Saturday, April 29, 2006

Who Review: School Reunion

Episode three was another strong entry in David Tennant’s run, although not quite up there with last week’s season highlight of ‘Tooth and Claw’. The much-publicised return of Sarah Jane Smith and K9 was a nice addition to what was already a neat little story (aliens called the Krillitane have taken over the local school and are using the children to calculate something known as the Skasis Paradigm which will enable them to “control the very building-blocks of the universe!”) The episode was evenly-paced and the characters had enough room to have a little fun amidst all the chaos and mayhem. The most touching scene came at the end when Sarah Jane implored the Doctor to say goodbye this time, to finally give her “closure”. It’s scenes like this which make the new Doctor Who a success for me. There’s real emotion, real sentiment, on the screen and that’s always a good thing.
I have to say that so far in season two, Rose seems a little ‘lost’. The first series was very much told from her point of view - she held centre stage as much as the Doctor himself. But this time around she hasn’t shown any of the traits which made us like her in the first season. I know it’s early days and there’s bound to be much more character-oriented episodes later, but I do wonder if Rose’s character has enough mileage to survive into a third season. I understand that there’s much debate about her staying or leaving at the end of this run, something which the series producers are happy to keep a mystery, but I have a feeling that Rose may not just leave at the end of season two, but die in some spectacular Doctor Who-type way that will no doubt be very moving. Then again, I may live to eat those words.
I’m really looking forward to the two-parters coming our way - the TWO Cybermen double episodes, and the Impossible Planet/Satan Pit sounds very intriguing. It’ll be nice to see if the programme-makers can achieve the heights of last year’s 'Empty Child/Doctor Dances' as well as matching, or hopefully outdoing, the season finale. So far, though, Tennant’s Doctor is growing on me with each episode, and if I remember rightly, I wasn’t that sure of Ecclestone’s Doctor until the fifth episode, ‘Dalek’, aired last year, when I realised how good the new series could be.
Can’t wait for next Saturday. Oh! for my very own Tardis!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Who Review: Tooth and Claw

The second episode of Doctor Who was a much more satisfying adventure than last week’s “New Earth”. It had all the great Who elements: a scary monster which isn’t just a monster but an alien force; an instantly-recognisable historical figure (Queen Victoria played with great panache by Pauline Collins); lots of running; lots of screaming; and, of course, warrior monks! The story was also well-paced, not rushed or overstuffed like the first episode. Everything blended together (even the CGI werewolf was good) to produce what could be one of the best episodes so far - including series one.
Tennant and Piper sparked off each other well, and I loved how we saw their mischievous humour regarding time-travel was turned on its head at the end when Queen Victoria gave them a right royal telling-off - no, she was definitely NOT amused.
One thing that left me wondering was the resurgence of the “Bad Wolf” enigma. I’m sorry, I thought that was all answered at the end of the first series? Wasn’t Bad Wolf simply a message scattered through time by the Time Vortex, or whatever it was, to enable Rose to save the Doctor? Or did I completely misconstrue that? Probably. Anyway, there are enough seeds of mystery being sown in this series already, what with The Face of Boe’s promise to impart some great “Truth” when he and the Doctor meet again, and Billie Piper’s even more enigmatic declaration that we will have to wait and see what happens to her character in the final episode to truly know if Rose is going to continue as the Doctor’s assistant.
I canna wait…

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Desert Island DVDs

Here are just a handful of movies I would have to have on a desert island...

The first time I saw this movie I was eleven years old, and I was so knocked out I couldn’t believe what I’d seen, and had to go back the next night to watch it again. From that cool opening stanza to the set-piece-laden last third, I was in movie heaven. Even now it still gives me tingles. And Harrison never looked cooler. I still think it’s Spielberg’s most satisfying movie and not even the magnificent sequels can match it for raw energy.
Favourite Line: “It’s not the years, honey - it’s the mileage.”
Favourite Scene: Boulder-Dash!

