Thursday, 31 January 2013

Flavours of the Month: January 2013...

How time flies! Before I knew it, it was 2013, and now we're already cranked out January - it's onwards to February already! Anyway, here's what was influencing the tone of my January...

Click "READ MORE" below for the looks, sounds, vibes, and flavours of my January 2013...


Berberian Sound Studio (Blu-Ray)

Africa - David Attenborough's new BBC nature documentary series. Grandly shot, just like the past several series he has narrated, this is exactly the sort of thing that the BBC should be doing that other channels don't do themselves.

Inferno (Blu-Ray)

The Funhouse (Blu-Ray)

Utopia - "Where's Jessica Hide?" - Channel 4's mysterious new six-part drama series about a strange graphic novel and the dark things going on around it. Beautifully shot (and in 2.35:1 no less - always a visual plus), it manages to mix scenes of unsettling intimidation with everyday humour, and moments of mysterious fascination with genuinely flinch-inducing violence (such as a hideous torture sequence in the first episode). This is exactly the kind of television drama I want to write and have produced - beautifully-realised, captivating and gasp-inducing.

Gremlins 1 & 2 - I've not seen these in-full in years and they're still classics. The first definitely focuses far more on the human characters (and Gizmo, come to think of it) than the sequel, which opts for all-out gremlin-fuelled carnage. These two films are one of those cases where they're equally matched, providing different vibes within the same world to suit your mood - just like Terminator and T2, or Alien and Aliens, neither one is better than the other, but they both take the same elements and produce entirely different experiences.

Quentin Tarantino - Death Proof (Grindhouse cut), Inglourious Basterds, and Reservoir Dogs. I've not had a chance to see Django Unchained yet, but its release did get me in the mood for some of QT's cine-groove.

Tron Uprising - the flow of this superbly animated tie-in to the Tron universe (set between the first and second movies) wasn't helped in the slightest by it's parent channel constantly moving it in the schedules, and then of course there was a months-long gap between the 7th and 8th episodes. You do have to wonder, what morons are in charge of scheduling these shows? They always seem to then wonder why their viewing figures suffer ... like I said - morons. Nevertheless, and in spite of a mid-season quality-dip, this ended up being a cracking family-rated show - the last several episodes of the season were absolutely fantastic and full of propulsive drama (making up for the aforementioned mid-season dip where it was mostly treading water). Apparently a decision on a second season is "pending" - so hopefully it'll survive to see a continuance, especially after the season finale's cliffhanger.

Charley Boorman's South African Adventure - four episodes is a bit scant (just like his previous series in Canada), but it's certainly better than nothing. As a huge fan of Long Way Round et al, it's always good to have Boorman off on his travels on my tellybox.

The Following - a new drama starring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy about a cult of serial killers, and created by Kevin Williamson. It's not drop-dead-fantastic, but it's interesting enough to keep me watching thus far - albeit from only two episodes deep.


Green Day "Dos!" and "Tre!" - I was sceptical whether three back-to-back albums would work, but after the underwhelming 21st Century Breakdown (which was too similar to American Idiot, but just not as good) it's nice to hear them combine their more jagged edge to the catchy and punchy tracks of their Dookie-through-Warning era. There's probably a few iffy tracks amongst the three albums, but even still, Green Day fans should be well pleased.

Alice Cooper "Welcome To My Nightmare", "Trash", "Hey Stoopid", "The Last Temptation", "Constrictor", "Raise Your Fist and Yell", "Along Came A Spider" - a bit of an obsession, yeah.

HIM "Razorblade Romance" and "Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights" - one of my favourite bands. I bought these albums ten years ago now, so this was an anniversary spin for them. These remind me of returning to my university halls of residence, in the rain and January darkness, after rummaging about in town, and sticking these albums on as I dried off, warmed up, and gorged myself on that traditional university delicacy - toast.

Keith Emerson "Mater Tenebrarum"

Hugh Harris "Rhythm of Life"

The Rolling Stones "Jumpin' Jack Flash"


James Ellroy "The Big Nowhere" - the second in the 'L.A. Quartet' (following The Black Dahlia, and preceding L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz) where the hunt for a male-on-male sex killer combines with a covert operation to root out Communist influence in Hollywood. This is my second Ellroy read (after The Black Dahlia) and while I've never really read crime fiction, I'm finding this book rather involving, just like with it's predecessor.

Far Cry 3 - Ubisoft's sprawling sandbox FPS was ruddy good fun. There were a few minor glitches along the way, but nothing major, except from two in-game freezes (one of which erased an hour's worth of gameplay). Certain small things did stick out though - why all the treasure chests? Why not, instead of three in one location, just have one with all the items in it. Constantly holding "X" over different chests became rather tedious ... speaking of the "X" button, several times I swapped weapons instead of looted bodies, which was a rather silly oversight by the developers - albeit a small issue. There were a few such small things along the way, and it has to be said that once you find a handful of weapons which suit your style, you're unlikely to bother with the many others on offer (which are, no doubt by the time you get to them, inferior to your current load out).

For the majority of the game I stuck with the crossbow, a silenced sniper rifle, and then two of the following: an assault rifle, a shotgun, or a light machine gun. Missions-wise they were quite good, although a handful proved a little tedious early-on, particularly after you'd spent hours exploring the island and tackling pirate camps at your leisure, rather than following the game's own orders. The side story missions were mostly filler too, and there's a few-too-many "Path of the Hunter" and "Wanted Dead" tasks. Mind you, attacking mining camps, swinging across zip-lines, burning drug plantations, wiping out a pirate camp by unleashing a tiger (victory with one bullet), and yomping through the jungle in a jeep with tribal music blaring (among many, many other pursuits) all proved to be immense fun.

Illness - it's January, so that means a cold is no doubt lurking around the corner. Sure enough, it came to pass. A few days before Christmas I got this weird irritation in my nose that would send me into sneezing fits, but would come-and-go, and it did so for two weeks. Then in the space of a few hours I went from feeling perfectly fine to struggling to breathe, and it certainly lingered long enough - I've still got the last remnants of the inevitable post-cold cough hanging about.

Snow - it's really pretty on the first day and it's nice to see the world sort of grind to a halt, but by the second day you want the postal system to resume, and if you're having to go out into it (for purposes that don't involve playing) then it does become a bit of a pain. Although, like I said, it does look very pretty.

Cold Shadows (the next new script) - I've been chipping away at this idea for the last few weeks and it's going to be another television drama. The idea was originally for a half hour comedy that was very self-aware, but very quickly it evolved (with the help of another idea that I'd cast aside in its original form) into a much more serious one-hour drama. There's a few snifters of the initial idea in there, but a lot has changed. More info on it as-and-when.

Gears of War 3 - decidedly late to the party, and with a major plot point spoiled for me months ago, but even still I enjoyed this trilogy-closing shooter a hell of a lot. That said, I'm happy to leave it as a trilogy and have it mean something and be remembered fondly, rather than be taken too far and spoil the whole thing. What was most impressive was how they gave these burly, grunting, growling, frowning soldiers emotional depth that was built up over the series - Dom (especially in GoW2), Marcus (particularly here in GoW3), and then even "The Cole Train" got his own portion that gave the exuberant Thrashball player a regretful and mournful side. Epic battles, grand vistas, quality action, plus another chance to slice a Locust/Lambent in half with a chainsaw mounted to a ruddy machine gun - what's not to like? The only problem I did actually have with the game were my A.I. cohorts - frequently they were too eager to move on (while I was searching a cleared area for hidden treasures), but worse than that, they frequently ran across my line of fire - or even stood right in front of my bullets - and then have the cheek to complain.

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