Tuesday 31 May 2011

Flavours of the Month: May 2011...


Treevenge - after their contest-winning Hobo With A Shotgun grindhouse trailer, Jason Eisner & Co sought to make a short film to prove they could handle a narrative, and they did just so quite nicely with a witty little short that could have sat nicely amongst all those themed horror movies you used to see as a kid scaled high up against the wall in the video shop entitled "Horror". Knowingly over-the-top, this takes the notion of getting a genuine Christmas tree for Christmas in a whole new gore-ific direction. If you're easily offended though, you might want to skip the last five minutes, otherwise get yourself onto YouTube and have a look for yourself.

Scream 1-3 - the original movie was a decided breath of fresh air for the genre which, in the mid 1990s, had descended into the torturously dull. It's a shame therefore that Wes Craven & Kevin Williamson's meta-thriller with a horror outlook was picked upon like a vulture's roadkill lunch in the proceeding years with a series of self-aware 'slasher thrillers' which dispensed with scares and, ironically, originality and smarts, in favour of sub-Scream copycatting.

The first sequel had something to say, commenting on both itself and the first movie simultaneously. There was still life and ideas in the franchise, particularly in Williamson's scripting (although the line in Aliens is most definitely "Get away from her, you bitch!"), and while it lost momentum in the final act, it was a solid entry.

Sadly, the second sequel - a Hollywood-set trilogy-closer - royally jumped the shark. Williamson was fed up, and it shows painfully in the quality of the final script, which contains none of the crafted 'who dunnit' intrigue, nor the sexy and playful self awareness. Dull, boring, lame, witless, with little in the way of redeeming features - at least they gave Neve Campbell something of substance to bite into, mind.

This all coming on the heels of seeing Scream 4 at the cinema last month, my thoughts on which you can find HERE.

The Losers - not as enjoyable the second time around, but still softcore action fun nonetheless. Chris Evans remains the highlight of the movie for me. His tech guy Jensen was easily the best character out of the lot.

Get Him To The Greek - I had a mixed response to it in the cinema (I much preferred Forgetting Sarah Marshall, from which this was a spin-off), and I must say that the second time around wasn't much cop. A few funny bits here and there, but for me it was a damp squib this time.

Jean Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors - I don't really 'do' reality TV, but I ended up watching this show about The Muscles From Brussels, and it was curiously intriguing. On the one hand it's a bit strange in a good way, and on the other the makers turn every minor incident into an epic drama when they say apprehensively "coming up next" as dramatic music and editing works it's magic (kinda).

Campus - I never got into Green Wing. I tried to initially, but I was at uni at the time and had a hard enough time remembering what day it was (because they all blended together, not because of booze or whatever, you cheeky monkeys), let alone when the show was airing. Now though, thanks to the wonder of the Hard-Disk-Recorder, I made sure I cued up the entire series of this follow-up from the makers of Green Wing. It's essentially the same show, but at a university, with the same brand of askew humour and general sense of oddity.

Doctor Who - the latest series is underway, and it's a mixed bag for me. They continue to 'do' the Doctor well, but some of the episode plots are a bit underwhelming - not least this Island-esque two parter about some sort of white gloop that can generate clones. Plus, for goodness sake, if you're going to keep referring back to a developing series-long plotline (the Postive/Negative thing, the appearing/disappearing slide window thing), actually develop it each time we see it. At least they finally gave us something more at the arse-end of that rubbish two-parter.

The Sopranos - I'm now into the second season, having totally missed this show the first time around, and I continue to thoroughly enjoy my weekly dose of New Jersey mafia business.

Machete - a second viewing of Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse spin-off has elevated my opinion of it. Not that I didn't have a blast with it at the cinema, it's just that I was so insanely looking forward to it that I could only end up feeling a twinge of disappointment. However, a few months down the line and I could enjoy it on its own terms, and it was damn enjoyable - even if it remains about 10 minutes flabby around the edges.

