Rising out of the CoD-hole (R-088)

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Others things have happened since I started playing the multiplayer online version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but writing blog posts has not been one of those things. The game is brilliant, by far one of the best online gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time, and as such it has eaten up all the time I might normally dedicate to this blog.

However, now I’ve hit Rank 101, learnt the maps, explored most of the gameplay modes, gadgets, guns and perks available, the novelty is beginning to wear off a bit. I’ve climbed out of the rabbit hole and it’s time to write a ramble about some of the other things that I’ve enjoyed to some extent or other when I’ve not been trying to shoot people in the head and get XP.

First of all I think it’s worth mentioning a couple of DC graphic novels that I have thoroughly enjoyed. These are Frank Miller’s Batman Dark Knight Strikes Again (2005) and Batman: Dark Knight III: The Master Race (2017) both sequels to the critically acclaimed The Dark Knight Returns(1986). This gritty trilogy is set in a future in which Batman is a bitter old man railing against a world becoming more and more violent and chaotic.

Dark Knight Strikes Again had a very hard act to follow and Miller tries to up the ante by including numerous other DC characters into the mix alongside Bats, Superman and Robin/Batgirl. These include Wonder Woman – a much tougher looking character than we’re used to in the films and TV show, Superman and Wonder Woman’s daughter, Captain Marvel – the male version and not sure why he’s in a DC comic, Green Lantern, Atom, The Flash, Plastic Man and in the third volume even Aquaman makes an appearance. In the second volume Bats has to defeat Lex Luthor who is running the world.

In the third volume, The Master Race, the main problem is Superman and Wonder Woman’s daughter plus a whole bunch of crazy-ass Kryptonians released from a shrunken city by Atom, intent on becoming the titular master race. While the two sequels never quite hit the captivating heights of the first book, there are some great drawings, colouring and imaginative set pieces. And there didn’t seem to be that desperation to throw the kitchen sink into it like there was with Hush, although there is a slightly similar plot point in Dark Knight Strikes Again.

For me the story fell a little flat when what was broken was put back together – the series of character ‘resets’ juxtaposed alongside some interesting progression (e.g. another Super/Amazon sprog and the origin of Batwoman) felt a bit weird. As Batgirl says at one point ‘how many times have we heard that Batman’s dead?‘. However if they can transfer some of these stories onto the big screen then i for one will be buying a cinema ticket.

Talking of superhero films I watched the film Guardians (2017) a Russian movie directed by Russian-Armenian Sarik Andreasyan. The Guardians are an Avengers-esque team created as a product of genetic experiments by a mad scientist in the Cold War. The film is one of the worst superhero films I’ve seen in a long time and does a very good job in showing how marvellous the MCU is. One of the guardians can transform into a half bear/half man or go full bear. Sometimes he runs around with a big gun on his back. Halfway through the film they get new suits. I can’t and won’t try and sell it to you. Don’t bother.

You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson and not watched Neil Marshall’s Hellboy (2019) reboot of the cult classic duo of films directed by visionary (you have to say that) director Guillermo del Toro. But I did. And I’m here to tell you that if you liked the first two films then whatever you do don’t watch this one. It has some good visual effects and creature design in places but really has nothing else going for it. Why oh why they didn’t just do it as a third instalment of an ongoing story I don’t know. IMO we didn’t need to see the origin story again especially since it was done very well by del Toro.

Hellboy has David Harbour (Stranger Things) in the titular role and he does an okay job stepping into the shoes, suit, big glove, prosthetics, and sawed off horns of Ron Perlman. The rest of the cast suffered from crappy dialogue and two-dimensional character writing.  One of Hellboy’s team can transform into a big angry cat. He doesn’t run around with a big gun on his back, but Hellboy gets to wield legendary sword Excalibur at one point, so no matter. Oh and Milla Jovovich is in it as a bad witch and Ian McShane does the mentor thing he did in the John Wick films and American Gods and about every thing he’s been in recently.

On a lighter note, Siggy and I enjoyed a good-hearted comedy called The House (2017) starring  Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler (Parks & Recreation) , Nick Kroll (voiced the Douche in Sausage Party) and Jason Mantzoukas (The Dictator). The film’s central idea is that to pay for their daughters college Ferrell and Poehler’s characters team up with Mantzoukas’s character a gambling addict to set up an illegal casino in his suburban house. Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye in the Avengers films) has a great cameo toward the end as a disgruntled mobster who meets a grizzly fate. There’s plenty of other familiar faces from American comedy and if you take it for what it is and have a few beers, it’s a good laugh.

There’s not so much fun in The Acid House (1998) which is a collection of three stories from the mind of Irvine Welsh and probably seemed a good idea after the success of trainspotting two year’s earlier. It’s been on my watchlist for years and we decided to watch it last weekend. It looks like a badly shot indie film and features a bunch of Scottish actors with varying degrees of talent. Some of the dialogue is impenetrable due to their strong accents and most is peppered with a series of c- and f-bombs the likes of which would make Tarantino blush.

The stories themselves would probably be quite fun as short stories but don’t transfer particularly well to the screen. However, among the filth and general nastiness is an early performance from Michelle Gomez, a favourite of ours from the Channel Four comedy Green Wing and more recently from Doctor Who in which she played Missy.

Other books I’ve read recently are Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch and The Winds of Limbo by the mutli-award winning Michael Moorcock.

Whispers Under Ground (2012) is the third book in the series featuring magical police officer Peter Grant. I enjoyed it a lot more than Moon Over Soho because I felt the story was more intriguing and more akin similar stories by Neil Gaiman and the atmosphere of the original Hellboy films. I still find the main character a little hard to believe in terms of his knowledge of London – I think the writer’s knowledge rather bleeds through a little too much and while the cultural reference and puns are spot on for my age group they are a little too frequent and can be distracting from the action at hand.

I picked this book up like the previous book and the first in the series Rivers of London either from a friend or from a charity shop (I can’t quite recall, as it’s been festering on my bookshelf for over a year) and I don’t think I’m into the series enough to really want to go out and buy the fourth instalment. Fingers crossed it might pop up in a charity shop soon.

The Winds of Limbo (1965) is an early sci-fi book by Moorcock alternately titled The Fireclown. The 172-page book tells the story of Alan Powys a civil servant living in a future society where most live underground (Busted were almost right, I’m not sure if it is the year 3000 though, and there are spaceports underwater) whose grandfather Simon Powys is running to be the next president of Earth. Alan’s cousin Helen is also running as a candidate on a more radical platform.

The Fireclown lives in the lower levels of the city and his philosophical lectures captivate the masses. Simon Powys thinks he is a danger to society and wants to see the lower levels closed off. Alan is not so sure and Helen supports to rebellion the Fireclown seems to be promoting with his fire shows and speeches. The lower levels are indeed shut off, there is an accident which sees fire sweep through may levels, killing many and public sentiment turns against the Fireclown who escapes in a rocket ship to an orbiting space station populated by monks.

Alan and Helen, who are ex-lovers, follow the trail of the Fireclown and learn the extent of his plans. They also uncover a plot by Simon Powys who it seems will do anything to get the presidency.

What I found most surprising in this book, apart from the heady mixture of politics, philosophy and imagination, is how relevant some of the chapters were to current political events – i.e. the likes of Trump and Boris Johnson. It seems at times that sci-fi writers are truly ahead of their time in more ways than one.

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