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Too Much Of Too Little
The Doctor and its companions arrive on a spaceship and ... well anything can happen now kids and it could be a little bit nasty
Maybe we should have had something a little bit nasty going on . Last week saw humans getting consumed by giant spiders so lets see more nasty deaths. Okay maybe not . What I would have hoped for is conviction via the writing and performances but this is something we haven't been getting since Eccleston was the Doctor. Instead we get lots of silliness like a pregnant man , cute CGI monsters and " quirky character moments" where certain death is treated as being on a par as accidentally stepping on toes . Was this being written as it was going along?
Perhaps the most annoying thing is Whittaker's performance . Okay I'll confess I found the idea of a female Doctor as problematic but it could have worked if we had a frosty detached ice maiden . Here we have generic not quite David Tennant in the role where the character has too much dialogue much of which is exposition. It's almost like someone giving a bad impersonation of Tennant
A rather disappointing episode. Here's hoping the rumours of missing episode from the 1960s being found are true and we can finally view what DOCTOR WHO used to be and what it should be today and tomorrow when we're all dead and forgotten
Doctor Who: Arachnids in the UK (2018)
Was This Originally Called "trump Towers" ?
DOCTOR WHO is first and foremost a family friendly horror show. If you want to scare the little ones there are few worst things than big hairy spiders. The show has done this before in 1974 with Planet Of The Spiders , except they had wimpy anorexic bald spiders that wouldn't scare a carol singer . Kill The Moon tried it with spider like bacteria monsters but that episode collapsed with silly science that really jumped the shark . With Arachnids In The UK we almost get a flawless story of out and out horror but the final third blows it
The horror aspects are very well done and this cynical old bloke had to watch from between his fingers with some scenes . When you've got entertainment like this DOCTOR WHO is peerless. The problem is that the production team don't think this is enough so have to introduce morality and satire and do so in a completely heavy handed way it becomes distracting . Why kill the Queen spider by suffocating her in a panic room when you can shoot her ? That's because guns are bad where as suffocating things isn't . Sorry but I don't understand the thinking behind this . Why not include a scene where the spiders are shown to be bullet proof ? That's because politics has to get in the way . Robertson is a parody of American politicians and is so unsubtle it took me out of the drama . Maybe the character could have been female and called Clinton because that'll be someone running for president in 2020. It's not like Hilary and the Democrats are innocent of corporate greed that sets up the story
I'll never miss an episode of DOCTOR WHO as long as I live. The early Chibnall era fills me some hope . The stories are entertaining and very easy to follow unlike the Moffat era and the present Tardis crew are very likable but I do wish if we are getting politics then the politics are hidden within subtext like we had in the classic show. Here the politics are so heavy handed and boorish I thought I was reading a column in The Guardian newspaper
Doctor Who: Rosa (2018)
Brave , But Not Brave Enough
Who says there's no place for politics in Doctor Who ? I think the very first political story in the show happened away back in 1963 with The Dead Planet that pointed out racism and nuclear war are fairly bad ideas all the way through to the Pertwee era with the stories by Malcolm Hulke in to the Hinchcliffe era with Genesis Of The Daleks . Stories that mixed strong narrative with metaphor and allegory . It should be remembered that when NuWho did a sequel of sorts to Genesis we know see the Kaled race as a multi-racial tribe. Hmmm. Obviously some people are confused geo-nationalism with racism so when I heard Doctor Who was doing a historical story featuring Rosa Parks I thought we'd be getting a Guardian newspaper type rant . That said I thought Chibnall and a female Doctor was going to destroy the show and I'm being proved wrong
With Rosa we see a brave story about a brave woman. A pity this courage isn't sustained by the production team . Why bother introducing fantasy elements when the reality is more than dramatic enough ? To be fair when Yaz mentions the P word it's shocking but then we're treated to a line about being called a terrorist when she comes back from mosque . Are Muslim woman allowed to attend mosques with men ? I doubt that
And this touchy feely attitude continues through the episode . All the walk on white characters are without exception racist , though not racist enough . Would they really describe black people as "Negroes" and "Coloureds" ? We all know what word they would be using but it never appears . Controversy is something that producers didn't shy away from in the classic show but here the punches are pulled. We also get a cameo from Martin Luther King who is described as a Baptist minister and this struck me as like the earlier line that the audience are to take the ide of the religious. It should be pointed out that the white racists would also be evangelical Protestants . You might also take on board that even today in the Deep South churches are segregated . If you want to get rid of racism getting rid of God would be a good start
This is a story where the production team want to have their cake and eat it and because of the subject matter it's an episode that's received more acclaim than it probably deserves . Maybe if the production team wanted to really make a statement they could have had a story where a time traveller bible basher tries to eliminate Charles Darwin or Karl Marx , the two men from history who have done more than anyone else to disprove the existence of God , but one laments that would be a Tardis trip too far. Still Rosa is much better than the crass political statements we gt under the Moffat regime
Doctor Who: The Ghost Monument (2018)
By The Numbers
The Doctor and her companions are rescued from certain death in deep space and find themselves on a strange planet
With the exception of the impersonal pro-noun "her" the synopsis above shares a premise with a lot of other NuWho stories , so what's different and unique about this one ? Not much, not much at all . It's a rather light romp involving a race of sorts with the added non bonus of the protagonists in a race to save their own lives. There's not a lot of idiosyncratic quality to the plot and ends up being generic and forgettable. Someone mentioned the opening episode felt like it'd be more at home mid season. This episode feels worse and if you're rebooting a televisual legend it might be worth taking a risk and try and do something special instead of trying to play it safe
