Seventies New York, difficult second album syndrome, and America's political underbelly - just a few of the things that have been setting the tone of my September 2017...
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Twin Peaks: Season 3 - so, there we have it, "The Return" has played out ... and we most definitely need a fourth season to answer many more questions, the biggest of all being those posed in the final scene. We saw the return of Dale Cooper to Twin Peaks, but it was a smidge brief as crazier events conspired to pull him in mysterious new directions. David Lynch and Mark Frost's delve back into the world of cherry pie and damn fine coffee has been a challenging, thrilling, and wondrous thing that will absolutely require a second viewing to peel back so many delicate layers.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 (Blu-Ray) - Marvel seem to have a recurring issue with 'difficult second album' syndrome. Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, and Avengers: Age of Ultron are all examples of inferior second-outings to cracking debuts. The exception that proves the rule is Captain America: The Winter Soldier (an all-time great superhero movie which built upon a thoroughly enjoyable origin story). Volume 2 of Guardians of the Galaxy, unfortunately, slides in besides the weaker second outings. It's not the same clever rogue that it once was and, while still jolly good fun, you can't help but pine for the clarity of the original. Generally solid, with a few standout set pieces, it's decent but falls below expectations.
Preacher: Season 2 - AMC, stop extending your episode orders. Fear The Walking Dead's second season suffered greatly from the six-to-thirteen episodes jump, and Preacher likewise suffers from added episodes (10 going up to 13, in this instance). There's far too much mid-season flab on the bones with a key line of enquiry (revolving around the DVD), rather unbelievably, being abandoned for several episodes until it is finally picked back up again. The season got off to a thunderously good start, but quickly began to wobble under the strain of plot filler. There's still much to enjoy, but please, AMC, reduce the run back to 10 episodes!
Fear The Walking Dead: Season 3B - there's a few elements that provide intrigue, but so much of this show smacks of 'been here and done it with Rick Grimes already'. Iffy character arcs befall supporting players, while the plot - now extended to sixteen flippin' episodes (!!!) - routinely drags its feet, turning simple plot goals into episode-long trudges. The entire purpose of FTWD was to examine the initial outbreak, but that was thrown out as soon as Season 1 ended. Now it's just an inferior version of TWD in a different locale, presenting all-too-familiar moral quandaries.
The Deuce: Season 1 - HBO's new show stars James Franco (as a pair of twins) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (as a hooker-turned-entry-level-porno-filmmaker). Beginning in 1971, while hardcore was still illegal in the USA, the show takes place in and around the notorious "Deuce" (the stretch of 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues). The show's title is a bit of a misnomer, as much of the action in the first episodes is set beyond the confines of 'The Deuce', strictly speaking, but the recreation of the time, place, attitudes, and people has been successful. Examining the reality behind the skin flicks, it combines the intriguing little details of a bygone time and place with characters whose arcs have great potential. HBO have already renewed it for a second season, so let's hope it proves more successful than the channel's previous show set in the New York of the 1970s (Vinyl).
Tin Star: Series 1 - an original production from Sky. Tim Roth plays an English policeman and recovering alcoholic who moves with his family to Canada. However, when an oil company rocks up, conspiracy and tragedy begin to unfold. I'm only a couple of episodes in so far, but so far so good (and the use of location is spellbinding).
I'm Dying Up Here: Season 1 - Showtime's 70's-set drama about the L.A. comedy scene. It's taken a bit to get going, but by about the fifth episode the deeper aspects of the characters began to propel the story, giving it some good meat to chew on. It's certainly not my favourite show, but it's doing enough to keep me interested and watching. The opening titles leave a bit to be desired, mind. You're supposed to get energised for what you're about to watch, but the mournfully slow jazz is quite jarring. Compare it to another 70s-set drama currently on-the-go in the shape of The Deuce, and that opening has spark to it. Anyway, bizarre choice of opening music aside, "I'm Dying Up Here" gives an insight into the world of comedy (and for more of that, in a present setting, check out HBO's "Crashing" with Pete Holmes).
Alien: Covenant (Blu-Ray) - Ridley Scott's latest dalliance with the xenomorph. Read my thoughts here.
Airbourne "Breakin' Outta Hell", "Black Dog Barking"
Foo Fighters "Concrete and Gold", "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace", "One By One", "In Your Honour" - their new album "Concrete and Gold" isn't up to the heights of their previous two outings, but it's a solid effort nonetheless.
Green Day "Revolution Radio"
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
For Want Of A Nail - you can read more about this HERE and also HERE.
James Ellroy "American Tabloid" - the Demon Dog of Crime Fiction's first part in his 'Underworld USA Trilogy' is a complex web of dodgy dealings, double-crosses, and the sordid underbelly of America between late 1958 and the 22nd of November 1963, covering mob activity, political ascendancy, and Cuba among many other themes. Savagely written with a brutally honest outlook on America's post-war years, Ellroy's interpretation of events feels entirely plausible to the point of being to be some whispered truth that's been heard on the grapevine. Particularly intricate, but rewarding, it's the sort of story that benefits from taking notes along the way to keep track of the innumerable, and fragile, alliances that are spread throughout the narrative.
Murder at the Grindhouse - considering all the effort I've put into the story and characters, I figured it'd be a good idea to get a screenplay writing sample out of it, too. Never mind trying to write for any particular audience or budget, this was purely a case of passion and pleasure, and indulging in something that fascinates me, and it's the sort of story (and setting) that lends itself to a sparky turn of phrase in the prose. I've taken the first few chapters of the novel - and added in a few brand new scenes (some of which I may actually port over to the novel during further rewrites) - and transposed it into the format of a TV series pilot episode.