Red button minisode in which the eighth Doctor attempts to save a space pilot's life.
Prob... whoa, what the heck did I just type? The eighth Doctor???
Yes it's true. Only 17 years after taking over as the Doctor, Paul McGann returns to at long last clock up just over an hour in the role. (last time, in 1996, I think he only just managed 57 minutes)
I mean all right, so this 7-minute episode does comprise of merely two cut scenes, yet it still leaves one yelling at the TV screen "See, FOX Network, see??? Now how hard would that have been each week?!?"
(please be my guest to substitute FOX Network in 1996 with BBC1 in 2004, or indeed any of the preceding 14 years...)
More seriously, despite just how encouraging it is to see that actor playing that role again at last, and with such compelling dialogue, from a production point of view there is much that leaves this entry into the Doctor Who canon wanting:
1. At the fiftieth anniversary, there's just no escaping that this both could and should have been a full-length episode. Likewise there should have been a new full-length episode for each of the available earlier Doctors. PLUS minisodes. There are enough other brand new Doctor Who related programmes on this week.
2. Before he regenerates, the outgoing eighth Doctor properly gets a valedictory speech, but in using it to list his many unseen companions, this episode manages to plug a hole in the show's history by creating several new ones. Not a smart average. Naming them after his audio story companions, but ignoring his books and comic ones, well, that's just careless.
3. We get the eighth Doctor's closing regeneration scene, but then the director goes and idiotically cuts away, denying us the satisfaction of at long last seeing it. This is not going to look good in future compilations of all the different Doctors' regenerations.
4. As the eighth Doctor regenerates, how many of us were rooting to see Christopher Eccleston's missing launch as the ninth Doctor, and were then disappointed at losing this too? It only needs a still image of him unconscious to be doable.
5. John Hurt. No matter what way you try to spin this, every minute that he is on screen is another one that is subtracted from a different actor who we have a vested interest in seeing in the role. It looks like he's reading Eccleston's lines, but the 'bad' incarnation of the Doctor has always been the Valeyard played by Michael Jayston. Casting a prominent new actor really shouldn't be anywhere on an anniversary special's todo list. Likewise replacing an unavailable actor with another one who is also unlikely to be available for return appearances in the future is also daft. Every time I see him I wish he was someone else. He's going to cripple every scene he's in in the 50th anniversary special...
6. One of the sisterhood of Khan really should have been a Clara. Really, after the hopeless retcon of her across the Doctor's entire life in Name Of The Doctor, it's basic damage limitation. The Doctor is unconscious and in need of saving and everything that she's supposed to be there to do for him.
7. If the Sisterhood of Khan can control who the Doctor regenerates into, then why didn't the tenth Doctor return to them in all that spare time he got at the close of The End Of Time?
For all that though, the mere fact of this edition's existence outweighs all the above missed opportunities.
I tend to sum up each of the Doctor's incarnations in my review of their final story, so I suppose here goes. Paul McGann's TV portrayal has remained consistently generic throughout his 17 years, yet he has never fallen into the trap of becoming predictable. Even in this story, any protest that the Doctor would never be so daft as to remain on a crashing spaceship when he could escape in the TARDIS is bunk, because we just don't know how his Doctor would behave. His prolific spin-off stories, such as the aforementioned audio stories, are just that - spin-offs, and therefore subjective.
Regardless, it's moments like this at which we can all be glad of those audios. The fact that those CD producers have down the years successfully approached, befriended and won over the actor is likely a large reason why he has been willing to now return to the role he played once on TV so long ago. Well done!
Really, we should be getting a whole TV series with this one now.
It's about time.
After last summer's Star Trek Into Darkness, using the word 'dark' in a sequel set in a devastated London seems to be becoming hip.
Although it has to be said, this is one film that is pretty dark anyway.
Literally, about half of it is set off in Asgard again, much of which is just not terribly well lit. Last time I could blame this on the airline seat in front of me, but my local Odeon cinema has less excuse. When we get to gaze upon the famous rainbow bridge, we have to wonder just how the Asgardian sun managed to come out without the rest of that world noticing.
