Thursday 30 July 2020

Flavours of the Month: June & July 2020...

It's been a rough couple of months in the wake of a family health emergency, which has thrown our lives into the air - and then, as if in some act of the middle finger from forces of fate, it's just been nothing but problems to solve, paperwork to trawl through, and things to take care of around the house - hence the quiet time here on the blog. To put it bluntly it's a living hell, both physically draining and emotionally traumatic. Despite the sheer upheaval of it all, I've picked out time to just bleb out and lose myself in something else...

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


Terror Train (Blu-Ray) - from the early years of the slasher craze (1980 to be exact), this stylish horror movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis and, surprisingly enough, the magician David Copperfield. It doesn't have the suspense of Halloween, or the gore of Friday the 13th, but it's a quality flick from when the sub-genre was still fresh. Well worth watching for fans of the genre.

Zombieland: Double Tap (Blu-Ray) - belated sequels always run the risk of not quite working, but there are levels of 'not quite working'. Sometimes they can be disastrous, other times they can be quite enjoyable. Zombieland's follow-up comes a decade down the road, and while some of the jokes feel a bit worn by now, there's still enough to engage fans and elicit a few solid laughs and spurts of solid enjoyment. It occasionally feels a bit flabby, or even a bit directionless, and not every new character quite slots into proceedings, but while it just can't re-capture the sheer breezy joy of the original film, it does a pretty darn solid job.

Space Force: Season 1 - feeling pretty raw in the wake of a medical emergency in the family, and sorely in need of some distraction, we happened upon Netflix's new comedy drama about a newly-minted government agency attempting to get America back on the moon. We dug it. Season two, please.

What We Do In The Shadows: Season 2 - a welcome return of the 'docu-comedy' about a group of bumbling vampires living on Staten Island. The second half of the season loses a bit of mojo when compared to the superb first half, but a third season will be most welcome.

F Is For Family: Season 4 - I think I liked this season more than the previous one. Not entirely sure why, but yeah ... season five, please.

The Ratman (DVD) - a sleazy little exploitation flick about a half-man half-rat being that goes on a killing spree. The film is rather scruffy, exemplified by the slapdash script (which leaves lead actors David Warbeck and Janet Agren wandering around like cardboard cutouts with little of consequence to do or say anything worthwhile) and the evidently brisk production. It's just silly and sleazy enough (mostly) to justify its brief running time.

Cruising (Blu-Ray) - William Friedkin's killer thriller about a murderer (or murderers) stalking the hardcore gay clubs of New York at the turn of the 1980s. It drew controversy during production (with various protests attempting to shut down filming), and stumbled upon its original release, but viewed at a distance from its heated inception it's now a pretty effective thriller, as Al Pacino's undercover cop begins to question his own morals as well as sexuality. Cracking score, too.

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1, 2, & 3 - with our world thrown into chaos and uncertainty, we've ended up watching some of Netflix's output of half-hour comedy dramas. After we watched the first season of Space Force, we gave Santa Clarita Diet a go and really got into it, watching an episode last thing before another night's well-deserved rest (anyone who has taken on the mantle of providing care, especially with the shoddy discharge practises and poor communication of the health system - exacerbated by Covid-19 complications - will know how exhausted you get). With sparky writing and performances, Santa Clarita Diet has proved to be not only entertaining, but a welcome daily dose of comfort and humour to take the edge off after a long day. Sadly, it was unjustly cancelled in 2019 after three excellent seasons, and while the show doesn't end on a total cliffhanger, it did leave many doors open to entertaining scenarios.

Hardcore (Blu-Ray) - Paul Schrader's tale of a religious family man from middle America who is dunked into the world of adult films in California when his daughter goes missing. The clash of hardcore religion and hardcore sexual appetites can sometimes feel a bit over-cooked, but it's generally quite well-made and now acts as a nice time capsule of the sleazier side of America's sun-drenched West Coast in the 1970s.

The Bronx Warriors, Escape From The Bronx, and The New Barbarians (DVD) - Enzo G. Castellari's action trilogy. The first film (1982) plays as an effective rip-off/mash-up of The Warriors (1979) and Escape From New York (1981), while the second entry (1983) stands much more on its own two feet as a direct sequel, injecting even more action and brash stunt work. The third entry (1983), though, is tangentially connected at best, playing out as a rip-off of 1982's The Road Warrior: Mad Max 2. Bedecked with laser guns, wasteland car battles, innumerable 'futuristic' glass bubble domes, and a deviously weird gang of 'Templar' villains, it's good fun but also the least of the trilogy.

Formula 1 - after a long delay my sport of choice has returned. The compressed and mixed-up calendar of races, as well as the unknown number of races in total, adds a frisson of unpredictability. The first race in Austria proved to be quite exciting and filled with unexpected moments as everyone shook off the rust of lockdown, and while the second race (also in Austria) wasn't as exciting, it did have some terrific moments - particularly from 'last lap Lando' of a resurgent McLaren, who has notched up some very respectable results from the first two races. Race three, in Hungary, wasn't much to write home about, but with a double dose of Silverstone coming up for rounds four and five, hopefully we'll get some great racing.

Top Sensation (DVD) - Shameless Screen Entertainment's restoration is a mixed bag. The mono audio is muddy at best, making a fair bit of the dialogue somewhat unclear, while the mixture of sources used to assemble this much more complete cut of the movie are changeable in terms of quality. Starring Rosalba Neri and Edwige Fenech, it's a bizarre tale of a group of well-to-do people cruising about on their yacht as the stern matriarch attempts to get her mentally unstable son laid. Yeah, it's kinda weird, and I've not even mentioned the scene with the goat!

Macabre (Blu-Ray) - Lamberto Bava's debut film, about a woman who keeps her lover's severed head in the freezer, is actually based on a true story. The pacing is slow-burn, but the atmosphere and performances are solid, as the wider story subtly constructs various layers of perversion and disfunction.

Fear City - Netflix's three-part docu-series about New York City in the 1970s and 1980s, during which time the five families of The Mob held the city in a vice-like grip. Stylishly put together and palpably tense at times, it makes for brisk viewing, but with the huge scope afforded by a subject and time period such as this, a mere three episodes (adding up to not much more than two-and-a-half hours in total) does feel a bit rushed.


Greta Van Fleet "Highway Tune"

- their self-titled 2019 album, a long-coming follow-up to their previous album that was released a decade prior.

Filter "Thoughts & Prayers"

Green Day "Dreaming"


Chuck Palahniuk "Fight Club 3" - the graphic novel sequels to the author's seminal debut novel "Fight Club" have proven to be mixed bags. There's some great ideas in there and a cool visual style, but the lack of narration to tell the story, to provide enough contextual glue to stick the pieces together, leaves "Fight Club 3" feeling far too loose to properly cohere and satisfy.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World - in times of strife it's not unusual to divert to media for comfort and distraction. Looking for something easy to read in small bites before bed, I went back for another read-through of Bryan Lee O'Malley's excellent graphic novel series.

Dirt 2.0 (Xbox One) - I had been playing Yakuza 0, but with its open world and exceptionally long-winded and time-consuming cutscenes, it just wasn't going to fit in with this new life situation. Hopefully I'll be able to return to it somewhere down the line, but I had bought another game at the same time, Dirt 2.0, and so I pivoted over to that, which allows for short dip-in/dip-out sessions (the odd 15 to 30 minutes here or there when possible). There's been some fiddling to do with the controller, but I'm slowly getting a bit of a feel (of sorts) for it. I do like the game, though, even if I'm just very slowly plodding through the 'Historic Rally' sub-game rather than the main experience.

No comments: