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Theo Robertson

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20 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
It's Been Done Before . Possibly Better Too, 30 August 2014

No one can accuse DOCTOR WHO of ever being original . Sydney Newman created the show by stealing the premise of a novel by HG Wells titled THE TIME MACHINE and the rest is history . Over the years the show has stolen homages from other influences . Pulp horror was a favourite of the mid Troughton and early Tom Baker periods while early Pertwee owed a lot to QUATERMASS and these eras was when the classic show was at its very best so it's not a complaint in any way

Certainly Into The Dalek can't be described as being original . It borrows a lot from FANTASTIC VOYAGE an enjoyable 1966 film featuring miniaturization in its central plot . This was remade by DOCTOR WHO eleven years later as The Invisible Enemy . In fact miniaturization had been done before in Carnival Of Monsters from 1973 . Add to this a lone Dalek prisoner from the NuWho story Dalek from 2005 and internecine Dalek warfare stretching back all the way to Evil Of The Daleks from 1967 and you've got something that gives deja vu a bad name . Some younger fans might enjoy all this because to them it will seem " new " and iconoclastic but to the older cynical eye some new ideas might be in order

Where the episode succeeds at is on two levels . First of all we have Daleks doing what they do best , moving forward screeching " EXTERMINATE " as they blast any human unfortunate enough to get in their way , devoid of any gimmickry as we've recently seen such as the Fatleks . Secondly we've got a new incarnation of the Doctor in the shape of Capaldi who is a million miles away from Matt Smith as it's possible to be . Capaldi is a superb cross between the alien fourth Doctor played by Tom Baker and the angst ridden eighth Doctor played by Christopher Eccleston . This Doctor is instantly compelling . He may have human form but is far from human and his cold uncaring reaction to a death of a supporting character is somewhat shocking

The problem with this portrayal is that he's so good that the rest of the characters make little impression with this viewer . Worse still is that a lot of the running time is taken up by events at Coal Hill School . Watching these scenes play out with Danny and Clara with their possibly blooming romance feels like the channel has switched over to an early evening weekday soap opera and totally fails to gel and is totally jarring . As with last weeks episode with the dreadful Patermoster Gang my attention wandered when the Doctor wasn't on screen

Not to be too negative I did enjoy this episode for the most part and with this older and darker Doctor I find myself looking forward to Saturday evenings which isn't something that has happened since the RTD era , and yes I did get the " Rusty " joke . I do hope that Capaldi doesn't have to carry the show single handed and we get stronger material for him because he could be the best Doctor the show has ever had

19 out of 64 people found the following review useful:
Capaldi Good . Moffat Dreadful, 23 August 2014

Event television doesn't get anymore eventful than 21st Century DOCTOR WHO arrive with a new actor in the title role . This goes beyond event television and DOCTOR WHO has become the new Beatlemania with Capaldi and Coleman attending trans-continental publicity events in Asia and South America to be greeted by ecstatic teenage fans . It's times like this I am genuinely proud to be a fan of the show . The only question is does the show live up to the hype ?

Thankfully the signs so far are very good . Capaldi comes with a lot of hype and there's a danger of alienating NuWho fans who are under the impression the show is a light hearted romp with some relatively young pretty boy , running around trying to cram in as many words as possible in to every sentence . Historically the show hasn't been about this and from what little I've seen of the 12th Doctor I have been very impressed . It looks like proper DOCTOR WHO has come back

The downside is that every time Capaldi is off screen I didn't find anything else that held my attention . Once again Moffat shows the audience he's a one trick pony . Concepts used previously alongside returning characters . You understand why this is done . When Jon Pertwee morphed in to Tom Baker the transition was made easier by introducing the new Doctor in a UNIT story that was more indicative of the third Doctor than what most third Doctor stories were . Here however The Pasternoster Gang are even more painfully unamusing than normal . A lesbian Silurian , her wife and a comedy Sontaran ! Not good characters to begin worth and here they're downright embarrassing and achieve nothing except to drag this viewer out of what little drama there is at the start of the episode . In fact I can't help thinking the first twenty minutes are amongst the very worst television we've seen transmitted under 50 years of the DOCTOR WHO banner . They're similar to the embarrassing mess of the climax of the 1967 CASINO ROYALE Bond spoof . What's the use of an extra long episode if you're going to pad out the running time with silly nonsense ?