Not to be too negative The Ghost Monument has the production values you'd expect to see in a Hollywood movie for the most part and Chibnall deserves great credit for employing Segun Akinola for the incidental music which goes with the great visuals . Unlike Murray Gold you're aware of the mood muzak without it smashing you over the head
Of the cast Bradley Walsh is the stand out member and one starts to think maybe he could have been the Doctor. Whittaker does her best but she's let down by the writing to an extent . Anyone else reminded of David Tennant with her dialogue ? Tosin Cole also tries his hardest and I can see a fair bit of talent but then then silly plot turns such as Ryan using his experience of CALL OF DUTY to save the day takes the audience out of the drama. Unfortunately at this very early stage Yaz as played by Mandip Gill seems to be surplus to requirement and one wonders if the character was created because it ticks the diversity box . The supporting cast namely Malik , Lynch and Dooley give better performances than perhaps a generic forgettable DOCTOR WHO deserves
Light Years Better Than I Expected
Okay I promised myself I wasn't going to get hung up with the female casting of the title role. Considering the utter nonsense we were getting under Moffat the only thing that could make it worse is if Chibnall had cast Bill Cosby in the role , but watching DOCTOR WHO is like supporting a football team that wins the Champions League while getting relegated in the same season. Regardless of the quality I will still watch the episode
And what we got wasn't a new era but a new show, From the opening sequence where Ryan tries and fails to ride a bike we've got something similar to CORONATION ST with monsters . The RTD era was similar in feel but there's a warmth to this type of soap opera feel . The story itself benefits from a large amount of night filming that adds to the atmosphere but the best thing is the incidental music that doesn't jump out and tell what tone the sequence is implying but adds to the visuals. The monster itself is obviously inspired by the PREDATOR movies but it's not really a criticism and did I notice a reference to the Hammer version of QUATERMASS AND THE PIT with a climax set on a crane ? If you're stealing post modernist ideas then steal a good idea
It'll be interesting to see what Whittaker brings to the role but I did find a bit derivative and instantly reminded me of Eccleston probably down to the Northern accent but since we've got a different showrunner we might get a bit of consistency . The Problem with Moffat/Capaldi is that the actor seemed to be playing a different character in each episode which ended degenerating in to the actor playing a different character scene to scene
With this debut episode we're watching something that DOCTOR WHO should be . Simple storytelling involving monsters and other family friendly imagery . There are some flaws , it's slightly manipulative but again it's not a criticism and I'm very hopeful . Of course knowing my luck I'll fall in love with the show all over again then it'll get cancelled. I'll probably have to make the most of this season's curtailed episode count
Hit the Road: Cambodia (2018)
Tragedy In A Tragic Country
A few years ago film maker Gor Baghdasaryan sent me a polite email asking me to review his travelogue film Hit The Road India. A quirky backpacking adventure of sorts but one that felt a little bit empty since it focussed on the protagonists Keith and Nic rather than the country itself . Gor is back as are Keith and Nic . More of the same you ask ?
Somewhat sadly the major flaw of the previous documentary is repeated here . Cambodia ? What's that place name mean to you ? For me it's a country populated by fericous killers in black pyjamas and pink tea towels hell bent if not making everyone equal then at least making the average Kampuchean superior to their hated enemies next door in Vietnam . If you want a potted history of the Khmer Rouge then you'll have to scour youtube, As it stands Hit The Road Cambodia points out that if you're a hungry tourist in Cambodia you can have a nice bowl of fried insects. Yum . And that's about it as far as free advertising for a tourist market goes
Some free sponsorship for a far away exotic land isn't what this documentary is about . In my review of the prior documentary I stated that my own dream trip to India became something of a nightmare . This happens to a lot of travellers . They become the focus of hatred and envy and who isn't going to be jealous of Keith and Nic ? You probably won't after seeing them in action here. Nearly everything that can go wrong does indeed go wrong. What once started as a race becomes quickly forgotten as bad luck crashes in to more bad luck . In other words Keith and Nic become victims of circumstance and if either of them jump to the conclusion that some spiritual being is having a sadistic joke then you can't blame them
In all this is the perfect extension to the previous documentary in that backpacking isn't all hedonistic frivolous fun and games . It's quite gloomy in places and nails how lonely it can be in a far off foreign country. Most of all you should be thankful that at least you've got your health
Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (2017)
Backwards Looking And That's No Bad Thing
One thing you may expect from the Doctor Who Christmas special is that it's probably going to be far from special . Not necessarily a criticism because event television up against an event like Christmas might just cancel itself out so as usual keep things light . Set against the backdrop of the first world war we know we're getting something along the lines of Paul McCartney's song the pipes of peace
This isn't what we got . As someone whose interest in the show has weakened season by season I no longer look up information on upcoming episodes which means this addict of the show comes in to an episode as a casual viewer
What we got was an episode slight on plot but was xompensated as a backwards looking love letter to previous decades of the show which is hugely enjoyable. It doesn't always work of course and while David Bradly fills Hartnell's shoes physically his dialogue is unbecoming of the first Doctor. This sums up the problem of the Moffat era , You could cast Daniel Day Lewis in the lead role and he'd be ineffective in the role due to the writing. What makes this more irritating is how good Capaldi is in this episode and once again you're struck how good the Capaldi era could have been. Once again a lost opportunity . Not to be negative as a fan I understood all the in jokes and thoroughly enjoyed the nostalgia bordering on meta-fiction
And so we enter a new era for the show . With Chibnall we will probably get traditional linear storytelling with a non traditional -- that is a female - lead in the role as The Doctor . Now the shock of the casting from Summer has worn off I'm not as pessimistic as I was so here's to the future of DOCTOR WHO , the greatest show in the universe
For me a film directed by Darren Aronofsky is very much event cinema and much of my admiration for him is the way he divides critics. He is a director with unlimited talent and absolutely no shame and for that alone he deserves much credit . On the surface MOTHER! seems to be a mystery drama involving a home invasion of sorts. However the way both the critics and the mainstream audience have reacted to its release gives a clue that you're not going to be seeing a mainstream thriller. We are after all watching a film by Aronofsky
One vocal criticism is that MOTHER! drowns in its own obsession with metaphor and allegory. Again this shouldn't be taken as a negative point. For much of the early part of the film we have something not too far removed from other home invasion movies where a couple take in a stranger and the stranger isn't who they seem. The plot turns start coming very thick and fast and before you know it the film has mutated in to something else very quickly
There's a downside to all this and that is that it stops being in anyway realistic . Okay you can excuse Javier Bardam's "Him" naive stupidity in order to set up the story but there has to be a limit and Aronofsky doesn't do limits so you have been warned
One gets the feeling that it's an extension of the director's previous film NOAH where these nasty human beings are destroying mother Earth but equally you can jump to the conclusion that it's a metaphor for America under the Trump presidency. Of course the production dates make this very unlikely but the constant conflict between Mother and Him as to letting strangers in to the house does strike a cord and perhaps in the future this film will be remembered as a social comment on America in the early 21st Century ? It's certainly a memorable film regardless of your politics and it's a movie that will take you a long time to work out if it's memorable in a good or bad way
The State (2017)
Scum Of The Earth Portrayed As Naive Wretched Of The Earth
I was looking forward to this. World headlines over the last few years have catalogued the continuing terrorist atrocities of Daesh (ISIS) against the West but how much does the average Westerner understand the Hell on Earth created by ISIS in their self styled Caliphate where at one point 8 million human beings lived under their theocratic jackboot . ISIS portrayed themselves as heroic defenders of the Sunni faith and with the Shia majority in Iraq and Shia minority in Syria making things difficult for the average Sunni in these two countries ISIS was quickly seen as Sunni saviours hence innocent men , women and their children flocked to this new found society. Very quickly the inhabitants found out that while they weren't going to be tortured and murdered for being Sunnis they could be tortured and murdered for countless other reasons such as smoking cigarettes or rejecting forced marriage
If nothing else I had hoped THE STATE would show this misery to a wider audience but my heart started sinking that it was written and directed by Peter Kosminsky , a writer/director of social issues and current affairs I once had a lot of respect for but who blew it by making a "Based on a true story" drama called NO CHILD OF MINE. As it turned out the "truth" involved a composite character whose ordeal of child sex abuse was on a constant daily basis by literally every adult she knew and it quickly stopped becoming real in any way and was pulled by several regional broadcasters at the last moment . This obscene sensationalism might have destroyed other film makers careers but since Kosminsky is the type of broadcaster lauded by the Islington dinner party mob it didn't hurt his career in the slightest, Nevertheless I gave THE STATE a chance because I have visited the Middle East a couple of times and you can't give a dog like ISIS a bad enough name but even so I wasn't expecting much
As it turned out THE STATE didn't even meet my low expectations. It's produced as a "disillusionment drama" but does not work on any dramatic or factually logical level . Set in 2015 a handful of Brits head to Syria to live in the caliphate. Let's think about this for a moment . In 2015 the ISIS stronghold had been established for a year and daily horror stories had made world headlines , not least aid workers , journalists and prisoners of war being beheaded . It seems these thinly written cyphers must be the only people in the Universe who are unaware of the barbarity of ISIS. Oh and one of these idealists off to fight for ISIS just happens to be a white former squaddie from Scotland. As one of the characters points out "He might be a spy" and this is why ISIS wouldn't be accepting Western former soldiers with combat experience , though of course the Kurds of the YPG and Peshmerga would accept him . Indeed several hundred brave and noble Westerners , some with military experience , some without have fought in the various Kurdish militias and some of them have paid the ultimate price for their courage in fighting for radical democracy in a region of the World needing democratic values
Kosminsky claims he went to extensive lengths in interviewing former ISIS fighters. I don't doubt he did but you have to ask yourself if a former Jihadist is capable of telling the truth. Put it this way - if you've spent a couple of years breaking every international military and humanitarian law and are now in a jail somewhere are you really going to tell the truth that you've been raping kids and murdering civilians ? The induction for ISIS 2014-17 involves the mass murder of captured prisoners , a fact easily researchable via Google. This fact isn't propaganda. To watch THE STATE you'd think these Jihadists naively joined Daesh in the same way someone naively volunteered to operate the gas chambers at Nazi death camps , and like Nuremberg no one denied that genocide and mass atrocities had taken place "but I personally wasn't responsible for any of that" Yeah right
As I write this in the late Summer of 2017 the self styled caliphate of ISIS is about to become extinct and consigned to history. Hopefully the career of Peter Kosminsky in about to follow suit and if you want to educate yourself on the horrors of theocracy please read up on it via the countless articles and books on the subject and give this ridiculous so called drama a miss
Well Made But Frustrating Calling Card
Neill Blomkamp ? Hey I remember him . He shocked the cinematic world with his exciting sci-fi thriller DISTRICT 9 that combined action with biting satire. He then directed a couple of flops which means Blomkamp is now known as "Hey I remember him .He directed DISTRICT 9 all these years ago"
With ZYGOTE one wonders if Blomkamp is trying to put himself in the shop window as in "Look I can make an effective hard hitting sci-fi horror movie" and indeed he can. The monster itself is derivative visually owing elements to John W Campbell's WHO GOES THERE and the works of Clive Barker but as far as imagery goes it's a superbly designed monster that is guaranteed to make your flesh creep
!!!!! SUGGESTIVE SPOILER !!!!