I'm afraid I found all these scenes to be, in every sense of the word, dull. Even the pseudo 3D barely noticed, although admittedly this made for a much more convincing effect than the exaggerated cardboard cutout look of other movies lately that have lazily been converted from 2D. If you're making a 3D film then please just use 3D cameras already.
As a result, I found myself switching off and tuning out so much of this that when it all suddenly went into slow motion I realised that I must have just missed something important. Hang on, wasn't Thor's mum in this a moment ago? Has she just died or something? Oh, right, she did die, and I missed it, even though I had apparently been looking straight at the screen throughout. I'm sorry for your loss Thor, I for one missed her immediately.
Erik: "Your brother isn't coming, is he?"
Thor: "Loki is dead."
Erik: "Thank God! [BEAT] I'm so sorry."
I have much better things to say about the other half of the film - that's the stuff set on Earth, in daylight!
Early on the story follows Jane Foster investigating a levitating automobile in London, and I admit that at this I was duped into erroneously believing two things:
1. That this film was about to tie into the recent floating phenomenon seen just two episodes earlier in the TV series Agents Of SHIELD, an effect which had even been caused by a virus from one of Loki's aliens in Avengers Assemble.
2. That Jane was turning into good character material.
Nah. On both counts. Jane spends most of the rest of this one in need of being rescued. :( Ah well.
These Earth scenes are realised and played much more for comedy though, and as a result they garnered quite a few laughs from the giggly yobs sitting just behind me annoyingly repeating lines. Being a Hollywood movie set in London, and also being screened in that city, one line that particularly meritted some chuckles was 'Greenwich'. We expect a film by Edgar Wright to set such major global events in such a mundane sounding suburb, but not Marvel. Excellent!
All the same, for all the enjoyment that this one place name caused around our theatre this evening, much funnier surely had to be that commuter informing Thor that he could somehow get to Greenwich by travelling a mere three tube stops from Charing Cross station.
Yes, the Hollywood rule that all references to journeys on the London Underground must be complete nonsense remains intact, as does casting American actors who cannot do British accents, and one rather US-looking apartment.
However lest you get the wrong idea about me, I found this film okay, and indeed amusing for all the right reasons as well. Having played similar comedic roles in The IT Crowd and Frequently Made Mistakes About Time Travel, guest actor Chris O'Dowd now seems happily typecast as a stressed single office worker, and again both his scenes here are funny simply because we are expecting him to be. The presence of the ITV newsreader is embracing for similar reasons.
Also nice cameos from Captain America (Chris Evans) and Himself (Stan Lee), the latter of whom appears to have had a rough year since Avengers Assemble. Is he in that mental ward for thinking that he was Hugh Heffner in Iron Man 1, Larry King in Iron Man 2, or himself in Rise Of The Silver Surfer? (bit of a shoe theme going on through this one too)
There were a few other bits of the story that I thought didn't work, however since I didn't bother following it much, perhaps I should keep those to myself. (But the convergence's occuring naturally every 5,000 years still sounds like too round a base-10 Earth number to be mere chance, and the same alignment by definition doesn't just happen on Earth but on all those other worlds too. Oh, look what I've just gone and done.)
Ultimately though, I'm glad to have got to a cinema in time to catch this, and also pleased that Nigel and I failed in our attempt to see it on its UK release night recently, simply because the preceding episodes of the TV series Agents Of SHIELD have since been broadcast. Yes, the one time British TV screened a US series in sync with America, we somehow got the tie-in film eight days before the States did. Thanks Marvel UK!
Thor 3? Oh all right then, if you must.
However if I'm honest, I'm only following the Thor movies because of the other cinematic worlds that they converge with.
You might have noticed from other posts on here that a pet peeve of mine is the film or TV remake.
Sometimes this is because the new version is a reboot of an existing one in the same medium, eg. 2003's unwise remake of the 1969 film The Italian Job. I mean why do that? Why use the same character names and setting to attract fans of the original, only to ignore the very universe that they value so highly, and then act all surprised when they're not interested? It's hardly as if the actors are too old to drive any more.
