Comic book creepiness, Netflix goodness, and a neon-tinted apocalypse are just some of what's been setting the tone of my October 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...
Creepshow: Season 1 - produced by Greg Nicotero, this television incarnation (for Shudder) of George A. Romero's 1982 classic horror anthology film is proving to be a mixed bag. Each episode consists of two stories and 'comic book' wraparounds, but the stories have been very mixed (some good, some bad, many struggling with some clunky dialogue at times). The sheer visual flair of the original movie is also lacking too often; there's never enough dutch angles, low angles, extreme close ups, or garish colours to truly evoke the feeling of Romero's original, and the 'distinctly digital' camera doesn't help either. Still, when it does work it's good fun (especially when genre favourites like Adrienne Barbeau and Jeffrey Combs turn up on-screen), and the practical effects (mostly) shine despite an evidently tight budget, with the 'Creep' being especially pleasing on the horror fan's eye. The third episode fell kinda flat for me, but just when I was starting to feel down about the show along came the fourth episode with it's first story "The Companion" doing everything I want the show to do. More of that, please! Overall it certainly has its flaws, but I'd like to see another season with an expanded budget and tighter writing - hopefully that'll happen considering the show's success on the platform and the recent confirmation of an order for a second season.
Big Mouth: Season 3 - Netflix's animated puberty comedy returns with another ten episodes. When the show isn't desperately trying to prove how 'woke' it is, it's hilarious, but its dives into social commentary splutter as often as they sing, too often displaying a 'one note' or surface deep examination of whatever 'issue' is at hand. The Hormone Monsters continue to steal the show, snatching the best lines and sequences (the Florida rock song is hilarious), but there's plenty of sidelines and subplots to enjoy along the way from the rest of the characters.
The Walking Dead: Season 10 - after Angela Kang took over the reigns for season 9, TWD has seen a decided return to form after the rocky road that was the 7th and 8th seasons. We're only a few episodes deep into the tenth season, but so far things continue to look good. The writing is on-point, the faults with seasons 7 and 8 have been swept aside, character and story logic is back on-track, and the show is improving upon a somewhat ropey story arc from the comics (The Whisperers). The show, incredibly, managed to weather the storm of Rick Grimes leaving with considerable confidence, so let's hope it can do the same when the much publicised exit of Michonne happens later this season (but good news - Maggie Rhee will be back for season 11).
Deathstalker I & II - naturally, in the world of exploitation filmmaking, when a film is successful you seek to emulate it for a minimal price. Such is the case of the first two Deathstalker movies (there were four in total), clearly inspired by Conan The Barbarian. 1983's Deathstalker, written by Howard R. Cohen and directed by James Sbardellati, stars Rick Hill, Barbi Benton (X-Ray), and Richard Brooker (Friday the 13th Part III) among others, and is quite good fun. The sexual politics (offering the film's share of T&A to join the violence for exploitation spectacle) quite obviously wouldn't slide in today's world (even considering the story's medieval context), but for a cheap cash-in on a more successful film it's a pretty solid flick.
1987's Deathstalker II, written by Neil Ruttenberg and directed by Jim Wynorski, stars John Terlesky (Chopping Mall), Monique Gabrielle (Evil Toons), John Lazar (Supervixens), and Toni Naples (Hard To Die) among others, but is another story entirely. While the first movie was made for $457,000 (approx), the second was made for a slightly lower $400,000 - but appears to have been made for half that at best. Pinching numerous shots (even entire sequences) from the first movie, the whole deal is cheap as chips. The re-used sets are the best while the new ones look like they'll blow over in a light breeze, while the sound design is crushingly sparse and flat. Furthermore, the original movie's characters at least felt somewhat like they were from medieval times, albeit the fantasy version, but the characters in the sequel simply feel like they've just walked onto set from Hollywood Blvd. There's some fun lines here and there, but it's a bit of a chore, especially when compared to the breezier original movie which clocked in fifteen minutes shorter.
El Camino - Vince Gilligan returns to write and direct this follow-up to Breaking Bad, which sees Jesse Pinkman trying to make good his escape from the law and start a new life. Strictly speaking it wasn't necessary to see this story, the audience could assume it for themselves, but it is also a thoroughly enjoyable watch. Feeling like an extended episode of the TV series, El Camino slots in perfectly (the odd unavoidable difference in actors' appearances aside), and serves as a welcome and fulfilling piece of closure which is further boosted by a handful of meaningful cameos.
