Bittersweet Deadites, Killer Klowns, Controversial Jedi, and kablowie explosions - some of what's been the vibe of my April 2018...
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The Walking Dead: Season 8B - the climax of All Out War. The finale felt a bit rushed, but the closing of certain narratives and teasing of what's to come proved satisfying. Word has it that Season 9 will be somewhat of a new beginning for the show to freshen things up, posing new narrative avenues and (hopefully) stories to tell in different ways. There's been some issues with the last couple of seasons, but even amidst the troublesome bits, we've had some of the very best episodes of the series in there as well. Season 9, with its new showrunner, poses promise and, from what we've seen thus far of Fear The Walking Dead's fourth season, giving something a kick up the arse can be quite a good thing.
Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 3 - sadly this will be the final season of the gore-drenched horror-comedy and, so it seems, the end of Bruce Campbell's time playing the character of Ash (which he announced shortly after Starz's reveal that they were cancelling the show). While Season 3 hasn't quite lived up to my high anticipation compared to the previous two seasons, I've still looked forward to every new episode and enjoyed the hell out of them. It's a bummer that the show didn't get another season or two, but it appears as if Starz's business model isn't cut out for wider audience shares (and viewers means cash means season orders).
On the brighter side, we've had thirty episodes of grooviness that have far exceeded what we would have got out of a fourth movie ... but as a huge fan of the show, it's cancellation stings, especially as the season 3 finale offers a glimpse of what was to come. Does it wrap things up nicely? Only in so far as the original director's cut ending of "Army Of Darkness" did (the ending that was changed in America, and ignored for the TV series) - we see where things are going to go, but we don't get to go along for the ride. There's a certain amount of closure, but just as many things are left up-in-the-air, making the grandiose finale even more bittersweet.
Silicon Valley: Season 5 - there's been a few complaints that Erlich Bachman isn't in the show anymore (the actor left for various reasons), but frankly they'd done everything with the character, and removing him from the mix has allowed other characters to get some more time in the sun (Jing Yang in particular). Furthermore, the quality of the show is still as high as it ever was, continuing to inject a surprising amount of drama and intrigue into a comedy series.
Thriller: A Cruel Picture (DVD) - review coming soon.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (Blu-Ray) - the Chiodo brothers' bonkers sci-fi chiller about a group of aliens who land on earth in a TARDIS-like big top (bigger on the inside) to turn people into cotton candy so they might drink their blood. Suffice it to say it's barmy from the get-go and just gets barmier, but even with the modest horror it can still be genuinely creepy (e.g. the bit where John Vernon is turned into a ventriloquist puppet). Visually inventive to the nth degree, the film is lavished with a host of low budget - but decidedly effective - practical and optical effects that show off the trio's keen eye for in-camera effects. The new Arrow Video Blu-Ray, boasting a brand new restoration, is complimented with a wealth of extras ranging from archive interviews from prior releases to new documentaries on the brothers' earliest 8mm films.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (Blu-Ray) - the Internet cried that Episode VII was too similar to Episode IV, they wanted something new, so along came Rian Johnson with Episode VIII and the Internet pissed and moaned that their fan theories didn't come to pass (fan theories that were concocted after The Force Awakens was released, at which point The Last Jedi had already been written and was deep into pre-production!).
Deconstructing hero legends and the two sides of mythologising, #8 skews darker like The Empire Strikes Back and throws caution to the wind while delving deeper into certain new characters (Poe Dameron and Rey both get solid arcs, with Rey benefitting from having to strive for answers, rather than just being brilliant from the get-go with no room to grow). Some deft comic moments maintain balance, so that when things get dark they don't become too oppressive, because even in the dark there is light. The film isn't without faults (the casino subplot doesn't pay off quite enough for the amount of time spent on it, while certain characters - Chewie, Captain Phasma - have little to do), but it makes for a bold entry despite some fans throwing a fit. The feature-length making-of on the disc is excellent, too, and doesn't shy away from Mark Hamill's reservations about the script - reservations that the man himself has come to reconcile after several viewings of the film. I'd tie this film with Rogue One, with Episode VII coming a close second to those two.
