Saturday, 30 June 2018

Flavours of the Month: June 2018...

Grotty grindhouse flicks, 90s rave tracks, and Palahniuk's most daring novel in years is just some of what's been setting the tone of my June 2018...

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


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Blu-Ray) - Martin McDonagh's awards-snaffling blackly comic drama most definitely deserves all the praise it has received, from the Oscar-winning performances to McDonagh's well-balanced script, which constantly keeps the viewer intrigued and the characters developing throughout.

Archer: Season 9 "Danger Island"

Doctor Butcher M.D. (Blu-Ray) - Severin's 2-disc presentation of both versions of the film, the original European "Zombie Holocaust" and Acquarius' re-edited US release version "Doctor Butcher M.D.", plus a whole host of informative and revealing extras. It came with a novelty 'barf bag' replica of those handed out when the film originally showed on 42nd Street, although unfortunately the quality of the replica is poor with the sort of 'plastic printed' text flaking off from the smooth surface of the bag.

The Last House on the Left (Blu-Ray) - Arrow Video's brand new restoration in the deluxe 3-disc edition featuring three versions of the film, all restored from original elements, with a host of new and old extras, plus lobby cards, poster, booklet, and soundtrack CD. The film caused huge controversy at the time (some viewers got so enraged that they stormed the projection booth in an attempt to destroy the film reels), but nearly 50 years on it's power to shock has diminished considerably (ah, the era of the World Wide Web!). However, the extremely rough 'n' ready 16mm documentary aesthetic - with the disorienting score which clashes sour visuals with sweet music - maintains a certain gritty power. The rough editing and coverage does show up how new Craven & Cunningham were to filmmaking at the time, but it gifts the film a certain rawness, most keenly felt during the key sequences of violence (considered liable to 'deprave & corrupt' UK audiences until as recently as 2009!), where small details in the respective performances add a deeper layer of realism that can still send shivers up your spine.

What Have You Done To Solange? (Blu-Ray)


AFI "Miss Murder"

Jimmy Eat World "Pain"

Annie Lennox "No More I Love Yous"

Twin Peaks "Music From The Limited Event Series" - the various artists who performed at the 'Bang Bang Bar' in Twin Peaks, usually at the end of an episode. Some of the choice picks include "Shadow" by Chromatics (sublime), "She's Gone Away" by Nine Inch Nails (seething, gritty), "No Stars" by Rebekah Del Rio (hauntingly melancholic), and "Wild West (Roadhouse Mix)" by Lissie (powerfully transcendent).

DJ Hyper "Spoiler" - featured in the E3 trailer for the upcoming videogame Cyberpunk 2077.

Messiah "Temple of Dreams" - a rave track from the early 1990s featuring a quote sampled from "The Running Man". My earliest forays into music, when I was still in single digits, consisted of mix tapes and this was one of the songs that featured heavily in the (narrow) rotation of music available to me at the time. Funny how things move on, now I've got hundreds of CDs and more than six thousand MP3s at my disposal.

The Shaman "Ebeneezer Goode" - another rave track from the 1990s and, again, a track I frequently listened to as a kid. At the time, way back when and innocent as you like, I took the lyrics literally, but a few years down the line you figure out that they're actually talking about the drug Ecstasy. Apparently this was number one in the charts during a well-publicised Anti-Drug week!

Sons of Pythagoras "Counting The Cost" - the music featured in the trailer for Sicario 2: Soldado.


Battlefield: Hardline (Xbox One) - the cops & robbers angle is an interesting change-up from the franchise's usual focus of various war zones, but ultimately the single player story doesn't quite pan out how you'd have fancied. Battles tend to be brief and narrowly focused, and the plot never quite grabs the attention. I'd have preferred a more police procedural structure - which would have fit in nicely with the 'TV cop show' vibe the game seemed to be going for - rather than how things actually played out. It's a mixed bag, really.

Some settings are quite interesting (run down social housing in Miami, a storm-battered shopping mall), while others are lacking (the climactic episode set on an island, that irritating snail's pace fifth episode where you clumsily try to evade the police). The core mechanics are solid, though, but the single player story featured too many slow-moving hands-off talky bits and not enough sustained gun play. It also makes zero sense to sneak around being quiet and stealthy so you can earn rewards that turn out to be very loud guns. Maybe I'll replay some of the levels again, but just go in all guns blazing instead.

"Adjustment Day" by Chuck Palahniuk - the Fight Club author's first novel in a few years (after a series of short story collections and graphic novel projects) proved too controversial for his usual publisher and, seemingly, many others until W. W. Norton & Company strapped on a pair. This is, after all, a work of fiction, albeit a searingly satirical one that strays into transgressive territory ... but considering some of the things Palahniuk has written about in past novels, it's funny/sad to see where the line is drawn for some publishers.

Anyone can misread a work of art, but that's not the fault of the art, it's the fault of the individual. Besides, considering how the story unfolds, it clearly presents a nightmare scenario, a satirical sideswipe at the current extremes with a fictional world in which equally drastic measures on the other side get wildly out of control. Indeed, rather than idolise the notion of "revolution", the book shows that no revolution comes without a heavy toll. There's a lot to unpack amidst the outrageous plot points and humorous inversions of present day absurdities, but Palahniuk has struck upon an idea and created a world which has bore much fruit, packed with fascinating tangents and the logical extensions of the perverse 'alt world' presented on-the-page.

Call of Duty: WWII (Xbox One) - the mandatory update (totalling 20.81gb at the time of writing) before you can even play the single player mode is a piss-take. Like with all other games, I should be able to install and play from the disc in the box (preferably without bugs and glitches, but that's another issue entirely). That aside, though, it's nice to see the franchise return to its roots, although you can see influence from Battlefield 1. Whether those similarities are coincidental or not, they're there to see, but it's no bad thing. A few of the single player missions could use a bit of finesse, but the mixture of classic COD combat and cinematic storytelling is pretty strong.

There is a good mix of action in the missions, though, ranging from straight forward combat in the battlefield to stealth infiltration to vehicular combat (jeeps, tanks, and a brief-but-fun stint as a fighter pilot). Typically, the gameplay is solid and smooth, with only a few very minor wobbles along the way with the odd mechanic or two. The story is fairly strong, with the key characters shining out through some very good motion capture and cutscene work. By the climax of the game you actually care about these core characters, and the time taken to ruminate on the horrors and toll of war pays off.

"Deadpool: Vol. 6 'Original Sin'" by Posehn/Duggan

"Deadpool: Vol. 7 'Axis'" by Posehn/Duggan

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