Greetings, Mad Men is an award winning television show composed of seven seasons that ran from 2007 to 2015. Mad Men has a highly skilled cast of numerous actors and actresses which include Jon Hamm as the iconic character Don Draper, Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, John Slattery, Christina Hendricks, Vincent Kartheiser, Robert Morse, Aaron Staton as well as Jared Harris to name but a few. There is also a large number of supporting actors as well, some of whom disappear from the series entirely after a few seasons or take on a more diminished role, such as Community’s Alison Brie as Trudy Campbell. The original soundtrack was composed by David Carbonara but also utilises contemporary music throughout, especially in the lead up to the end credits of most episodes. A great range of artists were featured in Mad Men’s score. Popular songs from well renowned entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Orbison, Vic Damon, Bobby Vinton and the Beatles were incorporated into the show.
The plot begins in 1960 and concludes its run in 1970 with the season seven finale. Don Draper, creative director for a small advertising agency called Sterling Cooper, is contemplating how to sell cigarettes in the backdrop of increased public awareness about the harm the product causes. Don isn’t satisfied with creating an advertisement based on an academic psychological report that suggests customers could be allured to cigarettes precisely because of the dangers it poses to their health and wellbeing. A frustrated Draper needs to get his creative mind stimulated and decides to visit his paramour. In what becomes a common trait with Don and the women he seduces, he has his way with her, before getting some clarity on his solution. He manages to create a winning strategy which focuses not on the debate about the impactful effect on health but on how the cigarette is produced. The straightforward but inventive manoeuvre impresses executives from the Lucky Strike Tobacco Company and is a small introductory indicator of how he earned his reputation in the advertising business. Draper heads home in a scene which reveals to the audience that he has two children, Sally and Bobby, as well as that he was cheating on his stay at home wife Betty with another woman. The character of Don and the potential troubles he will face becomes clearer to the viewer at this point.
At the same time a young woman named Peggy Olsen takes up her first job in Manhattan as Don’s new secretary. Peggy seems enthusiastic to be an employee in New York with all the freedoms or opportunities it provides her with but she is all too aware of the large bustling, city and how foreign its ways are to her. On her arrival, Peggy meets office manager Joan Holloway who quickly shows her the ropes and pecking order of the workplace. A large part of her advice centres on making Peggy as attractive to her male co-workers as possible in the interest of Olson’s career progression or the possibility of finding a future husband. It isn’t long before Peggy is introduced to a few of her new colleagues which includes Peter Campbell, Ken Cosgrove, Harry Crane and Paul Kinsey. Peggy eventually begins to settle into the culture of Sterling Cooper, which can be often very turbulent, and starts to dream of breaking new ground by becoming the company’s first female Copy Writer.
Overall, I was really impressed and entertained by Mad Men which kept my interest hooked from start to finish. It is a very stylish show that tackles various topics such as racism, sexism, homosexuality, drug abuse and alcoholism through the lens of culturally shifting 1960s America. Mad Men also includes important historical events into its storylines. Some of these become the main topic of the episode, such as the assassinations of Kennedy and King, notorious murders or race riots in the United States. While the series has a large range of characters, it mostly centres on the evolution of Olson and the breakdowns of Draper due to his suffering relationships or the unravelling of his past. Don’s complex identity and a hard upbringing is a core aspect of Mad Men’s appeal. It drives much of his story-arch and shapes his character with vices such as his alcoholism and his constant need to womanize with a long list of mistresses, paramours or sexual conquests despite already having a partner. In conclusion, Mad Men is a television series that I would definitely encourage people to watch if they haven’t seen it as of yet.
Quote of the Day
You... you've got me? Who's got you?
Batman: The Telltale Series
Greetings, Batman: The Telltale series is a 2016 video game developed and published, as the title explains, by Telltale Games. Telltale Games are well renowned for their episodic format and a story driven campaign that is affected overall by the player’s personal choices. Many games from well-known franchises have been created by the company and that list includes, but is not limited to, Back to the Future, Sam and Max, Tales of Monkey Island, the Walking Dead as well as Game of Thrones. This series features a plethora of talented voice actors and actresses which consist of Troy Baker, Dave Fennoy, Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey and Erin Yvette among others. The music was composed by Jared Emerson-Johnson, who has written the music for many of Telltale’s works. In keeping with the style of previous games, Batman has plenty of dialogue branches for the player to choose from and uses a series of quick time events as a mechanism for the action sequences.