The fundamental problem with ZYGOTE is that it is not self contained in anyway . Imagine you're watching the most compelling DOCTOR WHO story ever made with the scariest monster in the Universe when all of a sudden there's a power cut. That's how the story is structured. It starts off sudden and ends even more suddenly. You'll be frustrated and you're left with the cynical feeling the director is asking for funds to film another 70 minutes of screen time . If Blomkamp gets his wish does this mean everyone who has commentated on this site get cheap tickets for the feature length ZYGOTE ?
Zona hostil (2017)
Interesting Foreign War Film
In Afghanistan a joint Spanish American patrol is ambushed. A rescue helicopter crashlands at the site. Back at base the commanding officer decides not to destroy the helicopter on the grounds that it could be used in a propaganda coup by the Taliban so tells the patrol commander to sit tight and set up a perimeter at the crash site where the grounded helicopter and patrol will all be evacuated the next day. As it turns out the Taliban are preparing to over run the perimeter and by morning there may be no one left alive to evacuate
I had RESCUE UNDER FIRE down as some sort of feminist girly type of movie since we're quickly introduced to a couple of female characters. This isn't really how the film plays out. Instead we have a rather traditional type of tale similar in some ways to how LONE SURVIVOR played out with a small team of Western soldiers trapped by the Taliban or to make a further allusion a bunch of homesteaders surrounded by Injuns . You've no doubt seen all this before but what the film does do well is draw you in to the action and create tension. It also helps that being a Spanish film with a Spanish cast the faces were unknown to me so I could easily buy in to these being real people in a real conflict with Jacobo Dicenta totally convincing as Sgt Agullar
Just in case you're wondering why NATO didn't just extract the troops , bomb the copter and have a press conference sinking any Taliban claims that it was shot down by the Taliban I wonder why they didn't do that either . Same I'm puzzled why NATO didn't have constant press conferences saying they're delivering medical aid to countless civilians while the Taliban were raping boys and throwing acid in the face of unveiled women .
More Of A Walk Than A War
Their stronghold attacked by humans where several apes are taken prisoner Caesar leads a posse to defeat the humans in their own stronghold
I can't say I'm a fan of this Apes reboot. Okay the Cap-Mo brought to life by Andy Serkis and others is impressive and unlike the original film franchise the apes don't look like Homo Sapiens wearing monkeys masks that were bought from the nearest fancy dress shop. That is sadly the only aspect of the reboot beats the originals. The originals had a deranged quality that had you convinced it'd be impossible to bring out a sequel but not only brought out a sequel but even managed to develop key point plots seen in earlier films. Just to repeat I'm not a fan of this Ape reboot but still caught WFTPOTA to see how things panned out though expectations were far from high
These low expectations were just about met but even so I still felt the film could have been much better. The main flaw is that Caesar and the other apes are the focus of the story. Yeah I know we're supposed to sympathise with the simians but who'd you rather run in to during a nice nature ramble ? Would it be another human being or a monkey with a machine gun ? Yeah exactly . There's also a limited amount of drama you can wring out of monkeys on horseback and almost an hour of chimpanzee characters riding about on horseback gets very boring very quickly . Then when the human antagonists make an appearance you're instantly struck that the film's trump card - Woody Harrelson as the nameless Colonel - hasn't featured enough. Make no mistake Harrelson is by far the best thing about the movie and leads to this latest- last ? - instalment is something of a disappointment in a trilogy that has been disappointing
Made Me Proud To Be British
Christopher Nolan ? Someone is rather over-hyped in my opinion. He's a director who often reverts to gimmicks in order to sell a movie. Woul MOMENTO have worked in a completely linear structure ? Would INCEPTION have worked without the groundbreaking special effects . Would THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy have worked without the ready made audience for a BATMAN reboot ? To be fair at least with a Nolan movie the film sells itself and with DUNKIRK there's always the problem that a film like this is going flop big time due to the fact that it involves a military defeat of sorts which is box office poison along with the fact that British stiff upper lips don't translate very well to an international audience. In other words I didn't have exceptional hopes for DUNKIRK but even I have to admit this film really delivers and it's all down to the director
If you've seen the trailers you know you're going to be watching cinematic spectacle and that's what you're getting . What the trailers don't convey is the oppressive and hypnotic soundtrack by Hans Zimmer which will grab you from the first scene. It's intrusive for sure and crushing but adds to the tension. Make no mistake this is a masterwork in tension . The fractured storyline concerns itself with three distinct sections . One involves the dilemma of the aptly named British soldier Tommy , one involves a RAF fighter patrol over the channel and the final storyline involves a civilian boating expedition to the Dunkirk beaches . These story lines are developed and edited superbly . One storyline is structured so ends on a cliffhanger cut to another storyline ending to a cliffhanger then cut to the dilemma being resolved but is really a case of out of the frying pan in to the fire
What also makes DUNKIRK noticeable and sets it apart from other recent war films is the lack of star power . Yeah okay we've got familiar faces like Hardy , Rylance , Murphy and Brannagh but it's the unknowns and up and coming actors like Whitehead , Barnard and Lowdon who carry the film and helps you buy in to the real life situations these characters are experiencing. It's refreshing that we don't get to see a name actor like Pitt or Cruise turn up to save the day complete with colonial accent . Despite the heart stopping tension and carnage constantly grinding the audience down there's also a distinct lack of gore and "war porn" which is also refreshing