Scary Movie - I gave this spoof another spin as it was on one night and it's okay. It's no Airplane by any means (but the scattergun pattern of gags and parodies is decidedly similar), but then it's no Scary Movie 3/4/Meet The Spartans/Disaster Movie/whatever load of old utter-and-total crap either.

Wild At Heart - I haven't seen David Lynch's incendiary road trip flick since I was a teenager, but I think now that I'm much more familiar with his work (and cinema in general) that I 'got it' much more than I did way back when. The tale of two young runaways (Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern) seeking a better life is a typically dark and twisted offering from Lynch - most notably in its clash of 1950s Americana and the era in which it was made (1990).

U-Turn - it's been years since I've watched Oliver Stone's telling of Sean Penn's indebted loser having the worst day of his entire life, but it's still good. It's what I'd call "an everything just keeps getting worse" movie. It just goes to show what Stone can do with the right script, but it also makes me wonder what on earth has happened to him of late with the likes of World Trade Center, and W.

The Black Dahlia - working the homicide desk in Team Bondi/Rockstar's L.A. Noire got me in the mood to re-watch Brian De Palma's novelistic film adaptation. It's impressively stylish and the stuff closest to the titular case is the most interesting, but it's when it strays from that central path and attempts to explore various interconnected sideplots and back stories within its two hour running time that it runs into trouble.

Short Circuit 1 & 2 - I had a bit of a nostalgia trip with these two flicks. I used to watch these constantly as a little kid, and they've not lost their charm. I dearly hope they don't do a remake, and quite frankly, with WALL.E essentially being a re-incarnation of Johnny 5, what would be the point?


The Black Angels "Directions To See A Ghost"

Daft Punk "Tron Legacy"

Moby "First Cool Hive", Dillon Dixon "I Don't Care", Birdbrain "Youth America", SoHo "Whisper To A Scream" (from the soundtrack to Scream)

HIM "Venus Doom"

White Zombie "Super Sexy Swingin' Sounds"

Rob Zombie "American Made Music To Strip By"

45 Grace "Partytime" (as heard in Return of the Living Dead)

Airborne "Runnin' Wild" and "No Guts, No Glory"


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - I finished Philip K. Dick's book, which later became Blade Runner, which was a decidedly different telling of basically the same story in mostly the same sort of world (bar the distinct difference in population numbers from one to the other). I really enjoyed it.

New educational DVD - the editing cap is back on for a new DVD project, this time on the issue of Abortion. Considering the topic we've had to think a bit harder about how to approach it visually, and so far some of it is moving in a more metaphorical, even mystical, direction which has proven successful so far. Finding footage and photographs has even extended to me digging through all my old sketch pads from my days of GCSE and A-Level art for any drawings, paintings or photographs that could possibly be of use somewhere. Plus, when talking about things like when does "life" truly begin, I've been able to get a little bit 'out there' with some of the visuals too - so this should prove to be a good creative opportunity.

L.A. Noire - Team Bondi's sandbox detective thriller, published by Rockstar, has really grown on me. I've been intrigued by it ever since I saw the very first teaser trailer years ago when the project was first announced, and the last few months have really cranked up the anticipation. While it's imperfect in some respects, the fresh approach is a welcome change of direction - and who wouldn't want to play as a 1947 L.A. detective? Cruising the detailed period streets of Los Angeles, scouring crime scenes for clues, and interrogating suspects to discover the truth has led to some genuinely exciting chase sequences, and genuinely tense interrogations (that piercing note that hovers in the background as you decide whether you do or don't have evidence to prove someone's lying has inspired the odd sweaty palm gripped around the controller, I have to say). It's a bold step in a different direction, and an extremely stylish and involving one to boot. At the time of writing I'm onto the second case of the Vice Desk, situated in the Hollywood Division, and I can't wait to get even deeper into the twisting tales and devious crimes that need deciphering and solving. It's like a videogame version of L.A. Confidential, and what's not to like about that?

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