It seems like a long time since I did a blog post, maybe accentuated by the fact that I have been typing away on my keyboard almost on a daily basis since my Ramble 72. What I have been doing is revising what I have written for my new novel, which will be called Black Book, planning out what to write in the very useful tool Trello (which in a facepalm moment I realised I should use at home as well as at work) and writing some new scenes. But don’t get too excited, the release of Black Book is a long way off. It will arrive sometime in 2020 probably.

While I’ve not been beavering away on my novel, I’ve found the time to read a couple more books and watch some great television and see the odd film or two.

Ozark on Netflix is a very good series currently comprised of two 10 episode seasons. I guess you might say it’s a bit like Breaking Bad in some respects as it involves drugs and a man trying to protect his family. However in this show the family are well aware that Marty Bird (Jason Bateman) is laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. What makes the show for me are the complex supporting characters – particularly a maverick gay FBI agent, local hick heroin producers and the daughter of a trailer-trash family who wants more out of life than just conforming to the criminal lifestyle of her father and uncles.

Here’s a trailer:

What I find annoying about the show is just how bloody dark it is. Every shot seems to have been staged in the shadows or at night. I had to laugh when in one episode Marty turns the lights on in a dimly lit bar only to be shouted at the ‘turn the lights off!’.

Magic Magic is a strange film I recorded off Film4 which has a very unsatisfactory ending. A naive young Alicia (Juno Temple, who really can’t seem to keep her puppies stashed in any of her recent films) ends up on a Chilean island with no phone reception. Argh!! Nightmare.

Things get worse when she grows increasingly paranoid about the people she is with – friends of a cousin (Sucker Punch‘s Emily Browning) who has rather unfairly deserted her. Michael Cera plays a very creepy chap called Brink, and you think he’s going to be the cause of all the trouble that the eerie music and choice of shot puts in mind. But in actuality it is Alicia’s mental health that sends her into a spiral of paranoia and despair. I’m not sure what the overall intent of the film was supposed to be apart from highlighting mental health issues and the ‘magic’ bit of it seems to be very much tacked onto the end of the film.

Ghost in the Shell SAC Laughing Man is a mash up of episodes from the first season (a.k.a. 1st Gig) of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex made into a long movie, with some new dialogue recorded and a few minor scene and story alterations. It is my favourite part of the TV show and so I was easily suckered in to buying this version of the story.

Laughing Man is a super wizard-class hacker (superior to the Major), capable of the real-time hacking of multiple video streams and cyber brains. His name comes from J.D. Salinger’s short story, The Laughing Man, and the distinctive logo is an animated image of a smiling figure wearing a cap, with circling text quoting a line from The Catcher in the Rye:

“I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes.”

The film centres on the Laughing Man’s cyber terrorist activities after he discovered that a number of micromachine (nanotech) manufacturers have conspired with the Japanese government to suppress the availability of a simple cure for a debilitating brain disease.

Personally while I loved the story when I watched the TV series, I found the film somewhat lacking and indeed came to realise that one of my favourite episodes of the show had been completely removed from the film due to time constraints. There also seemed to be far too many inserts providing exposition and a strange reordering of events that disrupted the fluidity of the storytelling. It’s made me want to watch the TV show again. If you like Ghost in the Shell please visit this recent post I did about the newer stuff from Production I.G.

The Predator seemed like obligatory viewing for Siggy and I last weekend. It was dumb fun which didn’t really help the franchise in any way but kept us amused for an hour or so. As usual those guys at Screen Junkies sum it up better than I can:

yes it was a confused mess, especially how the scientist seemed to have had weapons training and the kid could understand the alien interfaces. There was also a continuity issue over where the alien’s mask was for a large portion of the movie before it conveniently reappeared. And we groaned when one of the bunch of misfit army guys shouted ‘get to the choppers!’ pointing at a bunch of motorbikes that seemed to have their ignition keys in.

Since last I wrote, I have blasted through Raymond Chandler’s classic hard-boiled detective novel Farewell, My Lovely. This was an absolute pleasure to read, and I would say that if you only read one of his books (I have another seven to read) then make it this one. The snappy dialogue, the humour and the brilliant metaphors Chandler puts into the mouth of Philip Marlowe are a pure joy.

Matt Haig’s The Last Family in England is a similar sized book, but with a lot more white space. It is a story of family strife told from the point of view of Prince the family’s Labrador who is set on keeping the family together, come hell or high water. As usual with Haig’s writing the story contains some interesting insights into family life and in this one also into the behaviour of man’s best friend.