Thrones, walkers, F1 glamour, and future war are some of what's been setting the tone for my May 2016...
Click "READ MORE" below to see this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...
Game of Thrones: Season 6 - let's be honest, Season 5 was a bit slow for the most part. Despite some great moments, such as that incredible north-of-the-wall battle or Arya crossing a name off her list, last year's round of episodes was the weakest of the bunch (albeit a relative term). However, along comes season 6 and, thus far, it's been shifting like nobody's business - no standing around looking for a candle in a window here! Kicking all sorts of arse, and hitting you in the feels ("Hold the door!"), it's back firing on all cylinders with unbridled gusto.
Silicon Valley: Season 3 - Mike Judge's tech-savvy comedy, as surprisingly gripping as ever. There are occasional moments where characters make astoundingly stupid decisions/mistakes, which grate a touch (as if they, of all people, wouldn't have at least one shredder in Erlich's house!), but for the overwhelming majority of the time it's sharp, witty, and yet never too high-minded to enjoy a bit of crude humour (and even then it's done very cleverly).
The Last Man On Earth: Season 2 - jumping from 13 episodes last season to 18 episodes this season (with a three month break mid-way) has clearly impacted the pacing of the storytelling, but I'm still digging this oddball apocalyptic comedy drama. The mix of hilarity and out-of-the-blue moments of heartfelt emotion works well.
Fear The Walking Dead: Season 2A - talk about a missed opportunity. After making such a thing (when advertising the first season) of how we'd see what happened during the weeks that Rick Grimes was in a coma, the wheels have come off the entire purpose of the show. They missed a wide open goal by not examining the outbreak from the government's perspective, and I feel as if a 'one episode/one day' format would have given this spin-off far more purpose and an identity of its own. What we've got instead, unfortunately, is just The Walking Dead: West Coast. Some of the characters are very intriguing (Ruben Blades' Daniel, chief among them), but the story isn't working. We're supposedly only two weeks in at this point, and yet we regularly have characters talking as if they've been 'at war' for several months, as well as going all a bit 'Mad Max' at the drop of a hat. We've seen that there are still forms of government control (e.g. the border guards on the Mexico coastline), and yet everyone is acting as if everything has already changed completely. It just doesn't add up. The point was driven home with a very vague and scattered mid-season finale. I'm obsessed with The Walking Dead and crave each new episode with a great hunger ... but unfortunately with Fear The Walking Dead, what began as a very intriguing spin-off has dwindled to just a show I watch. I'm hoping for a drastic improvement in Season 2B.
F1 Monaco Grand Prix 2016 - Christmas time for Formula One fans, essentially. The crown jewel in every year's F1 calendar. The glamour, the history, the surprises, and the need for absolute driver precision make Monaco one of the best races of each season. Having visited Monaco in 2014, I've become just a little bit obsessed with the Monaco F1 race, and so this month I was diving deep into the coverage - previews, analysis, practice, qualifying, and the remarkable race itself. So much happened on-the-day that "predictable" could never ever be used to assess it. Great to see Lewis Hamilton win - after chasing it since his last win there in 2008 - his elation illustrated the power that Formula One has when it's at its best.
The Hateful Eight - thoughts on QT's eighth film coming soon.
Rob Zombie "Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor" and "The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser" - the latter is the new RZ album. My personal favourite tracks include "Well, Everybody's Fucking in a UFO", "The Hideous Exhibitions of a Dedicated Gore Whore", "Medication for the Melancholly", "In the Age of the Consecrated Vampire We All Get High", "Get Your Boots On! That's the End of Rock and Roll", and "Wurdalak".
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
"Brown's Requiem" by James Ellroy - the Demon Dog of Crime Fiction's first ever novel. You can see the seeds of what was to come later and pick up on the elements of Ellroy's own life that he cannibalised for the story. Dark and, at times, quite twisted, it's a solid slice of detective fiction - the foundation of Ellroy's long and impressive history of hard-edged writing.
"A Sideline In Vengeance" - three more drafts to get it all polished up nicely. It's been a long journey, but I've now got it how I want it to be. Read more about it HERE.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Xbox 360) - yep, another 'cheap used game catch up'. I never play multiplayer, so I'm one of those strange people who play CoD for just the single player. Having been disappointed by the campaigns for CoD: Ghosts and Black Ops II, I have to say that Advanced Warfare was a big step up - the best since Modern Warfare 3. It's certainly not perfect - e.g. too many missions start with pace-sapping walky/talky filler sections, and the design and placement of on-screen prompts was just baffling at times - but there was a good balance of invention and fun gameplay throughout. Favourite level? "Manhunt" - the one in the Greek tourist town.
"Dispatches" by Michael Herr - while Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket is based on the book "The Short Timers" by Gustav Hasford, it was Michael Herr who co-wrote the screenplay, and there are several moments from his landmark memoir of his time as a Vietnam War Correspondent that made it into the film (e.g. the "You just don't lead 'em so much" scene). Initially I had to get into his particular style of writing, but I quickly became engrossed - an extraordinary piece of writing. A fascinating, honest look at the Vietnam war and the men who fought - and observed - it.
Cyanide & Happiness "Stab Factory" - the fourth book by the folks behind my favourite web comic.