Monday, March 30, 2015

DVD of the Week: 12 Years a Slave

As I've mentioned before, I've become dimly aware, over the last couple of weeks, that we've had 12 Years a Slave sat under the TV in the "to watch" pile for over a month now. It's not been a concious choice, but it did start to feel like we've been putting it off, its reputation pitching it as a worthy but hard-going film meaning that we'd started to feel like we needed a bit of a run up to it. Which is daft, of course, because serious, weighty films shouldn't be a duty, they're a conversation between the film-maker and the audience, and even with a terrible subject matter like slavery that should still be engaging and fulfilling. So this weekend we decided, come what may, that it would make the top of the watch list, and so we settled down with it as soon as the kids were safely dispatched to their rooms. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: So You've Been Publicly Shamed

Having watched (and reviewed) Frank recently, I've been on a bit of a roll with Jon Ronson. He's one of those writers that always seems to be sitting on my "oh, I must read that" list, someone who documents the stranger corners of the world in an open and deceptively free-roaming style. I first came across him with The Men Who Stare at Goats, which even got turned into a film you can file under "OK, Mostly" but never managed to quite capture the essence of the book. Then the really interesting and unexpected The Psychopath Test, another book of wandering around and meeting strange, interesting and occasionally terrifying people. This time, Ronson is drawn to look at the idea of Public Shaming, especially around the Brave New World of Social Media. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Games Review: Endless Legend

I remember when Grand Strategy Games made up a substantial part of my gaming diet. In fact, the first PC game I played with any great ferocity was the original Civilization, sat at the back of university computer clusters and running it off the disks it came on. Over the years I've hopped across the genre as they've come out, but increasingly the large amount of time it takes to really get to grips with a game - I'm looking at you, Crusader Kings II - has really put me off. At the same time I've developed a real fondness for co-op gaming, and have played a couple of Strategy Games that offer fun co-op experiences. R.U.S.E. was fun, as I recall, as was Endless Space. The latters most recent stablemate, Endless Legend, was a return to the style I will always have fond memories of, a large flat map dotted with cities and small armies, battling for supremacy. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

DVD of the Week: Frank

So after last weeks very arty, very weird trip Under the Skin, I was ready for something with perhaps a little more narrative clarity. Something less strange, perhaps, something easier to digest. Our choices, however, where 12 Years a Slave, which I now have to admit I'm putting off, and the story of a man wearing a giant, fibreglass head, Frank. We went for the latter, which was very arty, very weird, definitely lacking in narrative clarity. As a result, I'm definitely starting to feel the urge for a little cinematic junk food!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Box Set Blues: Justified, Season 5

It's been a while since I talked about Justified, one of the best crime dramas on TV that you're probably not watching. Here in the UK, at least, it's been hard to find, bought by Channel 5 and then buried down on it's cable-only 5USA, and then dropped entirely after a fourth series as part of whatever the hell restructuring Channel 5 are doing these days. Thankfully, Sky ran to the rescue in its role as the only UK broadcaster that seems to want US imports and it's now available on the "Box Sets" service, allowing us to catch up with the fifth season, just as the sixth (and final) one starts in the US. Its definitely worth catching up with. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

DVD of the Week: Under the Skin

Occasionally - and its a nice feeling, in a lot of ways - you watch a movie that makes you sit back afterwards and think "what the hell did I just watch?". I mean, if the film is bad enough you can have that reaction to, the sensation of wonder that something so terrible managed to escape out onto screen, but other times its just that a film can take a lot of mental processing to properly unpack. And there are a lot of reason for that too - some films have a lot of layers, where you need to work through it all, and others are just deliberately obtuse, demanding that you throw your own meaning onto the succession of scenes you have just witnessed. This final category is one I often struggle the most with, as I get caught between juggling self-analysis and an assessment of film-makers of intent, and end up lying awake trying to poke at dusty parts of my own brain. Which brings me quite nicely to this weeks movie, Under the Skin.

Friday, March 6, 2015

DVD of the Week: Dallas Buyers Club

It's starting to look like we've reached the point in the year when we've got a solid list of the more interesting films of last year finally queuing up to be watched. Currently sat on top of the DVD player is a pile that includes 12 Years a Slave, Under the Skin and Frank, all of which I'm looking forward to. Well, "looking forward to" may be the wrong word for the first one, which I expect will be tough going. I was also expecting tough going from this weeks film, Dallas Buyers Club, which revolves around the early days of treatment for HIV/AIDS and a central character that by all accounts is a difficult one to engage with. But, excellent reviews and a subject I know little about, so I was pretty keen to give it a go.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TV Review: Agent Carter

Agent Carter has not been picked up by any UK broadcaster. As such there is no legal way for me to watch a show that ran between the two halves of the second season of Agents of SHIELD (Channel 4) and features several returning characters from Captain America: The First Avenger, and is part of Marvel's wider Cinematic Universe. I guess the bubble has burst on US imports onto UK TV, after a run of failures from the "major" free-to-air broadcasters. The BBC and ITV have basically given up on it, preferring to invest in shows it can send the other way across the Atlantic, and both Channel 4 and Channel 5 have fallen into the same pattern of buying a show for a couple of seasons and then gradually letting them slide across the schedules to oblivion. I guess Channel 4 still show infinite reruns of The Big Bang Theory, if that's any consolation (spoiler: it isn't).