Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Doctor Who: Into the Dalek (2014)
Another Moffat story: derivative plot elements, clichéd supporting characters, sacrificing logic for lazy plot resolution
Unlike some of the reviewers here, I enjoy a good Dalek story (I loved seeing the effects of the ongoing Dalek civil war in the original series). Unfortunately, this really wasn't one.
Moffat uses several scenes to make sure that even the most brain-dead viewer is aware that the premise is lifted from the film "Fantastic Voyage", but the details feel very much like a retread of 2005's "Dalek". That episode had the Doctor in philosophical argument with a lone Dalek, who proclaims that the Doctor would have made a good Dalek. "Into the Dalek" has the Doctor in a philosophical argument with a lone Dalek, who proclaims that the Doctor *is* a good Dalek (having viewed the Doctor's own hatred and violence). Although the contextual meaning of "good" is different in each episode, "Into the Dalek" only reiterates the same insights about the Doctor without really saying anything new or useful about them.
There is a heavy-handed subplot about the difference between "good" and "evil", which may feed into the season-long arc, but here just feels like window dressing or time filler. The Doctor's own actions seem "nicely" dark as promised, but if the good/evil discussion is meant to inform this in some way, it doesn't really come together in an initial viewing. The Doctor's distaste for soldiers is reiterated here, perhaps as forcefully as in "The Doctor's Daughter" for the first time since that episode, but whereas it was a plot point in that episode, in this one it just comes off as rude and misplaced.
What really mars the episode is Moffat's characteristic sacrifice of logic to further the plot or to give it a cheap twist. There are two by my count. First, the last time we saw the Daleks, Clara had erased all mention of the Doctor from the Dalek central database, causing the Daleks to forget all about him. That plot twist felt cheap, false, and tacked- on at the time, but in this episode it takes only one character to address the Doctor by name in its presence for the Dalek to immediately recognize him. We are also told that a Dalek's internal database records every experience and can forget nothing, thus making the conclusion of "Asylum of the Daleks" retroactively impossible. The second involves the Dalek's antibodies: when his charges question why a "good" Dalek's antibodies are attacking them, the Doctor explains that a Dalek can't control its antibodies any more that a human can. Yet when the Dalek turns "bad" and the antibodies attack again, as soon as the Dalek turns "good" again, the antibodies immediately retreat.
The episode gets six stars based on the performances and production values, but no higher due to disappointing and derivative writing.
Doctor Who: The Beast Below (2010)
Solid entertainment, but...
The episode really pulls the viewer along. It's well-paced with good action and a baffling mystery. We see some development of Amy's character (she's really emerging as the audience's point of identification here, and not at all the bimbo her detractors make her out to be), and the Doctor reveals a bit more of his new personality and gets some crackling lines. Sophie Okonedo is a blast to watch, and until the end of the story I was already adding Liz Ten to that list of one-off characters we'd all like to see again (Sally, Jenny, River...). But once it dawns on you that the plot for all its twists is a retread of an old _Star Trek: The Next Generation_ episode ("Clues", s4e14), it all feels like a bit of a waste of time...and a bit below the expectations we'd had of Moffat, considering the sparklingly original stories he's served up in the past.
Doctor Who: The Doctor's Daughter (2008)
Not as good as it should have been
A decent enough ep, even if it was marred by Beeb hype implying that this story would explain the Doctor's professed former parenthood; it didn't, and we still don't know how many children he had, who their mother (or mothers) was (or were) or where Susan Foreman fits into this still untold story. The denouement offers some interesting potential for future stories, but the episode's main plot is unfortunately blown to shreds by a major gap in logic.
Given the true time-frame of the war as deduced by the Doctor and Donna, Cobb (who appeared to be in his 60s) would have to have been part of the original crew, unless the clones age rapidly and die within two or three days (the "20 generations a week" dialog only implies that many many clones are created to replace the fallen, and does not necessarily mean that a clone's lifespan is so short that 20 generations live and die of natural causes within a week). SO WHY DIDN'T HE REMEMBER WHAT THE SOURCE REALLY WAS? Did he receive an amnesia-inducing head trauma in battle? And if a clone's lifespan is really so uselessly short, what does that say about the chances of Jenny living long enough to appear again. As someone else said, there was a lot of potentially interesting stuff here, ruined by cramming it into a 45 minute runtime. I would rather the lackluster Sontaran story had been compressed to a single ep, and this story given the two-parter treatment. Maybe they could have come up with a better solution to the mystery of the Source.
