“That’s Rad!”

[No SPOILERS!!!] [Well, no major ones, anyway…]

Billie Lourd as ‘Montana Duke’ in “American Horror Story” (S9) (aka “1984”)Hurrah! American Horror Story actually managed to stick the landing of its ninth season (aka “1984”), concluding a consistently absorbing/amusing story with a surprisingly sweet/upbeat ending! Sure, there was a lot of bloody violence, disorienting time jumps, and shaggy digressions along the way… but overall, this is probably the most emotionally satisfying and entertaining season to date. I haven’t watched S1 (“Murder House”), S2 (“Asylum”), or S3 (“Coven”) recently enough to be able to compare/rank them all here, but this season is definitely up there somewhere with that classic “hat trick”, and well above anything else this show has produced in the intervening years*, thanks to a healthy humour-transplant from Scream Queens (in fact, it also serves as a much better follow-up to the first season of that show than its actual sophomore effort did, imho). That said, this still has to rate as one of the worst adaptations of George Orwell’s prophetic novel ever produced. Ho ho.

Sadly Dreama Walker didn’t return for an encore, but we did get a great 3-episode-arc involving Lily Rabe’s ethereal/vengeful “Lady in White”, and a very funny turn by Dylan McDermott as a sleazy aspiring-serial-killer, so I’m certainly not complaining. I don’t really want to single out an MVP from the ensemble this time around, because everyone played their parts so well, but it was gratifying to see Billie Lourd get the chance to show so much range over the course of the season (while simultaneously getting stuck with a truly heinous 80’s hair-do).

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* In fairness, I still haven’t tried to watch S5 (“Hotel”) because I was so put-off by S4 (“Freak Show”) back when it aired, so I shouldn’t rule that one out…

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Hallowhine 2019

My Hallowe’en got off to a rather dismal start this year, when the local “Zombie Fest” got cancelled due to crappy weather, and I was reduced to skulking around the dull, undecorated shopping centre/mall, in soggy clothes. Thankfully, that disappointment has been abated somewhat by “pumpkin spice” bagels, Jenny Nicholson’s video about her spider-review-reading hobby (!), and Bailey Meyers posting a totally on-point selfie in Wednesday Addams cosplay! Hurrah for the internets!

Lili Taylor as ‘Carolyn Perron’ in “The Conjuring” (2013)Meanwhile, I decided it was high time I got cracking on the Conjuring franchise, after a friend alerted me to the fact that I was already seven movies behind! I decided to watch them in release order, and not worry about the in-universe timeline, so that meant starting with The Conjuring (2013), which is set in 1971, and tells the “true” story of a haunted/cursed house in Rhode Island. On the plus side, there are a lot of literally chilling scenes/scares (mostly involving a childhood game called “Hide and Clap”), and a strong (mostly female) cast, including Vera Farmiga as real-life demonologist Lorraine Warren and Lili Taylor as the mother of the unfortunate family who require her (and her husband’s) urgent intervention. I also really appreciated the upbeat/uplifting resolution*, even though I’m aware the numerous sequels might retroactively undo/undermine it…? On the downside, having seen movies based on (or inspired by) the Warrens’ work before, I couldn’t help feeling a little déjà vu here… I also have a long-standing objection to writers taking “dramatic licence” with real people’s lives/deaths… but overall, I enjoyed this old-school spook-show, and will definitely be checking out the rest of the series, as time allows.

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* SPOILER: Familial love and innocent joy conquers the demon! Yay!!

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Hallowuh!?

Cerys Matthews promoting the “Good Life Festival” at Hawarden (circa 2014)It’s apparently been out for a couple years now, but I’ve only just become aware of an incongruous 3-disc compilation of “Halloween Songs”, some of which seem to have been picked purely on the basis of their titles alone, rather than their lyrical content or seasonal suitability! The most striking example of this slipshod approach is track #3.7, “Dead from the Waist Down” by Welsh indie-rockers Catatonia… which begins with the line “The sun is shining, we should be making hay…”, and seems to be intended as a satirical comment on the emptiness/impotence of Californian showbiz culture, rather than referring to actual crippling injuries! Not that I begrudge them the royalties, of course… but it’s no surprise that some purchasers have complained that the slightly scattershot song selection spoiled the mood of their parties…

Fun fact: All of Catatonia’s studio albums were recently re-released, with bonus discs of B-sides and such. I didn’t rate the band too highly in their 90s heyday, but I’ve developed quite a crush on Cerys Matthews’ lush voice since then, so these have now been dutifully added to my want-list…

Note: The above photo shows Matthews promoting the Good Life Festival at Hawarden circa 2014, not warming up for an axe-murder spree. As far as I know.

