A corrupted unicorn, dancing on the ceiling of hell, and dark sarcasm is just some of what has been setting the tone of my June 2019...
Click "READ MORE" below to see this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...
Click "READ MORE" below to see this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...
Deadwood (2019) - after it's cancellation in 2006 at the close of its third season, Deadwood was left on somewhat of a cliffhanger as an impending Hearst-shaped storm was about to wreak havoc upon Al Swerengen's domain. Now, we finally get to return to the town of Deadwood, although anyone hoping for a sense of conclusion won't get much of that. Indeed, it feels as if the hidden reason behind this television movie is to test the waters for another season. Well, if that was the case it'd certainly be welcome, but if not then we viewers have been left on somewhat of another cliffhanger. Still, as a fan of the show it was nice to strap on those dusty cowboy boots once more and see what the townsfolk have been up to for the past decade or so.
The Walking Dead: Season 8 (Blu-Ray) - a second spin through the season which saw 'All Out War' brought to our screens. It certainly makes some improvements over season 7, but certain flaws remained. Thankfully, those lingering issues were swept aside with Season 9. That said, it was nice to whip through these episodes again.
Climax (Blu-Ray) - Gaspar Noe doesn't make movies by half-measure, and as the most daring French filmmaker on the scene, he knows how to challenge his audience. Through his characters (there's no such thing as a "goodie" in a Noe movie) and his astonishing visuals, confrontation is the name of the game. This time around we find ourselves in the 1990s at a dance school where a group of young adults, celebrating a successful three-day rehearsal, discover that someone has spiked their sangria with LSD. Once the half-way point hits, the characters (and the audience) are slowly dropped into a nightmare. The violence isn't as extreme as "Irreversible", the sex isn't anywhere near as in-your-face as "Love", and the visuals may be gorgeous but they don't expect the trippy heights of "Enter The Void". Instead, Climax endeavours to play a relatively subtle game with splashes of Noe brilliance rocking the boat with increasing frequency. When the viewer's eye on the events is flipped upside down, the dance hall bathed in red light, it's as if we're looking up at the ceiling of hell, which comes as a rewarding inversion of the movie's opening sequence (which is actually, chronologically, the last scene) which sees us looking down on the snow white floor of what could be regarded as some kind of heaven until a distressed figure collapses and spasmodically creates a blood-streaked snow angel. Certain moments do rankle in the first half, but the exceptional dance sequences (all but one are improvised) astonish.
Black Mirror: Season 5 - following on from the interactive feature length episode 'Bandersnatch' earlier this year, the fifth set of episode of Charlie Brooker's technology-focused show brings just three episodes as opposed to the more recent six (although the first two series were three eps each). 'Striking Vipers' was the stand-out of the set and did what Black Mirror does best: take something everyday (in this case infidelity and sexuality) but twist it through a prism of the technology of tomorrow. The other episodes also featured great acting and writing, with social media addiction and the travails of a pop star as their subjects. Hopefully Brooker's still got plenty of ideas in his head because BM is one of the most intriguing and memorable shows on the scene.
Happy: Season 2 - the first season felt overlong at eight episodes, so a jump to ten for this second season brought with it some trepidation, although this time the out-there elements have been cranked up higher and spread more generously throughout the episodes, so even if it can occasionally feel as if it's somewhat playing for time, there's at least a whole host of absurdity to keep you stunned/entertained from a gaggle of nuns in bomb vests all fighting tooth and nail to get to the trigger or our hero laying waste to an old folks home filled with decrepit WW2 Nazis.
Dead To Me: Season 1 - a ten-part drama (with a sense of humour) from Netflix starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, about a grieving widow with anger issues who is befriended by a curious woman who isn't all she seems. Each half hour episode is remarkably breezy, with a slick sense of pace, and a twist is never far away, so you're always eager to find out what happens next. Boosted by a strong supporting cast, and set of scripts which almost never stumble (there are a couple of lines which feel a bit blunt and will, arguably, date the show), Dead To Me is a must-watch.
The Annihilators (Blu-Ray) - riffing on Death Wish and a host of 1980s Reagan-era vigilante fantasies, this New World Pictures low budget action movie sees a group of Vietnam veterans avenge the death of one of their own in a crumbling inner city community that is under the boot of criminal gangs. The limitations of the budget are evident, and the script could have used a little more time in the creative oven, but it does enough to mostly meet expectations. Naturally, this Arrow Video Blu-Ray release boasts a lovely restoration, booklet, and a few extras.
Trapped Alive (Blu-Ray) - another Arrow Video title, this time a horror movie otherwise known as "Forever Mine". Filmed in Wisconsin as an independent feature in 1988, it wasn't released until 1993, and while it doesn't quite live up to the eye-catching new cover art by Justin Osbourn, it does have plenty to offer. Despite being a low budget film, the cinematography is gorgeous (and achieved by an all-female crew at a time when such a thing was pretty much unheard of), and there's some quite effective gore moments. There's some ropey dialogue scattered about, and a penchant for big slabs of exposition to rear up from time to time, but fans of genre flicks found off the beaten path will most likely find something to enjoy. A good compliment of extras rounds out the package.
Airbourne "Black Dog Barking"
Cerrone "Supernature (Instrumental)" - a classic disco track that has most recently been featured in Gaspar Noé's dance nightmare film "Climax", as well as "An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn".
Sebastian "Love In Motion"
Nirvana "Bleach", "Nevermind", "Incesticide", "In Utero"
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
"The Teenage Slasher Movie Book" by J.A. Kerswell - the 2nd revised and expanded edition. This overview of the slasher sub-genre takes the reader through its history from its seeds: the Grand Guignol, Agatha Christie, German 'Krimi' films, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, the Italian 'Giallo' movement, proto-slashers like A Bay Of Blood, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Black Christmas, then through into the 1978-1984 'Golden Age of Slashers', through the 1980s VHS boom, rebirth as highly marketable 'thrillers' in the 1990s, then into the 21st century with a slew of remakes, throwbacks, and new interpretations. Filled with colourful images, it's a bright and breezy book which provides a fun overview, but if you want in-depth examination you'd be best to look elsewhere. There are some nice factoids strewn throughout, such as the fact that during the golden age of the sub-genre - and in contrast to the cries of women's protest groups of the time - more than half of slasher movie victims were male.
Hitman: The Definitive Edition (Xbox One) - otherwise known as "Season One" when first released in 2016, this is the 'collected' version featuring all six episodes plus additional missions and clothing packs. Sometimes you can feel like the odds are stacked against you when required to perform certain tasks (e.g. so many damn people looking at you), and gunplay feels clunky when it comes to aiming and using cover, but the sandbox levels hew back to the sort of Hitman gameplay we know and love. The inclusion of "opportunity" paths help guide the player to pull of spectacular feats of assassination, while the screeds of "challenges" for each level encourage replays. Not every level is as great as those of Paris and Sapienza, but they all have a different feel and pose their own challenges.
Story Cards and Screenwriting - at this point I'm not going to go into it, but I was back to the good old story cards and a felt tip pen, bashing out story beats before double clicking on that Final Draft icon, and a nice surge of creativity came flooding forth.
"The Despicable Deadpool: Deadpool Kills Cable" - by Duggan, Koblish, Lopez, and Filardi
"The Despicable Deadpool: Bucket List" - by Duggan, Lolli, Koblish, and Redmond
"The Despicable Deadpool: The Marvel Universe Kills Deadpool" - by Duggan, Hawthorne, Koblish, Lolli