One biting criticism the film seems guilty of is that it's somewhat cold and aloof with a lack of backstory to the characters lack development. I can understand these points but as I said this film is all about heart pounding tension. One also concludes that there's expressionistic elements in that the characters are shocked by what looks like nihilistic inevitable defeat and this is conveyed to the audience Imagine if Spielberg had directed it where sentimental clichés are to the fore , some soldier pulling out a photograph of his pregnant wife saying how much he loves her and the audience knowing there and then he's not going to make it the end credits. Here however you're thrown in to the cockpit of Collin's Spitfire , of Mr Dawson's small boat or being stuck in a sinking ship with Tommy
If there's one thing I regret after seeing this film it's that I didn't watch it in a proper IMAX cinema. I was left gasping at some of the scenes thinking "How could this scene be possibly be better ?" but a couple of days later after I've calmed down I do think not watching it on a proper IMAX screen has been a major mistake and I hope anyone reading this doesn't make the same mistake because DUNKIRK mixes spectacle with distressing personal dilemmas. Some people class the real life evacuation of Dunkirk as a defeat for the allies while other like myself class it as a "Victory grabbed from the jaws of defeat". Regardless of this opinion DUNKIRK is a victory of filmmaking . Filmmaking that made me bloody proud to be British
Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls (2017)
A Slight Let Down After Last Week
Not often I lavish praise on a Moffat produced NuWho story but credit is due after last weeks instant classic. The only thing is how are you going to follow that up in order to maintain the momentum ? One problem with the previous season of DOCTOR WHO was that the stories were composed of two parters which when watched consecutively failed to gel as solid narratives. This season's weak point was the Monk trilogy which was effectively three different stories whose only common link was having the same race of villains
To be fair to Moffat and co. the story does hang together as an extension to last week. Unfortunately it's the plotting that lets things down . A homestead of humans hold out against "scarecrows" coming back to life. Would it not be a better idea just chopping their arms and legs off instead of shooting them then chaining them up hoping they don't come back to life ? There's also countless Moffat tropes such as child characters - something the show 1963-89 managed to do without - a companion converted in an unfeeling machine not realising what they've become and the dreaded reboot button . Add to this the drawn out will he/won't he regenerate which becomes so drawn out it ends up being cynical and irritating instead of dramatic in anyway
Credit to where credit is due though and this is by far the most satisfying Moffat finale. The story is easy to follow. The cast are on fine form and Simm as cemented himself as my second favourite Mater behind Roger Delgado, Very special praise must go to Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts. When I heard the new companion was going to be a black lesbian I thought "Political correctness gone mad" but as Bill Potts she has been absolutely superb except when the writing feels the need the need to point out she's either black or gay and let's hope more roles beckon for this previously unknown actress. Capaldi is also good but much of his unlimited potential has been let down by poor writing where his persona changes from story to story and I for one has felt his entire era has been sabotaged by inconsistent writing
So one more Christmas special and then it's goodbye to Capaldi and Moffat and hello to Chibnall and a new actor playing the Doctor . Yes that's ACTOR and not ACTRESS . Oh and no more timey-wimey rubbish . And no more everyone lives and ....and...and...and
Doctor Who: World Enough and Time (2017)
The Danger Of Promotion
The viewing figures of DOCTOR WHO have been falling. Don't believe me ? Well go and research the viewing figures. Better still compare them with the RTD/Tennant era and you'll see that for a show constantly making the top ten shows for that week it's now in danger of slipping out of the top 30. The buzz that the show once had where you'd overhear strangers talking about the show on the bus or down the pub has long gone. What is left for the BBC to reverse this ? There's only one thing that's left and that is to launch a massive counter-offensive featuring trailer in between every other BBC show broadcast. Even in the halcyon days when the nation fell in love with David Tennant I don't think I've seen so much promotion. If nothing else it does show that the BBC still has faith in DOCTOR WHO
The problem ? It effectively kills one of the greatest pieces of NuWho ever produced. Make no mistake even this hardcore reactionary fan of classic Who was blown away by what I've just witnessed but because of the promotion it gave a little bit too much away which lessened the impact. We know The Master as played by John Simms is returning so when Zathras Razor turns up it's very easy to second guess who his real identity is before the shock revelation. Patients in bandages sit in a hospital ward. We know where this heading. Bill is shot dead and is taken away by bandaged figures. We know where this heading . We know what this dying planet is and the fate of the inhabitants and what the shock plot turns are. Make no mistake these are shock plot turns that surpass the cliffhanger of say episode one of Earthshock in 1982 or the Dalek/Cybermen ending of Army Of Ghosts and if I hadn't known any of this in advance I'd consider this the greatest piece of NuWho. If Moffat can come up with something as wonderful as this then why has he been serving up so much dross over the years ? If the production team can come up with something as wonderful as this on a consistent basis then the BBC wouldn't have to promote the show because the word of mouth would have kept the show in the hearts and minds of Mr , Mrs . Ms and Master Joe Public. Let's hope Moffat can carry on the momentum for next week and the Christmas special
Der 3. Weltkrieg (1998)
I popped down to see a couple of friends Danny and Sarah - a short time ago. I did mention to my hostess Sarah that if she ever wanted to terrify herself she should look up astrophysics on the internet and see what horrors the Universe has in store for this tiny speck of a planet. Things like gamma ray bursts and asteroid strikes. Sarah replied that she'd hope she die very quickly in those events which is probably the best anyone can hope for. Considering that my hosts are like most most of my friends half my age I went in to morbid nostalgia mode where as a teenager in the 1980s the youth of today don't know how lucky they are compared to then. There was constant films and documentaries made about thermal-nuclear conflict and the old cliché of "The lucky ones died first" and the world has changed beyond all recognition with Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) no longer a constant threat. This mockumentary from 1998 is a scary reminder of what might have been
!!!!SUGGESTIVE SPOILERS !!!!
