Zombies, assassins, spies, and Jedis ... just some of what's been flavouring my December 2015...
Click "READ MORE" below to see this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...
Zombie Flesh Eaters (Blu-Ray) - Arrow Video's HD release of Fulci's most famous cinematic outing. A thoroughly good compliment of extras are included - an hour long 'Romero To Rome' documentary (informative, if a bit heavy on clips and not what you'd call visually arresting), as well as talks with F/X guy Gino De Rossi, composer Fabio Frizzi (in a very warm and jovial Q&A), and a few other bits and pieces (easter eggs, booklet etc) make for a good time.
The Walking Dead: Season 5 (Blu-Ray) - a second spin of the 2014/15 season. The hospital plot doesn't quite nestle in amongst everything else, but it's hard to pin down exactly why. There's interesting ideas there, but mostly the new characters aren't that compelling, and let's face it, coming off the one-two-three punch of the opening three episodes of Season 5 it's hard to do anything else but stumble. That said, the Daryl/Carol episode where they return to a napalm-scorched Atlanta is a season highlight (and a nice change of visual pace). The struggles the group face - the weight of grief - in episodes nine and ten are a knockout highlight, as well, plus, throwing our gang of hardened survivors into a thoroughly familiar-but-alien environment has freshened things up nicely.
Fargo: Season 2 - this time around I've been pulled in gradually, but nevertheless consider me sucked in. That the eighth episode proved to be one of the best hours of television drama this year - featuring a deep, dark vein of humour, a bizarre situation, and a few genuine surprises - is a testament to Noah Hawley and company's talents, making Fargo one of my current must-watch-right-now shows. That said - that one ever-so random, totally incongruous moment near the end of Episode 9? Why on earth did they do that?! Talk about an utterly distracting tonal aberration.
That's So Last Century - a Channel 4 'comedy documentary with talking heads' three-part series where famous famous and their families (i.e. techno-oblivious children gawping at old tech) look back on the best-loved gadgets of the 20th century.
Lifeforce (Blu-Ray) - mini review here.
Jay & Silent Bob Get Old (DVD) - "Teabaggin' in the UK", and "Teabaggin' in Ireland".
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Blu-Ray) - not quite as fantastic as Ghost Protocol, but another highly entertaining entry in the globe-trotting, gadget-wielding, super-spy action franchise. The villain isn't quite as openly formidable as you might expect, but a game turn from Rebecca Ferguson gives the franchise a female equal to Cruise's Ethan Hunt, who once again gets the balance of dare devil stunts and fleeting moments of comic relief spot-on. A nice compliment of extras on the disc, as well: a case of quality over quantity.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens - yes, it borrows a lot from A New Hope, that late-in-the-game twist is inevitable before it happens, and Rey is a bit too adept at any challenge this early in the game. However, the tone is spot-on, BB-8 dodges the danger of becoming 'the new Jar-Jar' by a country mile, the new characters are almost universally engaging (especially Finn and Rey - Boyega and Ridley both giving full-bore, audience-grabbing performances), and over all it feels like the start of a new chapter in the franchise. After the bumbling festival of dodgy CGI and head-banging scripting that were the prequels, it's good to see Star Wars heading back in the right direction. It can't live up to the combined weight of the gargantuan hype (and preposterously overblown advertising campaign!!!) nor Episodes 4 and 5, but it can sit alongside Episode 6 quite comfortably. There's plenty of loose ends to explore - and indeed there's rumours of extra footage that could be getting eyed up for an extended cut - but the force is strong with this one (yes, hugely unoriginal of me, but I couldn't resist). Bring on Episode 8!
Ash vs Evil Dead - suffice it to say, I've been enjoying this show like nobody's business. What's more, episodes 8 and 9 have been a hell of a good time, getting the mix of nostalgia and franchise history absolutely spot-on, side-stepping over-cooked fan service and lazy heyday laurels-resting with aplomb.
Tremors 5: Bloodlines (DVD) - mini review here.
Misfits "The Devil's Rain", "Cuts From The Crypt", "American Psycho"
Ringo Deathstarr "Colour Trip"
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
"A Sideline In Vengeance" - finishing up all the character profiles and mapping out of the story for my new screenplay. Now I'm ready to write. This shall be defining the early portion of my 2016.
Dishonored (Xbox 360) - another case of 'catching up on old games with a cheap, used copy'. It took me a few days to get into the groove, but the 'tackle it your way' open-ness of the missions is very appealing, while the design (like a retro-advanced version of turn-of-the-20th-century sort-of-Britishness) sets is apart from the pack. The good/evil system is well planned out and considered - but it does rob you of some of the thrilling combat you could be indulging in (if you weren't so pre-occupied with avoiding punishment). The level design is intelligent and rewards exploration, but you do spend a lot of time saving your progress and re-loading when you accidentally slip up and bring about a splattery bloodbath. A little more room to move - some moral greyness - would have helped to balance the gameplay (sometimes you just want to cut loose), but at least the distinction is pretty clear.
"Sin City Volume 7: Hell And Back" by Frank Miller - I've had a bit of a Sin City thing going on this year, finally getting around to going through Miller's graphic novels, and so it came down to this: the seventh and final entry. It took me a while to get into it - the most compelling stories were, for me, in the earlier books - but I still dug it in the end.
Tell 'Em Steve-Dave Christmas Bundle 2011-2015 - the collected Xmas specials of one of my favourite podcasts.
"How To Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written" by Sterling Archer - a tie-in book to one of my 'new' shows from 2015: "Archer". Yes, I'm quite behind, and I've only done the first three (out of a current six) seasons thus far, but boy does it tickle my funny bone.