I played this on an iPad, and I’m fairly sure I didn’t pay for it - it’s a game I got ages ago, and quickly abandoned (probably in favour of Saints Row, or something equally appealing to someone with no attention span). I’m glad I came back to it.
Nihilumbra is a puzzle platformer that involves painting different colours onto the world in an attempt to escape the Void and its minions. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of the game that shares a theme (The Void/Tension, by Ice-Pick Lodge), though it isn’t nearly as dark, and gets its point across mostly through text and visuals rather than first-person participation. There’s also a bit of Portal 2 in the mechanics. All that said, the way it all combines feels fresh, and develops into something else as the levels progress.
Yes, there are worlds in this game, and levels, but there’s also a story that determinedly shifts as time goes by - it’s too short to have the Angry Birds feel of endless puzzles tied together by a really loose narrative. And there’s certainly more going on than the words on-screen suggest; this whole game feels like a representation of battling depression and anxiety, and resolves it all in a way that doesn’t feel cheap or unearned. It’s careful and thoughtful in a way that a game like this doesn’t need to be.
Watched: Moulin Rouge!
I was in love with the slower beats of this film; the stunning rendition of Come What May at the end, Your Song, and One Day I’ll Fly Away all made me choke up and sniff like a baby. I’m aware that rules out a lot of the ridiculous bombast of the rest of the film, and that’s something I had a more complicated relationship with.
There are a lot of times where the frenetic pace feels deserved - when the doors to the Moulin Rouge first open, an assault on the senses is entirely appropriate. My problems fell more with the portrayal of Christian’s bohemian companions, and how they were professing to be obsessed with lofty ideals while acting like cartoon characters. It fit with the aesthetic of the film, but bodily mutilation fits with the aesthetic of torture porn. That doesn’t mean it’s good.
That said, watching Jim Broadbent’s transformation as Harold from a sweating maniac into someone altogether more sensitive was immensely rewarding to watch, and every clear-cut musical number (there are a lot of motifs that echo in and out) is a delight, right down to Broadbent aping Madonna in a stunningly different version of Like A Virgin. The best moments, though, are when the beat dies down and the raw honesty in the voices comes through. It’s to the film’s credit that it has plenty of opportunities to do so, and doesn’t squander any of them.
I still feel like it might be a bit racist, though. But I suppose most white people were at the turn of the 20th century.
Read: Michigan, Ten Cents by Doctor Gaines. Also known as my friend Josh.
With that full disclosure in mind, I’m going to recommend this simply because it’s quite unlike anything I’ve read in a while. It’s largely stripped of sentiment in a way that serves it well, putting events and dialogue front and centre; coupled with the country vibe (I still can’t bring myself to say “southern-fried”, but this is what that is), this at times comes across as a more folksy Cormac McCarthy. Which is no bad thing.
It’s a chapbook that isn’t afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve, often in a cinematic manner; the musical backdrop filters in and out at exactly the right moments, and the tone happily meanders along as a fun caper until it needs to be dark, at which point everything turns on a switchblade edge. I’m not going to call this perfect (in part because, knowing the writer, that would be unconvincing), but one thing this story excels at is keeping you hooked.
There was the occasional moment where I wasn’t sure about the narrative voice - every line of dialogue drips with Southern charm, but at times the outside commentary can’t decide whether it wants to be an eloquent observer or gleeful participant in its characters’ unique style. This doesn’t necessarily detract from the overall quality, though, and given that it’s a story with a number of tonal shifts one could even make a convincing case that it fits with the mood.
By the end, you’re left with blood on your hands and a strange sense of stillness, and I love stories that do that. This puts you through the wringer, but by the end you feel like your eyes have newly opened.
Read: Angel Dust Apocalypse, by Jeremy Robert Johnson
This was an odd little book - it belongs to the bizarro genre of fiction, though it often crosses over into out-and-out horror, usually dealing in deep piles of viscera and psychological terror.
I used to be obsessed with bizarro fiction. It’s a genre that spawned titles like Foop!, Adolf in Wonderland, Satan Burger and Dr. Identity, and it all heavily inspired my last book. Time has sobered me a little (though I’m not sure why, in retrospect - some disgusting impulse to be taken seriously, or something), but there’s still something incredibly exciting when reading something like this.
