me and on the whole, after a slow start (much like Homecoming) I found the collection very good.

Another thin book was China Mieville’s novella This Census-Taker. You could almost compare this to some of Murakami’s earlier work but it is quite clear that it takes place in some alternate future. Lots of the story is inferred to the reader through the shifting POV of the narrator which is poetical at times and hints at some kind of post-robot cataclysm and possible race-war.

The narrator is a young boy who is convinced his violent father has killed his mother, but who is forced to continue to live with him due to lack of proof. There’s a hole in the ground in a cave where various bodies are flung which is very Cthulhu-esque and similar to the horrible short story ‘The Voice’ I wrote in my collection The Sun and the Rainfall.

Homecoming on Amazon Video has been a bit of an enigma. From the same people who brought us the utterly fabulous Mr Robot, Homecoming stars a rough looking Julia Roberts as a therapist at a veterans treatment centre and a rather typecast Bobby Cannavale as a morally bereft corporate type who works for Big Pharma.

The show features two rather obvious visual devices – one is wholly acceptable, the other is annoying as fuck. The first one is alternating aspect ratios providing current events in what would traditionally be an old-style squarer aspect ratio with black bands left and right, and previous events in a wider aspect ratio. The other is that periphery areas of the screen are grossly out of focus – this effect happens both in HD 1080p and HDR versions. It seemed wholly necessary to me and frustrated the suspension of disbelief.

Homecoming is dished up in thirty-minute episodes which makes it easily digestible, but even so it is frustratingly slow-burning. Mystery prevails until around episode 7 out of 10. Once the ah-ha! moment is delivered the final few episodes are excellent, if rather blurry.

I totally forgot that Bobby Cannavale is also in Ant-Man and the recently released for rental sequel, and actually plays a super-nice guy.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is like the bazzillionth film in the MCU but actually turns up to the party with some nice ideas and a few good performances. Paul Rudd and Michael Pena are particularly good and Hannah John-Kamen has a great part as the mysterious Ghost/Ava.

As you’d expect there are some great special effects and Benjamin Button computer youngerizing of Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas as the Wasp’s (poor man’s Sandar Bullock, Evangaline Lilly). There’s some massive issues around the conservation of energy and some simpler issues over everything in a miniaturised lab getting thrown all over the place while it’s being fought over, but really who cares when the car chases are so cool, the quips are flying thick and fast, and there’s a frickin’ ant playing drums!

Narcos: Mexico landed for me nicely on Netflix in it’s entirety (unlike the second part of the latest season of Vikings on Amazon which is annoyingly being drip-fed to us Norge-hungry punters) just when I needed more Michael Pena action. He’s such a dude. Also Diego Luna out of Rogue One is starring as the main drug trafficking scumbag in a tuxedo. Cool beans.

The new Tomb Raider film I saw earlier in the year in a cinema in Aberdeen, was 99p to rent on Amazon Video at the weekend and, despite me telling her that it was a bit crap, Siggy really wanted to see it. I took one for the team, but my opinion on the film hasn’t changed and can be found here.

A film that does bear repeat viewing and indeed looked stunning in HD was Jarhead. Directed by the geezer that did Skyfall and Spectre, and starring that Donny Darko bloke, the film is based on a true story of a young recruit involved in Operation Desert Storm.

There’s something about American war films that I really dig as they tend not to glamourise war while still being very stylish. The scenes where the Kuwait oil fields are set on fire and it is raining oil are visually amazing and the story is a good one. Better than Dunkirk? Of course it was. Just ignore the awful looking sequels.

Talking of James Bond, I watched the Daniel Craig version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and was quite impressed. I’m a big fan of the books and the original Swedish films, and so I was a bit down on the whole idea of a remake, but it was rather good.

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2 thoughts on “Ramble No. 67: Seals, Pigs, Ants, Wasp and Dragon

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