Chainsaw-wielding maniacs, spooky goings-on, and a certain chap stranded on Mars...
Click "READ MORE" below for this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - Tobe Hooper's blood-soaked and bonkers 80s sequel to his original 1974 shocker. Endlessly quoteable, packed with memorable characters, impressively put together, and - wisely - a complete departure in terms of look and tone from the original. I've loved this movie since I first saw it back in my mid-teens.
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 - there's pieces and elements that I dig about this movie, such as a variety of pretty strong villains (although, strangely enough, Leatherface is kinda naff in this movie), but it's been a while since I last viewed it and, to be brutally honest, I'd forgotten how ropey the script was. There's some lines of dialogue that land like real clunkers and the plot lacks the sheer wit or true horror of Hooper's first two films. On the plus side there's some gruesome gore (this being one of the infamous KNB's earlier films), such as a gloopy body pit exhumation, but the plus sides can't patch up a weak script which leaves the film on wobbly foundations. Loads better than the recent Texas Chainsaw 3D, mind you!
Barry Lyndon - it's taken me an awful long time to get around to seeing this 1975 Stanley Kubrick film, and I've gotta be honest, it was a bit of a slog to get through. Decidedly overlong, the tale may be sumptuously presented, but then again I've never found much interest in that particular era of history. There are standout sequences - such as the pistol duel in the barn - but the starchy, stilted feel (despite some shimmers of Kubrick's bite), belies the director's yearning for something decidedly less dangerous and controversial after all the struggles he faced in the wake of the release of A Clockwork Orange.
The X-Files - I've been touring through some of the quirkier episodes, after the recent 10th season got me all hot and bothered for some more Mulder & Scully goodness. So far I've toured through "War of the Coprophages", "Jose Chung's From Outer Space", "Small Potatoes", "Bad Blood", "Dreamland I & II", "Triangle", "Monday", "Arcadia", and "Hollywood A.D." (weirdly enough, the morning after the night I watched this episode - after quite some humming and ha-ing over which episode to pick - the news of guest star Garry Shandling's death was announced).
The Martian - Ridley Scott's film adaptation of Andy Weir's superb sci-fi novel. Drew Goddard's screenplay stays true to the spirit and characters of the book, but there evident changes. The 'sciencey stuff' is more streamlined here, compared to the exceedingly detailed scientific explanations and problem solving passages in Weir's book. The biggest change, no spoilers, involves a long journey - and all that happens during it - with the film somewhat curiously cutting it down to bare bones ... that said, it's still understandable from a cinematic storytelling perspective. The pacing and plotting of a screenplay are different to that of a book, and a few small tweaks in the film make more sense from a story perspective. Should you watch the film first or read the book first? I read the book first and then watched the film. Either way, whichever you do second you'll know how the story concludes, but for those who have seen the film - but not read the book - I'd highly recommend giving Weir's novel a go. There's more of everything you enjoyed about the film, and - as I've alluded to above - a significant chunk of story that's whipped over rather quick in the movie. All-in-all the film - and the book - are excellent in their own ways.
M83 "Do It, Try It", "Solitude"
The Distillers "Sing Sing Death House", "Coral Fang"
M83 "Digital Shades Vol. 1", "Saturdays = Youth", "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming"
The Smashing Pumpkins "Greatest Hits"
The Sisters of Mercy "A Slight Case of Overbombing: Greatest Hits Volume One"
Green Day "Dookie", "Insomniac", "Nimrod", "Warning", "American Idiot", "21st Century Breakdown", "Uno!", "Dos!", "Tres!"
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
"A Sideline In Vengeance" - three more drafts, a variety of new notes for future improvements, and the tricky process of condensing it all down into a concise synopsis, a 'one page pitch', and an even more brief logline (in other words, the slightly more 'clerical' work that comes after the bulk of the creative stuff - getting your supporting material sorted out).
"The Martian" by Andy Weir - this extraordinarily gripping debut novel had me staying up late at night to read just one more chapter before bed. Bolstered by an impressive amount of research, this sci-fi book feels thrillingly factual, while also being laugh-out-loud funny. The latter aspect works particularly well, with the protagonist's sense of humour acting as the perfect counterbalance to the book's complicated mix of scientific information and plotting (which can, it has to be said, get a touch too overwhelming on rare occasions). My only gripe - albeit a small one - is that, personally, I would have liked the characterisation to have been a little more detailed. I struggled to picture some of the supporting players in my head, while others were very clear. It has been a while since I've charged through a book this fast, and it has been a long while since I've been this utterly and single-mindedly captivated by a novel. Highly recommended reading!