The premise is something you've seen before. In 1989 liberal reformer in the Soviet Union ( Gorbachev) is overthrown and a hardline communist (Soshkin) leads the Politburo. Civil unrest in East Germany reaches crisis point and the Red Army brutally quells the protests. Within a few months tensions escalate between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. In February 1990 the first shots are fired in the North Atlantic as the Soviets impose a blockade against sea-lanes. Two weeks later the Soviets invade West Germany . Making slow headway Warsaw Pact forces manage to penetrate 50 miles but are then quickly pushed back as NATO technology and superior mobility wins through. By the end of the month NATO have reached Berlin and both sides are in a dilemma as to what to do next ?
What fascinated me about this speculative scenario is the conventional conflict rather than what might come next. Since this was produced in 1998 there's both more information available due to post cold war declassification and what is known about Soviet tactics and equipment. No one was saying it out loud at the time but Western analysts in the 1980s considered the Soviets unbeatable due their massive manpower and the fact that no matter how bloody a war is they don't have to answer to an electorate. The ill fated escapade in Afghanistan and the later Russian debacle against the Chechens showed the myth of Soviet power as being what it was - a myth. Add to this well trained Western forces against larger Arab armies equipped with Soviet material in various Israeli-Arab conflicts and two Gulf wars shows that quantity isn't always better than quality
The mockumentary uses extensive newsreel footage that you can often recognise such as footage from Khe Sahn in 1968 , the Falklands Conflict from 1982 and the first Gulf War in 1991. Much of the footage that you won't recognise unless you've had military experience comes from NATO training films and unless you didn't know better you'd think it was specially shot for the mockumentary . If there's a problem it's that it's yet another scenario where the Soviets are the aggressors and because of the ending all internal logic of what we've been watching has been ignored. Still it's a window on the world we used to live in during this period where as nowadays dying of boredom is more likely than being vaporized in a Nuclear attack
Boxcar Bertha (1972)
Does No One Love Scorsese Then ?
It took me a very long time to finally watch BOXCAR BERTHA. The prime reason for this is simply because it's hard to find. I can't recall it ever being broadcast on television and I'm including obscure cable channels and not just network television. I can't recall it being available on DVD either or being shown in the filmhouse , Edinburgh's foremost art-house cinema. Strangely it is not held in high regard by people who have seen it and it's shocking to see it has an average rating of 6.1 on this site. If there's a film by Scorsese that can be described as "forgotten" this might just be it. How can a film by this great American auteur be forgotten ?
Ah I can see why some people might hold it in relatively low regard. The 70s was a zenith for American film making and perhaps only classic Hollywood beats this era. This is an era where "movie brats" came along and made films about angry young people take on the world single handed and anyone who has ever been young and/or angry will recognise the wish fufillment that drives the central narrative of these movies. The downside is that BOXCAR BERTHA is drowned slightly by the films surrounding it. You're often reminded of similar films such as BONNIE AND CLYDE and BADLANDS. If there;s a difference it's that the characters are maybe a little bit too Robin Hood in that they'd never think of robbing the poor and that they're far more sinned against rather than sinners
Some people have stated that it's more like a Corman movie than a Scorsese one. I can understand this complaint and it's obvious that the budget is limited but don't forget this is character driven which has always appealed to Marty and while there's lots of incident it doesn't really have much in the way of a core central plot, Can you see Scorsese making a film featuring a mindbending plot ala Christopher Nolan ? Me neither so this type of story is ready made for Scorsese. It's also far more enjoyable than much of Scorsese's latter output where he tries too hard such as GANGS OF NY or his spiritual movies like KUNDUN and SILENCE. In short BOXCAR BERTHA is a film for people who want to live fast and die young but never got round to it
Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light (2017)
These Eaters Are Very Slight
The Doctor , Bill and that bloke from SHOOTING STARS travel to Scotland circa AD 120 and find that the Picts and the 9th Roman Legion are being stalked by an alien monster
Don't come in to this episode if you're your aware of history because unlike the good old days of the William Hartnell era where the themes of history and science were respected but I never go in to a NuWho episode expecting my knowledge of science or history to be expanded and this episode came hyped by the fact that the writer Rona Munro has passed in to legend as being the very last person to have written for DOCTOR WHO 1963-89 with Survival
Ooops. With hindsight the alarm bells should have been ringing because if you're hyping up an upcoming episode due to who wrote it rather than the content and the content is slight to say the very least. A dragon type of monster thingy is roaming the glens of Caledonia eating Picts and Romans alike and instead of developing this angle more the cardboard characters sit around discussing things like sexuality. As I said I'm not expecting accurate history but despite the Roman Empire being very diverse indeed Roman Legions weren't a pick and mix regiment as seen here , it'd be a Spanish regiment in the case of the 9th . The thinking behind this is the Romans would be worried about their Legions joining the other side if rebellions broke out so they'd send a Spanish Legion to Scotland and say send a Hungarian regiment to Spain. Likewise the Picts weren't "An early Celtic race" and what very little is known about them is that they didn't speak an Indo-European language which indicates they're not Celts . Did I say I didn't watch this as a history lesson ? Maybe not but surely it's possible to fuse drama with accurate history ?
