Monday, 30 September 2019

Flavours of the Month: September 2019...

An underworld conclusion, a ballet of bullet-flingin action, and a trip to Hell are just some of what's been setting the tone of my September 2019...

Click "READ MORE" below to see this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...


Stand-Up Comedy Specials - Dave Chapelle: Sticks and Stones, Bill Burr: Paper Tiger, Jim Norton: Please Be Offended, Steve-O: Guilty As Charged, Joey Coco Diaz: Socially Unacceptable, and Jeff Dunham: Beside Himself.

The Deuce: Season 3 - the final season of HBO's drama about the changing face of New York's Times Square area, in and around the notorious 42nd Street. The first season was set at the beginning of the 1970s, the second season was set around 1978, and now in the third season we've reached 1985 and the massive changes facing the adult industry (VHS and smut in the privacy of your own home) and the Times Square area itself (with the redevelopment program that has since turned 42nd Street into a different kind of vulgar). Thus far it seems as if the male characters have been getting a bit more attention, balancing the narrative quality across the sexes. Last season displayed a conspicuous lack of interest in the men, seeing the vast majority of male characters given little of substance to do (some reduced to little more than stereotypes or one-note scumbags), while the female characters - who have always been well written on the show -  got the lion's share of personal development, challenge, and narrative intrigue. Good to see that, so far at least, season 3 feels more balanced.

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (Blu-Ray) - probably the weakest of the three films, but certainly not by much. The weaker aspects are very hard to pin down, but perhaps one issue is the lack of a clear antagonist. There are innumerable bad guys to be mowed down, but even the biggest player of the various factions coming after Wick doesn't quite settle into the groove of the movie, particularly when compared to more prominent antagonists in the previous two films. However, the action is as stunning as ever, even if these incredible sequences are now expected. The most fun is had earlier on as Wick utilises knives and then horses in the ways he has previously turned guns and muscle cars to his own particular use. Halle Berry almost runs away with the movie, backed up with 'Dog Fu' to accompany her Keanu-equalling skill with weaponry, and as such I hope her character will be returning in the fourth movie. In this day and age it's easy for "strong female character" to be misconstrued as simple pandering and over-powered dullness, but this is certainly not the case with John Wick 3, as Berry's deadly and mysterious assassin absolutely earns her place beside Wick (in a manner befitting the franchise) through sheer impressive skill that we the viewer know has been won through hard graft.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (Blu-Ray) - written by Peter Atkins and directed by Tony Randel (this was the big break for both of them), this 1988 sequel to Clive Barker's blood-and-grue-soaked psycho-sexual horror ups the scale as the audience is brought into Hell itself as Kirsty seeks to stage a rescue from Hell with the help of Tiffany, a mute patient at the psychiatric hospital where they're both being observed by the nefarious Dr Channard. It's been a very long time since I last saw this movie, back when I figured eating lunch at the same time was a good idea (it wasn't: the scenes of maggots and all manner of squirmy things crawling all over that one patient put me right off my sarnie), so it's good to see it for a second time all these years later. There's some ropey dialogue here and there, and a couple of slightly iffy effects, but the sheer scale of the movie still impresses. It also benefits from being a close continuation of the first movie. As they say in the exhaustive making of documentary on the disc, there's 1 & 2 and then there's the rest way off there to the side.


Hanoi Rocks "A Day Late and A Dollar Short"

Huey Lewis and The News "Hip To Be Square"

Timelost "Lysergic Days"

Green Day "Father Of All"


James Ellroy "Blood's A Rover" - the concluding part in the Demon Dog of crime fiction's epic 'Underworld USA Trilogy', which spans the author's interpretation of American history between 1958 and 1972. Voraciously making its way through vast conspiracies, political assassinations, billionaire intrigue, law enforcement, and everything in-between, this final part in the trilogy adds a fascination with lovers who represent diametrically opposed socio-political positions, missing persons, an unsolved robbery, and extreme political groups as a whirlwind of cover-ups and international machinations envelop it all.

Out of the three, this third and final entry has taken me the longest to read, with a portion in the middle proving to be a bit of a slog at times. Perhaps the reason for not enjoying this quite as much as "American Tabloid" and "The Cold Six Thousand" is that many of the characters' machinations lead to little or nothing ... maybe there's a point being made there, but it's frustrating as a reader for so much time to be spent on things that don't really pay off. Another issue is how all the characters are so closely conflated with one another through interlinking supporting players. On the one hand it creates an intricate web of intrigue, but on the other it can be difficult to keep track of who/what someone is to somebody else and how much do they know compared to the others. Even when making notes as you read, it can be tricky at times to keep everything straight in your head, which in-turn can leave the reader distanced. However, when the book does step aside from these problems, there are numerous sequences which play out through breathless and brutal prose, exemplifying Ellroy's highly regarded gift with punchy language and dark humour.

The book has been criticised for its characterisation, with some critics appearing to have missed that in Ellroy's world characterisation is played out through action and deeds. How people confront the problems they are faced with and how those problems/deeds/investigations control and contort their lives. Indeed, I would say that Blood's A Rover has some of Ellroy's strongest characterisation as we see massive shifts in characters' political outlooks over the course of several years. While we only get scant information as to what these people look like, this closing chapter has plenty to say about its characters' inner workings - you just have to pay attention.

Fallout Shelter (Xbox One) - so, after playing for a few weeks I've managed to amass a vault of 126 dwellers (I stopped there just to keep it manageable) and have organised various strong teams to be sent out into the wasteland for missions, while going about boosting the stats of the others. Gathering enough caps is no longer an issue, so even preposterously expensive upgrades are now within reach. Even the incessant invasions of Deathclaws is something that can be weathered with relative ease now, and as such there are fewer instances of the game playing unfairly as I've managed to level up enough (with much tougher weapons). There are still stupid things, like the amount of time it takes for wasteland wanderers to reach missions - one particularly egregious example saw me wait 14 real-time hours to get 3 minutes of gameplay before having to wait a further 7 real-time hours for my team to return to the vault!

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