It's kind of different if you're adapting a storyline from another medium though, eg. LWT's successful TV series based upon Agatha Christie's famous book series about one 'ercule Poirot. Of course you change the order. Of course you change the era they're set in. Of course you change some of the plots, right down to in some instances which character turns out to be the murderer. You do all these things because... yes actually ITV, why have you spent the last 25 years doing all of the above? I suppose it has at least kept the original audience guessing...
Back in its heyday I remember that Poirot was pretty much considered the benchmark for high quality TV drama. They spent insane amounts of money transporting entire streets back to another period, only to then use a few closeups, and go and edit the whole thing on mere 625-line videotape. Sorry about that overseas viewers, and anyone watching a repeat on high-definition television...
This documentary Being Poirot is not about those shortcomings though. While it does try to touch on a few production matters, it's far more a celebration of the character's popularity, and just what a fine performance lead actor David Suchet has been turning in as Poirot for the past couple of decades. Since I have not read any of the original books (barring the start of Curtain a while back) I cannot possibly judge how well he has succeeded, however plenty about the man himself still impresses me in this doco.
For a start, he actually pulls off presenting and narrating a show that hangs on what a great actor he is. Surely there can be few celebrities who can wield the necessary humility to get away with this, yet Suchet does it! That it is so hard to reconcile the actor and the character as being the same person, only serves to further his success.
Even here though, it skips any mention of his first association with the canon, playing Inspector Japp in the 1985 movie of Thirteen At Dinner. I wouldn't mind but when so much time is instead invested in far more trivial footage of him doing things like meeting the real-life Belgian chief of police, you have to wonder just what makes that so much more worthy of inclusion. Perhaps again a case of showing off a budget at the expense of doing things better?
Original series producer Brian Eastman admits that he chose to reset it almost entirely in the wrong year but, in this edit at least, offers no explanation for why.
Nitpicks about a series that I didn't really follow aside, having at least dropped in and out of the show since it began in the 1980s, I have to admit that I too am one of those sorry to see the little man in the hat go. No longer will I find myself watching him for 20 minutes while I'm eating, before leaving him to continue his sleuthing while I go to another room to get on with doing something else. While I have never been able to get my head around whodunits, this show has always remained consistently watchable.
Having this year broken that pattern by actually following the whole of his final series (if not its plots), I must admit that as usual there is a part of me that thinks it might be worth sitting down and watching them all, in order, from the start.
And yet, no there isn't. Despite this programme's claim that they have adapted every Poirot story ever published, they still skipped the stage play Black Coffee. Oh well, maybe now that they all have a bit of time on their hands, that will come, and / or a series chronicling the cases of nearby Parker Pyne.
For this omission, and all the reasons I mentioned at the start, no matter how definitive Suchet's portrayal may be, the fact remains that the world is still waiting for a film/TV version of Poirot that is similarly definitive. Faithful, rather than merely inspired by.
Why do they make TV adaptations like this? I don't know.
Maybe even Poirot's own little grey cells might growl in protest that it is a mystery unsolvable.
Ealing effects movie that was pretty big upon its release, but by today has become a bit forgotten.
I'm not entirely sure why. While in this post-modern age the how-on-earth-did-they-film-that question mark no longer hangs over it, this movie's sheer intensity still matches anything I see Hollywood coming out with today.
It's a war film, based upon true events from 1940, and released just three years later while the same war was still in progress. As you know, war is grim. As you also know, it's even grimmer at sea. And at night. In a storm. When you're stuck in a lifeboat for days on end...
Letting go of the non-stop impressive visuals for a moment, the soundtrack is more of a mixed bag. People outdoors give away their actual location on a studio set by the incessant echo behind them. Conversely, people who actually have been filmed outdoors lack footsteps. However these are things that we wave by soas to not lose hold of the spectacle of the film, which thankfully retains its starkness due to the absence of much incidental music.
Unlike the real-life seamen portrayed here, the names of many of the film's production team seem to have been lost to time, although I understand that Ealing's own Bob Vloeburgh was one of them.
San Demetrio London remains a classic, although one which I'd never heard of before.
On Remembrance Sunday, it's good to be reminded of the war heroes of the Merchant Navy too.
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My latest visitor from down under, following in the footsteps of his own cousin six months ago, has this month been...
