The return of F1, sci-fi shorts, and dark comedy are just some of what's been setting the tone of my March 2019...
Click "READ MORE" below to see this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...
Click "READ MORE" below to see this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...
The Degenerates - a Netflix series of six half hour stand-up sets filmed in Vegas, featuring the likes of Joey Diaz, Brad Williams, Christina P., and Big Jay Oakerson amongst the group. The easily offended most certainly need not apply as each comedian cleverly and honestly delves into surprising, shocking, and grotesquely absurd territory.
Formula 1: Drive To Survive - a 10-part Netflix series, released just ahead of the new F1 season, which covers the big stories of the 2018 campaign. Gifted a huge amount of access, this revealing docu-series follows drivers, teams, and family members as each episode explores certain stories from inter-team rivalry and waning fortunes, to hair-raising crashes and the extraordinary mental and physical strength required of each of the twenty drivers on the grid. Well constructed from a huge wealth of footage - plus key interviews with drivers and F1 pundits - it may disappoint fans of Mercedes and Ferrari (who aren't the focus here), but the insight into all the other stuff going on behind the 'fight for five' headlines is utterly fascinating. Highly recommended viewing.
After Life - Ricky Gervais' new six-part comedy drama series on Netflix. A features writer for a free local paper endures the aftermath of his wife's death from cancer, throwing his woes into misanthropy, alcohol, drugs, and attempted suicide. It doesn't sound like ideal fodder for humour, but therein lies the intriguing tone of Gervais' latest effort, building upon the bittersweet tears/laughs juxtaposition of Derek. Those familiar with his stand-up comedy and interview appearances will notice certain topics or targets for humour that cross over into After Life, a show bolstered by an excellent supporting cast, chief among whom is Kerry Godliman. Seen via video messages and memories on Tony's laptop we see both a relationship in full blossom as well as a dying wife's departing advice, the honest, humorous, and selfless nature of which brings a tear to the eye. It perhaps tilts the drama/comedy balance more towards the former compared to Derek, but humour is laced throughout from the subtle to the uproarious.
Love Death + Robots - produced by Tim Miller and David Fincher, this Netflix anthology of short films explores numerous sci-fi tales through a range of stunning animation styles. Naturally, what with this being 2019 and the world crumbling under the boot of the offendotrons, some idiot reviewers took offence to the inclusion of nudity. Heaven forfend such a thing! One particularly idiotic review was based on only six out of the eighteen total episodes in the series. Morons. They'll be the demise of civilisation. Where's that super intelligent yoghurt when you need it? Anyway, a few mouth breathers aside, this little explosion of creativity is a grand idea and gifts wide audience access for a host of up-and-coming creatives. Some highlights include: "Sonnie's Edge", "The Witness", "Suits", "Lucky 13", "Ice Age" and "Three Robots".
The Walking Dead: Season 9 - the first few episodes of the back-half of season 9 slowed things down a smidge (after the jam-packed front-half broadcast last year), however the tension has been ratcheted back up again resulting in superb episodes such as 9x14 and 9x15, which have provided shocks and surprises and beautifully crafted storytelling. After the uneven nature of seasons 7 and 8, it is beyond doubt that Angela Kang & Co have pulled TWD back onto its feet to stand confident once more. That all said, the wise thing to do now would be to have an exit plan in mind, a way to wrap everything up in coordination with the planned three-movie arc starring Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes.
Mindhunter: Season 1 - produced and co-directed by David Fincher, this Netflix series is set in the late 1970s and follows two FBI agents as they seek to explore new avenues of understanding criminology, specifically by interviewing "sequence killers" (what then became known as "serial killers"). Gradually paced, it doesn't conform to typical structural standards for the most part, although a recurring plot thread in Altoona skews towards police procedural. Generally though, Mindhunter furrows its own path very effectively while slowly drawing out the characters at the heart of the story. If you have no interest in a period drama about the inner workings and horrendous crimes of psychopathic killers, then this won't be for you, but those who are fans of Fincher's work and possess an interest in the dark side of humanity should find plenty to immerse themselves in.
Rammstein "Made In Germany 1995-2011", "Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da"
Notaker "This Storm"
Rob Zombie "The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser"
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
Forza Horizon 4: Fortune Island (Xbox One) - this DLC allows players to access a remote island dominated by wild weather, twisting roads, and treacherous mountain passes. One of the key components (in addition to the usual array of races and PR stunts) are the ten 'treasure hunts', which involve riddles and 'Barn Find' like hunts for treasure chests containing a million credits each (and sometimes a fancy car as a bonus). Considering the sheer cost of some of the vehicles and, in particular, player residences in the main game, the fast injection of fat cash brings one of the costly castles into the player's in-game budget. As for the map itself, naturally it's much smaller than the main one, but it still plays towards a broad variety of racing styles (twisty street races, jump-happy cross country yomps, slithery rallying) and aims to impress visually with its dramatic weather system.
Less impressive, though, is how I splashed 10 million credits to buy Bamburgh Castle (in order to get the last Barn Find) and saw the majority of the ten 'Super Spins' (three prizes per spin) wasted on utterly useless garbage like clothes for my avatar and car horns I'll literally never use, or even listen to a single damn time. 10 million credits to unlocked the last Barn Find (something you never needed to do in the previous game) and a ton of wasted prizes? Get tae fuck.
A New Writing Project - put simply, the idea is to construct a basic pitch document for a three-part television drama serial concerning a topic that is both a fascination of mine and one that reverberates to this very day. Of course, that's easier said than done as one of the hardest parts of writing is coming up with the story, and that's pretty much the core of a pitch document. Indeed, it's a little scandal inside the industry that many production companies demand writers to come up with detailed pitch documents for free! Takes the piss, doesn't it?
The Walking Dead: Volume 31 "The Rotton Core" - I'll be honest, my interest in the comics has fluctuated in recent years, such as the rather uneven Whisperers arc (which is, mercifully, working a hell of a lot better on the TV show after some reworking). Does Kirkman have too much on his plate? If only he was able to apply a little more depth and thought to some of his plot lines (and dialogue), as the quality does seem to have suffered a bit in recent times. Nothing can last forever, so with the introduction of the Commonwealth it'd make sense to have an exit plan in place to wrap everything up, something which I'd also apply to the TV show (even though Angela Kang has done wonders as showrunner).
The 2019 Beeston Film Festival - "For Want of a Nail" is doing well on the festival circuit (we've even had festivals seeking FWOAN for their schedules because of good word of mouth), and this month producer Ali and I were in attendance, with the film gaining more positive feedback. The following week producer Ali and director Lucy attended the Oxford International Short Film Festival with editor Ryan, and there's some more festival news on the horizon to be announced.
Forza Motorsport 7 (Xbox One) - wow, there certainly were a lot of messages and freebies to trawl through after a year away from this racer! Last time I played it I didn't have superfast broadband, now I do, so a 36gb update was actually doable (the bulk of which was data that wasn't included on-disc - myriad cars, races, tracks). Compared to playing it a year ago there have been a few changes: some cosmetic, like the menu, while others are more noticeable and appreciated. For example, the game seems less stingy at dishing out credits, and the overhaul of the 'mod' system is a major improvement over the bullshit 'loot box' system (that basically amounted to gambling). Now you have a 'store' that refreshes every six minutes from which you can spend in-game credits you've earned on (importantly) your choice of modifications at a range of reasonable prices, many of which seem to now provide larger rewards than before. Why on earth they didn't provide the additional content on a second disc is beyond me, but the addition of new cars, races, and tracks has injected new life into the game (I quickly grew tired of playing the same handful of tracks).