Deliciously dark techno-satire, an outback villain, and a fair bit of preparation - it's some of what's been setting the tone of my November 2016...
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Black Mirror: Series 3 - the latest batch of six episodes for Charlie Brooker's Twilight Zone for the tech-minded 21st Century. A very welcome return with strong stories.
1) Nosedive - starring Bryce Dallas Howard, the series gets off to a strong and subtly nightmarish start in a near-future where every human rates, and can be rated by, everyone else. Visits to social media are all about showing off in search of positive feedback, but desperate moves can see your rating plummet - a stressful tightrope considering the best benefits in life are reserved for those with ratings above a certain number. The central conceit has strong internal logic and drives the story from start to finish in a very satisfying manner. Chillingly plausible!
2) Playtest - starring Wyatt Russell, an American backpacker finds himself testing a new videogame experience that plugs directly into your mind. When he agrees to try out their latest title in-development (a horror game that plays on your own fears), it all goes a bit pear shaped. It's less about the technology and more a personal, psychological horror. Strange, dark, and very good indeed.
3) Shut Up and Dance - a twisted crime thriller in which mysterious ne'erdowells hack into people's devices in order to blackmail them into carrying out an interconnected series of acts. I called one of the twists early on, but the full scale of the story remained as deliciously dark and haunting as Black Mirror should be.
4) San Junipero - perhaps the happiest episode of Black Mirror there has ever been, but not without its darker themes and ideas. Two women find love in the mysterious titular land in the 1980s. Bittersweet and melancholy, it nonetheless presents a Black Mirror world in which you might actually want to live!
5) Men Against Fire - the weak one of the bunch, to be honest. The 'twist in the tech' is obvious from a mile off, while the subtext is blunt as a sledgehammer and underdeveloped. There's some good ideas here, but none of them have their potential fully realised. Disappointing.
6) Hated in the Nation - spiritually akin to the very first episode of Black Mirror in some ways, this one is essentially a feature length cop thriller in which people are dying under strange circumstances ... all of whom have had a very particular hashtag Tweeted at them because they are, yep, hated in the nation.
The Editor (DVD) - read the full review here.
The Neon Demon (Blu-Ray) - mini review here.
Wolf Creek (TV Series) - after two very solid movies (with a decidedly watchable villain in Mick Taylor, as played by John Jarratt), this has become an unlikely franchise. This six-episode arc follows Eve (played by Lucy Fry), the only survivor of one of Mick's latest mass murders, as she treks across the wilds of Australia in search of 'the man in the blue truck'. Honestly, though, there's not really enough story to fill six hours of programming - and the franchise's key asset (Mick Taylor) is used very sparingly at times (almost too sparing).
Eve's story involves an awful lot of luck - both good and bad - as she searches. Sometimes it works (she's a 19 year old in a foreign land, not Rambo, after all), while at other times she makes really silly mistakes. There's quite a lot of filler story sewn throughout the journey, which ties in directly with Eve's continual run of bad luck - and again, it's a bit hit and miss. Supporting characters are generally strong, or at least interesting, even if the plotting can be a bit haphazard on occasion. Weaknesses aside, I binged the six episodes over three days and thoroughly enjoyed it ... does that mean we need a second season? Not really, to be honest. However, the visuals and atmosphere were stunning, and the themes of intersecting pathways in life provided strong glue to hold it all together.
Gialli - Torso, Strip Nude For Your Killer, What Have You They Done To Your Daughters?, and Who Saw Her Die?
The 69 Eyes "Universal Monsters" - the new album from the Helsinki Vampires. "Jet Fighter Plane" and "Never" are my two favourite tracks.
Hollywood Vampires - the self-titled covers album from Alice Cooper and friends.
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
Prep for the new Novel - it's been a long process, but I finally got all the prep work done, including a lengthy layout of the entire book organised chapter by chapter, with various pieces of pertinent information that I might want to include in that point of the story listed accordingly. I had come to the realisation that I had a vast array of notes and pieces of historical info scattered all over the place - which would be a right old bugger to dig through when I get writing the actual book - so I opted to organise everything into a single document. It was a sizable task, but it needed doing. I was also able to get some parts of the actual story written, not large swathes of text for the most part, but all-in-all at least several thousand words worth - chunks of dialogue, for instance, and segments of prose. So consider that a 'soft beginning' to the writing process. There's a lot of writing ahead, no doubt about that, but the next phase of the process is finally underway.