The plot begins with Batman attempting to stop a theft in Gotham City Hall in which he encounters the professional burglar known as Catwoman for the first time. Batman fails to apprehend Catwoman as she makes her escape but he managed to attain the device she had attempted to steal, a computer drive. Both the Caped Crusader and Catwoman had managed to injure their opponent during their tussle, sustaining visible wounds in the process. Bruce returns to Wayne Manor in which his best friend and aspiring mayoral candidate, Harvey Dent, is hosting a fundraiser for his campaign. Dent, who is running against the incumbent and corrupt Mayor Hill, hopes to make Gotham free of the violent crime that plagues the city with the help of Wayne’s financial endorsement. The event takes a surprising turn when Carmine Falcone of the Falcone criminal syndicate enters the manor in full view of the press, including Viki Vale of the Gotham Gazette. Bruce takes Falcone into a private room at Alfred’s behest to shield their conversation from the prying eyes of suspicious fund raisers and the media.
Once inside the room, Carmine expresses his concerns about Dent’s policies further explaining that he and Bruce’s deceased father go back a long time, once forming a strong business orientated relationship. Falcone offers Bruce the opportunity to take up his father’s mantle and secretly run Gotham alongside Carmine’s mob as well as with Mayor Hill before the mob boss leaves the manor. Bruce initially shrugs off the notion that his family’s wealth came by illegitimate means but reputable news sources begin to spread it as credible, tarnishing the Wayne name and causing damage to Harvey’s campaign in the process. The next day, Bruce meets with Harvey in order to discuss the claims and to contain or disprove the story as effectively as possible. It is here that Wayne meets Dent’s girlfriend, a woman named Selina Kyle who is otherwise known as Catwoman. It isn’t long before both Bruce and Selina uncover each other’s identity due to the wounds they managed to land on each other.
I really enjoyed this dark take on the Batman property which managed to reinvent or reimagine many characters such as a modernized Penguin and Viki Vale in interesting, unexpected ways. Many noteworthy and classic villains were involved in the five episodes although Bruce’s primary antagonist, the Joker, is relatively unused which makes a nice difference to the rest of the Batman games. Another difference that I appreciated is that the Dark Knight’s alter ego of wealthy industrialist Bruce Wayne plays a much larger role than in previous games such as the Arkham series in which he is normally overlooked. The player also has to choose between the two identities in some confrontational situations, allowing Wayne to play an even greater role in this particular adaptation. The Telltale team also ensure that many of Batman’s key skills or aspects are incorporated into their depiction such as the detective mode that gives players the opportunity to solve various crime scenes related to the overarching plot. A Sequel entitled Batman: The Enemy Within has also been published and it is one I would like to get my hands on, especially after the fun I had with this instalment.
Quote of the Day
Mini-Me, you complete me.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
10 Cloverfield Lane
Greetings, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a 2016 film and the second instalment in the Cloverfield anthology franchise which began with the 2008 movie, Cloverfield. Despite being of the same series, the sequel doesn’t use the found footage style that the original was famed for but utilizes a more traditional third person narrative. The cast is small in number but boasts a highly talented membership which includes John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as well as John Gallagher Junior as the main trio. Bradley Cooper can also be heard as the voice of the main protagonist’s ex-boyfriend while Suzanne Cryer has a brief role as a disease stricken neighbour. Other instalments in the series include a 2018 film named the Cloverfield Paradox and another, with the working title of Overlord, scheduled for release in October of this year. The soundtrack was scored by Bear McCreary who had previously conducted the music for television shows including the Walking Dead and Battlestar Galactica.
The film begins with a woman called Michelle clearing her possessions out of her home after she breaks up with her boyfriend. She decides to drive far away from New Orleans and travels as far as rural Louisiana when the radio stations begin reporting that major cities are suffering from unexplained blackouts. As the reports begin to flood in, Michelle is hit by a speeding truck and the impact knocks her car off the road. The collision causes her to fall into a state of unconsciousness and Michelle wakes up to discover she is being held in a secure room that is not dissimilar to a cell. The protagonist realizes to her horror that she has been handcuffed to the wall and that her phone is placed on the other side of the room. The wounds she had sustained from the vehicular accident had also been tended to. It isn’t long before the door is opened and a man named Howard makes an appearance.
Howard explains to a distressed Michelle that she has been placed in a safe location, an underground bunker, as the world up above is now uninhabitable. He believes that the air was poisoned by a nuclear or chemical fallout and theorizes that the attack was carried out by Extra-terrestrial or Russian forces. Michelle is hostile towards Howard in the beginning, even managing to physically assault him in her captive and wounded state. As time goes by she becomes more sceptical of Howard’s story as she clearly hears a roaming car above her room but nonetheless she begins to calm down. Howard decides that she is now free to explore the rest of the bunker and introduces her to fellow resident Emmet before providing evidence of the fallout to Michelle. He takes her to the viewport of the exit hatch and shows her two dead and deteriorating pigs that had been caught up in the attack. Michelle is still unbelieving and decides, during their first dinner together, to steal Howard’s keys and try to escape.