What makes this doubly disappointing is that this episode was directed by acclaimed director Ben Wheatley who had previously given British cinema KILL LIST and SIGHTSEERS . Not exactly the pinnacle of British creative cinema but good enough to make Wheatley's name be remembered by the critics and whose film did mix black comedy with a brooding atmosphere . Instead of anything idiosyncratic the episode feels that it was directed by a journeyman director but to be fair television remains a producer's medium

To be fair it's an introductory story for a new Doctor and even in this introduction he impresses and gives hope that even with the most sub standard of material he can still carry an episode and make it watchable . Unfortunately with Moffat still remaining as show runner this might mean Capaldi having to carry the show on his shoulders while Moffat remains . Willing to be proved wrong and Moffat can go in a different direction

The Patrol (2013)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
The 'Stan Isn't The 'Nam, 21 August 2014

This got a lot of hype when it received its very limited release . The publicity material heavily emphasised writer/director Tom Petch served in the British army for more than eight years which is eight years longer than I served . The publicity was rather reluctant to go in to details and I don't want to sound disrespectful but Mr Petch left the army in 1997 , four years before the war on terror started . Mr Petch was a civilian when the British army entered Helmand province in 2005 and it shows . If nothing else it goes to show than former ex British military can make a dreadful war drama as badly as any British civilian peacenik

The success of a war film is to bring a sense of time and place to the audience . The story is set during a British operation in Helmand in 2006 but on nearly every level the entire narrative feels like it's taking place in Vietnam in the early 1970s . Petch claims he made this film to show the lack of proper equipment and of a clear mandate British forces found themselves with in Afghanistan but is badly executed you'd think the director has an agenda somewhere

As for the equipment .50 calibre machine guns constantly jam and the reason is put down to bad ammo . Not impossible I guess . I'll give the director the benefit of the doubt even if it happens a bit too often . Likewise radios not working . Apparently though the ire of Petch goes mainly towards the SA80 rifle

" If it's supposed to be so good " whines one squaddie " Why don't the SAS use it ? "

So if the SAS don't use a certain weapon it must be rubbish ? Not sure if that's good yardstick to judge something with

" But who else uses the SA80 ? " whines Mr Whiny

40 years ago all the world's armies were split between using three assault rifles , the M-16 , the FN Fal and the AK47 . Since then nearly every country due to reasons of chauvinism has produced its own assault weapon with the British using the SA80 which is almost universally adored by everyone who uses it in the British Army and is considered better than the American M-4 carbine . Mr Whiny is obviously an obtuse contrarian

What this makes more problematic for the film is that it ties in with a bigger picture mainly one of characterisation . A British military patrol pushes in to Taliban territory in 2006 within a couple of days morale has collapsed in to near mutiny . Seriously ? From what I've read and heard second hand from squaddies a posting to Helmand in 2006 was a dream posting . Young men join the army to fight and since 1960 no one has been forced to join the British Army . Constant tours to the 'Stan might have taken a toll on the military but this wouldn't have been the case in 2006 . Nor would morale have collapsed to the extent where soldiers constantly disobey mission orders as seen here . What makes it even worse from a logic and drama point of view is the time-frame along with a distinct lack of inciting incident and motive . I don't want to sound like a cheer leader for the Ministry Of Defence but if I had served in Afghanistan I'd feel very insulted by this film and I wouldn't be surprised if some of Mr Petch's erstwhile military colleagues are arranging a firing squad for him as I write this

