Tuesday 30 April 2013

Flavours of the Month: April 2013...


Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Blu-Ray) - yet another visit to Edgar Wright's film adaptation of Brian Lee O'Malley's graphic novel series (which I re-read last month). It's a tall order to cram six volumes worth of material into one film; the compressed time frame doesn't leave room for the more expansive experience of the books, and Ramona is just a touch too aloof - but these are mere quibbles - the film is a jam-packed cult classic.

Storage Hunters - I've gone and got myself addicted to this 'reality/unscripted' show about people who bid on storage lockers that are being auctioned off. It appeals to the innate yearning in all of us - what's in the box?! How much will it be worth?! Will they earn a profit?! These questions simply must be answered!

Mad Men Season 6 - the welcome return of Matthew Weiner's superb 1960s-set drama. Richly textured and moreish in equal measure.

Click "READ MORE" below for the other looks, sounds, vibes & flavours of my April 2013...

Doctor Who - the BBC's flagship sci-fi family drama (now in its 50th year) has seriously been on the slide for two or three series now. There are good/decent episodes here and there, but the quality has really dropped - I'm only watching it out of that perverse sense of 'completion' that kept me watching the increasingly dreadful Nip/Tuck, and for the simple nostalgia of 'I used to watch it as a kid'. Of this recent batch ... nasty wi-fi? Naff. The one about singing at a planet and killing it with a magic leaf? Pish. The third episode I'd forgotten I'd even seen it. The fourth, mercifully, was pretty decent ... except for the soft-arsed ending (written by the same person as the 'singing at a planet' episode, so both of their episodes essentially have the same ending). Then, most recently, the one set inside the TARDIS itself - lots of interesting stuff, but the three brothers were completely perfunctory - and I did rather like the idea of 'Time Zombies'. However, the good is far outweighed by the bad in my view - if they stopped making it, I wouldn't be at all bothered. I think it's time it was put away in a cupboard, left for a good while, and then brought back sometime in the future with entirely fresh blood behind-the-scenes.

The Crazies (Blu-Ray)

Doomsday (DVD)

Evil Dead 2 (Blu-Ray)
- the Region B port of last year's 25th Anniversary Edition. A must-buy for any fan of Sam Raimi's bonkers black comedy horror. The in-depth making-of is a joy to watch too - it makes you yearn for a simpler time in genre filmmaking, and it makes you wish you could have been there in-person to experience it.

Seven Psychopaths (Blu-Ray)

Gangs of New York
- over-long, and the love story element doesn't really work, but Scorsese's 19th century epic is a wonderful piece of world-making. Incredible performances, and good lord, that final shot (particularly with the orchestral version of U2's "The Hands That Built America" on the soundtrack) is nothing short of enduringly memorable.

Kill Bill Vol.1 & 2 - the first is action-heavy and steeped in martial-arts movie tropes, and barges forth at a fair old lick. It'd be nice if QT could find a pleasing middle-ground between this sort of pacing, and his recent, more luxuriant efforts, like Inglourious Basterds. The second is much slower by comparison, but I've always liked it just as much as the first - however as I've grown older, and fallen in love with various quality dramas like The Walking Dead, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, I'm recognising and enjoying the nuances of great performances unlike ever before. While the last forty minutes of Volume 2 might buck expectations of a big fight, when you really look closely at the performances, the reward is all right there.


Soil "Scars"

Rammstein "Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da", "Rosenrot", "Reise Reise"

UNKLE "End Titles" and "War Stories"

Feist "1234"

This Will Destroy You "The Mighty Rio Grande"

M83 "Oblivion"

"Dredd" soundtrack

Travis "Good Feeling", "The Man Who", "The Invisible Band", "12 Memories"

Emily Kinney "The Parting Glass"

The Small Faces "Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake"

U2 "The Hands That Built America"

The Prodigy "Breath (The Glitch Mob Remix)"

Health - "Max Payne 3 Soundtrack"


"Bond On Bond" Roger Moore & Gareth Owen - irreverent, quick-to-read, full of glossy pictures. Entertaining.

"Sleb" screenplay - I'm really rather chuffed with this sardonic one-off television drama black comedy 60-pager set in the world of celebrity. You can read more about it here.

"Great Movies: 100 Years of Cinema" Andrew Heritage

"L.A. Confidential" James Ellroy
- the third in the 'L.A. Quartet' (I've already read preceding titles "The Black Dahlia" and "The Big Nowhere"). I've seen the excellent film adaptation several times, and I'm absolutely loving the book.

Max Payne 3 (Xbox360) - a belated second sequel in the metaphor-heavy saga of the embattled New York cop. There's been a transformation since the Remedy days of the original (and, to an extent, the second - at which point Rockstar took over the reigns). Nowadays it's a full-on Rockstar property and it's tough and gritty to say the least. It gets pretty violent and dark at times, and while I had reservations about a few things when I first saw glimpses of it (particularly the shift in setting from a snow-bound New York to the sun-baked streets of Brazil), I've really enjoyed playing the game.

There are odd things that could have used tweaking - occasional spikes in difficulty, a few awkward control moments, 'last chance' revive moments ruined by being stuck behind cover, the constant (and very annoying) switching to pistols after every cutscene, rather than keeping your existing heavy weapon selection in-hand, a slightly hard-to-follow plot, and over-use of nifty effects during slightly-too-long cutscenes ... but still - I had lots of fun playing it.

I was able to nab it for a fiver, so I certainly got plenty of bang for my buck. A good 10-12 hour play through, a mature and enjoyable story, a wonderful central performance by James McCaffrey as Max Payne, superb dialogue (dripping with sarcasm, heavy-duty metaphors, and booze-fuelled stumble-bum bad luck) that fits perfectly with the established character, excellent level design, tip-top graphics, and really enjoyable combat gameplay.

I'd most definitely like to see a Max Payne 4 - but if such a thing happened, a fresh take on the character, that would finally see him move on from his demons and alcoholism, would be nice. Keep him just as sarcastic, but smarten him up a bit - he's been through the grinder a lot, so he should have learned a thing or two by now. Perhaps the sleazy corners of Los Angeles could be a potential setting, with a plot that saw him eventually return to his home of New York City.

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