A Scanty Assemblage of Aural Pleasures

The musical purchases are still somewhat on the thin side recently, with only three to speak of at the moment.

Senses Fail – Pull The Thorns From Your Heart
I was looking through the discography of this band recently and found that I needed to add a few of their more recent releases to my collection. So, I bought this 2015 album used on Amazon. It is the same old Senses Fail, who pretty much tend not to change their sound much. Senses Fail are described as a “melodic hardcore” band on Wikipedia, which is reasonably accurate although I think Emo-core would be a bit more appropriate. This is another good album from them.

Green Day – Singles Box
Another band that I am working through is Green Day. I saw this in Book Off a couple of days ago and thought it would be nice to have even though I already have most of the songs on various rarity albums. Most of the songs are from the first and second albums, and have various other tracks on each CD. There are seven discs in all, and this was released in Japan only, so for 500 yen (the price of a Chicken Cheese burger set at McD’s), I thought it would be a nice addition to my collection. And indeed it is. Unfortunately the Green Day mobile phone strap that was originally included in the box was not there, but that is to be expected when buying used. I don’t use mobile phone straps anyway, and besides smartphones these days are not strapable.

Burial – Subtemple
Before writing this post I thought that only two music purchases just wasn’t enough, so I bought this EP from my fave dubstep/ambient artist on Bandcamp to beef up the post a bit and to get some choice music in the process. I have not listened to it yet, but the samples I heard on Bandcamp were pure Burial, that is to say sublime atmospheric sounds that somehow pass off as music.

Album count 2018: 24

The Lives of Others

This is another film I have seen before, sometime before I started this blog. I had actually forgotten I had seen it, but as I watched it I realised I knew the story. Not to matter as this is an excellent film well worthy of another watch.

It is about a Stasi operative who is monitoring a playwright who is suspected of subversiveness. He has the playwright’s apartment thoroughly bugged and is constantly listening in for any dirt he can dig up. But, in the process he starts to feel that what he is doing is wrong and attempts to have the operation stopped.

It is an extremely well-told film, and is on the whole quite dark and depressing, I don’t think there was a single scene which was anything but. I don’t remember anyone laughing in the film at all, it was just a tale of paranoia, desperation, suicide, and unending dread, yet it was gripping and the acting was top notch. The fellow playing the Stasi operative was actually born in East Germany and worked as a border guard before turning to acting. He died from stomach cancer in 2007.

From what I have read on Wikipedia about this, the film actually does not go far enough when portraying the oppressiveness of the Stasi, and that the operative in the film would not have been able to get away with what he did because he too would have been constantly watched. Still, the film showed us just what a terrible regime it was.

This was the director’s first film, and unfortunately after his next film, The Tourist, he did not make another film until just recently. He has a film called “Werk ohne Autor” coming out this year, another film about East Germany. Hopefully it is released outside Europe.

This is not for those who like to be happy when they watch a film, because the whole thing is an excellent thought-provoking bummer.

Date watched: March 12th
Score: 9.5/10
Film count 2018: 22

Ghostbusters (2016)

This was a film I was looking forward to, as well as kind of dreading. I didn’t really think the original film needed updating, it is fine as it is, even the CG back then was pretty adequate if I remember correctly, but with an all female main cast I thought it might be worthwhile.

As it turned out it is a very mixed bag. The cast were all fine, especially Chris Hemsworth who was the funniest of all despite little screen time. All of the actresses were fine in their parts, with Melissa Ann McCarthy the funniest of the four. And the cameos by Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, and Ernie Hudson were all well done.

Unfortunately though a lot of it just fell flat, especially some of the attempts at humour which didn’t raise much more than a smirk, or were eyebrow raising at times. It also seemed a bit cobbled together at times, but it was very slickly made. The story followed the original just a bit too much, and it didn’t introduce anything much new except for a few new ghost-busting gadgets.

And the final battle scene just a bit tedious, I was just waiting for it to end. And of course we were left with a hint of things to come in the inevitable sequel.

It wasn’t terrible, but it could have been better, but I am not sure how. Perhaps some sharks would have helped.

Date watched: March 10th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2018: 21

The Day of the Triffids

Last November I watched the 1962 film based on this book, and while I found it to be somewhat entertaining, I knew that it was not at all true to the book. And now that I have completed the book (in three days), I can confirm that the book is far superior.

Right from the first few paragraphs I was hooked, which explains why I finished it in only three days (I take weeks, sometimes months to finish a book). It was written in first-person present tense which is nice for a change. While the story was pretty grim stuff it was quite humourous at times, and had lots of thoughts and soliloquies from the main protagonist about the meaning of what was going on around him, and little nuggets of wisdom on everyday life.

