Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Last Sarah Jane Adventures Checklist: Serf's Up

Absence of Crowds of People Under Alien Influence: Actually, this time we get a crowd of aliens under people influence. Way to ring the changes!

Tie-in with Doctor Who story
: None, but "Joseph Serf" was one of Patrick McGoohan's pseudonyms when writing The Prisoner.

Rani's Mum is Annoying/Is Absent: The latter, and for once not even mentioned in an anecdote.

Luke Cameo: Clearly this was intended as the mid-season Luke episode.

Sky says something so daft that you have to wonder how she gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: No, but then she's got to compete with Luke apparently having always called Clyde and Rani "Clani," even though that's never appeared before in the series.

Sarah Jane Waxes Maudlin: She goes on about family so much I suspect she's planning a US presidential campaign.

Mobile Phone as Plot Device: Luke actually makes a joke about the sheer number of mobiles destroyed in the service of the plots of this series.

Racism Towards Aliens: Yes, but, in a nice twist, not from the regulars this time.

The Crimes of Sarah Jane: Breaking and entering, deception, theft, destruction of property.

Sonic Lipstick: Versus magic alien pen.

Wristwatch Scanner: Yeah.

One or More of Sarah's Companions Falling Under Alien Influence: No, but you've got a whole crowd of hypnotised journalists.

Sarah And/Or Companion Acts like a Selfish Cow: The way she and her kids lord it over Clyde and Rani over getting to go to the big exclusive Serfboard launch, I'm amazed they're still friends.

Wide-Eyed Speech About the Wonders of the Universe and How Great it Is to be in Sarah's Gang: Copied from the first episode for obvious reasons.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Repeated Meme Toywatch: How did we do?

Well, the second wave of Character Options figures are out, so time to check how we scored on the "item most likely to wind up as a toy" predictions front.

The Impossible Astronaut: I predicted the Silent. That didn't take much predicting.

Day of the Moon: I predicted a limited-edition Amy Pond Up the Duff. Thus far, still none. We did get an astronaut, though.

The Curse of the Black Spot: I predicted either a green glow-in-the-dark mermaid, or Hugh Bonneville with a small child. We didn't get either. Still, Playmobil have a range of glow-in-the-dark pirates.

The Doctor's Wife: I predicted Idris. We got not one but three different versions. And Uncle, as well. Plus it seems you don't actually have to custom-make your own Nephew. Is this to make up for the lack of pirates above?

The Rebel Flesh: Predicted gangers. Got gangers, or at least a Doctor-ganger.

The Almost People: The Limited Edition Amy Pond in Labour playset. Come on, I dare you!

A Good Man Goes to War: Predicted Eyepatch Lady (and hoped for a nine-inch dress-up River Song, and a Lesbian Silurian). Thus far, no Eyepatch Lady! What hope have River Song and the Lesbian Silurian?

Let's Kill Hitler: We do get a River Song (albeit a reissue and thus in the wrong costume) but alas, no poseable Hitlers or pull-back-action Amy-and-Rory motorbikes.

Night Terrors: Yep, creepy dolls, or one of them anyway.

The Girl who Waited: Also no Amy Pond up the Menopause.

The God Complex: What, no naked mole-rat person? I'm disappointed.

Closing Time: Rusty Cybermen, as predicted. Though the job-lot of Cybermats were also predictable.

The Wedding of River Song: Novelty eyepatches. None yet, but I'm keeping an eye, so to speak, on the front of Doctor Who Adventures magazine.

Benares brass

Pather Panchali: Classic Indian neo-realist film, which I'll admit is a genre and location I'm not very familiar with, so I'm coming at this as a bit of an innocent. This film reminded me more than anything else of the British kitchen-sink drama of the same period (early Sixties): a story about a poor working-class family ground down by a combination of debt, poverty, bad luck, unsympathetic neighbours and hypocrisy (when, at the end of the film, the family finally decide to cut their losses and go to the big city, the village elders, who have been no help at all to them throughout the story, all turn up to beg them to stay on the grounds that it's their ancestral home). A familiar story which needs to be told over and over, and the characterisation of the family and their neighbours is nuanced, but the story was stretched over about three hours, mostly consisting of long shots of people looking faintly puzzled in the countryside, so I'm in no rush to view the rest of Indian neo-realist cinema.

