Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Repeated Meme: Bunch of Stoners

Time of Angels

Idea Proposed but Not Used During the JNT Era: The Doctor's Wife (yes, I *know* it wasn't a serious suggestion, but so what).
Central Premise Recycled From: "Aliens", though the bit with the television monitor owes far too much to "Ring" as well.
Reference to Moffat's Back Catalogue: Almost the entirety of Moffat's back catalogue gets thrown into a blender for this one: "Silence in the Library"/"The Forest of Gump" gives us an expedition led by River Song being turned one by one into catchphrase-spouting disembodied voices, plus a TV programme which turns out to be what's really going on; "Blink" gives us Weeping Angels plus televised recordings which interact creepily with people; "The Girl in the Fireplace" gives us a "The Time Traveler's Wife" pastiche; even "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances" had a recorded voice which turned out not to be recorded.
Gratuitous Scottish Joke: None for a change, guess someone realised it was getting old. Then again, maybe it winds up in Part II.
Amy Saves the Day with Wuv: Amy saves the day with Brains instead, figuring out that she could stop the tape when the blip appears.
Tennant Line: No actual lines, but a lot of gabbling at top volume, plus the whole "there's one thing you never put in a trap: me!" might as well be a Tennant line.
Star Wars Bit: None this episode either.
Nostalgia UK: A James Bond pastiche for an opener.
Teeth!: On the Angels.
Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: No-brainer: the Weeping Angels are already toys. Though I'm also seeing the possibility of an eleven-inch River Song, modeled on the old The Bionic Woman toys, with lots of different outfits to wear; she's had three already.
Something Gets Redesigned: The Weeping Angels, who have apparently mated with the Pyroviles from "The Fires of Pompeii."
The Crack in the Universe Is: In the "Next Time" trailer.

It must be Belgium

Tu£sday: Gangster-britflick pastiche, set in the eighties and starring Philip Glenister and John Simm as bank robbers. Which should make the whole thing read like a kind of inverted Life on Mars, but instead it gets pretty much everything else wrong. Characters are cardboard, reveals come too soon, the seeing-the-action-from-multiple-points-of-view bit is ineptly handled, and there's no real point to setting the story in the 80s at all, bar perhaps the fact that robbing a bank is a bit pointless these days.

Movie Count for 2010: 41

Friday, April 23, 2010

Butterflies are free

Mean Streets: Early Scorscese, and as such rather unusual. The violence is there, but most of it taking place offscreen, coming out mainly in the characters' dialogue and jockeying for position, and also underlining how, in immigrant communities such as the Italian-American one depicted here, proximity to organised crime becomes a fact of life. The story revolves around (the very young) Harvey Keitel's efforts to live a respectable life as a manager/entrepreneur, thwarted by his conviction that he has to look after his wayward relative Johnny-Boy (DeNiro), both out of fraternal affection and a religious belief that taking care of him is a kind of penance imposed by God, and all of this leading inevitably to disaster. Bonus feature: normally I don't bother much with DVD commentaries, but Scorscese's commentary on this one is actually pretty interesting, as he talks about how he derived the film's plot from his own and his friends' stories.

Papillon: A tribute to the human spirit-- not just Steve McQueen's in surviving everything the system has to throw at him, but Dustin Hoffman's in adapting to the system and doing well, relatively speaking, no matter what it tries to throw at him. At the end of the film, Steve McQueen swims off Devil's Island, and Dustin Hoffman stays on it raising pigs and vegetables, and I couldn't help but feel really proud of both of them-- both system-beaters in their own way.

The Osterman Weekend: A film directed by Sam Peckinpah, starring Rutger Hauer, Dennis Hopper, John Hurt, and Burt Lancaster, and based on a thriller by Robert Ludlum. Sound great? Okay, let's qualify that a little: a film directed by Sam Peckinpah, a year before he died and when he was a virtual pariah in Hollywood, starring a group of actors who mostly only did the film because they wanted to work with Peckinpah and didn't care how they did it, plus Dennis Hopper, who was still in the career slump which wouldn't end until Blue Velvet. Add to that a pair of producers who were trying to break out of making B-movies, and what you get is 106 minutes of awful. The plot, such as it is, revolves around John Hurt as a CIA agent recruiting Rutger Hauer to "turn" a ring of KGB agents, but in fact Hurt is secretly trying to run a needlessly complicated revenge plot against his boss for getting his wife killed. There's also a lot of soft-core nudity, which unfortunately involves three not-very-attractive blondes and John Hurt, respectively, and a lot of early-eighties "ooh, look, video technology!" stuff which looks pathetically dated from the perspective of thirty years on.