Painkiller Jane (2007)
Beg to differ...
Unlike another user who said the pilot was bad but the series "just keeps getting better", I found the pilot to be pretty good for a Scifi Channel pilot, but the series failed to build upon that base and instead churned out the same formula week after week. The multi-episode arc involving Jane's investigation of the source of her abilities was introduced about three episodes too late and was really the only thing that could have saved this. But by that point in the run, people had already given up on the show. And you have to admit that, following on the heels of the success of Heroes -- which also features a hot blonde with amazing healing ability -- PKJ really needed to hit the ground running, rather than stumbling and jogging in place. A competent show with interesting locations, decent acting, but only average scripts and thin characters, it really didn't have much of a chance.
Archangel Thunderbird (1998)
A guilty pleasure?
While the overall artistry of this project is impressive, the details are a bit embarrassing; it works as a whole, but you'll find yourself wondering why and how. Due to budget constraints, the special effects (upon which the production relies VERY heavily) were considerably less than state-of-the-art even in 1998. Nearly half of the run time is given to the battle between AT and Dygon, which is an exercise in amateurish stop-motion that produces a result on par with the original King Kong...yet somehow not as satisfying. The story is a bit flimsy and the acting is stiff and over-the-top.
Despite these sorts of kid-vid curses, the production is dark and adult-themed (there is an atheistic subtext that seems shoehorned in and a running gag about Miki's perverse sexual desire for Rob). Characterisation is nearly non-existent. Everything we know about Churchill is given to us in the arty title sequence; we never learn anything about Cainer (despite Churchill's statement that Cainer is very important, he seems to exist solely to play straight man to Miki), and Miki is summed up in a single speech by Churchill. There is an implied relationship between Churchill and Baal that is not explained. Of course, the whole thing is only twenty minutes long (which makes the glosses and omissions somewhat forgivable), and compared to TV anime of similar budget this really isn't bad at all and is more engrossing. Perhaps the fact that the actors are live action makes it seem worse than it is. I enjoyed it, but I think a continuation in the form of a series would have been a mistake.
Night Visions (2001)
Heavyhanded and uneven, but fun
I didn't discover this until it began airing on Sci-Fi (and I quite agree with Rekrul about Sci-Fi misleading viewers by claiming productions as their own -- they made similar claims with "Strange World" [a series that ran on ABC for half a season three years prior to Sci-Fi claiming it as their own], "Cube 2" [an international production in wide release that couldn't secure a distribution deal in the US], "Riverworld" [adaptation of a Phillip Jose Farmer novel that was doomed when Alex Proyas left the project and was bound for direct-to-video release until Sci-Fi grabbed it] and all of their cheesy Saturday afternoon monster movies that would have gone direct-to-video if Sci-Fi hadn't snapped up the rights). "Night Visions" was a bit heavyhanded with the morality lessons, something that "The Twilight Zone" did with a light touch and as an afterthought. But if you could overlook that, some of the stories were quite effective (and many were not, either lacking a strong ending or simply not being believable). The guest cast was literally stellar, including some of the leading lights of the indie film movement as well as more mainstream actors, which gave it some sort of post-modern credibility. The acting was always solid. Somehow Henry Rollins didn't really work as the host -- he's a competant actor, why did it seem like he was phoning it in? He may have fit the indie sensibility of the show, but he was positioned in the mode of the classic moralist anthology host ala Serling, and he just didn't seem to rise to the task...in fact he seemed uncomfortable in the role. I can't picture the guy in a suit, but I think the t-shirt and tats combo also worked against him (but how else would you dress Henry Rollins?).
