Monday, 16 July 2018

The Companions in “New” Doctor Who:- Part One

Well we’re looking at a new season of Doctor Who on the horizon and I’m getting around to a project I’ve waned to do for a while. Look at the Companions in Doctor Who since it’s relaunch in 2005 and try and put them into some sort of perspective.

A lot of my opinions have actually evolved and changed over the 13 years since this restart began. Characters I saw as fairly inconsequential, or irritating, in retrospect either aren’t really, or are for a completely different reason. I want to look at those reasons. 

Before start there’s two things I have to address, first of all there’s going to be some vitriol. I’m not going to be nice on occasion here. The gloves are most defiantly off and because of that I need to make sure the blows are going to land in the right places. I’m only looking at the characters, not the actors themselves. I don’t know them. Do know the characters and I have to be fair to them and those that came before.

Now here’s the tricky one, what do I class as a companion? I could make up some arbitrary rules, but to be honest that would be me looking for excuses to include or not include certain characters. A companion is a Companion if I say so. It’s my list so that’s my reasoning!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Doctor Who Series 11:- Predictions

Well, with something of a trailer coming this weekend. Either a proper trailer, something shot special for it, or just footage from the first couple of episodes string together, we’re going to finally see something more than a brief snippet at the end of Twice upon a Time. So before we get to that I want to make a couple predictions

Now I know about the leaked footage and the behind the scenes photos and the rumours but I’ve kept clear of them. I’m trying not to have the show spoiled for me. At the same time I have so many ideas of what I want to see and what I think we’re going to see. So I’m putting this out there. This way I can crow if I’m right, or be surprised when I’m wrong and have some evidence one way or the other.

Prediction number One. At the beginning of the season the Doctor will have already been in the “present” (as it were) for a while. She will already have established herself and will be more or less stable (at least as stable as the Doctor gets…)

Prediction Two. She’s already going to have established her team, it will be through them that we are introduced to this version of the Doctor rather than the now traditional introduction to the characters through following the Doctor.

Now we get into specifics; Prediction Three. The Doctor will be practically homeless when we meet her. Without the TARDIS she will be living in the streets, or as close to it, as she is working on a way to summon her vessel. The difficulty being that she has not got access to any sort of technology to do it.

Prediction Four. It will be a failed attempt to bring the TARDIS to her that sparks off the adventure, with the Doctor being the only one that can stop whatever’s coming and the friends she has made during her time there helping out.

Prediction Five. The Doctor will have been seen as this relatively harmless mad woman… right up until whatever happens to kick start the plot. At which point the friends she has made will be in awe of just what she is capable of.

Prediction Six. The TARDIS will arrive in the last act, giving the Doctor everything she needs to defeat the enemy of the week.

Monday, 2 July 2018

FAQ about Time Travel (2009) Review

I’m going for a good film, bad film rhythm with these reviews. So we’re on the good film part of the cycle and I’m going to go somewhat obscure this time, with what I consider a quiet little gem.

FAQ About Time Travel (2009) is, unsurprisingly, a Science Fiction comedy, but unlike a lot of Science fiction comedies you’ll find out there it doesn’t make fun of science fiction. It makes fun with it. That’s an important difference. Taking the ideas and tropes built up around time travel over the years and having a laugh with them. Nerds, geeks and “Imagineers” are in on the joke not the butt of it.

This is anti-Big Bang theory. It doesn’t play to the lowest common denominator. Instead it’s clever, intelligent humour that pays off the viewer’s attention and their interest. Rather than bombard you with gags at a dozen a minute, hoping one will make you laugh, it builds up and earns it’s payoffs. Maybe that was it’s biggest flaw. It asks you to think. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t as successful as it could have been. Instead, much like Clue (1985), it’s slowly building a cult fanbase. A slow burn rather than a quick flash. 

What’s the film about? It’s difficult to explain without giving spoilers, and that’s something I don’t want to be doing. I want you to go and watch it. It’s easily available to download and if you like speculative fiction I can’t recommend this enough. That doesn't mean I won’t try.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Ghostbusters Answer the Call (2016) Review

Ghostbusters Answer the Call (2016)

Well, last week I reviewed Tomorrowland. A good film. Not a brilliant one, but still a good one. The point was not every film has to be Citizen Kane, or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some can just be good without being great or iconic. 