3 From Hell (Blu-Ray) - read my full review HERE.
Living With Yourself: Season 1 - created and written by Timothy Greenberg, this low-key domestic sci-fi comedy drama from Netflix sees Paul Rudd's stuck-in-a-rut advertiser seeking betterment through a mysterious treatment in a strip mall spa. Unfortunately for him, it turns out they're not just tweaking your DNA to give you a better outlook on life, they're cloning you and burying the original. However, they didn't kill off the original this time through a major bugger up and so now there's two of him, but only one wife (played by Aisling Bea). Initially there's some benefits, but cracks soon appear and petty jealousies escalate into murderous intent. The quirky idea is injected with a solid dose of believability with some lovely characterisation for Rudd and Bea's married couple. The show also manages to keep you hooked from one episode to the next, setting up "Oooh!" scenarios that are then taken in unexpected directions come the next episode. Well worth checking out - and bring on a second season!
Dolemite Is My Name - a Netflix movie about Rudy Ray Moore (played by Eddie Murphy), a struggling wannabe stand-up comedian/musician in the 1970s whose window of opportunity has seemingly passed him by, until he assumes the character of 'Dolemite' and explodes onto the scene with a succession of hugely popular comedy albums. Eventually his aspirations turn towards the silver screen and he puts everything on the line to make his own Dolemite movie. Based on the true story, this film has numerous layers of appeal. It's an underdog story, a film about filmmaking, a comedic rise to prominence in spite of the odds, an ode to Blaxploitation cinema, and a whole lot more on top. Highly recommended viewing.
The Deuce: Season 3 - after the unbalanced nature of the various character stories in the second season, the third and final season rediscovered its balance so that all the characters had something good to chew on. Tinged with tragedy and escape, the final few episodes take on a haunting - even quite moving - tone, and the show beautifully sticks the landing with a closing sequence that proves to be a perfect sign off. I'm looking forward to re-watching the whole series some time soon.
Chromatics "Kill For Love"
The Sisters of Mercy "Floodland"
Green Day "Fire, Ready, Aim"
Bleachers "Don't Take The Money", "Like A River Runs", "Rollercoaster"
John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies "Halloween (2018) Expanded OST"
VIBES & FLAVOURS:
Sleaze Fiend Magazine: Issue 3.5 - find more info about it HERE.
Rage 2 (Xbox One) - the original game from the previous console generation suffered from a dreadfully dull story (generic apocalypse scenario, mute protagonist), but the gameplay itself was superb with slick shooting, fun action set pieces, and punchy weapons. This sequel expands the open world, but it can sometimes feel sparse and empty as a result, while the wingstick (a must-use weapon in the last game) now feels hard to use effectively and pretty forgettable. Similarly, the shooting mechanics aren't quite as slick. I spent ages trying to get the controller sensitivities and visual options just right (the default field of view is set at 30, which makes for a horrid experience, but if you set it to 100 it feels a hell of a lot better). The lack of 'lock on' to nearby enemies when aiming down the sights is also bizarre - you simply cannot aim as easily with a controller, so you need that extra help, but without it you waste too many rounds of ammo on moving enemies. That said, I did get more used to it over time (and perhaps I was a bit rusty on the feel of First Person Shooters).
Another downside is the menu - it's incredibly slow and clunky and has flat-out frozen the game on several occasions. It feels so overloaded that it's amazing id/Bethesda let that slide to release and not bother to properly improve it after-the-fact. Similarly, the various options for character, weapon, and vehicle customisation are overcomplicated and weighed down with jargon and layers upon layers of unlocks and requirements. Why so bloody complicated?! Another recurring and frustrating glitch is the sound randomly cutting out entirely, requiring you to reboot the game. Still, there is plenty to enjoy when yomping around the wasteland (appealing to the 'tick everything off the map' part of the gamer's brain), and the weapons have a nice kick to them (particularly the shotgun). Still, you can't help but raise an eyebrow at so many silly little faults along the way.
Halloween - 'tis the spooky season, so there's been various horror movies getting a spin this month, including: Intruder, 28 Days Later, Creature, Breeders, The ABCs of Death 1 & 2, The Beast Within, Halloween (2018), The Void, and Halloween II (1981).