I really enjoyed this film and consider it to be a big improvement upon the original. I will most likely remember this film in the years to come while I can only recall the general gist of the previous instalment which didn’t have much in the way of memorable or interesting characters. I liked the tense atmosphere that 10 Cloverfield managed to create and that it could still entertain despite its very limited setting. The three actors did a great job in carrying the movie forward and I thought that John Goodman gave a particularly noteworthy performance as the creepy and unstable Howard. I aim to watch the sequels too at some point although I am aware that the most recent entry, Cloverfield Paradox, was panned by critics.
Quote of the Day
I did warn you not to trust me.
Game of Thrones
King Solomon's Mines
Greetings, King Solomon’s Mines is a novel from 1885 and was written by British author Sir H. Rider Haggard. Haggard, who was born in 1856 and died in 1925, is recognized as being a pioneering figure of the Lost World genre with King Solomon’s Mines believed to be one of the first novels of its kind. This book was the first to introduce the protagonist, Allan Quatermain, to the literary world and would expand to include several more works in the series. It is presented in a first person narrative through the recounting of the tale by Allan himself. Solomon’s Mines would also go on to inspire other classic works such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ‘The Land that Time Forgot’ and Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’.
The plot begins with Allan Quartermain, an English Big Game Hunter who has a well-earned reputation as an excellent marksman, living in the South African city of Durban. Allan is approached by two men, one is a British aristocrat named Sir Henry Curtis while the other is Captain Good, an Englishman of a military background. Curtis explains that his brother had been exploring the region for the elusive King Solomon’s Mines and the wealth of treasures held within them. The brother had gone missing in his travels and the two men had come looking for him. The duo offer Quatermain a job in escorting them through the dangerous terrain and promise him a share of the riches after they reach the mines. Allan, intrigued by the fortunes to be gained, accepts their offer and prepares to lead an expedition with a few of the indigenous population to help along the way. Before the team can leave, a native named Umbopa had heard about their plans to find the mines and is very adamant that he join in on the expedition.
It isn’t long before casualties begin to rise among the helping hands as the explorers travel through the treacherous lands filled with dangerous animals and conditions that threaten to perish them all. The team struggles through and eventually encounter a group of hostile natives called the Kukuana from the lush lands of Kukuanaland. The indigenous peoples threaten to kill the heroes until Captain Good, with his quick thinking, removes his false teeth and frightens the isolationist tribe who are under the impression it was a magical action. All the protagonists are dubbed the ‘White men from the stars’ by the fearful warriors as they believed Quatermain, Good and Curtis were otherworldly mystical beings. The British trio are brought before the local ruler, a wicked king by the name of Twala and secrets buried long ago begin to resurface after the meeting takes place.
I really enjoyed this book and it has made me interested in exploring other classical novels of the same era. Surprisingly, Solomon’s’ Mines was far ahead of the social attitudes of its time in that there was an interracial romance between a local woman named Foulata and Captain Good though it is all too aware of the controversy that the relationship would have caused in Britain. The character of Quatermain has still remained in the public’s attention since his inception in 1885 as the story has been adapted into several movies throughout the decades. Allan has also appeared in many other works such as the film version of Alan Moore’s the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in which he is portrayed by Sean Connery.
Quote of the Day
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Greetings, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a cult film from 1969 staring Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the titular roles. The movie is loosely based on the life and exploits of the two Wild West outlaws Robert LeRoy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy, and Harry Longabaugh whose alias was the Sundance Kid. Katharine Ross is one of the main performers as she plays Sundance’s paramour, Etta Place, who is also based on a real historical figure. Burt Bacharach, a singer, songwriter and composer know for many famous love songs such as ‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’ and ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love’ composed the music for this film. Notably, Bacharach wrote ‘Raindrops keeping Fallin’ on My Head’ specifically for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which is a song that has become well known in its own right.
The movie starts in the state of Wyoming during the late 1890s. Butch Cassidy returns to his hideout at Hole-in-the-Wall to discover that he has been usurped as leader of the criminal gang. The outlaws had elected Harvey Logan, also known as Kid Curry, as their new leader due to Cassidy’s long and erratic absences. Harvey explains the situation and adds that they are going to rob the Union Pacific Overland Flyer before challenging Butch over the gang’s leadership via a knife fight. Cassidy wins the fight due to underhanded techniques and trickery but decides to follow through with Harvey’s plot to rob the train. The robbery is a success. The duo of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid celebrate their victory by visiting a nearby brothel. Afterwards, they return to Etta’s home with their ill-gotten gains.
