Mixed Media, Saturday 9 July 2016

I watched The Fall on my flight to Edinburgh this week. It’s a visually stunning film, and I wish I’d watched it on a bigger screen than my iPad Mini. It would have looked amazing on a big TV screen, and even better in the cinema.

At the end of the documentary Daft Punk Unchained on Netflix, I found myself slightly unsettled by the fact that Random Access Memories is three years old. Not so much “huh, I would have guessed it was 2014, not 2013”, but more a case of “huh, 2013 seems like quite a long time ago now.”

Season 1 of Ash vs Evil Dead was fun, but although Bruce Campbell’s character Ash Williams is supposed to be coarse and self-centered, the show doesn’t always stay on the right side of ironic. Horror comedy is hard to pull off well. This mostly succeeds. Not sure if I liked it enough to seek out season 2 when it arrives.

Oh, and I’ve finally got to the point in season 1 of Person of Interest where it has pulled me in. I think it was in episode 15 (“Blue Code”) that I felt the characters — especially Detective Fusco — had reached a critical mass of back story and complexity, and I was starting to care about what happened to them next; and also about what happened to them before. I’m one episode from the season finale now, and there’s a lot of mystery still left to uncover. I can see myself jumping straight into season 2 when I’m done.

I had a ticket to see Twin Atlantic in the Kleine Zaal of Paradiso on Tuesday 28 June, but the band had to cancel the gig because of illness. I hadn’t even heard of them until last month when Scott tipped me off about them, and I noticed they were playing Amsterdam. Since then, I’ve been listening to their album Great Divide a lot, and I had been super excited seeing them in such an intimate venue. Unfortunately, they have rescheduled the gig for Tuesday 19th July, when I’ll be in Scotland. :sadpanda: At least I’ll be seeing Area 11 while I’m over there.

I loved their first album, All The Lights In The Sky, so much that I feared the only was was down. Although there are some parts of Modern Synthesis that haven’t grabbed me yet, there are four splendid rock songs that leaped out at me right from the start: “The Contract”, “Versus”, “Watchmaker”, and “Red Queen”.

Saga continues to be magnificent.

Farewell to stickers

The anti-glare coating on my MacBook Pro (late 2013 model) has been wearing off. It started at the top of the screen, around the camera, but over time an area right in the middle of the screen became affected as well. (The area that overlaps the trackpad when the case is closed.) I brought it along to the Apple store this morning, and they immediately took it in for replacement under the relevant Quality Program. The Quality Program isn’t shown on Apple’s list — you have to take your machine to the store before they will check if it’s covered. Apparently the program only runs until October, so if you have a retina screen whose anti-glare coating is delaminating, should should get moving.

Unfortunately, when they replace the screen, I’ll also lose the stickers I had built up:

After finishing at the Apple Store, I went to the American Book Center to see if I could find volume 6 of Saga. They didn’t have it in stock, but they did have a massive stock-clearing comic book sale on, with boxes of excellent titles on offer for €7.50 each, or 3 for €20. I kinda went bananas, and picked up:

  • Captain Marvel (2014) vols 1, 2, and 3 (Higher, Further, Faster, More, Stay Fly, and Alis Volat Propriis) by Kelly Sue DeConnick, David Lopez, et al.
  • She-Hulk (2014) vols 1 and 2 (Law and Disorder and Disorderly Conduct) by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, et al. (She-Hulk’s appearance in Howard The Duck made me want to read more about her.)
  • Rocket Raccoon: A Chasing Tale by Skottie Young and Jake Parker
  • Wolverine (2013) vols 1 and 3 (Hunting Season and Killable) by Paul Cornell, Alan Davis, Mirco Pierfederici, et al.
  • Wolverines (2015) vols 1, 2, 3, and 4 (Dancing With The Devil, Claw, Blade and Fang, The Living and the Dead, and Destiny) by Charles Soule et al.
  • The Manhattan Projects vol 1 by Jonathan Hickmand and Nick Pitarra

This was on top of vols 0 of both Spider-Gwen and Silk which I had picked up in Edinburgh last week. Uh, so, yeah.

Mixed media, Sunday 26 June 2016

I binged on season 1 of The Expanse this week. (Only 10 episodes in season 1, so a pretty small binge, as these things go.) It’s been a while since I read the books it is based on, and I only had thumbnail sketches of the main characters left in my memory. The cast brought them vividly back to life again. Steven Strait as Jim Holden is too earnest (and keeps reminding me of Kit Harington), but Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala and Thomas Jane as Miller are subtle and excellent. Even though there was a lot of action in these first ten episodes, it felt like a lot of it was setup just to peel back the first layer of the onion. I’m looking forward to season 2.

I also watched The American, which was gently paced, elegant, beautifully filmed, but ultimately dull. That was okay, though. I was feeling tired that evening, and wasn’t looking for anything splashy. I did keep getting distracted by George Clooney’s fabulous sunglasses (the Zegna ones) because they’re gorgeous. The whole film felt like a fashion show, with Clooney modelling one understatedly elegant outfit after another. Also watches.