What surprised me though was that the book was more about life after a cataclysmic event that incapacitated most of the human race, rather than about a species of plant that went around killing people, they were almost incidental for most of the story. This though did not matter as the rest of the story was just so well told and gripping in other ways.

One could easily see how this book could have influenced or inspired stories like any future zombie film or TV series, especially “The Walking Dead”.

The ending of the story may disappoint those who expect a final battle or concrete answers, but for me the ending was as it should be. It would have been possible to write a sequel story, but even that was not necessary.

I rate this book along with the “Foundation” series by Isaac Asimov, “War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells, and the “Rama” series by Arthur C. Clarke, as one of the best science fiction books I have ever read.

Next up on my Kindle is “The Count of Monte Cristo”, quite a book to get through.

Book count 2018: 3

The Courageous Exploits of Doctor Syn

This is the fifth book in the Doctor Syn series, rollicking good tales about smugglers led by the cunning “Scarecrow” of Romney Marsh.

Like the previous book in the series this was an episodic collection of adventures, although there was an underlying story of a brilliant naval captain sent to capture the Scarecrow.

The various adventures that Doctor Syn and his trusty sexton “Mipps” went through were all reasonably entertaining, but it was really just more of the same.

The story moved along at an odd pace at times. In some chapters the story would slowly plod along in great detail, building up to what should be an enthralling conclusion, only to be hastlily wrapped up within just half a page or so. Sometimes the reasons for Doctor Syn’s cunning escapes from certain capture were not explained at all.

The language as in the previous books was hard to understand at times. For example, I had to look up what “lawn sleeves” were (the sleeves of a bishop’s ceremonial garments), but it is all part of the fun of reading about 18th century smuggling in dear ol’ England, and educational to boot.

An entertaining read, but I hope the next book in the series, Amazing Quest of Doctor Syn, is as amazing as it proclaims.

Next up on my Kindle is The Day of the Triffids.

Book count 2018: 2

The Ascent of Television

My film watching habit has taken a bit of a hit recently due to my increased viewing of YouTubes and television series. I am also buying less music than usual, so I am not writing as much in this blog as I would like to, and I do like to write don’t you know? So, I have decided to write about the television series I complete, and a brief post about any new series that I start.

I will start with series one of Stranger Things which I completed a few weeks ago on Netflix (I have since ended my Netflix membership). There was a lot of talk about how brillo this series was so I was looking forward to watching it. And while it was an excellent series overall it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The story was quite standard stuff, and the outcome was what you would have expected, and it left some loose ends. The acting though was superb, all of the kids were exceptional talents, and it was great to see Winona Ryder again.

Another series I completed some time ago was series one of 3rd Rock from the Sun, an old fave that I watched back in the day but wanted to see again. Very funny stuff, not so much for the jokes, but for the very funny physical humour from the cast, especially John Lithgow who can make you laugh without saying anything, Jane Curtin too. I am currently making my way through the second series.

And finally, I have just started on The Ascent of Man, a 1973 BBC documentary series about how mankind evolved to become what we are today. It was hosted by a very intelligent chap by the name of Jacob Bronowski who died not long after the series was completed. He was actually a mathematician/scientist who was also very good at presenting as it turns out. I watched a Michael Parkinson interview with him and it showed him to be quite an incredible fellow. Anyway, the first programme in the series looked at the beginnings of man in central Africa. In the first episode we got to see 1973 3D computer graphics, which were primitive but more advanced than I would have imagined…

Mr. Bronowski explaining the evolution of the human skull at his desktop.

I guess for most people this is rather dry stuff, but I was captivated not only by Mr Bronowski but also by the story he told. I shall report back after I have finished the last episode.

Stranger Things – 8/10
3rd Rock from the Sun – 7.5/10
The Ascent of Man (so far) – 8/10

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Looking through my DVDs I came across this and thought I would watch it again on a cold Sunday afternoon.

The first few minutes of the film was confusing. It basically whisked the main characters off to Africa from New York using a quick montage and narration. I actually thought at first that the DVD was scratched and the player skipped ahead a few minutes. But, after that the story got under way and things started making sense.

It was pretty much more of the same, with the usual witty jokes, some of which kids would not get at all. The plot was standard stuff, nothing original at all, these types of films rarely are, but it matters not as I am just here for the jokes.

The voice cast were all perfect, I thought they were all brilliant. Bernie Mac died the same year the film was released.

I have not seen Penguins of Madagascar yet, so I will check that out sometime.

Date watched: February 25th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2018: 20

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