Married With Children: Seasons 8, 9, 10 & 11 - the last four seasons were on sale, so I snatched them up. It was about time to finish this up after a decade of very slowly catching up on the box sets. Season 8 got off to a very shaky start (the first episode was damn-near laugh free, and the second episode was only marginally better), but they soon rediscovered their footing. The show got zanier throughout season 9 and 10 (even breaking the fourth wall numerous times), but the plots remained interesting, and the inclusion of a larger cast of regular side characters (such as Al's "No Ma'am" buddies) opened up some great new avenues for humour. The 11th and final season was a touch weak in certain ways - the structure of the show was changed, introducing a "cold open" and a "tag" at the end of the episode, rather than a straight-shot Act I and Act II, as had been the case for the previous ten seasons.
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Clearly the writers were struggling to get these brief scenes, which bracketed the main Acts, to land properly, so the shows felt a bit askew as a result. However, there were some excellent episodes (such as the two-parter where Al's Dodge dies, or the three-parter where Al and Peggy break up), but the general thrust of the show was softening a fair bit compared to previous seasons. It is a shame they never got an official final episode (the decision to end the show came after season 11 wrapped), and the scope of the show seemed diminished when compared to the previous three seasons (for one thing, the No Ma'am gang of buddies only featured in a measly two episodes). Anyway - it's been good to barge these last few seasons and finally check this great sitcom off my 'to do' list.
An Idiot Abroad 3 - a mere three episodes this time, but the inclusion of Warrick Davis spiced things up a bit. Plenty of guffaws to be had throughout.
The Dark Knight Rises (Blu-Ray) - are there plot holes? Yes. Are all of them as serious as the Interwebtubes would have you believe? No. Is the movie still good? Yes. Solid extras that give enough, but don't hang around too long either - however the real surprise of the set was the documentary about the Batmobiles which, yes, really does bring a tear to the eye.
Batman Can't Stop Thinking About Sex (College Humour) - a fellow HPOTD'er posted this and I wasn't expecting to laugh anywhere near as much as I did. It's crass, very much so, but it's also utterly gleeful in it's raunchy humour. Random lines from this five minute parody have been popping into my head ever since to make me cackle with laughter.
The Expendables 2 (Blu-Ray)
Red Dwarf X (Blu-Ray)
Guns n Roses "Chinese Democracy" - was it worth more than a decade of waiting? No. Is it rubbish? No. It's certainly not in the league of proper GnR, and not all of the tracks are gold, but overall it's a solid release - even if it's not pure GnR.
Hans Zimmer "The Dark Knight Rises" OST
Alice Cooper "Brutal Planet" & "Dragontown"
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
"The Walking Dead: The Rise of The Governor" by Robert Kirkman & Jay Bonansinga - having completed it, I have to say that I enjoyed it, however Bonansinga's prose did frustrate me a bit. The constant use of character's surnames when it wasn't required in the context irked me, as did certain recurring things - measuring distances, some forced/repeated similies, and taking too long to describe the action of a scene (so the reader figures out what is about to happen too soon and has to then wait for the text to catch up with them). It might sound rather nitpicky, and while these mercurial issues occur throughout (irritating to some, but not to others), getting the back story to The Governor was worth it for a hardcore TWD fan.
Tis the Season - Christmas decorations, presents, TV adverts, music, the whole lot. I used to be a bit of a grump at this time of year when I was in the Sixth Form, but I secretly still loved the season anyway. Now I'm very much in favour of the entire Christmas season. The month of December feels like a great excuse to relax and enjoy yourself. Of course, January always ends up being a bit of a downer, but never mind that now.
The Next Script - I've settled on an idea, but it's proving tricky to pin down. I've nearly filled out another text book with ideas, and I'm researching the necessary information, so it's slow going at the moment, but after a doubtful few days where I was starting to think this was an idea with a hidden dead end, I realised I could include ideas not only from an unused screenplay I'd written years ago, but elements from different ideas I'd been fiddling with for a while. I'll keep you updated on how the next script develops, but suffice to say it's already changed a lot from the initial concept.
Far Cry 3 - I'm only fairly early into the game, but so far I'm rather enjoying it. There's a mixture of larger-than-life moments (I got into a fist fight with an escaped tiger at one point), and more serious/disturbing elements (Vaas and human trafficking). The open world first-person-shooter environment is fun to explore, and you can tackle missions as you wish - go in guns blazing, or survey the terrain from afar (tagging all the enemies in advance) and using stealth or distanced attacks to get the job done. Add in hunting the varied wildlife to craft new inventory items and you've got lots of possibilities for the player. I never played Far Cry 2, but I'm very much enjoying this third outing for the franchise thus far.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II - Treyarch are becoming known for stretching the boundaries of the long-running franchise, particularly here in a campaign where choices can be made which ultimately affect the outcome of the game (ruled by several key decision points, as well as a few less-clear-cut moments). Additionally you can access information or tools if you choose, as well as perform side tasks (such as providing sniper overwatch), or take alternate paths (e.g. provide sniper cover, or escort a VIP at street-level). Indeed, the levels themselves feel less like you're being funnelled down a particular route - but there are plus and minus points for this. On the down side you sometimes get lost, or find the layout confusing, on the up side you can tackle an assault on an enemy down different routes (high ground, low ground, up the middle, or sneak down their flanks). Infinity Ward's level design is very focused, which can make you feel like you have few options, but on the other hand you know exactly where you are and where you need to be, so you don't find yourself - in a rather non-militaristic manner - running around in circles trying to re-establish your bearings, like you sometimes do with some of Treyarch's level designs.
I've also noticed how Treyarch COD games end up with certain moments that, for some daft reason, prove to be frustrating. I had to make several attempts to reach/jump on to a vehicle with a ground-to-air missile system in the penultimate level, as I kept getting blown up by cars, blown up by random missiles, or I didn't make the jump, which at any other point in the game, would have been a straight forward action. Similarly in the final mission, avoiding the missiles shooting up at you proved to be awkward (for one thing there's so many happening on-screen I didn't always see them coming).
However, Treyarch should be commended for upping their game with each title (remember the awful Call of Duty 3?), and aiming to spice things up a little bit, as well as continuing to maintain their own stamp on the series (e.g. Zombies mode). I'll certainly be returning to this a few times over the coming year to play it through in different manners for alternate endings and achievements ... oh, and I love that you can, at long last, customise your "load out" of guns, gear, and attachments to your liking before each mission - that's a very nice touch. Finally, while the story can be a bit hard-to-follow at times during the first play through, Treyarch should again be commended for taking it in serious and even grotesque directions to inject some more of the brutality of war - not to mention the hard choices and shifting moral codes of combat.