Paradox is a film I saw a couple of months ago, but forgot about at the time. I did enjoy it, though. The budget is low, and the performances aren’t special, but I’m a sucker for a tightly plotted time travel story, and this is a good one.

Friday was a garbage fire of a day, but it was brightened by the release of DJ Shadow’s new album, The Mountain Will Fall. It starts off with a few strong tracks, but the rest of it might take a while to grow on me.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl continues to be funny and adorable. The last two chapters in this volume are the cross-over with Howard The Duck, which I’d already read in that book’s volume 1, but it was fun to see it again. Chip Zdarsky and Ryan North’s absurdity-loving writing styles are terrific natural partners.

What the shit, Britain?

I’m not emotional over the Brexit referendum result like I was for the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014. Disappointed, yes, and to be honest somewhat surprised. I had thought that the forces of the status quo would hold sway, like they did two years ago. I’m glad I still had a vote in this one (unlike the hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised migrants who actually live in the UK), and I’m glad I bolstered the Scottish vote for Remain.

55-45 for the UK, 62-38 for the EU. Seems like Scottish voters want both the UK and the EU, with the EU being the more popular choice. Today’s result shows that we can’t have both. I’m curious (read: “anxious bordering on terrified”) to see how this is going to play out.

Mixed media, Sunday 19 June 2016

I watched Self/Less on my journey to Edinburgh last week. First of all, it stars Ryan Reynolds, and I’ll watch him in anything and everything. (Aside: I occasionally think about who would be on the guest list for my ideal dinner party. At the moment, I have standing invitations for Ryan Reynolds, Dave Grohl, Ricky Jay, Judi Dench, Shirley Manson, and Kirsty Wark. No seating plan yet.) Secondly, it’s not an action movie. The poster, showing shattering glass and a beat-up Ryan Reynolds pointing a gun, steers you in the wrong direction. It’s a piece of classic “what if?” science fiction that drops a single piece of novel technology (consciousness transferral) into the present day, and closely watches the impact that this has on the lives of a small set of characters. It spends a lot of time on the very real personal consequences of the technology, the emotions that the characters have to wrestle with, and the moral decisions they have to make.

Yes, there are a few action sequences, but that’s not where the film’s heart lies. In its editing, it makes time for dialogue that a more action-oriented film would have cut. One example that sticks with me, because it rings so true to my experiences as a parent, is when Madeline sends her young daughter Anna upstairs to play, casually calling her “baby” as she goes. Anna shouts back, “I’m not a baby.”

In a way, it reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Very different films, don’t get me wrong! But both of them are thoughtfully concerned with consequences in a way that your typical action/sci-fi flick is not. The characters undergo a journey, and come out changed. I liked it a lot, and I can’t quite understand how it ended up with such a poor 19%/47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

(In discussing the film with my colleague Duncan the following day, he pointed out that I should catch up on director Tarsem Singh’s other films, specifically The Fall and Immortals.)

On Wednesday evening after work, I happened to be walking past the Omni centre at the same time as a showing of The Nice Guys was starting. I had seen the trailer and thought that it looked fun, but that it was probably something I’d catch once it was available for streaming. The timing was just right to see it in the cinema, though, so why not. True to expectations, it was a playful lo-fi remix of buddy action movie tropes, with great on-screen chemistry between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Recommended.

On my trip back home on Friday I started watching Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners with some trepidation. I was uneasy because the memory of Enemy is still vivid, and the gritty ambiguity of Sicario just cemented my opinion that Villeneuve is a filmmaker who is wants you to feel uncomfortable. Prisoners is on the Sicario side of the WTF scale. Two families’ lives are ripped apart when their young daughters go missing. As the police (Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki) investigate, one of the fathers (Hugh Jackman) pursues a parallel obsessive quest to get them back. He doesn’t have legal procedures to adhere to. How far is he willing to go to find them before it’s too late? At the same time, the police investigation takes bizarre turns that hint at a much bigger conspiracy. The maze symbology and mentions of a serial abductor known as “The Invisible Man” made me think of Michael Marshall Smith’s Straw Men series. Just as Sicario and Enemy, it’s a film that takes its time. It lets the feeling of discomfort linger, and lets the tension rise slowly. Performances are great all round, and cinematography (courtesy of Roger Deakins, who was DP on Sicario) is perfectly matched to the gaunt and sombre atmosphere. It’s not a film I’ll go back and re-watch in a hurry, but I rate it very highly.

This week I have been mostly listening to High by Royal Headache (recommended by Andy at work), Out of the Garden by Tancred, and Area 11, whose new album is not out yet. If the single “The Contract” is a hint of what’s to come, though, I’m excited. It’s bright and catchy with a terrific Muse-like guitar intro and bridge. Looking forward to seeing them live at the Mash House in Edinburgh next month. I’ve also been ever so slightly earwormed by “Be The One” by Dua Lipa. Where by “ever so slightly” I mean “waking up with it in my head every morning for the last seven days”. Great pop song.