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Screama

[No SPOILERS!!!] [Well, no major ones, anyway…]

Dreama Walker as 'Rita' in "American Horror Story" (ep #9.3)American Horror Story can be a little hit-and-miss, year to year, but so far the ninth season (aka “1984”) is shaping up pretty well. Set around a summer camp that was once the site of a mass killing by a disgruntled-employee, I wasn’t sure how they’d string the retro-slash-‘em-up antics out for a full nine episodes, but now there are two separate serial killers stalking the residents, with very different agendas and covert accomplices, unleashing an onslaught of twists and turns at the astonished audience. Hurrah! There’s also a sprinkle of Scream-Queens-esque humour to stop it all getting too grim, so I’m really enjoying the ride so far… but what moved me to write a blog-post after watching this week’s episode (#9.3) was a cameo by Dreama Walker, as an unfortunate innocent dragged into the craziness/carnage. Although she appeared to, ahem, exit the series quite conclusively by the episode’s end, it’s always possible with AHS that an ejected actor could return in some other form/role… so I hope we get to see her cheery face again soon!

Meanwhile, I’m also digging Billie Lourd as feisty-camp-counsellor-with-a-secret ‘Montana’, Leslie Grossman as evangelical-camp-owner-with-a-secret ‘Margaret’, and Angelica Ross as conniving-camp-nurse-with-a-secret ‘Rita’. Sooo many secrets!!!

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Dickie Finders

Kate Dickie as 'Mother Superior' in "Peaky Blinders" (ep #5.3)I’ve fallen woefully behind with the fifth “season” of Peaky Blinders, and have only just seen the third episode… which [NO SPOILERS!] opened with a scene starring Kate Dickie as the overbearing “Mother Superior” of an orphanage, visited by ‘Tommy’ (Cillian Murphy) and ‘Polly’ (Helen McCrory), for reasons I won’t go into. Sadly it was an isolated, one-off appearance, so she didn’t get to reunite with her Game of Thrones co-star Aidan Gillen, who plays Gypsy hit-man ‘Aberama Gold’ in this series, or her co-star from The Witch, Anya Taylor-Joy, who has just been introduced as ‘Michael’s (Finn Cole) feisty American girlfriend. Still, it’s always nice to see Dickie on screen again, and great to see that Taylor-Joy’s career has really taken off since her run-in with Black Phillip…

While I’m belatedly calling out cool cameos in critically-acclaimed BBC period dramas, I should also mention Sofie Gråbøl’s casting as the Danish ‘Queen Marie’ in ep #1.8 of Gentleman Jack (still available to watch on iPlayer for another 9 months). It took me a couple beats to recognise her without the iconic jumper, but I did get a warm fuzzy feeling remembering how much I used to “stan” ‘Sarah Lund’, back in the day. Sigh…

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Sad Kitty

The Lounge Kittens circa 2017Tragically The Lounge Kittens have announced that they are splitting up, at the end of their current (farewell) tour. To quote the official announcement: “Despite your unwavering support and generosity, we have struggled to keep TLK financially viable over the years and although it’s never been ‘about the money’ when we add the financial strain to the demands of our own lives and our individual wants and needs, we have simply come to the point where it’s all just a bit too hard. What we don’t want to happen is to reach the point where it’s all too hard and it stops being any fun because the fun, dear Kittens, was always the only reason to do any of this.”

A few days earlier, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, an awesome Welsh “doom rock” band I recently discovered (via Vodun), also announced that they’d be retiring after their next album, for unspecified “family, work, and health reasons”… so it’s been a pretty shitty week for British music, as far as I’m concerned… though there is some comfort in being forewarned, I suppose…? I just wish we lived in a world where people were properly rewarded for their skills/talents, rather than a kakistocracy where the grasping/unproductive rich just take care of their own, and everyone else goes to the wall. GAAAHHHHH!!!

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Happy Batday!

Kissies for Batman on his 80th AnniversaryApparently today marks the 80th Anniversary of Batman’s first published appearance, in Detective Comics #27 (1939)*, courtesy of creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger… since then he’s become pretty much ubiquitous across all media, and all age-groups, and I say yay for that! Tbh, I’m not that enamoured with Bruce/Batsy himself, but I love Gotham City as a setting, and he does have the greatest “rogues’ gallery” of any comic book hero, so there’s a lot to celebrate all the same…

Meanwhile, I’m currently 72% of the way through the PC version of LEGO Batman: The Videogame, which I picked up a couple weeks ago at a charity shop. Despite being aimed at kids (ages 7+), it’s infuriatingly difficult at times, due to the crude control system (or, at least, that’s the excuse I’m going with)… but it’s also super-fun to be able to glide and grapnel around Gotham, gleefully bashing toy bricks to bits! None of the characters are “voiced” as such, they just make noises, but the cut-scenes between levels are quite amusing in a silent slapstick sorta way, and their body-language is beautifully thought-out and animated. I could happily watch Harley and Ivy leap and twirl about all day!

Besides grinding my way through some more of that, I’ll also try to tick off another one of the many, many animated movies that have been piling up on my watch-list… and maybe even dance the Batusi…? No… on second thoughts, not that…

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* Though technically that was back in May, and there’s no good reason for it to be celebrated in September, as far as I can see!

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