As for the drama itself what lets the episode down is that it's pretty obvious the young cast have not long graduated from drama school and you're aware you're watching very inexperienced actors playing parts in a television show . We shouldn't be too hard on them because the material is very light and empty and seems more concerned with The Guardian inspired diversity rather than solid involving drama. It's the scene in the Tardis at the end the episode will be remembered for rather than the scenes in Bonnie Scotland
Deadman Apocalypse (2016)
Thinking Outside The Box
According to the IMDb trivia section this film has a budget of £1,500. If nothing else at least the budget is up there on screen by being filmed inside a couple of elongated crates. Yes that's right elongated crates.
At least the producers are trying to do something a little bit different involving a British apocalypse , one that doesn't involve zombies in a 28 DAYS LATER rip off. Any admiration quickly becomes diluted down to the fact that nothing else about the production works. It's more of an adult fairy-tale rather than any type of apocalyptic adventure. This doesn't stop the narrative suffering from some quite ridiculous plot holes that defy the laws of science and logic . Example you ask ? How are you able to grow sustainable food crops underground out of sunlight. Yes some people have reverted to cannibalism but surely people would die from scurvy or be crippled by rickets ? Going back to the adult fairy-tale aspect everyone seems to speak in theatrical purple prose delivered in a manner you hear Russell Crowe speak when he's cast as a Briton. This is made worse by the painful fact the cast aren't up to it. I'm guessing the cast were employed due to their go-karting skills more than anything else ?
As I said the producers deserve some credit for taking £1,500 and making a movie, Not only that but they've refused to do the obvious zombie apocalypse spiel so favoured by others and have instead tried to do something different. Here's hoping they learn from their mistakes
A former boxer with promise returns to his old stomping ground on the mean streets of London hoping for one last chance of success
Stop me if you've heard this one before but .... what you stopped me as soon as I came to this page? Fair enough. JAWBONE is a traditional type of gritty drama of a washed out boxer trying to get his life back on track. If you're expecting the big budget feel good Hollywood factor try somewhere else because this is a gloomy British movie
Actually this is maybe a little bit too gloomy. It's got that British independent feel. It's well made where the social realism shines through but it's not a film where you walk out of the cinema clicking your heels. On top of that unlike a lot of boxing films you've seen from ROCKY to RAGING BULL director Thomas Napper ensures that if you're hit with a high velocity fist then it will hurt and cut you
One minor complaint is that some people be fooled in to watching a film starring Winstone and McShane and there can't be a single movie in Britain who doesn't love these two legends but the reality is their parts are minor with McShane literally appearing in one walk on scene . Instead it's Johnny Harris as boxer Jimmy and Michael Smiley who carry the film. Smiley in particular is very good but the story is one you've seen before
Doctor Who: Empress of Mars (2017)
A Good Story That Should Have Been Better
The Doctor and co land on Mars in 1881 only to find an alien invasion is taking place on the planet. This time it's the Martian Ice Warriors who are the victims of human expansionism. Whose side will the Doctor choose ?
I was looking forward to this episode mainly down to last weeks trailer. A unit of British redcoats taking on Ice Warriors. Looked great but I did have reservations. DOCTOR WHO meets ZULU ! Too good to be true and it's highly unlikely we're going to see an up and coming working class actor from London coming out with "Stop firing these sonic lazers at me" There's also the expectation that there will be a large amount of grief whoring on the part of the BBC where an on screen apology for the British Empire will be given out at every opportunity
!!!! MILD SPOILERS !!!!
To be fair to Mark Gattiss he really knows what a lot of fans like . Scary bulletproof monsters in a fight to the death with human soldiers . For some of us this is what we grew up with from the show. One great thing this story brings to DOCTOR WHO folklore is the new Ice Warrior sonic gun which crumples its victims in to a ball. Much better than what could be achieved by the effects team in the 1960s and 70s. It's also a very nice surprise to see the story end with a cameo from a long forgotten character voiced by the original actress
The problem is despite Empress Of Mars being traditional and enjoyable it still could have been better. Plot holes are evident such the commanding officer being revealed to have been hung for desertion but for some reason still remains a serving officer. It's more incomprehensible when another character claims he's the only one who knows about the execution. Wouldn't this execution go through a chain of command ? There's also a large element of telling instead of showing. Similar themed stories from the 1970s were infinitely better at this because they had more time to develop and this would have worked better as a two part story , especially compared to the preceding three weeks of nothing we had with the Monks. Finally there's an element of hypocritical politics where it's pointed out it'd be impossible for a woman to be in the police force but apparently mixed marriages were common enough in 1881 Britain that no one would blink an eyelid
In summary this is one of the better episodes of the season but as with so much of the Capaldi era there's a strong feeling it cold have been a bit better
Complex But Not Entirely Confident
In one of my intermittent conversations with IMDb legend Bob The Moo he recommended a 2016 South Korean film THE HANDMAIDEN. Having total faith in Bob I did make a mental note of getting round to seeing it when I had some spare time. As with any recommendation I also made a mental note of not looking up the recommendation for obvious reasons. After all I did look up a couple of early online reviews of THE MUMMY earlier today and let's just say they let the cat out of the bag. It's hardly a surprise when a film is ruined because surprise is given away. The only thing I knew in advance before seeing THE HANDMAIDEN was that the director was Park Chan-wook who made the overrated OLDBOY which reminded of something else - Bob also once recommended me THE FOUNTAIN , a film I thought was pretentious rubbish
