Thursday 29 November 2018

Flavours of the Month: November 2018...

Carpenter classics, ascending zombies, and the biggest videogame release of the year are just some of what's been setting the tone of my November 2018...

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


The Fog (Blu-Ray), They Live (Blu-Ray), Escape From New York (Blu-Ray), & "Prince of Darkness" (Blu-Ray) - iconic John Carpenter favourites from the 1980s. Picture and Audio quality are both very good on both releases, while there's a healthy compliment of extras (some new, some old). The new retrospective documentaries do provide a wealth of information but are a bit heavy on using clips from the movie.

One little peeve, mind you - these releases are distributed by Studio Canal, whose logo is obnoxious in its conspicuous placement throughout the disc (on start up, before the movie, and even before & after the retrospective doc). We get it, you're the current distributor, stop cramming it down our throats, alright?!

The Walking Dead: Season 9 - if only Angela Kang had taken over the showrunner reigns earlier. However, better late than never, and the show under her stewardship has seen it decidedly reinvigorated. Even the much-advertised departure of Rick Grimes (a thrilling, emotional, exciting episode 9x05) laid ground work for intrigue to come.

Part of the reason that viewers complained about pacing issues with the last couple of seasons ultimately came down to not enough time passing for the characters on-screen compared to the viewers at home. The passage of time during Gimple's four seasons as showrunner was a matter of months in the TWD universe, but Kang has brought the passage of time to the forefront of Season 9. After an initial time jump of 18 months, we had smaller passages of time (35 days here, a week there) built into the storytelling, and in the wake of Rick being helicoptered off with Anne/Jadis to parts unknown (questions to be answered in the upcoming trio of Rick Grimes-starring TV movies) we saw another time jump - a matter of six years.

During the mixed-bag seasons 7 and 8 it felt like we were being served rations, whereas season 9 has felt like a three course meal every single week with barely a snifter of filler glimpsed anywhere. It remains to be seen how the show will feel without Rick Grimes in the long run, but initial signs are positive. Even the introduction of The Whisperers (a kind of iffy storyline in the comics) in the mid-season finale has brought surprising thrills and chills - the mist-bound cemetery battle during a storm confidently returns the series to horror territory. Truly, it has been a return to form that has utterly exceeded my expectations.

The Deuce: Season 2
- in paying close attention to the female characters on the show and providing them with some excellent story arcs (e.g. Eileen, Lori, Darlene, and Dorothy), many of the male characters have been sidelined. Vincent and Frankie have both ended up back where they started the season with both of them having mostly meandered around the environment bumping into other people's plot lines, with their threads lacking any real drive or goals in mind, resting instead on a vague sense of ennui. This is not to say that male characters haven't had some good material - the likes of Larry Brown, C.C., and Paul have had solid stories this season - but many, much like Vincent, fall into a pervasive lack of personal traction (such as law enforcers Chris and Luke), while others are almost cardboard cutout characters: Bobby Dwyer goes little further than 'miserable asshole father from the 1970s' and Rudy Pipilo is the 'big man in the mob' requirement and nothing more.

It goes without saying that underwritten female characters have been a problem in TV shows and movies, but underwritten characters afflict any persuasion of human being, much like there are well written characters afforded to all at an increasing rate. It's just ironic that in continuing to rightly provide complex roles for women, The Deuce has underwritten many of its men. Elsewhere, a prime example of a well written mixed cast would be The Walking Dead, with juicy and complex stories written for all the characters. With TWD, of course, the apocalyptic setting has an inherent meritocracy built into it: those characters are there because they are capable, they've earned their place, and they're all multi-layered and as capable as anyone else of succeeding or failing. The Deuce is one of my favourite shows currently on the telly box, and I've enjoyed the second season just as much as the first, but the schism in the depth of writing afforded to female vs male characters is conspicuous in its irony.

Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 3 (Blu-Ray) - the final season of this awesome show, sadly, but at least they gave it an ending that could work as a finale which also left the viewer with the knowledge that their hero was still out there kicking ass and taking names. Perhaps a continuation of the story (original aspirations for the show was a five-season lifespan) in graphic novel or animated movie form would be a good idea? Season 3 was a bit patchy in some regards, but over-the-piece it was still as enjoyable as previous seasons and, boy, does it climax on a high note under Rick Jacobson's writer/director assured leadership.


Alice Cooper "Goes To Hell", "Lace and Whiskey", "From The Inside", "Killer", "Billion Dollar Babies"

Perturbator "B-Sides and Remixes Vol. 1 & Vol. 2"

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts "Crimson & Clover"

Misfits "Dead Alive!"


"A Whole Bag of Crazy: Sordid Tales of Hookers, Weed, and Grindhouse Movies" by Pete Chiarella - eye-opening stories of the sleazy 70s in New Jersey, New York, and the Times Square area from '42nd Street Pete'. The prose could use a little bit of polishing, and it most certainly needed a proof reader because numerous spelling and grammatical errors besmirch an otherwise entertaining and brutally honest look back on a bygone era.

Red Dead Redemption 2 (Xbox One) - after three weeks of heavy play (and many "oh crap, is that the time?" late nights) I'm thoroughly into the mechanics of the game and deeply invested in the cast of characters. The sense of immersion is, once again, truly astonishing when you really get out there into the wilds and just go exploring. I'm at about 90 hours of gameplay and still have a quarter of the main story left to play - I've not even got to the southern part of the map, too! The 'sense of place' afforded to the various in-games settings are astonishing, from the unrelenting cold of snow-capped mountains to the cloying, 'Night Folk'-infested murk of swampland and everything in-between this is an extremely rich gaming experience.

The sense that the world around you has a life of its own further sucks the player in, as certain buildings or areas of the map change over time (e.g. a logging camp will go from a busy hive of activity to an empty, dead expanse). Even the feel of the game - controlling Arthur Morgan whether on-foot or on horseback - is probably the best that Rockstar has achieved thus far. GTA IV felt far too stiff and clunky, while GTA V made some improvements but nevertheless felt a bit mechanical, but RDR2 feels fluid and easy (a good gameplay experience) while still appearing quite realistic (a good sense of immersion and reality). Even after four weeks of heavy play, RDR2 continues to churn up surprises - I thought the 'Night Folk' were creepy, but then I discovered the 'Murfree' clan!

"Deadpool vs The Punisher" by Fred Van Lente & Pere Perez - The Merc With The Mouth and Frank Castle face-off as they take on 'The Bank', a money launderer and loan shark for innumerable criminal organisations. It's a good bit of fun, but it doesn't quite live up to the promise of the concept, while the numerous grammatical errors in the text doesn't exactly help with appearances.

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