Fantasy Island: Pilot (1977)
Quite agree with ubik-11 and togolane: I remember this film being much darker than the series, and I haven't seen it since I was a kid (the difference left that much of an impression). In fact, seeing the film after the series had begun, I got the impression that it was never intended to be a series, hence retooling was needed. The sense I got was that the guests were a bit evil themselves, and were lured to the island to get their comeuppance. Roarke was definitely sinister, unlike the series version, and this struck me as a horror movie. Assuming my memory is correct, the feel was like a mix of "And Then There Were None"/"Ten Little Indians", Stevenson's "The Bottle Imp" and "The Most Dangerous Game". The later series version with Malcolm MacDowell was closer in spirit to this than was the series version with Montalban.
The Jeff Foxworthy Show (1995)
Good intentions, but troubled execution
If any comic in the last ten years stood out as the potential source of a possible hit sitcom -- like Bill Cosby, Roseanne, Andy Griffith, and others before him -- it would be Jeff Foxworthy. He's a likable presence and his humor appeals to a wide range of Americans. Yet instead of taking a cue from these past successes and building around him a world inspired by his humor, the producers instead transplanted him to suburban Illinois. It was a fish-out-of-water comedy set in a Northern college town (without actually embracing his distinctly rural Southern humor), and complicated his life with snobby, intellectual in-laws who always misjudged him. It was well done, for what it was, but it wasn't what his fans were expecting and it didn't stand out for the rest of the audience. It got lost, the ratings tanked, ABC cancelled it.
But someone wisely saw Foxworthy's potential, and brought the production to NBC...with changes. New producers who were more in tune with Foxworthy's strengths built a new world for him. Gone were the snobby in-laws and curvy, sexy Anita Barone as his wife, Karen, to be replaced with willowy, neurotic Ann Cusack (younger sister to John and Joan). Foxworthy was uprooted from the North and planted back in the South, in his small fictitious Georgia hometown. No longer would the show be taped in a studio with a laugh track, it would be filmed before a live audience. And no longer was pre-"Sixth Sense" Haley Joel Osment an only child; he now had to contend with sibling rivalry from Jonathan Lipnicki, fresh off the set of "Jerry Maguire". Add the always fun G.W. Bailey as Foxworthy's womanizing get-rich-quick-scheming father and Bill Engvall as his best friend, and you've got the kind of riotous yet heartwarming comedy that harks back to "The Andy Griffith Show".
Unfortunately, retooling any show to this extent seems to doom it. Cusack played off Foxworthy better (with Barone, he always seemed a little henpecked, although that was due to the writing, not the actress), but the addition of Lipnicki felt like stunt casting. The fictional Foxworthy's friends were essentially the same doomed losers as in the first version, but they fit better, had more heart and were a lot funnier. Viewers who had stuck with it on ABC felt lost -- even though the past "incarnation" of the show was referenced early on, there were too many structural changes in the Foxworthy family to accept a continuity between the two versions of the show. Foxworthy's stand-up fans had largely tuned out during the previous version and weren't likely to give it another chance.
If the second version of the show had been the first, this show might still be on the air, and Foxworthy would be retiring it soon after ten successful years. Unfortunately, it wasn't.
Suspiria 25th Anniversary (2001)
Very informative, for fans and non-fans
Nero-11's review, while quite well written, refers to the shocker "Suspiria", and not to "Suspiria 25th Anniversary" which is a making-of documentary produced to commemorate the anniversary of the release of "Suspiria".
"S25A", which is available on DVD as part of the "Suspiria 25th Anniversary Limited Edition" set, is a well-produced video packed full of information. Newcomers to "Suspiria" may find it helpful as a primer. It explains why some regard "Suspiria" as art, and what Argento had in mind when creating this unique film experience. Those familiar with "Suspiria" who don't like the film may find seeds of what went wrong among the interviews of "S25A". Fans of "Suspiria" may find "S25A" useful as preparation to seeing the film again, much the way fans of "Rocky Horror" listen to the album to prepare for a midnight showing of that film. In short, there's something here for everyone.