It Entertains But The Lack Of Logic Is A Problem, 28 July 2014

After getting burned that the reboot franchise of the Apes films are something special ( They're not ) I thought I'd revisit the original franchise . What that series did expand upon a circular storyline of a film that must surely have been conceived as a one off movie with a twist ending . By the third film of the franchise the producers had moved in to themes of time travel and self fulfilling prophecies that resemble cerebral time paradox that you'd later see in the likes of THE TERMINATOR . The problem with doing this is that you're in danger tying yourself up in knots and painting yourself in to a corner . Certainly I thought CONQUEST a much more entertaining and enjoyable film than RISE which mirrors this film to a large extent but the lack of internal logic is very problematic

CONQUEST is set in 1991 , almost 20 years after the film was produced and is a future where cats and dogs have died out and apes have replaced canines and felines as pets initially but have now effectively become slaves . The scenario quickly falls apart when given much thought . Is a gorilla a type of pet you'd want ? I'm guessing it's very difficult to keep even if it's toilet trained and a fruit bill alone would make keeping one prohibitive . One fact is that a chimpanzee is the most vile , violent and vicious of primate . An adult male chimp can literally tear a human being from limb to limb so there's no way anyone would want to have one in the same household . It's pointed out to the humans in the previous film that humanity will be replaced by the apes as the dominant species so what does the human race do ? " I know let's breeds millions upon millions of apes , keep them in every city on Earth where they outnumber us because they're cheap labour " I understand both greed and short termism but if anyone had any common sense this problem would be easily averted . I'm certain it'd also be impossible to condition apes in to doing relatively complex tasks but I guess you have to suspend disbelief or otherwise there would be no story

This is a shame because Paul Dehn's screenplay does contain rich food for thought . I found this America of the future absolutely fascinating along with the locations that have austere functionalism and are entirely credible . Bad enough about apes but there's a very large elephant in the room where bad things happen to " troublemakers " no questions asked . The fact this type of fascism is specieist rather than racist doesn't make it anymore commendable and the first half of the film is much more compelling than the second as we're shown glimpses of this scenario and allows the actors to give incisive and economical performances with their roles , especially Severn Darden who resists the temptation to do any goose stepping and underplays everything . The second half of the movie concentrates on the Ape revolution and probably isn't violent enough for my liking but I'm guessing I've only seen PG version where much of the violence is excised . It is very noticeable that the fascist militia seem to suffer from tunnel vision and can't see apes creeping up on them from the flanks

Despite all the numerous flaws CONQUEST is a fairly enjoyable film and I liked this much better than the remake / reboot / reimagining from 2011 . It does however require turning off your brain in order for the narrative to work and sometimes this is a bit too difficult especially if you remember the internal continuity of the previous and following film

54 out of 101 people found the following review useful:
Much Better Than The First Film Which Isn't A Massive Endorsement, 20 July 2014

After seeing RISE on Channel 4 last night I promised myself I wasn't going to waste two hours of my life and money on a bus and cinema ticket to watch a Hollywood blockbuster sequel . Maybe the Summer heat has been frying my brain because I found myself taking a long walk to Edinburgh city centre and spending £8.20 on a ticket to watch DAWN . Perhaps I was trying to teach myself a lesson in that I should always stick to gut instinct ? When someone makes a decision they should stick to it otherwise bad things might happen

DAWN starts in exactly the same manner as RISE finished . Simian flu sweeps across the world killing billions of humans and this economy of storytelling is very effective indeed . Unfortunately when we're introduced to the surviving humans there's been a massive spanner thrown in to the works because they're all living in a small district of San Francisco . What's wrong with that you ask ? Common sense should tell you that's the worst place you can stay in after a catastrophe . As John Wyndham and John Christopher point out in their novels a city is nothing more than a concrete desert . Surely they'd be hundreds of thousands of dead bodies in the city ? Won't this lead to all types of secondary diseases ? How you going to farm crops in a city ? I suppose there might be some supplies left but after ten years of industrial collapse people still have access to cigars and cigarettes . I'm guessing simian flu only affects non smokers ?