Sleepaway Camp - if it wasn't for the shock twist ending, this 1983 slasher flick would have faded into obscurity. It's a bit of a mess in certain regards, but it's also a ridiculous amount of fun (listen to episode 48 of the podcast 'How Did This Get Made?' for a (spoiler-filled) appreciation of the movie). The sequels are a mixed bag: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers throws in much more gore and titillation than the original movie and looks good (atrocious mullet hairdos aside), but lacks suspense with an awkward horror/comedy mix. Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland continues the trend of the second flick for T&A and violence (although #3 is sloppily edited for the latter), but the awkward humour goes over-the-top, not helped by some ... iffy performances.
Speaking of iffy performances, Return to Sleepaway Camp is a belated sequel (which ignores parts 2 and 3) that is more painful than enjoyable. Returning cast members as well as the writer/director from the original movie provide fan service, but the script completely lacks tension or any real sense of structure. A huge amount of time is spent on a red herring to the point that the entire purpose of a red herring is utterly neutered (for one, you know who the killer is going to be, so why bother with the red herring? For two, the killer's disguise is dreadfully obvious to a degree that goes beyond a joke). There are a few good gore moments, and sporadic moments of half-decent acting, but the whole film is such a mess in almost every regard that even the most ardent fans of the franchise will come away disappointed. A missed opportunity.
Jackie Brown - the first time I saw Quentin Tarantino's blaxploitation-themed rendition of Elmore Leonard's "Rum Punch" I was about fifteen and expecting another Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, and was subsequently disappointed. Several years passed before I gave it another spin and found more to like about it. Several more years on and I've come to find a hell of a lot to enjoy about it from the complex ruse that the titular character employs to pinch half a million dollars to Pam Grier's superb central performance leading the charge for a host of fantastic actors (e.g. Samuel L. Jackson's gun seller and Robert Forster's ageing Bail Bondsman).
John 5 "31 Ending Theme"
Misfits "Walk Among Us", "Earth A.D."
The Cars "Drive"
Judas Priest "Turbo Lover"
Bowling For Soup "Drunk Enough To Dance"
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
"Deadpool Vol. 4: Deadpool vs S.H.I.E.L.D." by Posehn/Duggan
"Deadpool Vol. 5: The Wedding of Deadpool" by Posehn/Duggan
Just Cause 3 (Xbox One) - This open world destruct-athon set in a gorgeous mediterrainian cluster of islands should be a home run, but the game feels as if it is trying to do as much as it possibly can to make you dislike it! The biggest technical fault is the inconsistent frame rate, which is simply inexcusable, especially when it is caused by the entire point in the game (i.e. mass scale destructions and explosions). Furthermore, the driving mechanics are exceedingly mediocre at best and uttery garbage at worst (poor turning circles, delayed steering, rubbish estimation of speed - since when was 60km/h akin to walking pace?), and the reticle - what you use to aim at targets - is shite (thin white lines obscured by the 'tether' icon). Indeed, other important information/guidance is lost in the imagery - points of action within a mission or activity are routinely small and white, and as a result they tend to become invisible against the colourful environment.
It's a hell of a lot of fun to blow shit up and topple giant structures, but even after several patches some glaring technical faults and a handful of key gameplay mechanics proving to be rather dodgy make you wonder how on earth this game made it past quality control, how the makers thought "yeah, this is good enough to be released". It's even more galling because it's not as if this is their first attempt at a Just Cause game - it's their third! The least fun part of the game, weirdly enough, are the story missions - mainly because all too often they just become 'spam a load of enemies' shit shows with messy direction. Complaints aside, when the frame rate isn't bottoming out and you're free to do what you want - soaring on a wingsuit over a beautiful open world - the game is a bunch of fun, but to be this sloppy on a third entry in a franchise? Inexcusable.
"Murder at the Grindhouse" - the final round of tweaks was completed. I started mapping it out in the summer of 2016 and now it's finished, which is kind of a weird feeling. Now the troublesome task of getting it out there!