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Bob & Rose (2001)
A very good, very real love story. With some unusual circumstances.
Bob and Rose is a terrific love story, full of humor, misunderstandings, sex, hurt, and love. Like most relationships. And it's a story that wraps you up in it; you root for this couple. You have to stay and find out what happens to them.
This story was really ahead of its time. Just like true racial equality will come when race is no longer even a subject, sexual equality will come when people no longer use labels and just love who they love, period.
Bob and Rose (as well as many of those around them) go through some confusion about their relationship because it doesn't fit the molds society has created. Their relationship would be much simpler if those molds didn't exist. But right now, they do exist.
What does it mean that Bob has always been gay, but is now in love with a woman? What does it mean that Rose is in love with a man who has always been gay?
It means they fell in love. That's all.
Bob maintains that he is a gay man who just happened to fall in love with a woman. He hasn't become "un-gay" or "changed teams," he just fell in love. This reminds me of what another Russell T Davies character said several years later: when Ianto Jones of Torchwood tries to explain his love for Jack Harkness to his sister, she asks when he became gay; his reply is that "It's not all men. It's just him." He just happened to fall in love with another man.
Would that the world let it be that easy. Hopefully one day it will be.
Bob and Rose is a very good, very real love story. There are realistic conflicts and problems and the solutions are not always clear-cut. It is well worth your time to watch it. And you're going to wish it was longer.
The Pillars of the Earth (2010)
Excellent characterization, even with unnecessary plot changes
I tried to watch POTE when it 1st came out and, being disappointed at the changes from the plot of the book, decided not to watch the rest. I read a great deal and while I understand that books must be condensed for filming purposes and that this sometimes may call for changes in the plot, I am very loyal to the books I read so plot changes bother me a great deal.
Finding this listed on Netflix, I decided to have another go at it. For anyone who has not read the book, by all means, watch it - it's great drama. For those who have read it, by all means, watch it - it's great drama. Forgive the plot changes (some were brilliant and some were frankly unnecessary and convoluted), but concentrate on the characterization instead. In good films, you can kept watching bad or uninteresting plot if characterization is good enough. In POTE, ALL of the major roles are well acted and true to character. All, which is rare at the best of times in a film with such a huge cast list. I wonder how many of the actors took the time to read the book or talk at length with Ken Follet.
I went into this thinking that I would probably give it a 6-7 if the acting was good enough to earn higher, but with points taken off for stupid plot changes. But the more I watched, the more I was drawn in. I have missed sleep to finish this thing because I couldn't sleep for thinking about it. It is just really GOOD, because the characters are believable, even at points when the plot is not. You simply believe these people would react to their lives the way they do - even evil characters are understandable for what they do. That is fabulous characterization.
So for loyalty to the plot, it gets about a 5-6. For making sense of the plot, it gets a 7. For historical accuracy, it gets a lower rating than I'd give the book, but I don't expect movies to teach me history anyway and the book is fiction, not history. But for the acting, the costumes, the photography, and above all the characterization, these things combined bring this miniseries to a 9.
For readers, do expect to see some pretty major plot points taken out and some are entirely replaced with new stuff. You may or may not agree with all the changes or that they make the plot tighter or better. But if you can ignore that and go with it, go with the characters in their various journeys through life, you will love it.
For those who haven't read the book - DO. There is much more to the story, more to these characters. You will be a bit confused that some of the plots don't show up and others are in their place, but the detail that is added, plus having more time with the characters portrayed so wonderfully in this film, will make the time worth your while.
Doctor Who: Love & Monsters (2006)
Offbeat, but worth the watching
Since the basis for this episode was a Blue Peter contest, it was going to be campy. So RTD just went for the romp... why not? When viewing the DVD of series 2, this is one of the episodes I usually skip - it doesn't have a great effect on the overall story arc, and the monster reminds me way too much of Austin Powers' "Fat Bastard." That said, this episode is worth watching, and even worth re-watching from time to time. Elton is a regular joe caught up in the fringes of the Doctor's world, and Mark Warren did a great job (not to mention that his butt-shot was the best one of the show hands down). Shirley Henderson is a treat, and the rest of the LINDA members are impossible to dislike.
But the best reason to watch this episode is Jackie Tyler. We get the Doctor's POV and the companion's POV, but what happens to the people who are left behind when the TARDIS whooshes on to its next adventure? Jackie doesn't have an extraordinarily eventful life, no serious significant other, no career - so what does she get up to while Rose is away? What does she feel about her daughter's way of life? How does the secret she's holding onto affect her, especially after Mickey is gone and there is no one she can talk to about it? One of the best lines of the episode is Jackie's statement that she will defend Rose AND the Doctor to the end of her life. She doesn't understand it all and she doesn't like it all but her loyalty is steadfast. And beneath all the dinginess, the flightiness, the flirtiness, is a core of steel - we see where Rose got her grit from. By the time Army of Ghosts and Doomsday come round, we're not surprised that Jackie is a full participant, ready to stand up to Torchwood, to anyone to protect those she loves. Brava, Jackie Tyler. Brava Camille Coduri.