Movie count for 2010: 40

Monday, April 19, 2010

Full metal Delorean

Full Metal Jacket: Kubrick's take on the Vietnam movie, with the first half being a blackly funny portrayal of Marine basic training and the second following one of the recruits, now a military journalist, as he is embedded with an American unit during the Tet Offensive. The main theme seems to be war/the military as inducing madness, starting with the film's merciless exploration of how Private Lawrence is driven to murder/suicide, and continuing on into Vietnam as Adam Baldwin (playing a prototypical Jayne Cobb) turns out to be the sanest person in the unit. Filmed in the UK, though so cleverly you wouldn't know it.

Back to the Future: Which I watched to death as a kid (for those of you too young to remember, the most popular kids' birthday party activity in the mid-Eighties was to, drumroll, RENT A MOVIE and WATCH IT ON YOUR LOVELY NEW VCR, and this was one of the ones deemed family-friendly enough to become a birthday-party staple), but haven't seen for years. What strikes me most this time around is the rather poisonous nature of the film's nostalgia. Eighties America is run-down, ugly, graffiti-ridden and ultra-capitalist(no surprise there), but Fifties America is cute, new, clean, pretty, and even the moments of racism are dealt with in a kind of jokey ain't-prejudice-quaint sort of way. Which obscures the fact that Fifties America also had a lot of nasty things going on, and also encourages people not to look for progressive solutions to the problems of the 1980s, but instead to try and return to some kind of rose-tinted impossible Disney-movie utopia of the past. Which sums up a lot of what I hated about growing up in the 1980s-- namely, that it was really hard to appreciate the good things we had (and we did have them) when the media, cashing in on Baby Boomer nostalgia, was constantly telling us how much nicer everything was in the past (and also remaining annoyingly silent on the question of, "OK, so if the Eighties are so terrible, how are we going to make them better?"). It's no wonder that Reagan and both Bushes liked evoking this movie in their speeches.

Movie count for 2010: 37

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Repeated Meme! It's the new Recylingwatch!

And now, the Doctor Who Repeated Meme. Sort of like the Sarah Jane Checklist, but more detailed, and indeed like Recyclingwatch, but shorter. It can also be used as a bingo game, or drinking game, or the basis for limericks.

The Eleventh Hour

Idea Proposed but Not Used During the JNT Era: Nothing this week, but just wait.
Central Premise Recycled From: "The Time Traveler's Wife."
Reference to Moffat's Back Catalogue: "The Girl in the Fireplace" (Doctor meets a girl, then meets her again as a grown woman)
Gratuitous Scottish Joke: "Fry something."
Amy Saves the Day with Wuv: Actually, Amy nearly screws up the day with Wuv, as her Wuv for the Doctor causes her to imagine Prisoner Zero into his form at the end of the story. But fortunately the Docotr manages to straighten things out.
Tennant Line: "Geronimo," "No, no, no," etc. Though give him time, he's regenerating.
Star Wars Bit: Not this episode.
Nostalgia UK: Leadworth is a chocolate-box English village with a cute post office and no Tesco's.
Teeth!: On Prisoner Zero, whatever form it takes.
Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: The sonic screwdriver's already in our local Tesco's (yes, *we* have one; we live in reality not Avengerland).
Something Gets Redesigned: The Doctor, the TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver...
The Crack in the Universe Is: Right in the middle of the story, why do you ask?

The Beast Below

Idea Proposed but Not Used During the JNT Era: The Space Whale (or Wail, depending who you ask)
Central Premise Recycled From: "The Ark", or possibly "The Starlost."
Reference to Moffat's Back Catalogue: The Smilers are another creepy quasi-human stalking thing in the tradition of the Clockwork Robots, the Empty Child and the spacesuits from "Silence in the Library."
Gratuitous Scottish Joke: They've split off from the rest of the UK and started their own spaceship.
Amy Saves the Day with Wuv: Awww, wasn't that a lovely sweet ending? I cheered.
Tennant Line: "No, no, no, no, no!"
Star Wars Bit: "You're my only hope" plus garbage-chute antics, plus heroes finding out they're actually standing in a mouth.
Nostalgia UK: Future London is an EPCOT-centre version, with bowler hats, punks and cockney market traders all hanging out together in a corridor full of bunting and red telephone booths.
Teeth!: On the Smilers, and the Whale.
Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: The Smilers are the most obvious, though a gun-toting Sophie Okonedo would be just the thing to liven up a Barbie collection.
Something Gets Redesigned: The UK, apparently
The Crack in the Universe Is: In the base of Spaceship UK as the girl recites the little poem.

