Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Flavours of the Month: December 2013...


The Walking Dead - the Mid-Season 4 finale and Season 3 commentaries. The first eight episodes of season four have been the most consistently entertaining and well written episodes since the first season. Season 2 got off to a slow start, and the back half of Season 3 had some structural problems and a couple of other issues, but this recent batch of eight episodes has been a straight run of top quality TWD goodness (and well worth a second run-through in a pre-Xmas marathon session). Roll on Season 4B!

What Happens In Kavos - for the uninitiated, this is a Channel 4 documentary series about young adults jetting off to the titular Greek resort for a cheap holiday that's nothing more than sun, sea, sex, and astonishing amounts of alcohol. It's eyebrow-raising, jaw-dropping stuff ... like watching animals in a zoo, but with sloshed Brits mangling the English language and throwing every last shred of caution and decency to the wind.

Click "READ MORE" below for more looks, sounds, vibes & flavours for December 2013...

Mob City - what Frank Darabont did after his bad split with AMC over The Walking Dead. Not as gripping as TWD, and it took a couple of episodes before it started finding its feet, but I hope a second season will be coming. Beautifully designed throughout, it combines classic film noir tropes with present day cynicism. A strong start, in need of a little more work to add that extra oomph to push it over the top, but it's a damn sight better than a lot of television drama out there, that's for sure. Hopefully we will get a season two!

The World's End (Blu-Ray) - the closing chapter in the 'Cornetto Trilogy' maintained the Wright/Pegg/Frost laugh quotient, but rediscovered the sense of heart and sprinkles of daring seriousness that Shaun of the Dead exhibited. Another quality extras package from Universal, but I'm sick of the amount of stuff you have to wade through before you get to the menu - you can skip the numerous trailers, but not all-together, only individually. Every single time you load the disc it's the same faff - knock it off already, whoever's authoring discs for Universal! Back to the movie though and it's still laugh-out-loud enjoyable, and is even surprisingly dark at times when you really think about it.

Kick Ass 2 (Blu-Ray) - not as fresh as the first, and somewhat uneven, but still a rather enjoyable continuation of the story from the first movie, and it does hit more often than it misses.

This Is The End (Blu-Ray) - second-best to The World's End, but still full of apocalypse-themed fun.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (Blu-Ray) - a rarity indeed, a British TV-to-Film adaptation that works.

Monsters University (Blu-Ray) - not one of Pixar's best, but familiar characters and settings help smooth over the cracks somewhat in this prequel (even if there is a strong sense of inevitability to the narrative), while the campus-based comedy sputters on occasion, but mostly works. Warm of heart, visually pleasing, and with a voice cast that's pleasing to the ear.


Alice Cooper "From The Inside", "Billion Dollar Babies"

Green Day "American Idiot", "21st Century Breakdown"

The Sisters of Mercy "A Slight Case of Overbombing", "Floodland (Remastered & Expanded)"
- "The World's End" reminded me of how much I liked the tracks 'This Corrosion' and 'Dominion' (the former I discovered during my sixth form years) however, I got distracted by all kinds of other music during the intervening years. Time to do a little bit of catching up, so I snapped up a couple of albums (the first being a compilation). Some new favourites off the latter include "Lucretia My Reflection", "Never Land", "Colours" and "Emma".

Antoni Maiovvi "Driving Theme" - I stumbled upon a trailer for a short film, a 'neo-giallo' titled "Yellow" (hopefully it'll come out on DVD soon!), and then I ended up on SoundCloud listening to this track by the artist who scored the film.

Haddaway "What Is Love" - Saints Row 4.

Robert Palmer "Simply Irresistable" - Saints Row 4.

Men Without Hats "The Safety Dance" - again, Saints Row 4. There's a few good tracks on the soundtrack to the game (see below for my general thoughts on it), although I can't hear this track and not think of Homer Simpson's rendition (everybody look at your pants).

Ben Howard "Oats in the Water" - as featured in episode 4x05 of The Walking Dead.

Ben Nichols "The Last Pale Light in the West" - as featured to great effect in episode 4x06 of The Walking Dead during the haunting montage that opens the episode.

Alice Cooper "Go To Hell" and "Guilty" - from the album "Alice Cooper Goes To Hell".

Funny Death "Sentai"


"The Racket" - a new documentary project that I'm editing, this time about the money to be made out of warfare. With the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 in 2014, this film looks at the flow of cash that supports a war, and the juxtaposition between those who profit financially and those who are sent into the jaws of hell when diplomacy breaks down.

Christmas! - decorations, shopping, wrapping, presents, food, friends, family, the whole thing. 2013 has gone seriously fast though, so it feels - it hardly seems any time since it was Xmas 2012.

Chuck Palahniuk "Doomed" - I'm only early on in the follow-up to 2011's "Damned" (which I really enjoyed), but I'm already having a great time reading it.

Saints Row IV - Saints Row The Third was a big step up for the franchise. All the problems of the first two were cast aside and the player was given a rip-roaring dose of outlandish chaos. Saints Row IV has plenty of fun on offer, but unfortunately it soon becomes clear that this is akin to a glorified DLC. Cut corners, numerous glitches (sound loses sync routinely, for example) albeit no game-breakers, and a lack of content (22 hours until completion ... SR3 was at least 10 hours longer) make SR4 a bit of a rush-job. There's a few iconic missions scattered throughout (such as the first where you take down a terrorist missile to the wailing sounds of "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing"), but the consistent inventiveness (and sheer fun) of SR3 is rather lacking ... some missions just become overlong, repetitive, or frustrating (or a mix of all three). Oftentimes a challenge equates to swarming the player with a barrage of enemies or missiles (the "Grand Finale" mission takes the piss in that regard).

Little has moved on from SR3 - it's more a slide backwards, in fact. SR3 was well-balanced, consistently fun, and provided a campaign worth playing, but SR4 doesn't really hit these highs most of the time. Certain aspects are great fun, even if they're revisits of ideas from SR3, but the sloppiness is inexcusable. This feels more about solidifying it's reputation for insanity than anything else - 'secondary missions' are merely one of the characters ordering you to do a particular set of the "Activities" (mayhem, races, etc). It's a cheap-shot way to make it appear like there's more content.

Super powers are rather fun to have, but as a result there is absolutely sod-all purpose in using vehicles in the game. None whatsoever. Why drive when I can leap tall buildings and glide on the air across the entire map?! Gameplay mechanics are also repeated ad-nauseum (so many shields to disable, so many 'go here and kill everything' moments). There's no doubt that it has an addictive quality - hunting down orbs, upgrading your skills, and covering the map in Saints' purple preach to particular parts of a gamer's brain - but contrived reasons to remove your super powers simply frustrate instead of mix things up. What's more, you still receive utterly useless XP even after you've maxed-out at 50XP, while not earning quite enough points to fully max-out your superpowers, nor earning enough cache to upgrade (let alone buy) all the available weapons.

All-in-all though, it's not a massive bugger up. There are some inspiring sights along the way and good fun to be had, but there's no escaping that this is a watered-down, slapped-together, hodge-podge of previously used ideas and mechanics masquerading as a fully fledged sequel. I definitely want a Saints Row 5, but they're going to have to seriously buck-up their ideas.

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