Real Genius (1985)
Extraordinarily smart and funny!
This movie plays often on different cable channels, but I always seem to picked it up in the middle, so I finally broke down and bought the DVD. Worth every penny! As a nerd-lover from way back and bit of a female geek myself, I can tell you Val Kilmer was not the only one who grew up gorgeous (heck, he was gorgeous here) - Check out Gabe Jarret's page on IMDb! He makes Kilmer look like a hag! This movie came out the year I turned 18, so it has a real resonance for me. While there are parts I have to explain to my daughter, it really hasn't aged a great deal because the main part of the story is the time-tested tale of growing up and finding yourself. My daughter finds it as laugh-out-loud funny and as cool as movie as I do. That's why it's playable and re-playable. And each time it ends, you can't help but smile while "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" plays.
Unfortunately, while Val and Gabe kept acting (as well as Jon Gries who played Lazlo), the actors who played Ick (The ice goes straight from solid to a gaseous state. Now if we can just keep it from exploding!) and Jordan (I don't sleep so I knit you a sweater last night... are you peeing?) left the movie scene a long time ago. While I hope they have had truly happy lives, I think they could have gotten roles in many more films of the time.
Along with The Breakfast Club, these are the movies which I feel defines my era and education (and yes, I know that looks like a weird combination).
Geeks rule! ~Everybody chant with me now~ ICE IS NICE!
Primeval: Episode #1.1 (2007)
I am NOT a dinosaur fan, but my husband is. I planned to go to bed after Dr Who was over tonight, but the commercials for this kept getting more interesting, so I thought, "Well, I'll watch the beginning and get a glimpse..." Next thing I know the hour is over and I'm looking moderately forward to the next show.
I did not want a lesson in dinosaurs, which is what a I thought I would get, or an hour long Jurassic Park impersonation. I got neither. I got an interesting introduction to different people who gelled somewhat into a team by the end of the episode, sort of without my noticing it happening.
I am cautiously optimistic. Being very disappointed that there will be so little new Dr Who and Torchwood this year, and the Sarah Jane Adventures just make me itch, the only thing I was really looking forward to watching regularly on BBC America was Top Gear. Primeval however, has caught my interest - I'll give them a tentative 7 and see what happens next week.
Doctor Who: Turn Left (2008)
Excellent What If?
Yes, sometimes episodes that get suddenly "undone" at the end are annoying. But this wasn't one of them. The only thing that annoyed me was the people who kept staring at Donna's back and that hiss/click sound - but I was just as annoyed as Donna was, so that just means the episode held me like it was supposed to.
We all think at times that our lives and our actions are unimportant in the scope of the big wide universe, and sometimes in Dr Who (old and new) the companion can seem just to be an accessory to give us a viewpoint. But when Donna's one small change of mind builds and builds and affects the whole world, when she feels more and more helpless in this new strange life she finds herself in, when Earth really needs the Doctor and he's not there.... you find out just how important one small change of mind becomes.
This one moved at such a quick pace I had to watch it twice to catch everything. Huge applause to Bernard Cribbins - Wilf knew all along things were just not right. Brava to Jacqueline King for being able to handle it when they gave Sylvia more to do than just whine and b***. Catherine Tate, take a bow, I had never seen you do such wonderful work, didn't think you could, and I happily eat crow after this performance.
By the time the Cloister Bell bonged, I was worn out from this episode! And the preview - can't wait, just can't wait. Heck, I can't wait for this series to hit DVD and we haven't even seen the finale yet!
Torchwood: Fragments (2008)
Torchwood - This Is Your Life
Well, we always wanted to know how and when the other members of Torchwood joined/were recruited, and this episode tells us. Including how JACK came to Torchwood, and how he came to be in charge.
Each person's tale is spun separately and done well. Of course, Gwen's story we already know, but she and Rhys do appear.
My personal favorite was Owen. Each tale explains a lot about the motivations of each character and what makes them tick, but it REALLY lets you into Owen's mind and heart.
The end, btw, with its preview of the finale, leaves you with your mouth hanging open (after you've said a few expletives probably).
I will be counting the seconds until the finale, and BBC better announce a third series soon before they get picketed. Torchwood has MORE than earned it.
Torchwood: Meat (2008)
No more lies for Gwen
When Rhys' job and Gwen's job cross paths, the result is a messy fight and a brilliant story.
It's also a heartbreaking tale that shows some humans are a worse threat than some aliens. This is not the first time TW has told a story in which humans were the bad guys, but it is the best. And not everything is black and white - when Tosh finds out the circumstances of the alien, her first reaction is to use it for human benefit - her reasons may sound nobler, but are they that different from the criminals intentions? Where do we draw the line? What makes an alien friend or foe? And the final question of the episode - to retcon or not to retcon? Excellent story telling, excellent acting. Eve Miles and Kai Owen do a wonderful job of chewing the scenery without chewing it to bits. Their emotions are very real and not over-the-top.