Not everything has to be a ten out of ten story. You don’t need to dine out at a fine restaurant every day, if you did it would soon become bland and tasteless. You can enjoy fish and chips from the chippy down the street too and often because of that you’ll enjoy the more elaborate stuff more.

So in this metaphor where does Ghostbusters Answer the Call (2016) come in? It’s the refried Chinese you got yesterday, at the discount counter, that leaves you vomiting into a bucket for the rest of the day. It’s bad, it leaves an unpleasant taste in your mouth and quite frankly I could have and should do without it.

The only reason I’m reviewing this mess is that there’s something that bugs me about it. Actually there’s quite a few things that bug me about it and it’s going to be a long list if I have to tick every one off. Fortunately there are other reviews out there that have done a far better job of eviscerating this film and laying its many flaws bare for all to see.

That said there are a couple off arguments against this film that I haven’t seen very often, if at all, and they outline what really went wrong with Ghostbusters. What the real problem, deep down at it’s very core, was. The only way to stop it from happing again is to rummage through the wreckage left in this film’s wake and drag the last dregs of it’s iniquity kicking and screaming into the light.

The light being an obscure blog review perhaps no-one is going to read, but still, it’s a light. Of sorts.

But before all that I have to preface this with something. Two quick points, the first is the cast. I’ve seen a few of the actors in this cast in other things. Most notably Hemsworth, but I’ve seen the main four as well. Some in films I like, others not so much. Casting for me is not really an issue and if you want an all girl team? Heh, why not? The cast and director didn’t appeal to me on paper, but I like to think I was open enough to have given it a chance. The other point is the remake issue. I like the original Ghostbusters, again I think it’s a good film. I don’t quote it, I don’t watch it every halloween as some people do. I don’t set up a shrine and worship at the alter of Harold Ramis. It’s a good film and if I want to watch it I will. It’s a solid eight out of ten for me. So I don’t violently object to a reboot, I would want it done well surely but I don’t object.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

The Best Bond?

One of the reasons I restarted these reviews was that I forwarded a link to my ancient, fawning, opinion on Timothy Dalton’s acting when a friend of mine started posting something on Facebook. He said it was good and I should try writing this sort of thing again.

Well among other things it got me thinking about James Bond in general and I want to take this opportunity to do a deconstruction of Bond. What I think works and what I think, in retrospect, didn’t.

So, lets start at the beginning with the creator; Ian Fleming. Here’s the thing a lot of people gloss over, Fleming was the original super spy agent. This is not a joke, it’s completely true. He was part of the founding team of MI6 and was behind one of the most infamous spy operations of the second world war, Operation Mincemeat. If you don’t know the story behind Mincemeat you owe it to yourself to look it up, it is a hollywood drama. It just actually happened!

Anyway after basically inventing the real modern spy industry Fleming created Bond as the ultimate gentleman spy. Cultured, refined, ruthless, charming and ultimately without morals. He was written as an anti-hero, the anti-hero. Not someone to look up to but still respect. The idea was that the bad guys aren’t going to play fair and rather than being the good guy that wins despite this Bond was going to fight dirty first.

This was new at the time. If you look at the classic setup the hero is the so called white hat and always a good guy no matter what and the villain twirls his moustache as he does evil things, evilly. As soon as Bond comes into popularity the Anti-hero is more recognised and that moral black and white we’re all so comfortable with in action get thrown out the window. So the impact of Bond in popular fiction is very, very important and we’re still coming to terms with it in some cases. 

Bond was massively popular when it started as pulp novels, one coming out every year like the latest blockbuster movie. People flocked to the shops to buy the latest adventure to read on holiday, so naturally with such a willing market films were going to follow.

The first Bond film was Dr No (1962) and looking back on it today it is horribly dated. With a lot of visual gags and references going completely over people’s heads. For example there’s one shot, shortly after Bond meets with Dr No, where he sees a painting resting against a banister. It means nothing today, but at the time that was supposed to be a reference to a famous painting that had been stolen a year earlier and was still missing at the time (its since been recovered).