Victory of the Daleks

Idea Proposed but Not Used During the American Telemovie Era: Redesigning the Daleks
Central Premise Recycled From: "Power of the Daleks."
Reference to Moffat's Back Catalogue: The Empty Child (WWII setting) and "The Girl in the Fireplace" (Doctor has backstory with historical figure)
Gratuitous Scottish Joke: "Oi, Paisley boy."
Amy Saves the Day with Wuv: By going all Buzzcocks and asking Bracewell "ever fall in love (with someone you shouldn't?)"
Tennant Line: "Bwilliant" and "Churchill, yow beeeauty!"
Star Wars Bit: Dogfights in space, plus the Dalek ship's Milennium Falcon bit as it zips off into hyperspace.
Nostalgia UK: Disneyfied Blitz, with loads of stiff-upper lipped chappies, cheery cockney air-raid wardens, and the only sign that anyone's suffering at all is Breen's little moment of sniffles over her boyfriend/husband/whatever's demise.
Teeth!: None, but a lot of stiff upper lips.
Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: Go on, guess. There's five of them, they come in a collectable array of colours, and they look like they'd fit right in to any Duplo set.
Something Gets Redesigned: The Daleks
The Crack in the Universe Is: In the wall behind the TARDIS as it dematerialises for the last time. Also, apparently, somewhere in Amy's memory.

Sneezy and Doc

Grumpy Old Men: Starts off as a biting, witty story about love, friendship, sex and mortality among the over-sixties, with Ann-Margret as a kind of angel-of-death figure to Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and their buddies. It ends up completely punting that in favour of a sentimental and kind of rushed ending. Worth watching the outtakes over the credits, though, just to watch Burgess Meredith talk dirty for two solid minutes.

Movie count for 2010: 35

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

War of Babylon

Lord of War: Rather like Casino and Scarface, in that all three relate to amoral men who take advantage of a specific human weakness, who prosper, but who then find events overtaking them and are, one way or another, let down or betrayed. Nicholas Cage is not entirely forgiven for "The Wicker Man," but the healing is beginning.

ETA: Just found out Nicholas Cage is a Coppola. Don't know if that explains anything but it's interesting.

Movie count for 2010: 34

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

What about Recyclingwatch?

You may have noticed that the new Doctor Who season has begun, but I haven't done a new Recyclingwatch yet. This is because I want to try something different, now that there's a new production team, new Doctor, etc., but I haven't quite settled on what it will be yet. Give it a couple of episodes, I'll be back.

Four films about writing and two not

Croupier: Despite the title and storyline, a film about writing, and the question of where the character ends and the author begins. Writer, lacking inspiration, takes a job in a casino, finds his old gambling addiction awakening, but also finds it channeling itself into a character who is at once someone he is writing about, and someone he is.

The King of Comedy: Close-to-the-bone black comedy which starts off being about obsessive fandom and unjustified ambition, and then, at the end, takes a left turn into the culture of celebrity for its own sake. Also proof of how scarily versatile De Niro is as an actor.

Bamboozled: Token black TV writer, fed up with being told to pitch "black" TV series, pitches a minstrel show, which turns into a smash hit. It's been compared to "The Producers" but goes much further, taking shots at television, the concept of race, anti-PC humour (which is continually evoked to justify the minstrel show to its critics), and at supposedly more positive conceptions of black identity. Rarely shown, because people are scared of it.

Farewell, My Lovely: The Robert Mitchum version this time. Less euphemistic than the 1944 version (acknowledging racial prejudice and prostitution) but less starkly beautiful (looking like, well, a telemovie, and with Mitchum giving Marlowe a weariness which seems out of character to me).

28 Weeks Later: Sequel to 28 Days Later. Lives up to the first film in being largely a biting satire on the American inability to maintain order in Iraq, but let down by the continuous presence of two unbelievably annoying children. I'm not even sure what's so annoying about them, I just can't stand them. Nice twist at the end, though.

Terminator: Salvation: It's not a movie, it's a two-hour-long video game. The so-called plot twist is also spoilered by the back of the DVD box. Doing a film about John Connor as an adult is a dodgy idea to begin with (even the TV series had the intelligence to leave most of the future-backstory to the viewers' imagination) but when it's difficult to tell which of the main characters is Connor and which is the Terminator, you know you're in trouble. Co-starring some CGI which is inferior to the Harryhausenesque stop-motion of the first Terminator film, and featuring the least probable post-apocalyptic society ever.

Movie Count for 2010: 33