Park is something of an auteur. Revenge is a theme that intrigues him as a film maker but not in the way Hollywood would develop a revenge thriller where Bruce , Arnie , Sly or Chuck would wreak revenge on creeps via an arsenal of firearms and explosives and I'm not entirely sure if that's a compliment. By the same token it's not necessarily a complaint either but I did feel the narrative execution could have been developed better. There might be a problem in that the original source novel was set in Victorian Britain rather than 1930s Korea but I don't think it's that. What I found annoying was the constant need for characters explaining what is happening which is usually obvious and why it's happening when it's not obvious at the time but becomes obvious later on. It's certainly a complex film where objects that seem meaningless make reappearances as plot turns. Also as with OLDBOY there's a somewhat sleazy story which the audience will find divisive
One thing that will never , ever shake my faith in Bob The Moo is that he knows a great looking film when he sees one. I might have hated the fractured storyline of THE FOUNTAIN but at least Aronofsky understands what cinematography is, even if he takes it to excess. With THE HANDMAIDEN director Park and cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon have made a stunning looking film which while I was sitting in front of a laptop in a smoky Edinburgh flat made me think I was either walking around rural Japan or stuck in a Japanese mansion with a bunch of deviants, Another good aspect is the editing which gives the film a pace that can't be faulted especially compared to the average Hollywood movie. There is one technical aspect I found irritating and that was the intrusive music but again this is very subjective
It's certainly the visuals that impressed me with this movie , the story less so. Or should I say how the story is executed. As I said the story itself is rather complex but the constant need to spell things out shows a painful lack of confidence
Doctor Who: The Lie of the Land (2017)
Hey the Earth is under an alien jackboot and the Doctor is absolutely powerless to overthrow the oppressors! Haven't I seen this before ? Yes I have ten years ago in a three episode story that climaxed in The Last Of The Time Lords which didn't set the world alight
The Monks trilogy is similarly weak in that it doesn't really feel like a cohesive three part story . Worst of all is the final episode that sets the scene but you're left with feeling of time having passed. For example the Monks have ruled over humanity for several months but you feel the story has jumped in to another adventure in the space of the week . I know it's very difficult to portray a convincing time-frame in a weekly episodic drama but even so you'd think the production would have tried better
In my comments of the previous episode I said I was reminded of The Claws Of Axos and the homage continues in that the Doctor might have joined the other side. Again this doesn't really work because we know the Doctor so well and he'd rather die than compromise. The main subtext revolves around fake news and media propaganda but it's done in such an obvious manner it doesn't qualify as latent in anyway . On top of that everything is resolved far too easily in a NuWho manner we have seen too often which means that despite the season getting off to a fairly impressive start the last three weeks has been something of a waste
The Claws Of Pyramids
A Pyramid appears from nowhere and Earth's military forces are powerless to stop a countdown to the end of the world
This reminded me in some ways of the 1971 story The Claws of Axos where an alien race offer a solution to Mankind's problem but you know there's going to be a catch. Axos isn't considered an especially good story from the period but the reason I liked it was because Michael Ferguson directed the script with directorial flourish and imagination. Here with this 2017 episode director Daniel Nettheim just brings a journeyman style to the proceedings. To be fair to all the directors who have worked on the show DOCTOR WHO isn't really something to bring in auteur aspects but even so I do wish directors would try and bring an element of risk and their own hallmark to the stories
Narrative wise Pyramids is no great shakes and if you're an old school fan like me you'll be irritated how NuWho works . The UN call on "President Doctor" who turns up spouts innumerable lines giving away plot mechanics and exposition and more often than not the problem is easily resolved , too easily in fact . There's also the gut instinct that the Monks feature in a three episode story that will almost certainly have been better told as one 45 minute episode . Time will tell but there's a feeling here that the season is deteriorating slightly after a fairly good low key start
Alien: Covenant (2017)
Is It Really A Sequel/Prequel To Anything ?
I must be one of the few people who thoroughly enjoyed PROMETHEUS. It was a visually stunning film so much so that most of its flaws didn't matter. The only downside was that Scott and co seemed to forget it was a prequel to ALIEN and shoehorned that element into the narrative at a very late stage. Okay it led to more questions than answers but at least with ALIEN COVENANT some fundamental answers would be answered
!!!! MILD SPOILERS !!!!
The unforgivable thing about AC is that it effectively deletes PROMETHEUS as if it never existed in the first place . You want o know who the Engineers are ? You want to know why they hate the Human race ? Then you'll be none the wiser because of a very brief segment that writes them out of the story. Instead AC concentrates on being an ALIEN film of sorts . I say "of sorts" because it does feel like a fairly generic sci-fi action horror where the aliens could be any type of monsters killing a bunch of cardboard cut-outs
Characterisation is a problem. Plenty of people hated ALIEN 3 but even if the characters were all one note at least they still came across as real characters. Even with PROMETHEUS there was a relatively broad range of characters where as with AC we get a limited bunch of American characters. An early 22nd Century space expedition ? Shouldn't there be some Indians , Chinese and Brazilians present reflecting near future geo-politics. The story doesn't focus on development unless the character is an android. It's also a bitter fact that any surprises involving plot twists have been given away in the trailers
In short ALIEN COVENENT is a bitter disappointment . This disappointment is compounded by the fact that Hollywood has upped their game where action blockbusters are concerned . Both KONG SKULL ISLAND and LIFE I found to be fairly impressive. The fundamental problem with ALIEN CONVENANT is that it's cynically marketed. On its own it is a mildly diverting , visually impressive film in parts but as an ALIEN film in general and a sequel to PROMETHEUS in particular it falls short