There’s quite a lot of these little facts, enough to keep IMDB trivia hunters occupied for days and that’s something you have to take into account when looking back at Bond over the years. What worked then doesn’t work now. For example Connery’s Bond would often slap and abuse women he thought were hiding something from him, or if they were hysterical. This casual sexism was risqué at the time, done to show he wasn’t a good man, but today it is utterly unacceptable. Moore’s version casually bedding anything with a skirt at the time showed he was virile and charming. Today? Not so much. With our rose-tinted nostalgia glasses firmly in place I’m going to try and review all the actors to play Bond and try and understand the impact they had on each other and the Character as a whole…

Monday, 18 June 2018

Film Review:- Tomorrowland A World Beyond

Well I'm back. I'm going to start trying to write reviews again and I'm got to start with what I think is a hidden gem, that I'm sure is going to become a cult classic in a few years.

Tomorrowland A World Beyond

Now I'm going to try and avoid spoilers, because while the twist is sort of obvious, especially in hindsight, its important you follow the journey with the characters. Having someone like me just blurt out whats going on does take something away from the film and I don't want to ruin it.

It didn't do very well in theatres, and has been a slow burn on DVD / Video / Download and there are a number of reasons for it. The trailers had no idea how to market this movie, trying to portray an action adventure film. Oh it's certainly an adventure film but the action isn't as important as the message. Lots of professional critics latched onto that message and didn't like it, accusing the film of being too preachy and pointing out that the solution was too simple for what is a very complicated problem. Ironically that was the argument from the film, it knew the answer sounded simple in principle, difficult in execution but worth it in the end.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, we need to get some context. First of all its based on a Disney theme park ride and that puts you on the defensive immediately. Sure Pirates of the Caribbean was good, at first. It all went down hill quite quickly as it became an overblown mess. Then you have other films with the same principle, like Eddie Murphy's Haunted Mansion, and the alarm bells start ringing. In fact it was because of this I avoided the film in the cinema and despite my curiosity I only picked it up a couple years after it came out. Which was a shame. In truth it takes a really good director, that has the complete faith of the studio, to take a tricky premise and make it work. The co-writer and director was Brad Bird. Skill and faith wasn't the problem, Brad Bird has films like The Iron Giant and The Incredibles under his belt and also did a fantastic job with his first live action film Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol. He'd proven his mettle and the studio backed off just enough to give him the room he needed to tell the story he wanted. Now sure he wasn't alone in writing and Damon Lindelof, he of Lost fame, was also involved but he was just the co-driver. Bird had his hands on the wheel and it was his baby

Next up we have to look at the cast because aside of two big names, George Clooney and Hugh Laurie, the cast is full of relative new comers. Including Britt Robinson (who does have a long list behind her IMDB page but Tomorrowland is her first "big" role) and Raffey Cassidy. Both young girls are fantastic actors that had great chemistry with each other and the rest of the cast. I will be very surprised if the two of them don't go on to have legendary careers. All this together you have a recipe for a very good movie.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

End of year Doctor Who review.

Alright. The year ends and I’ve got a job to finish. Now I’ve tried reviewing recent Doctor Who adventures all year but life, being what it is these days I’ve never had the chance. Now I do.

So what am I gong to review here. In short; Matt Smith’s last two adventures and whatever I can tag on…

So to begin the 50th anniversary special, Day of the Doctor. I loved this episode, great fun to watch and well written. Tenant slipped back into the role like he was riding a bike, he even still fit the old brown suit (something he and Piper joked about behind the scenes). Smith bounced off both him and Hurt expertly, having buckets of fun along the way laughing at himself. Hurt was going to be my big sticking point, I couldn’t be sure he would be the Doctor or a parody. No disrespect to his acting (he is good) but you need time to create and settle into a role. Coming in for a one off special doesn’t give you that time. I forgot about Moffat’s writing, Hurt hit all the right notes to be one of the best Doctors we never had.

Supporting cast had to pull up their game to match these three and they did. Piper came back, but not as Rose. Big point that. As I’ve said before I hate Rose, she was badly written to start with. While we were told she was kind, and cared all we saw was a silly girl more than willing to sacrifice the whole world for a sleeting selfish moment. Instead of the badly written Rose Piper came back as the Bad Wolf / interface of The Moment. Proving that while I might not like the roles she played Piper is actually a good actress.