This movie came along at a time when I was feeling pretty disenchanted with the movies and life in general. I’d always been a Tim Burton fan, but, like many people, this was one film I avoided on its initial release. I finally caught it on Moviedrome some years later and was absolutely blown away. I watched it over and over for weeks afterwards. As well as echoing feelings in my own life it also enchanted me with its wonderful characters and the crazy world they inhabited. Forget Burton’s big blockbuster mulch - this is his best film yet. Martin Landau deservedly won an Oscar for his bravura portrayal of Lugosi. Burton should have won, too. Bliss.
Favourite Line: “Right, let’s shoot this f***er!”
Favourite Scene: Pull the string!

This film just makes me laugh from start to finish. The chemistry of the characters (particularly DeNiro and Grodin) is just sublime, but even supporting characters like Marvin Dorffler are a treat. It may be foul-mouthed, but the sheer joy of it all makes it inconsequential. DeNiro brings great weight to what is essentially a formula buddy-buddy road movie and the quality of the acting raises the whole movie to another level. Director Martin Brest hasn’t done anything as good since, and come to think of it, neither has DeNiro. A couple of sequels were made for cable TV but without any of the original cast - but forget them. This is the real deal.
Favourite Line: “You’re gonna be suffering from fistophobia.”
Favourite Scene: Pilot?!! You’re a goddamn pilot?

One of those rare things: a movie for writers. It’s a wonderful, understated movie that crackles with great performances and comic moments. Douglas is at his laid-back best as Grady Tripp, an English professor struggling with his second novel and his own uncontrollable life who has a weird weekend to beat all weird weekends and somehow ends up coming good. The film has some wonderful things to say about writing and past glories and the music (including the cracking Bob Dylan song “Things Have Changed”) gives the whole movie a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Favourite Line: “Gee, Grady, that sounded so sincere…”
Favourite Scene: Shooting Poe

Another Spielberg classic, and the first film I recall seeing at the cinema. I was four years old and the image of the ORCA’s mast sticking out of the water at the end is one of my earliest memories. For a film with such an obviously rubber shark, this still packs a punch. But once again, the most enduring part is the central trio of characters, who spark off each other beautifully, and Spielberg’s bravura visuals and camera acrobatics make it timeless. I can’t believe that the “blow it up” ending only came about after a suggestion by Brian DePalma. A movie I could never tire of watching
Favourite Line: “Hooper! Tie it up, will ya!”
Favourite Scene: We’re gonna need a bigger boat…

Terry Gilliam is a genius. Fact. Although this movie isn’t quite so overblown and visually astounding as many of his other works, it’s all the better for it. Here he’s able to coax some wonderful performances from his cast and goes on to create a touching, emotionally-satisfying whole. The fantasy elements are still there, but much of it is in the minds of its main characters (who are mostly out of their minds to begin with). The train station/ballroom dancing scene is just one of the stand-out moments, and Jeff Bridges portrayal of a tortured soul looking for redemption gives the movie great pathos.
Favourite Line: “There are no little floating people!”
Favourite Scene: The train station…

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Who's better? Who's best?

Next Saturday April 15th Doctor Who returns to BBC1 and I can't wait. The first series with Christopher Eccleston exceeded all my expectations. I was a little unsure of where they were going with it at first. Some of the comic touches felt a little out of place and the Slytheen were a bit rubbish, but apart from that the series was a revelation. Before they relaunched the Doctor I always felt that the idea of Doctor Who was fab; unfortunately the budgets of the past were never able to do it justice. Now they have every resource the BBC wishes to throw at it and the results have so far been mesmerising. The finale of series one was a real highlight for me - not just because of the Dalek war, but the emotional core of the episode. Call me an old softy, but when the Doctor duped Rose into the Tardis and sent her back to 21st Century London, to safety, I was really moved. Silly really. It's only a tv sci-fi show, but hey, I cried at the Rings movies.
So will David Tennant be as successful as Eccleston? I think so, especially if the quality of the writing remains of the same high standard. And from what I've read and seen, I think it will be. Can't wait to see those crazy Cybermen. And K-9. Come next Saturday, we shall see...