Thursday 30 March 2017

Flavours of the Month: March 2017...

Dirty coppers, saucy times in Venice, and antics around San Francisco are some of what's been setting the tone of my March 2017...

Click "READ MORE" below to see this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...


Inside No.9: Series 3 - perhaps not quite as strong as the first two series, but there were some very good episodes in this latest batch of six. The episode shown at Christmas - presented as if it was genuinely recorded during the late 70s/early 80s (the attention to detail is mightily impressive) - was probably the best one of the six. However, the constantly changing settings, characters, and stories keep things fresh from week to week. It's also very impressive how Shearsmith and Pemberton are able to turn four people bickering over who pays the bill after dinner into a fascinating bit of drama with a delicious double twist. I'd certainly welcome a fourth series!

Luther: Series 1, 2, & 3 - I saw that "W" were re-showing these from the beginning (still waiting on Series 4 to be shown, mind you), so I figured it was a good way to play catch up on the BBC's cop drama starring Idris Elba. The first series falls into 'crime of the week' similarities, but the shorter four-episode runs of series 2 and 3 work much better - two killers spread over two episodes each with a series-wide personal arc for Luther himself. I recall that the show got some flack for having many female victims - but film and TV is merely a reflection of real life: most serial killers are men, and their victims are usually women. However, ain't it curious that the complainers seemed to forget about all the men who also die horrible deaths during the show?

Amuck! (Blu-Ray) - 88 Films' HD release of Silvio Amadio's 1972 psychological thriller. Ostensibly a giallo flick, but with minimal murder, it's more of a sexually charged mystery. Beautifully shot, the movie features some fantastic locations in and around Venice, and the score is sublime. It stars Barbara Bouchet (The Black Belly of the Tarantula), Rosalba Neri, and Farley Granger (Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope"). There's a handful of extras - a Q&A with the entertaining and sharp-witted Bouchet, an interview with Neri, and an interview with Bouchet. Picture and Sound quality are both excellent. Fans of Bouchet and Italian cinema of the 1970s would do well to give it a look.


Misfits "Project 1950", "The Devil's Rain"

Rob Zombie "Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor"

Giorgio Morodor "74 Is The New 24"

Judas Priest "Turbo Lover"


Murder at the Grindhouse - The story is split into four parts and I'm approaching the end of the third part (parts 1 and 3 are the longest sections). The word count is now north of 90,000. I'm deep into the meatiest chunks of the story at the moment and am looking forward to finishing the first draft - at which point I'll set it aside for a short while before reading through the whole thing again to make my first round of re-writes ... but there's still plenty left to write until then as I've estimated the final word count to be somewhere around 110,000 words. Naturally, upon the first read through of the entire thing I'll be seeking to trim the word count down a bit, especially in the earlier passages of the book, and generally see what needs adding or clarifying.

Watch Dogs 2 (Xbox One) - I never played the original game, but had heard that the sequel improved upon the original's faults. The San Francisco setting is beautifully realised and a lot of fun to explore (virtual sight seeing, ahoy), and the tone is pretty well balanced between darker themes and lighter moments of humour (e.g. Marcus and Wrench's bromance). I did have to download the patch - all 10.36gb worth of it - which isn't much fun when you've got a slow connection (it took 15 hours to get all of that downloaded)!

There's a few 'what were they thinking?' moments throughout. From the outset, unpatched, it's stunning that they never bothered to include a 'screen size slider' and had to patch one in later - the outer rim of the image was cut off, affecting the mission goals and map in particular. The driving mechanics are quite 'arcadey', too much so, in fact. Some vehicles have sluggish controls (slow response to controller input) as a silly way of conveyed 'weight', and whenever you go off-road or get a bit 'jumpy' all vehicles control terribly. General driving around on streets is fine - kind of rough, but workable. A few slip ups occur on occasion, too - certain goals not being clear and the like. If only UbiSoft were brave enough to take more time developing their games or delay their releases in order to tidy up the sloppy bits.

I'm also not keen on the idea of tasered enemies re-awakening after a while (or after they've been found by other NPCs). If UbiSoft wanted to encourage non-lethal gameplay then tasered enemies should stay down for the duration of the mission. In the end I've often taken to tasering someone and then shooting them in the head with a silenced pistol. However, there are many fun ways to engage in missions - on more than one occasion I've been able to remotely wipe out enemy resistance in an area through a combination of booby-trapped items (gas pipes, fuel tankers) and false flagging someone as an enemy of an in-game gang (assisting said gang by feeding noise into our mutual enemies' earpieces, as well).

The 'voyeur' aspect of the game is a guilty pleasure - messing with NPCs through webcams and the like - but there's also moments of surprise: at one point you can save a man (recently out of work) from committing suicide. Over all the game is not without flaws (some of which are stated above), and the story is told in a somewhat scattered way, but the use of rich themes pertaining to surveillance, data harvesting, and the manipulation/abuse of technology by the few to control the many provide fascinating allegories to our real world. It needed some more finesse, and you should never need to download a 10gb patch to fix a game post-launch, but it's well worth playing. I've just completed the final mission, but have various bits and pieces left to do in the sandbox.

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