I'm also guessing you're not supposed to think too deeply about this scenario because it doesn't really hold up to much examination . Characters are shown to having access to military hardware but the military are conspicuous by their absence . This is probably down to plot function . The human survivors need access to a hydro dam just outside the city in order to gain electricity and kick off the plot . The human enclave need electricity in order to power communications to contact other human communities but it's impossible to believe that in ten years after the flu outbreak not one single warship has berthed in the docks , or a military plane has landed at the airport or a self sufficient military unit has entered the city

Another slight problem is that the characters are like in the previous film rather one dimensional and underwritten . We've got the nice male human character , the nice female human character , the bad ethnic minority human , the good ethnic minority human etc and this is mirrored by the ape community . If you've any knowledge of Soviet history you might just second guess how things pan out in the ape community and it's the actors playing the apes in a motion capture suits who make the biggest impression . If you're going to cast Gary Oldman at least give him a part deserving of his talents and have him do something interesting with his character

It's a pity the film is let down by a succession of small flaws because I did like it but wanted to love it and the movie doesn't quite pull it off . It is a solid relatively dark blockbuster better than the film that preceded it and better than most Summer fare that's been released over the last few years but don't think it's anywhere near deserving of its position of 150 on the IMDb top movies list and feel like the HOBBIT movies will quickly drop out of the list . As it stands the original franchise was probably more enjoyable as a whole due to its imagination

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Give Enough Chimps Enough Typewriters And They Could Write A Better Screenplay, 19 July 2014

I've no idea how I managed to miss RISE . It came out three years ago and I recall it going on my watch it when it comes out on DVD list but never got round to it for some reason . Now that the sequel DAWN has opened to almost universal praise it's very timely that Channel 4 decided to give it its British TV network broadcast . I saw the trailers on channel 4 last week and made sure I wasn't going to miss it and if I enjoyed this film I might just go out of my way and spend money watching the sequel in the cinema . Hmmmm . After seeing RISE it looks like I've just saved myself the price of a bus ride and a cinema ticket

To be fair the producers deserve some credit on not going for a reworking of the original Pierre Boulle novel . A rocket travels to another planet where Apes at the top of the evolutionary ladder and there's a shock twist at the end . It's been done before and very well in the 1968 film and abysmally in the Tim Burton version so congratulations for trying a different spin this time with a reworking of CONQUEST

The unfortunate thing is the storyline is very predictable and lacking in any imagination . Okay in CONQUEST apes are used as slaves and it's up to Ceaser a self aware chimpanzee from the future who is a fugitive leading a revolution by apes to overthrow their cruel masters . There's not a lot of realism to that plot but the great strength of the original franchise was that it was made with so much imagination plausibility didn't matter " The good bomb made us all " indeed and for that we should be grateful . Here however everything is so recognisable that it ends up becoming , insipid , vapid and very mundane

This most especially extends to the humans who are one note clichés . Good scientists , trying to benefit mankind , sick relative , sadistic guard type character and worst of all rabidly greedy corporate company boss . It says something that the best performance comes from Andy Serkis and he plays the film in a CGI suit swinging through trees and rattling bars but to be fair again Daniel Day Lewis would be incapable of bringing much to the roles of humans in this screenplay

There's a saying that " If you give enough chimpanzees enough typewriters they will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare " Apparently this is an untrue truism and according to the likes of Richard Dawkins and other scientists involved in biology there's neither enough chimpanzees or typewriters for this to remotely come close to happening . That said if you give a typewriter to someone like Paul Dehn and sit him in a committee of Hollywood film producers he can string out a highly entertaining and imaginative series of movies based upon a film adaptation of Pierre Boulle;s original novel. There's nothing like that here and you feel you're watching something not all that far removed from the Syfy channel

Undoubtedly One Of Television's Greatest Dramas, 15 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

!!! Suggestive Spoilers !!!!