Milk: Well-cast biopic of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the USA. Viewed here and now against the backdrop of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the somewhat terrifying rise of the religious right in the USA, it's particularly clear that his story has wider implications: that it's difficult and sometimes soul-destroying (and, as in Milk's case, also sometimes fatal) to stand up for equal rights and justice for the oppressed and marginalised, but that if enough people do, the movement can win in the long run.

Movie count for 2011: 112

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures Checklist: Wooden It Be Lovely

Absence of Crowds of People Under Alien Influence: Just one, and a diminishing chorus of homeless people.

Tie-in with Doctor Who story
: None.

Rani's Mum is Annoying/Is Absent: The latter, though we do get a story about how she met Rani's poor, hapless father.

Luke Cameo: By mobile phone, no less.

Sky says something so daft that you have to wonder how she gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Actually she's the only sensible one this episode.

Sarah Jane Waxes Maudlin: In fifty-something years of living in London, it seems, it's never occurred to her that there were homeless people. See "Selfish Cow," below.

Mobile Phone as Plot Device: Clyde's gets stolen and stamped on-- he seems to be losing it a lot these days.

Racism Towards Aliens: Sky's clearly picking up on her mother's attitudes when she says that everyone's strange behaviour must be down to "some alien."

The Crimes of Sarah Jane: Child abuse.

Sonic Lipstick: Present.

Wristwatch Scanner: Also present, though not really much good.

One or More of Sarah's Companions Falling Under Alien Influence: Clyde.

Sarah And/Or Companion Acts like a Selfish Cow: Sarah and Rani really don't come over too well this story, even when out from under alien influence. They drag Clyde away with them rather than wait five minutes for Ellie to turn up (thus ensuring that Ellie's never found again) and, when Clyde goes on his search for Ellie through the homeless hangouts, Sarah Jane acts like it's never occurred to her that such places exist.

Totem poles, incidentally, are a West Coast Indian thing, not a Plains Indian thing. And the Mojave desert, being on the Southwest Coast of the United States, is well outside of Plains Indian territory. It took me two minutes on Google to find that out.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures Checklist: Sky me a River

After some thought, I've decided to carry on and finish the series. No disrespect intended to the late wonderful Elisabeth Sladen, but there are some things about the SJA that do need saying.

Absence of Crowds of People Under Alien Influence
: Just four or five nuclear power station workers this time.

Tie-in with Doctor Who story
: No, but people of a certain age may remember a 1970s children's series called "Sky" after its protagonist. Though the Pharos Institute does get a namecheck.

Rani's Mum is Annoying/Is Absent: The former, henpecking her poor husband over the lightbulbs blowing and turning up round Sarah Jane's with a bunch of flowers for the baby (exactly what a new mum needs).

Luke Cameo: I expect we'll be seeing fewer of these as Sky becomes the New Luke, but we've got one here.

Sky says something so daft that you have to wonder how she gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Her very first episode, and she's already making with the "what's air?" type questions (and there seems to be no real rhyme or reason to what she does or doesn't know). Prepare yourselves for plenty of fish-out-of-water "humour" over the next two stories.

Sarah Jane Waxes Maudlin: Apparently starting a family is "the best adventure of all".

Mobile Phone as Plot Device: Yes, Rani is woken by a call from Clive to say Sarah Jane isn't answering her phone. Later, Clive's phone is destroyed by the infant Sky so he can't call for help.

Racism Towards Aliens: Sarah Jane condemns an entire species just because she's met Miss Myers. That's a bit like condemning the entire human race just because you've met Tony Blair. "What kind of a sick species is Miss Myers" she wonders....

The Crimes of Sarah Jane: Breaking and entering, entering by deception, corrupting a minor.

Sonic Lipstick: Yes, and Floella Benjamin appears to have lipstick envy.

Wristwatch Scanner: Yes.

One or More of Sarah's Companions Falling Under Alien Influence: Sky, obviously.

Sarah And/Or Companion Acts like a Selfish Cow: Fairly light on the selfishness this fortnight.

And, because it's the first episode of the season:

Wide-eyed speech about the wonders of the universe and how great it is to be in Sarah Jane's gang: Yes, in front of a telescope no less.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

No, it actually *does* get worse.