The video takes the form of interviews with clips from "Suspiria" used as illustration and interstitials. The interviewer is never seen or heard, and the subjects are allowed to discourse freely on their experiences. Surviving principal cast members Jessica Harper and Udo Kier (speaking in English) and Stefania Cassini (in Italian with subtitles) describe what it was like working on what was considered a bold experiment at the time, the difficulties of working with an international cast where the principals spoke English as a first or second language and the rest of the cast spoke only Italian, and their feelings about the film's fans. Argento and Nicolodi (in Italian with subtitles), while not interviewed together, are intercut to describe the process of developing the concept, how their expectations were changed by the necessities of distribution and the requirements of the studio, and how they brought it all to film (interesting to note that each appears to claim sole credit for the story concept!). Argento and the cinematographer are intercut to describe the look that Argento wanted and how they achieved it using unconventional techniques. Members of Goblin are interviewed together (in Italian with subtitles) and separately (some in Italian with subtitles, others in English) to describe how they developed some of the unusual audio techniques (interesting that some of them still seem giddy about their involvement in the project, even after a quarter century).
Scenes are pulled apart, special effects examined, discarded plot elements and rationale for what remained...there's a lot here, and it's very entertaining. I'm not a huge fan of "Suspiria" (and I found here the reasons why it didn't work) yet I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary. Highly recommended.
Another show with potential assassinated by its own network
geoffw (see below) is quite right about what happened to this show: poor network marketing support (complicated by network interference with the concept). The Christian Right had nothing to do with its cancellation, and the individual who suggested that is out of touch with the facts.
The fact is that this was another wonderfully original and well-developed concept from Shawn Cassidy (who also created 'American Gothic', among others) that was mis-marketed by FOX. Apparently FOX wanted to grab some of the riches generated by camp sword and sorcery shows like 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys' and 'Xena: Warrior Princess'. They gave Roar very little marketing support (I remember vague promos showing people in leather armor that gave no idea what the show was about), and what little support they did give it implied it was a Hercules/Xena clone. It wasn't. When the wrong audience tuned in and rejected it, FOX started moving it all over the schedule, again without proper marketing support. They also applied pressure to the producers to dumb it down and make it more like Hercules/Xena. Watch a marathon on Sci-Fi sometime, and you will notice the following network-inspired trends:
1) The importance of Conor's struggle to unite the Irish clans diminishes. By the middle of the series, his efforts in this regard are only described in throwaway dialog and aren't seen on screen. These efforts should have provided the meat of the series. What table scraps we do get imply that the mission was effortless, which it certainly would not have been (clan rivalries historically prevented the Irish from uniting for the common good, which is how the English got a foothold centuries later). We frequently see Conor and Fergus travelling aimlessly about doing good deeds (instead of raising a resistance against the Romans) ala Hercules and Iolaus.
2) The importance of Conor's war band withers over the course of the series, until finally they don't even appear -- even though they are still credited as regular characters. By midway through the show's run, we usually see Conor and Fergus travelling alone, despite the fact that Conor is an important king who should be regarded as a deadly enemy by the Romans.
2) Vera Farmiga's costume becomes smaller and smaller, until the introduction of Melissa George as Molly, after which the character of Caitlin is rarely seen at all. Obviously a misguided attempt to "sex it up", and when the writers couldn't distort the Conor-Caitlin relationship enough to permit romance, they introduced a new love interest.
3) Originally intensely dramatic, with tragic loves, murky intrigues, murders and double-crosses, by mid-run it had become a campy adventure comedy.
4) The character of Longinus was a well-crafted and mysterious villain with tons of potential. Unfortunately, with the tone of the show shifting, he simply wasn't silly enough, so they unsuitably disposed of the character (it violated the integrity of the character to have him fall victim to such a plot) and made the ridiculously camp Diana the sole villain.
This could have been a great show, and it didn't hurt that the cast is actually quite competent. But I suspect that -- after the failure of 'American Gothic' -- Cassidy was willing to do anything to keep his new masters happy. Unfortunately it diminished his vision, and killed the show.
Ultimately, Roar became indistinguishable from the ilk of Hercules/Zena, but because the characters weren't designed to be camp it couldn't compete with that class of show. Had FOX left well enough alone and helped it to find the RIGHT audience, we would at the very least have a great short-lived series to collect on home video. Now, we don't even have that.