A few years ago I wrote a cursory view of this show based on memory . It was a good show according to memory but having recently seen the show in its entirety again I thought I'd give the show the respect it deserves because this remains 35 years after it was broadcast one of the greatest productions British television has produced

The title sequence sets out the tone of the series . Its impact is in its simplicity of editing archive war footage of bombs being churned out of a German factory, being loaded on to Luftwaffe aircraft and ultimately their destination on to the British mainland . What makes this title sequence so attention grabbing is the incidental music composed by Simon Park which mirrors the very best of an oppressive Wagnerian opera

Produced in 1979 when the war was still very much within living memory there might have been a danger of revisionism and rose tinted spectacles . Indeed since the 1950s we've all been accustomed to John Mills and the boys brewing up tea while giving those damn Nazis what for with fatalistic servitude . As historians are quick to point out the war wasn't any type of crusade against murderous fascism happily fought by democracy but was fought by countries forced in to it by Nazi expansionism and was reflected in the people who fought the war . From the outset this is mirrored by Brian Ash who finds himself conscripted in to the army and thinks his military career will be digging tunnels and building bridges only to be told his wartime service will revolve around bomb disposal

" Don't I have to volunteer for that ? "

" No " Replies his CO " None of us volunteered for it "

And the camera perfectly captures the shock and horror as Ash digests this news . His horror and fear is compounded by the fact that no one in bomb disposal has any formal training and it's a case of trial and error in surviving the job

There's a real danger of making Ash a hero . He is a hero but it doesn't make him a knight in shining armour and later in the show embarks on an affair with someone else's wife . This blurring of morality also extends to the rest of the squad where light fingered spivery isn't cured simply by sticking someone in to uniform . The characters are in the army because Hitler wants to conquer Europe , not because these characters want to be soldiers. It also makes subtle use of the painful class distinction Britain had at the time

Another great aspect to the writing is that scripts are built upon . A seemingly throw away scene where an officer chastises Ash for wasting food sets up an episode where the officer becomes company commander and takes a personal dislike to Ash . It's also a show not scared to kill off characters . A character is introduced in the second episode then as you think he's going to be a regular he's killed off . Despite having different writers and directors there's a continuity rarely seen in television at that time along with genuinely cinematic production values

Anthony Andrews was expected to become a major star after the series and despite being the lead in BRIDESHEAD REVISITED quickly disappeared from the radar . Two actors did become stalwarts of British television and film Maurice Roeves and Kenneth Cranham . Cranham especially is excellent as Jack Salt a likable but ultimately doomed and haunted character who has every right to feel hard done by destiny

So 35 years after it was broadcast DANGER UXB remains one of the greatest shows in the history of television . If you've any interest in military history this is a show to enjoy . In fact if you like television in general you'll still enjoy it

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Totally Pointless Homage, 16 May 2014

You remember BLAKES 7 don't you ? No ? Written in the mid 1970s by Terry Nation it burst on to our TV screens in January 1978 and was set in the far flung future where interplanetary space travel was routine and humanity lived under the fascist jackboot . The first episode saw political dissident Roj Blake framed for child molestation and sentenced to the penal colony of Cygnus Alpha

" Child molestation ! Hey Theo don't tell me this was a BBC show ? "

Yes it was * . A 1970s BBC fictional show featuring a convicted child molester compared to real life 1970s BBC presenters and pop stars still to be convicted and this premise alone indicates that it's not some simple generic BBC answer to STAR TREK or STAR WARS . It was a rather bitter and cynical science fiction action adventure that relied on character interaction , wonderfully sharp dialogue and internal continuity . In some ways it was ahead of its time in that each season had a running story arc that led up to an end of season climax which is common with most television drama nowadays . Occasionally rumours surface that it might be resurrected but considering everyone involved behind the scenes is either dead or retired from television it'd be impossible for a new production team to capture the unique feel that the original show had

This spoof short film is a case in point . It's totally clumsy as an idea featuring the crew of the Liberator now confined to travelling through the Galaxy in a car and stopping at a service station . Continuity is totally ignored with Dayna being part of the crew alongside Jenna and Gan . I don't have to point out that Jenna and Gan left the show after series two and would never have met Dayna since she was introduced at the start of season three but considering all the characters are merely names devoid of their well thought out and crafted memorable personalities this is doubly disappointing

