Brooding detectives, nerdvana, 'black out years' tunes, darkly comic tales, and a great big thwack in the ribs are just some of what's been flavouring my July 2015...
Click "READ MORE" below for this month's Looks, Sounds, Vibes & Flavours...
True Detective: Season 2 - not quite as good as the first season, and maybe some of that is down to the sheer complexity of the plot, but it's nevertheless a superb piece of drama. We are taken to parts of L.A. and California that we rarely - or ever - see, and the characters are richly detailed and morally grey. Rachel McAdams brings a welcome female perspective on proceedings in a way that works for the show, for the setting, for the types of characters at play here, rather than just as a sop to appease those who complained about the male centric Season 1. Rule One: be true to the world you're depicting and the perspective from which you're telling your story - Season 1 was doing just that, and so is Season 2 ... so it's nice to have a female perspective that fits the material. Indeed, as an aside, I've often said that - in my view at least - "Ashes To Ashes" was superior to "Life On Mars" because of the inclusion of a female protagonist, who opened up new storytelling avenues and outlooks on the world being presented to the viewer.
What We Do In The Shadows (DVD) - a little more judicious editing here and there would have tightened up a few weak spots, but altogether this New Zealand horror comedy that primarily tackles vampires brings a welcome lampooning of a popular sub-genre. This is how to do a spoof - it utilises the central conceits of its target as much as it mocks them.
Bad Milo (DVD) - mini review HERE.
Blood and Black Lace (Blu-Ray) - full review of Arrow's wonderful HD restoration HERE.
Inside No.9: Series 1 (DVD)
The Aviator (Blu-Ray)
The Walking Dead: Season 4 (Blu-Ray) - between seasons, and having got all hot and bothered by the Season 6 Comic-Con trailer, I gave the fourth season another spin. 4x01, 4x08, 4x09, 4x14, and 4x16 are all exceptional highlights of the season with 4x14 "The Grove" being the best of the season. Roll on "Fear The Walking Dead" in August, not-to-mention TWD's return in October!
Chappie (Blu-Ray) - mini review HERE.
Rob Zombie "Past, Present & Future"
Guns n Roses "Appetite For Destruction", "GnR Lies", "Use Your Illusion I", "Use Your Illusion II", "Chinese Democracy"
The Sisters of Mercy "Floodland"
Annie Lennox "Love Song For A Vampire"
Alice Cooper "Special Forces", "DaDa" - the so-called 'black out years' in AC's discography often get ignored or considered lesser works, but there's some superb pieces in these outings. In the case of "Special Forces" there's the likes of 'Who Do You Think We Are', 'Skeletons In The Closet' and 'You Look Good In Rags' as personal highlights, while "DaDa" is packed with great tracks - such as 'Enough's Enough', 'Former Lee Warmer', 'No Man's Land', 'Scarlet and Sheba', 'I Love America' and 'Pass The Gun Around'.
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
"How Mr Snuffles III and Others Met Their Maker" - I finished the first draft and then gave it a couple of re-drafts. As I've said before, this story has mostly been found on the page, so there were some significant additions in the initial re-drafts. I plan to submit it to a couple of places that take longer form stories (this particular piece started out as a short story but evolved into a novelette), and eventually release it as in eBook and Paperback formats via Amazon and Smashwords as I've done with my novels "Celebrityville" and "Sleb: Tigress of Celebrityville". The published version will also feature a glossary, which I'm currently working on ... it'll make sense when it's eventually released.
"Natural Law" - editing is underway again on the Ethical Theory II DVD. This particular film also involved a day of filming in and around a Benedictine Abbey.
Karting - when I went karting last year I was in the midst of a terrible ordeal with gall stones (at the time I didn't know it was gallstones specifically, and would later have my completely kaput gallbladder removed) and was running on barely any sleep in four days ... but I had an absolute blast. When we returning this year we changed things up a bit - longer races with a full grid - which made for a rather rambunctious time, but again it was an awful lot of fun. Of course, this being karting - and this being me - I seem to have picked up a bad habit of getting injured on the second lap. When we went off-road karting last year I sprained a hand (the tendons ached for weeks - but it fully healed). On this occasion I was flying around a long, sweeping corner at speed when a friend ahead of me spun and slammed into the side of my kart - and I slammed my side into the seat. Nearly four weeks later and it's still a bit stiff and I've not been able to lie on it. I've no idea if I broke or fractured a rib, or just bruised things a bit (there was no exterior bruising, strangely enough - and having spent 2014 in and out of the GP and hospital I'm decidedly not keen to go back, particularly when there's little you can do about an injured rib anyway) ... but it seems to be feeling a hell of a lot better compared to when I'd initially injured it.
Comic-Con 2015 - I'd love to go one day, but for now YouTube will have to be my proxy. Trailers and panels galore allowed me to full get my nerd on. You can also see me Trailer Analysis for The Walking Dead Season 6 HERE, and likewise for Ash vs Evil Dead HERE.
Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days - still rocking the Xbox360 (I'm in no rush to jump onto 'next/current' gen and I've still not made my mind up between Xbox One or PS4), I've been catching up on a few games - and in this instance, for a mere couple of quid. I never played the first, but if this is an improvement by comparison then "Dead Men" must have been a mess. It feels rushed, rough around the edges and sloppy when it comes to the cover and shooting mechanics (the key aspect of the game!). Weapons exhibit inconsistent hit detection and accuracy, taking cover can prove decidedly fussy (e.g. switching sides of a pillar), and the audio is a mixed bag - many times quiet moments of dialogue became inaudible whispers, while the 'punchiness' of gunfights see-sawed from surprisingly weak to pleasingly gritty (the weapons likewise lacked weight and impact for the most part).
However, technical faults aside, the visual presentation is impressively unique. As if viewed through the wobbly hand-held lens of a digital camera - replete with pixelation, grain, drifting auto-focus, and light flaring - the game is afforded an excellent sense of style to go with the gritty, violent story. Even the most gruesome moments (e.g. extreme bullet-meets-head encounters) are obscured by pixelation, as if censored by a news organisation with a ruthless "if it bleeds, it leads" attitude. The setting is also one of the game's strong points - the underbelly of Shanghai for the most part (demolished buildings, ship building factories, slums), but you do also venture through an upscale office, an airport (decided shades of Michael Mann's "Heat"), and a shopping district (a visceral highlight).
So it's a mixed bag, and even with the technical faults - that render core mechanics just functional rather than finely tuned - and a couple of minor glitches, I enjoyed playing it. Frustrations were few, but the dodgy hit detection was like a persistent smudge on a windshield right in your eye line. My expectations were already checked having seen the mixed reviews when the game originally launched in 2010, and particularly in the light of picking up a copy dirt cheap, consider me pleased ... however, had I paid full whack for this in 2010 I would have felt sorely ripped off.
Raymond Chandler "The Big Sleep" - I've seen the Bogart movie a couple of times, and on a recommendation I decided to give the book a look-see as my first Raymond Chandler. Arguably this 1939 novel is the daddy of hard boiled detective fiction. So far so good!