On more than one occasion, I found myself questioning the book’s literary merit, but it’s to the collection’s credit that immediately after I found myself questioning what “literary merit” means, given that I was still sucked into each story and the imagery was coming at me like a series of punches to the gut. Maybe the key thing to take away is that at times, Angel Dust Apocalypse is not the sort of book that feels pleasant to read - it’s gripping and powerfully evocative from start to finish, but it rarely lets up.
So. Chuck Palahniuk loved this book (even stepping in to provide a blurb, which he almost never does), and that should give you an idea of who this is for. These stories still have heart, but they’re behind a screen of awful people and horrifying events. If you can’t stomach the latter, you might struggle to get a grip on the former.
It’s interesting to see that this film has been skewered in more recent years; on the one hand, there certainly is some reductionism going on in the way it satirises the upper classes, but on the other it stays just as biting when it comes to its savagery. Julie Christie is by turns beguiling and repellent, and turns in a stellar performance as Diana Scott - in any other actress’s hands, you’d go through the film hating the series of terrible, selfish decisions she makes.
It’s a film about coming to a grand old establishment as a newcomer, and accepting it blindly, right down to marrying into royalty for the sake of attention and giggling derisively about homosexuals and black people. It’s perhaps ironic that two of the people who see through the protagonist’s bullshit-smeared veneer are a black character (grotesquely posing as Diana Scott herself) and a gay man (who, surprisingly, isn’t nearly as caricatured as a film made in 1965 might have been).
The proxy for the viewer is arguably Robert, a TV journalist who has an affair with Scott, only to spurn her when she returns from one of a number of romantic excursions with other men. The most emotionally tense moments of the film occur when he and Christie are on-screen, and it makes the final seven or eight minutes gripping to watch; to finally see Scott bouncing against Robert’s stoic wall of a character with no resolution is cathartic and tragic in equal measure.
Certainly worth watching, though like a lot of British films made in the sixties, there’s a languorous pace that takes some getting used to. Make sure you have a drink and a comfortable chair handy.
This was equal parts gripping and infuriating - it dramatises the Florida recount (or lack thereof) during the 2000 election of George W. Bush, and all of the horrors and injustices that befell the Democratic party, and is exactly the sort of film that makes me nervous about moving to the US; although the political point of the film is definitely on the side of the Democrats (specifically Ron Klain, who worked on the Gore campaign and is played here by Kevin Spacey, who looks nothing like the man), history shows intellectual bankruptcy and sly dishonesty as the victors.
For all that, though, it’s a fantastic film; Spacey is as compelling as ever, but he’s backed up by a stellar supporting cast; it should probably be noted that this film convinced me to like Denis Leary, which I did not think was possible. Also present are Laura Dern as the deplorable Katherine Harris, John Hurt as Warren Christopher, and a host of other fantastic actors that fit the HBO mould of being very good at what they do without being aggressively in the public eye (there are no Pitts or DiCaprios here).
It’s also paced fantastically, turning a series of legal hurdles into a nail-biting thriller. It’s testament to the vision of Jay Roach and Danny Strong that this never feels boring, and always portrays the recount as a battle waiting to be won, rather than the loss it later became. This feels free of retrospective, which is impressive for a film released in as much of a turbulent political climate (2008) as the 2000 election cycle.
I was going to say this isn’t for people with zero interest in politics, but it’s possible that this might just make the disinterested pay attention. It also gets you thinking what the world would look like had Al Gore taken the presidency. I wonder how many awful alternative histories have already been written to that effect.
Take What Is Ours!, by Brian Tyler. From the soundtrack to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which I have inexplicably played for over 60 hours this week.
Watched: Star Trek Into Darkness
This was a strangely enjoyable jumbled mess of a film. Like the recent Doctor Who special, it felt tied together by moments of fan service - an exchange between Quinto-Spock and Nimoy-Spock is powered by nostalgia, rather than its own weight - but that’s not to say that there wasn’t plenty going on in the scenes in between.
It’s good to see Simon Pegg and his questionable Scottish accent being given a bigger role, and emotionally this film belongs to Zachary Quinto, but in terms of raw charisma Benedict Cumberbatch owns this film, often to deletrious effect; so assured and brilliant is his performance that his scenes with Chris Pine make Captain Kirk seem a lot smaller than he really should be. It also means that when Khan inevitably finds his downfall, it doesn’t quite feel appropriate - logical, maybe, but even Spock doesn’t quite match his determination.
Perfectly adequate, and definitely enjoyable - it’s a blockbuster in a very traditional sense. But it sometimes tries to make up for a lack of genius in visual flair, and that only works occasionally.