This failing is compounded by having Avon and Vila . Much of the entertainment of the show was watching the performances of Paul Darrow and Michael Keating who both nailed the characters perfectly and gave very idiosyncratic performances that were a joy to watch . Here Mark Heap and Martin Freeman are playing characters respectively called Avon and Vila who dress like and very vaguely look like the characters from the show but aren't really the characters from that show . Some people might enjoy well known comedy actor McKenzie Crook in drag as arch villain Servalan but the whole thing feels pointless as both homage and as a comedy short film . If it's darkly comical wit you're after stick to the original BBC series

* Now I come to think of it BLAKES 7 is probably the only BBC show from the 1970s not to have a convicted paedophile as its star

Zero (2010/III)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Adorable Animation Let Down By A Too Obvious Message, 5 May 2014

I came in to this short film thinking it might have something to do with mathematics . My own memory from schooldays reminded me that " everything is based around maths " but for some strange reason it's not a subject that figures very often in cinematic subject matter . Off the top of my head only two films feature the theme , one being Darren Aronofsky's feature film debut PI and Ron Howard's Oscar winning A BEAUTIFUL MIND . As it stands ZERO doesn't need to join them in the cinematic maths box because it has nothing to do with mathematics and everything to do with social hierarchy

The subtext is a bit too obvious but social structure is important - perhaps far too much - to the human race . It differs in some cultures . Despite not officially existing in the Indian sub-continent the Hindu caste system is one of the most rigid social structures on Earth . Nazi racial hierarchy - itself owing vague connections to Hinduism and Indo-Aryan culture - was an example of a social order with zero social mobility . On the opposite side of the idealogical fence communism had party hierarchy where someones standing in the party allowed them privileges such as state house , sate car and state shops where party members didn't have to queue all day unlike non party members . Not even a secular democracy can guarantee true meritocracy and often social class is a life sentence except for a gifted few

This might be the problem of ZERO . I constantly found myself asking what this type of society was and wanted to learn more about but it's an animated short that appeals more to the heart than the head and being animated means the animation is everything . This shouldn't be taken as a criticism because I did find the woollen puppets impressive both as a concept and as characters and you really do feel for the characters and their predicaments even if you're equally aware you are being manipulated to a degree . Perhaps in a world where Pixar animation is becoming far overused a film studio might like to employ Christopher Kezelos and his puppet animation for a feature length family blockbuster . I'm sure with the right screenplay the results would be impressive

Dogs (1976)
Stop Grabbing My Leg You Bad Dog, 5 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After reviewing a film where dogs disguised as rats kill people I thought a nice antidote might be seeing a film where dogs playing dogs go on a rampage and kill people . Variety is the spice of life and these type of movies are as spicy as a glass of cold water but the premise seems to have a relatively cheesy and predictable storyline and expectations are definitely not high so there's probably not much chance of being bitterly disappointed by it's quality . I mean we are talking about a film that stars David McCallum

McCallum is a Glasgow born actor with a very international background . That's one of the problems with a film starring McCallum - his accent is grating and distracting and comes closest to sounding Australian while never actually sounding Australian . At least his accent if not his performance does have an impact even if it's not in a positive way because everyone else is extremely bland . Dogs are being driven wild by pheromones via medical experiments . Don't ask if this is scientifically plausible because you're not supposed to examine the science in any great depth . You will be able to examine the rather poor acting as people are attacked by dogs including a biker who is savaged and gives the impression he's being molested to death judging by the rather sexual sounds he's emitting surrounded by a couple of mutts . An old lady comes to his rescue then just as she realises what's happening she gets jumped by a dog and turns in to a stuntman wearing a white wig and she too starts moaning " oh oh oh God " almost as though she's getting rogered by a mammal that has a fetish for older woman . . Biker boy staggers away while there's a jump cut to the next day with Aussie Scotsman getting told a biker has been mauled to death by some wild dogs . This scene doesn't make much sense since it's highly unlike the injuries sustained by the biker would be fatal . And what happened to little old lady/stuntman ? Did the dogs hide her body or consume her so completely nothing remained of her ? As the film continues we're treated to more and more outlandish plot turns that are highly unlikely such dog victims being found in cupboards . There is a deranged quality to all this which means DOGS has an entertainment value even if that value is totally unintentional

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