One of the things that distinguishes Nigel from most of the 100-odd other New Zealanders on my Facebook friendlist is that he's one of the few who I knew before I ever set foot in that country. Ah yes, Brighton, Wellington, Meet The Robinsons in 3D, The Settlers Of Catan, Waiheke Island, flatting with him at the seminary, Puhoi, plus other good times of course...
And now, he's just completed walking 800 km across the top of Spain! Basically, if I had any belief that catching up with this adventurer would be a chance to put my own feet up and take it easy, then I had another thing coming...
We caught up a fortnight ago at a coffee morning for the local branch of The Society For The Protection Of Unborn Children (SPUC), being run in part by my mum. After that we stopped across the road from the local abortion clinic to encourage some people from another organisation who were praying there. They've only been there a few weeks, and they've had eight people change their minds about going in. Eight lives. Wow.
After dropping in home, we headed out across Twickenham to have a traditional English fish and chip lunch, before running an errand for our friend Fionnuala and then checking out Twickenham Rugby Stadium!
Here we would have enjoyed going around the World Rugby Museum, although in the event neither one of us knew it was there. Not that this spoilt our day at all...
After a coffee, we polished off the day by taking in a performance of Julius Caesar. Despite Nigel's assurances that he was content just knocking around his old stomping ground with me, I really felt that his presence in the country once again was an opportunity that I didn't want him to miss. So I challenged him, arguing that surely there was someplace in London where he had always intended to go last time, but had never quite got around to?
Indeed there was! So the next day it was off to South Kensington for the Natural History Museum...
I came to this place once or twice when I was at school, and I saw it on TV then too. I remember a huge empty white room with arches and lots of information around it. I also seem to recall an enormous skeleton of a dinosaur on the way in...
What the...? Were we even in the right building here? This entrance hardly sums up most people's ideas about 'natural history'...
But maybe that's kinda the point. No-one knows anything about natural history from before we started writing it down because no theory about it can ever be checked, and even a lot of the earliest writings are subject to doubt for exactly the same reason.
Yet at the bottom of the escalator, before we had even gone in:
While a minute away at the top of the escalator we found:
Err, guys, you do know that the second statement disqualifies any process by which we can arrive at the first one, don't you? Well I'm encouraged that they were smart enough to present it all within that context.
Anyway, before I start sounding like I didn't enjoy this exhibition - which hadn't been put together by scientists but by exhibition organisers anyway - allow me to state how much we both enjoyed our time here. For the next couple of hours there was plenty to see, do, and of course photograph...
So with the Natural History Museum nailed, still with some of the afternoon left, we then headed straight across the road and into the Victoria & Albert Museum...
With time now definitely against us, we ironically exited the V&A's 'Tomorrow' exhibition to dash back across the road and into the Science Museum for the last hour.
Ultimately the afternoon gave way to an evening that never was. After a terrific meal at the Green Man, we traipsed around London for quite a while trying to track down a group of Nigel's friends who he hadn't seen for about a decade, unsuccessfully.
Eventually we returned to the Odeon Leicester Square where we had been hoping to catch Thor 2 on its opening night, but in the event we arrived just one minute after it had started. I refused to miss the start of the film, and so that was that.
At this point Nigel's busy schedule required him to scoot off on a coach to Ireland via Wales, so the next time we had a chance to watch the same film wasn't until his return last night. Alas, in the event we met in Bayswater and checked him into his latest backpackers, before realising that we had once again left it just too darn late in the evening to see the movie.
Oh well, the opportunity to sit in Burger King and just chat before going our separate ways on a slightly more permanent basis was a valuable option too. With Nigel's phone broken, he's been borrowing mine for the past week. I told him to keep it with him until he gets a new one in the Philippines. Yes, the same Philippines which Typhoon Haiyan has just so tragically devastated. Avoid the zone? Nigel's planning to go live there forever. Did I mention he's also deep in training to become a catholic priest?
Before we returned to our separate hemispheres, I stood outside the London W2 backpackers and prayed for my friend. I found myself thanking God for a buddy, and asking that he be looked after on his travels, particularly as we both know that travelling often doesn't go according to plan. Then we said adios, and that really was it.
The following day Nigel disembarked from his coach in the Netherlands to find that his backpack had not arrived with him.