Wednesday 30 September 2020

Flavours of the Month: August & September 2020

We fight on through the harshness brought about by a family health emergency that has turned things upside down - and all against the continuing wretchedness of the pandemic that makes a hard situation all the harder. Nevertheless, bloody vengeance, Agent 47, and documentaries galore are just some of the flavours of my August & September 2020...

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


Hands of Steel (DVD) - Sergio Martino's riff on The Terminator follows a muscle-bound, arm-wrestling cyborg on-the-loose in the wilds of America's arid post-apocalyptic landscape in the wake of an assassination. Quite tragically, this movie saw the death of actor Claudio Cassinelli (The Suspicious Death of a Minor) in a helicopter accident during filming.

The Exterminator & Exterminator 2 (Blu-Ray) - two vigilante revenge flicks from the 1980s. The first film suffers from numerous structural problems that lead to a scattered storytelling experience, but the grit and grime of New York (including its notorious 42nd Street) breathe an effectively stale gust of a city on its knees as criminals get away with murder ... until an average guy steps up and takes the law into his own hands! The second movie, produced under the cocaine-fuelled brashness of Cannon Films, is structurally a far superior film, and while it lacks some of the gritty grindhouse sleaze of the original, it makes up for it with action spectacle.

Upload: Season 1 - Amazon Prime's sci-fi comedy/drama, in which the afterlife is digital. It gets off to a rocky start, but after the first couple of episodes it begins to find its footing. The evolving relationship between the two main leads works well, and as the notion of a digital afterlife is increasingly opened up to explore new ideas, things get more and more involving. A late twist in the final episode is also handled in a way that allows the subtle darkness of what it means to be peeled back to expose deeper layers and change perceptions.

Rewind This! - documentary about the love of VHS, as well as the rise and fall of the format, which has now become a niche market collector's item.

QT: The First Eight - an excellent retrospective documentary covering the first eight films of Quentin Tarantino. Brisk, fun, and informative.

Out Of Print - documentary about the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, and about revival cinemas more widely. Considering the current state of theatrical exhibition, it's all the more poignant.

Friends From College: Seasons 1 and 2 - much like Santa Clarita Diet, this enjoyable comedy drama, about the self-inflicted chaos of the lives of a bunch of folks approaching middle age in New York, was unfortunately cancelled before its time.

Blood Rage (Blu-Ray) - originally made in 1983, but not released until 1987, this blood-soaked slasher flick combines off-beat humour with Thanksgiving-set murderous mayhem at a Florida apartment complex. It has a few rough edges, no doubt, but as delirious gore-splashed popcorn fun it works well, aided by Richard Einhorn's superb synth soundtrack.

The Fifth Cord (Blu-Ray) - the story is a bit mediocre, told in a rather staid fashion, but the visual flair of the film is pretty much second-to-none. There's numerous layers of story in the background which add a little flavour for those paying strict attention (I think I was a little zoned-out to notice when I first saw it), but if you're after the familiar gory set pieces that gialli are known for, you'd better look elsewhere. That all said, there's some solid performances and, yeah, it's a phenomenal-looking film.

To Live and Die in L.A. (Blu-Ray) - William Friedkin's gritty crime drama set in the grungy neon-lit streets of Los Angeles, powered along by a synth-pounding soundtrack by Wang Chung, flew over my head when I first saw it as a teenager. However, all these years later I have been able to re-discover it and it has been stuck in my head for weeks now.

The Movies - produced by the same folks who made the excellent documentary series The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, The Nineties, and The 2000s, this brisk overview of cinema history (well, from the 1930s onward, really) is explicitly America-centric, but makes for a good and quick look at the developing nature of film against the evolving history of America. Few films get more than a minute or two, but the decided absense of the horror genre (beyond the 1930s Universal Monster Movies, Psycho, The Exorcist, The Shining, and The Silence of the Lambs) belies an apparent disgust at one of the most successful, varied, and popular genres out there. The slasher movie craze of the 1980s is totally evaded, as is the huge success and enduring impact of Scream in the 1990s, and the very few horror movies that are mentioned only get a pass because they're made by big hitters (Hitchcock, Friedkin, Kubrick) or are safely pitched as Oscar winning "thrillers".

The Boys: Season 2 - building upon a strong first season, this new round of episodes solidifies what it wants to be, delving deeper into the dark psyches of the characters while upping the ante of the crazy goings-on, and all with an added dusting of pop culture satire.

Des - a three-part drama from ITV starring David Tennant about the British serial killer Dennis Nilsen. Created by Luke Neal (writer of episodes 1 & 2, episode 3 was written by Kelly Jones) and Lewis Arnold (director), this true crime drama is a subtly chilling delve into a dark chapter in recent British criminal history. Tennant's performance has quite rightly received a lot of attention and praise, but the whole cast - including Daniel Mays - do a terrific job as well.

Challenger: The Final Flight - four-part Netflix documentary about the NASA space craft which exploded in 1986.

Long Way Up - in 2004 Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman rode motorbikes from London to New York in Long Way Round, an epic 20,000 mile travelogue. In 2007 they rode from the top of Scotland to the bottom of South Africa in Long Way Down. Now they return for a trip from the bottom of South America to Los Angeles, and the challenge is to do it using electric vehicles, which turns out to be a bigger task than they might have thought. Somewhere beneath my homebody mentality there's a wanderlust lurking about, and I've watched the 2004 and 2007 journeys multiple times, so Long Way Up is a welcome return of this winning travelogue format.


Linkin Park "Hybrid Theory" (album)

Limp Bizkit "Rollin'", "Take A Look Around", "Boiler"

Muse "Showbiz" (album)

Carpenter Brut "Leather Teeth" (album)

Misfits "Shining"

Wang Chung "City of the Angels"


Hitman 2 (Xbox One)
- finessing a few things from the previous game, Hitman 2 assembles a diverse range of sandbox locations to conduct numerous assassinations. I nabbed this gold edition of the game on a digital sale, which adds additional sniper missions (a nifty twist on the familiar Hitman format) and two new main missions (one in a New York bank and the other at a tropical resort). There were few, very few - if any - gripes I had with the game (okay, here's one - being pestered to get Xbox Live every-single-time you load up the game). Well done indeed, to the IOI team.

Sleaze Fiend Magazine: Issue #4 - read more about it HERE.

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