Tuesday 31 March 2015

Flavours of the Month: March 2015...

There's been a bit of a Werner Herzog vibe to this month as I finally caught up with a few recordings I'd made several weeks ago during Film4's season of films by the filmmaker - such as Aguirre Wrath of God, Stroszek, Nosferatu The Vampyre, and Fitzcarraldo ... but there's also been a dose of Hollywood satire, a pinch of Thomas Pynchon, and a journey through some bleak post-apocalyptic tunnels, among other such things...

Click "READ MORE" below for the looks, sounds, vibes & flavours of my March 2015...


Top Gear: Series 22 - one of my all-time favourite, must-watch programmes came back last month for a new ten episode run ... until the "fracas" incident put an end to the entire show FFS!

Episodes: Season 4 - sometimes there are shows that benefit from being binge-watched, and for me this is one such show. However, I think it's fair to say that season 3 had lost some mojo, but the fourth season snaps back with a little bit of fresh air and I thoroughly enjoyed it. For those unfamiliar with Episodes, it's about a couple of British TV writers who are lured to the glitzy world of Hollywood to produce an American remake of their show which was a smash-hit in the UK, only to have it completely butchered into a terrible sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc (who plays a bastardised version of himself).

A Million Ways To Die In The West (Blu-Ray) - see my thoughts on it HERE.

Alan Partridge: The Complete Collection - Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge, I'm Alan Partridge Series 1 & 2 - I was already familiar with the latter, but hadn't seen the former. I'd say that KMKY wasn't the ideal format for the character who, in my view at least, works best in the the half hour comedy series that followed it a few years later.

Eurotika! - a Channel 4 series from 1999 about European exploitation cinema. Over all it's interesting, but the presentation is often a bit dull. Indeed, certain films are overused as examples of subgenres that overlap with the content of other episodes (e.g. extensive footage from "The Awful Doctor Orloff" ends up in at least three episodes), meanwhile an entry dedicated to the giallo movement makes no mention of Edwige Fenech at all - a bizarre oversight! Narration wise it could have used some work too, as there are often lingering gaps that could have been used to better provide some extended historical context - it's most noticeable at the conclusion of each episode where things usually seem to end abruptly. Despite these gripes though, it was an interesting series that I stumbled across on YouTube.

The Walking Dead: Season 5B - hobnobviously! Memes over HERE.

A Scanner Darkly - Richard Linklater's trippy adaptation of Philip K. Dick's story of drug-hazed paranoia-overload.

Dawn of the Dead (8mm Digest Loop) - in the days before the wide proliferation of home video there was an alternative method for viewing your favourite movies at home: an 8mm print copy. However, that also meant it being a 'digest' version of the movie (cut down to the essentials). As an avid fan of Romero's iconic zombie film I was intrigued to see an 8mm digest version of Dawn of the Dead pop up on YouTube - it's 46 minutes long and seems to be based upon the European Cut of the movie. It's a fascinating experience for those of us - myself included - for whom the whole 'home 8mm' thing was a bit before our time (I grew up on VHS, personally). In some ways it's quite funny to see entire chunks of the film disappear in the blink of an edit while still, amazingly, managing to keep the basic narrative intact (albeit at the expense of anything thematically rich, and a fair amount of zombie action) ... and, in some ways, the brevity strangely enhances the tragic inevitability of the film's climax.


Sly And The Family Stone "I Want To Take You Higher" - as featured in the theatrical trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson's new film "Inherent Vice". It's not usually the kind of music I'd gravitate to generally, but sometimes you stumble across a track that you dig the groove of, and this is one such case.

Foo Fighters "Sonic Highways"

Popol Vuh
- having had a bit of a Werner Herzog vibe to this month, pieces of aural majesty from the likes of Aguirre Wrath of God, Nosferatu The Vampyre, and Fitzcarraldo were bound to find their way onto my playlist. Moments like the stunning opening to Aguirre, or the carefree interludes in Nosferatu and Fitzcarraldo, stir something inside, something intangible and ethereal. The perfect soundscapes to accompany Herzog's unique visions.

Nine Inch Nails "Somewhat Damaged"

White Zombie "La Sexorcisto" and "Astro-Creep: 2000"


Metro Last Light (Xbox 360) - I never played Metro 2033, but did read the book, so I was up-to-speed. Admittedly I'm quite late in getting around to this one, but I'm glad I finally gave it a bash. The story is good, even if some of the complex political machinations and societal nuances get lost in the strictures of the videogame format. Visually it's inventive with inspired level design that illustrates for the player a tragic history, chilling claustrophobia, creeping paranoia, awe, and some genuinely skin-crawling moments of horror.

Gameplay wise it's pretty solid, even if the mechanics aren't quite up to the slick AAA standards of more established shooters, but the weapon choice and customisation does offer the chance for some combat specialisation. Added details like changing filters (when in toxic environments) and wiping blood or rain from your gas mask create an impressive sense of immersion.

As mentioned before the plot is complex, and while this is good, it can lead to some complications. The morality system in the game could have used clarification (some marks for or against your character seem awfully petty), and one requirement for the 'best ending' does seem at odds with a First Person Shooter. Indeed, while I got the 'bad/standard ending' (which many people seemed to get), it's not truly a 'bad' ending - rather a quite complex one that has many shades of grey to it (in some ways it's beautiful) ... however, the final determination of your achieved ending (from a mere two possibilities) does lack a sense of ownership - your fate is inevitable depending on a strict set of rules that don't quite fit with the wider moral outlook of the Metro universe.

Aside from a few moments that required a little more guidance, or tended to stack the odds against the player too much, Metro Last Light is a bloody good game. It more than succeeds in bringing Dmitry Glukhovsky's world to life, and provides a lengthy campaign that rewards fastidious exploration while putting the five hour wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am campaigns of major shooters to shame. Slightly flawed, but the presentation is otherwise so convincing that you can't help but get swept up by the world of the Metro and the devastated wasteland on the surface.

Now to read Metro 2034 - and then await Metro 2035 (which is apparently a more fleshed out re-telling of Last Light).

"Inherent Vice" by Thomas Pynchon - Paul Thomas Anderson adapted this novel for his latest film and it caught my eye, so I figured it would be a good idea to read the book and then be all sorted for when the movie hits Blu-Ray. It has gathered plenty of praise and I'd have to agree - its marijuana-fogged vision of an L.A. at the end of the 1960s revolution dream, as a terminally confused P.I. gets mixed up in a complex case, intrigues as much as it elicits laughter. Recommended!

"Dug Deep" - I finished off my short horror story that I'd been picking away at for the last few weeks. It allowed me to try out a few things as well as resurrect an old feature treatment and turn it into a full narrative piece. It's about a group of people who find themselves stuck inside a collapsed mine and, more specifically, it dives into the idea of 'what if you were the last to be rescued, but found yourself stuck down there alone instead?'

"Dick Contino's Blues & Other Stories" by James Ellroy - a collection of short stories by the 'demon dog' of crime fiction. As well as the novella "Dick Contino's Blues" (a fictionalised plot surrounding the real life accordianist), there are the following tales: "High Darktown" and "Dial Axminster 6-400", which both feature Lee Blanchard (one of the two main characters in Ellroy's breakout novel "The Black Dahlia"), "Since I Don't Have You", (featuring Turner 'Buzz' Meeks from "The Big Nowhere"), "Gravy Train" and "Torch Number".

"Behind Door 5" (working title) - a new short story for entry in a competition. This one is a little harder to pin down, but it's essentially about one person's struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder via a very specific requirement they've laid down for themselves in response to a succession of personal tragedies.

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