After a while, Butch and Sundance decide to strike the trains once more in a move that is less successful. The gang manage to stop the train but Cassidy overestimated how much dynamite was required to blow open the safe and accidently destroys the train carriage in his overenthusiastic attempt. The money has been scattered by the explosion and by the time the gang are trying to pick up the stolen cash, a second train arrives on the scene. This one is transporting a highly skilled posse of lawmen who were hired by the Union Pacific chairman, E.H. Harriman, to track down and kill Butch Cassidy as well as his colleague Sundance. Cassidy and the Kid manage to flee the site of the crime but soon realize that they are being tracked down by professionals who are determined to catch them, ensuing in a long chase between the two parties.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film and I thought that it had a certain charm to it. I was aware of its classic status and the reputation it held before I decided to watch it, so I was expecting something of a memorable experience. The movie lives up to its legacy in my opinion and proves to be a unique take on the Western genre as it is filled with great comedic moments and loveable, charismatic characters with an excellent soundtrack to accompany it. I would encourage you to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid if you haven’t already done so beforehand or if you are interested in the Western genre.
Quote of the Day
This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.
Greetings, The Shining is a 1977 novel by famed American horror writer Stephen King and is his third book after Carrie, which was released in 1974, and Salem’s Lot which was published in 1795. The novel is an iconic piece of literature, no doubt brought into the zeitgeist of popular culture even further by Kubrick’s excellent film adaptation from 1980 with Jack Nicholson as the manic Jack Torrance, Shelly Duvall as suffering female lead Wendy and Danny Lloyd as the supernaturally gifted son, Danny. The novel goes into much further detail than its filmic counterpart in regards to the history of the hotel and Jack’s troubled personality. For instance, Torrance’s alcoholism is used to weaken his resolve and tempt him into a murderous rampage in Kubrick’s version but the original delves much further into the murky depths of Jack’s drinking problem as well as his hard childhood. I was only familiar with the Dark Tower series previously in regards to Stephen’s writings and as such I was very interested to see what else King was capable of, especially with perhaps his most famous work.
The novel begins in the 1970s with Jack Torrance, a frustrated writer, securing employment as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel over the winter season. The Overlook, an old hotel located in the Colorado Rockies, is to be closed to guests due to the heavy snowfall that annually hits the region. Despite the fact that they would be effectively isolated from the outside world once the snow began to fall, Jack agrees to take the job and for his family to take up residence in the hotel for the duration of the season. The manger, a man named Stuart Ullman, informs Torrance of the tragedy that had befallen the previous caretaker. A man by the name of Delbert Grady succumbed to cabin fever and slaughtered his family with an axe. I should note that his daughters, despite their memorable role in the film, are downplayed significantly in this version and only mentioned in passing.
Jack, Wendy and Danny eventually make it to the hotel on its closing day despite Danny’s bad premonitions concerning the hotel. They meet the chef, Dick Halloran, who shows them around the kitchen. Halloran bonds quickly with the young Danny due to their possession of a paranormal ability called ‘the shine’ which allows them to see things others can’t and to communicate through telepathy. Dick, knowing that Danny’s powerful shine would likely allow him to see many unsettling sights lurking in the hotel, assures him that the images are just like pictures in a book and that he couldn’t be hurt by them. With that advice passed on, a reluctant Dick leaves the hotel for another seasonal job in Florida but he can’t really shake the sense that Danny is in danger. The Torrances are soon left alone in the Overlook Hotel as slowly but surely Jack begins to lose his sanity and the snow starts to trap them in.
To my surprise, there were quite a few major differences between the novel and the film although the basic premise obviously stays the same. I had anticipated some characters to fall to certain fates in accordance to the movie’s plot structure, as I had watched the film first, but it didn’t pan out as I was expecting it to. Another variation I noticed was that the novel focused more heavily on the paranormal aspect of the Overlook and the physical threat it held while the movie, which didn’t play on these themes as much, focused more so on a crazed Jack as the only danger to Wendy and her son. Overall, I believe I preferred the film to the novel. This is mostly as some of the famed scenes including the “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” segment and Nicholson’s brilliant “Here’s Johnny!” adlib do not occur during the book but are key stand out moments that will forever be tied with the story. I also look forward to reading Doctor Sleep, a sequel that King also wrote in 2013 which follows the travels of a now adult Danny.
Quote of the Day
I'm an excellent driver.