Series two seems to be doing the impossible - being even better than series one.
Torchwood: Something Borrowed (2008)
(Don't) stop the wedding!
FAIR WARNING - FULL OF SPOILERS
I was feeling they were kinda rushing Gwen and Rhys' wedding, wanting to see Gwen more conflicted about her feelings for Jack (which may yet play into future episodes), but this episode made it worthwhile. Jack, hiding his feelings and wanting Gwen's day to be perfect, nevertheless has to put the brakes on things when she wakes up the morning of her wedding VERY pregnant with an alien!
When she demands to get married before dealing with the alien issue (oooo, that's a bad pun), Jack does his best to help her out and keep her safe. Ianto is sent to buy a wedding dress that is a tad bit looser 'round the middle (BTW, will you writers PLEASE stop making bad gay jokes directed at Ianto, who probably would not put on a wedding dress, even to please Jack!), Owen grabs his handy-dandy new toy and prepares to play alien ob-gyn, Tosh gives moral support to Gwen and showing strength and guts they rarely give her to play, and Jack starts hunting down the alien with a vengeance.
From "Mom, Dad, I'm pregnant," to Tosh grabbing the best man by his gonads, to Jack's slight faux pas in calling Rhys' mother an ugly alien b*tch, this story just never slows down. Damage control? HAH!
Best surprise - Gwen hiding her gun in her bouquet.
Best moment - toss up between Gwen telling Rhys she loves him at the big crisis moment, or Gwen and Jack's dance.
Best line - Ianto: "That's what I love about Torchwood. By day, hunting the scum of the earth. Come midnight, and you're the wedding fairy."
Bye the bye, Rhys, a character I had slotted into a supporting filler character who would be given 2.3 lines per episode just to show Gwen had a home life, has turned into a marvelous character with more layers revealed in every episode he's in. Congrats to Kai Owen for hanging in there until they let him show his chops!
Gimme more TW like this!
Torchwood: From Out of the Rain (2008)
Sorry... what was the plot here?
I am a rabid TW fan, but I have to say the only reason I re-watched this episode was to see if it really was as bad as I thought the first time around.
It was. No, I take it back. It was WORSE.
Big play-up hint in the preview is that on this old film of a carny show, Jack is there, big as life, a part of the show. Preview has Jack stating, "I was billed as The Man Who Couldn't Die." My thought is "COOL! We'll learn something else new about Jack. There will be this big reveal that he was involved with these guys in the past or something." But no. I hate it when the best part of a show is in the preview.
And that's the thing - that reveal, that Jack was in a side show troop 80 years ago, that's the neatest bit in this whole piece (even John Barrowman couldn't pull off looking impressive in that lousy costume). Now, TW all knows Jack's "I can't die" secret, but I don't remember a big reveal that he's lived 150 years on earth (yes, there have been a few hints and pieces) but no one seemed surprised that Jack was in this 80 year old film, they were just surprised he was in a side show! And nobody even welcomed back Gwen from her honeymoon, much less asked to see pictures, or queried if she had a good time. They must have screwed up and retconned themselves as well as all of the wedding guests in the last episode. Hope they saved some for this one. I'd sure like to forget it.
The plot itself on the surface of a script probably looked good. OUTLINE: Evil carny performers in old film escape old film and run amok in Cardiff. TW chases after them. On the first read-through, the possibilities of this look neat. An old movie, The Purple Rose of Cairo has a similar scheme sans evil carny bad guys and it's a good story.
But this episode plays out so badly that at every commercial break I spent 3 minutes with the MUTE button on going "What the heck was going on there?" And that was the SECOND time I viewed this one.
The writer for this one is the same poor sap who wrote the largely forgettable "Small Worlds" in Series 1. Again, a neat sounding plot that went no where. Some neat scenes and effects, but crappy plot and dialogue. Ending left a bad taste in my mouth. Not because of the resolution of it, but that everybody dissed Jack's decision. But that's a different review.
Same kind of thing happens here though. TW figures out, basically, what's going on and how to stop it and does so. But before the credits can mercifully roll, Jack states what I'd figured out 30 minutes ago - that's probably not the ONLY film the carny goons were on - so TW may have saved the day, but only temporarily. Very unsatisfying.
Julian Bleach, who I understand has a great reputation as an actor, gave a performance that I can only hope was left over characterization from his last role as Frankenstein's monster in a TV movie. It's been predicted that he will play Davros in an upcoming Dr Who and I pray that this is either a mistake, or Davros has no mustache to twirl and much better lines.
And the "mermaid" really needed to go jump in a lake after her very first scene. I mean, I wanted to see her drown just to end the misery. Maybe Owen could have invited her to go swimming? It would have been more entertaining than this "plot" mess.
TW, I love you guys, but please, don't bring this writer back. He sucks. Are you sure he's not an alien sent to bring down the show from the inside out?? Scan him with that singularity scalpel and see if you can zap the bad story-telling out of him.