Sunday 30 October 2016

Flavours of the Month: October 2016...

Sci-fi chuckles, murky grey areas, gruesome goings on, and jet black humour - just some of the things that have been setting the tone of my October 2016.

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The Nice Guys (Blu-Ray)

Red Dwarf XI
- after a wobbly first episode, the latest series has improved considerably, extracting consistent laughs throughout. There is room for improvement in certain areas - the fourth episode features some curious and jarring bits of editing, perhaps influenced by a slip up somewhere along the blocking/direction/performance line. The third episode, meanwhile, missed an opportunity for a big punchline involving "Snacky" the snack bot.

Instead of revealing which bot was which in the opening minutes, they could have kept the bots respective identities secret until the charmingly clunky one brought on board is forced to admit they're not a medical droid. There was an opportunity there for one of those classic Red Dwarf moments of 'spiraling absurdity' - the peak of which could have been Snacky admitting he was, in fact, just a snack dispenser and not a genius surgeon bot.

Still, though, the odd wobble and missed opportunity aside, this eleventh series has been thoroughly enjoyable with some inventively barmy sci-fi ideas tossed into the mix. For my money, episodes 2, 3, and 4 were the best ones of the run, getting as close as you can reasonably get to 'classic Red Dwarf' from back in the day. I'm very much looking forward to series XII in 2017!

National Treasure - Channel 4's four-part drama about a celebrity accused of historical abuse wrapped up, and blimey, that's what you call good television! Gripping from start-to-finish, it also refused to offer simple answers or black and white answers. Clear events come courtesy of the omniscience afforded to we TV viewers only, and even then come with a murky grey area attached to them. A great cast featured stand-out performances from Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters, and the series boasted superb writing and direction. If you've not seen it, then you should definitely check it out.

Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 2 - more gruesome goofball madness from Bruce Campbell & Co. This is one of those shows that plays strongly to its audience and delivers in spades. That scene from the second episode is proof positive.

Frankenhooker (Blu-Ray) - Frank Henenlotter's barmy horror comedy is as much goofy fun as the title makes it out to be. Arrow Video's HD presentation looks good, yet retains more film damage than usual - giving you an intriguing mix between Blu-Ray crispness and celluloid scrapes. There's a good selection of extras, too, including a pretty candid commentary and some effects-filled behind the scenes footage.

The Walking Dead: Season 7 - well, that's a hell of a way to kick off a new season. Everyone brought their A-Game to the first episode of season 7 (especially Andrew Lincoln and Jeffrey Dean Morgan - Rick and Negan - who did astonishing work here). It's going to be a good time hating Negan. Consider the goal of establishing a 'before Negan and after Negan' delineation accomplished. As per the norm, you can find brand new TWD memes HERE.

Black Mirror: Series 3 - Charlie Brooker's jet black brand of techno-savvy satire returns, nightmarish in its prescience and as uncomfortably observant as ever.


Telepathic Teddy Bear "Where Is My Mind?"

Public Image LTD "The Order Of Death"

Saint Saviour "This Ain't No Hymn"

Tangerine Dream "Love On A Real Train"

Airbourne "Breakin' Outta Hell"

Green Day "Revolution Radio"
- their new album. After the filler-laden triple-release of Uno/Dos/Tres, "Revolution Radio" finds the band reinvigorated and with something relevant to say. "Bang Bang", "Revolution Radio", "Say Goodbye", "Outlaws", "Still Breathing", and "Young Blood" are my personal favourites.

The 69 Eyes "Devils", "Angels", "Back In Blood", "X"

Ringo Deathstarr "Colour Trip", "God's Dream", and "Pure Mood"


Katerina Diamond "The Teacher" - the debut novel from the Greek-British writer. It's a dark and twisted crime thriller in which a series of increasingly grisly, torturous murders become connected through a sordid secret centuries in-the-making. Detectives Miles and Grey make for an intriguing pairing, and the characterisation of Diamond's key players gives them an affable, everyday quality (particularly for Miles and Grey) that endears you to them. No spoilers, but the ending unfolds in such a way that a series could yet be born out of some of these characters and situations.

There's room for improvement (this is the writer's debut novel, to be fair, and the prose reflects that) - back story could be spread out at more intervals in a slightly subtler manner, the component parts of the story could be tied together stronger, and I guessed who the killer was relatively early on (but that could be a side effect of my own time spent writing - dissecting structural elements and deciphering author intent), but this is a solid first outing. If you happen across it on a book store shelf, it's worth checking out.

James Ellroy "Clandestine" - the crime writer's second novel, partly inspired by the unsolved murder of his own mother in the 1950s. Pacing wise it proves tricky, racing forward at times only to lurch to a crawl and back again, and the reveal doesn't quite pack the punch expected of it. The characterisation on the other hand is excellent, with many of the chapters that focus on the interplay of the various key players turning out to be highlights. "Brown's Requiem" was better focused, but "Clandestine" showed an early glimpse at the oeuvre that Ellroy would go on to command like no other in his future work.

The New Book Project - yes, I'm still not saying much on this as I'm yet to get writing the actual text, but this month has been the last big push at getting the story bashed into its final shape. I've been putting together a document which is like a summary of it all so I can get my head around it, figure out what's missing, and close up any holes in logic or plotting. I've been working on this project, off and on, since June - and it has become quite a monster of a project - but I'm really excited to start getting it all down in prose form. There's been a lot of research and planning that has gone into it, but that's just how it goes with writing something like this (more detailed information on it as-and-when, I promise).

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