Attack of the Clones: I vaguely remembered this one as being better than The Phantom Menace, but now I'm not so sure. The dialogue was cliched, and, although there's a reasonably good idea going through the political subplot (that Palpatine is secretly backing both the rebels and the Republic and manipulating them into fighting each other), it's not big enough to sustain the whole movie. The romantic scenes play like a parody without the wit; Christopher Lee is underused; and the real tragedy is that the whole film has clearly had so much money and talent invested in it which could have gone on something much more worthwhile.

Movie count for 2010: 110

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Repeated Meme: The Song of Wedding River

Idea Proposed and Used to Death during the New Series: The Doctor's dead! Oh no he isn't! Oh yes, he is!

Central Premise Recycled From: The Pandorica Opens, mostly.

Reference to Moffat's Back Catalogue: River Song, weddings, monks, Cleopatra and other ancient Roman celebrities, the annoying blue guy from the mid-season closer (still not dead), doubles, animate skulls, nerdy guy with an unrequited thing for a pretty girl who's waiting for the Doctor, a timeline arrested but then continuing inexorably towards someone's death, weddings, some catastrophe which is spreading through the universe with the Earth as its epicentre, an explosion-in-a-Tesco-toy-department array of aliens.

Amy Screws Up the day with Wuv: Turns out, judging by her drawing of her ideal man, that she doesn't love Rory, but Stephen Gately.

Robert Holmes Called...: ...from beyond the grave, but he'd like to remind you that there was an often-overlooked and unimportant episode of Blake's 7 featuring electrocution by chess game as a spectator sport observed by jaded New Romantics who like brutalist decor.

And from Lawrence Miles: The Doctor's dead! Because some alien things with a connection to Area 51 want it so! Or maybe not! And there's pyramids!

Murray Goldwatch: I notice that he managed to work the da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da theme into the children's story competition winner in Confidential.

Nostalgia UK: Is the title a reference to the V-after-it-got-really-camp episode The Wedding of Charles and Diana?

Inside Jokes: "What's with all the eyepatches?" asks the cover of the Radio Times. It's a tribute to Nicholas Courtney, of course. Confidential also indicates that one of the jaded New Romantics has a gasmask for a face.

Teeth! On the pterodactyls! And the skulls! And the anachronistically humanlike ones on the Silurian with a Honker.

Hats! Stetsons are still not cool if they've been given to you by James Corden.

Fish! No, which rather misses a trick.

Small Child! There's a group of them menaced by pterodactyls.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: Character Options probably won't, but I'm betting there'll be a future issue of Doctor Who Adventures which provides kids with their own wearable eyepatches.

Just so's you know, last weekend I had half an hour to kill in Euston Station, so I went to the cafe, ordered scones, and then texted everyone to let them know.

Three rather disappointing films

The Fog: The undead leper/pirate zombies attacking the Californian small town were well realised and the soundtrack was good, but to be honest it was all a bit John-Carpenter-by-numbers: voiceless, vaguely supernatural killer(s) stalking a group led by a pretty but slightly masculine woman. In fact, arguably the leper/pirates being explicitly supernatural beings (as opposed to only possibly or implicitly, as in Assault on Precinct 13 or Hallowe'en) unbalances the film and makes it less disturbing.

Skokie: Another based-on-a-true-story telemovie, this one about a neo-Nazi group trying to do a march through a predominantly Jewish suburb of Chicago; the story focuses partly on the efforts of the local Jewish community to prevent this, and the problems faced by the (also Jewish) ACLU lawyers defending the Nazis on the principle that freedom of speech must apply to all. Some interesting ideas and debate-worthy points, but the presentation is often unintentionally funny due to a lot of flat acting and humourless dialogue. Worth watching also to see Danny Kaye in a rare non-comedy role (he's the Holocaust survivor who spearheads the local anti-Nazi effort).

Frost/Nixon: Dramatisation of the events surrounding David Frost's interviewing Richard Nixon in the late 1970s. Unfortunately I found its main dramatic line less than credible-- it seemed to revolve on the idea that David Frost was a lightweight talk-show-host who, at the eleventh hour, suddenly found his interviewer mojo and won the day, which contradicts what I know about the man's role as a controversial interviewer in the 1960s and 70s (and the impression I get from reading about it was that Nixon's people saw Frost as a lightweight because they weren't aware of this side of his career, but rapidly discovered they'd underestimated him). Watch the last two hours of the actual interview instead, they're more exciting.

Movie count for 2011: 109