Sunday, December 29, 2013

Airplane flicks

Pacific Rim: Interested to see this as a lot of my progressive friends have been hailing it as a new, racially and gender conscious direction for action flicks. My take: it gained points for having a great romance storyline-- rather than the hero having to Win The Girl or Rescue The Girl, the girl and the hero grow together and come to love each other as a consequence of events-- and for having a decent multiethic cast and a nice meaty role for Idris Elba. It lost points for killing off the sole black character in the third reel (seriously guys?) and for having only one major female character. Otherwise: enjoyable, but basically like Neon Genesis Evangelion without the Jungian psychology.

World's End: SF as metaphor, with weird events in a small English town serving as a bassline to Simon Pegg and his buddies working through their issues about growing up and getting old. Nicely dystopian, but is there some sort of rule that every British production now has to employ David "Stemroach" Bradley in some role or other?

Movie count for 2013: 72

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Barbarella, she's a fella


Barbarella: Cheerfully surreal French comic-book adaption. I've seen it at least three times, and, if humanity ever does make it into outer space, I hope it's in spaceships with furry shag-pile interiors.

The Hunger Games: A rewatch prior to going out to see the sequel. Actually rather better than I remember it being, and a witty allegory of our times.

Dr Strangelove: Iconic anti-nuclear comedy; Peter Sellers good in all of his roles, but curiously, although Slim Pickens is absolutely excellent as the pilot Kong, one sort of feels like Sellers should have been in the bomber sequences (as was originally intended). In hindsight, a crucial influence on most of the 1960s comedies that followed.

New movies:

Black Swan: A lot better than I'd been led to expect, being a visual exploration of the mind of a ballerina who is cracking under the pressure of dancing the lead in Swan Lake, and blurring the lines between reality and demented fantasy with Verhoevenesque abandon.

The Hunger Games II: Catching Fire: I'd thought the book was pretty weak, but the film fixes most of what's wrong with it, adjusting the pacing and providing a much-needed third-person perspective. The games sequence is well realised, the new cast were great and the younger cast clearly gaining in skills; however, Peeta is starting to look a bit like Link Hogthrob.

Judge Dredd: Starts nicely, but rapidly degenerates into an amalgam of overused Hollywood sf-action-film cliches-- Bladerunner-lite cityscapes, parental issues, lawman framed for a crime he didn't commit, emotionally frigid man taught to feel by the love of a good woman, annoying comedy sidekick with mad haxx0r skillz; a friend/partner/brother who turned out bad and got shopped by the hero and is now back for revenge, and so on. In a parallel universe, Rico Dredd is the hero of this one.

Walkabout: Beautiful and tragic film about two children lost in the Outback, who meet an aboriginal youth on a walkabout and seemingly enter a parallel Australia, existing among the wild animals and both ignored by, and ignoring, the "civilised" world only steps away from them. One of the best uses of montage ever.

Movie count for 2013: 70

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

50th Anniversary Repeated Meme: I Hurt Myself Today

Any excuse to include a picture of Sara Kingdom
Any excuse to include a picture of Sara Kingdom.
Central Premise Recycled From: The Three Doctors (Clara: “There's three of them now!” Kate Lethbridge-Stewart: “I think there's a precedent for that.”).

Moffat Auto-Recycling: Moppets (see below); the Doctor's mad romance with a beautiful historical figure, including antics on a white horse. Something nasty's happened to seemingly innocent statues. Sonic screwdriver as penis-substitute (The Curse of the Fatal Death). Nasty aggressive aliens which turn out to be OK sorts, once you negotiate with them. The Doctor as saviour, particularly of small children. Trenzalore.

Recycling Other People: The Moment is a mashup of Neil Gaiman's Sandman characters Death and Delirium, and Gaiman's own Idris from “The Doctor's Wife”, with an arguable element of Head Six from Battlestar Galactica thrown in. The Big Red Button from “Journey to the Centre of the Tardis”. A ghost shows the Doctor events to come (Trial of a Time Lord and/or Warriors' Gate). Nightmare of Eden featured images containing real live monsters which get out and wreak havoc (there's also elements of the wizard art in the Harry Potter series). The Bad Wolf makes a reappearance. Monty Python's The Meaning of Life features a Machine That Goes Ping. The Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Mona Lisa's Revenge” featured paintings coming to life. Memory-wiping people and Captain Jack's repeated deaths (Torchwood). Wish for the Doctor to save you and he will (qv Russell T. Davies). Alan Moore and David Lloyd's DWW comic “Black Legacy” involved a superweapon with a personality. Gallifrey's fate is a mashup of what happens to the Fendahl's planet in “Image of the Fendahl”, and how the Master hides his Tardis in “The Keeper of Traken”. "The Judgment of Sutekh" by Lawrence Miles (history has been rewritten, but nobody knows about it).

Moffat Simultaneously Recycling Himself And Other People: Motorbikes in the Tardis (The Doctor Who Telemovie, The Idiot's Lantern and The Bells of St John). The gag about Queen Elizabeth I marrying the Doctor has been ongoing since 2007. The Silent also memory-wipe people.

Evil Household Objects: River Song's red shoes are deadly enough to warrant inclusion in the Black Archive.

Doctor Who! “I'm looking for the Doctor...” “Well, you've certainly come to the right place...”

Hats! Tennant and Smith meet fez-to-fez.

Moffat Moppets! The imminent destruction of Gallifrey is made poignant by the device of including as many gratuitous sad-looking children as possible, including one carrying a stuffed rabbit (well, if Gallifrey has cats and mice, presumably it could have rabbits as well).

Murray Gold's Top Ten: The Gallifrey battle scenes provide yet another opportunity to go all Carmina Burana on us. Carl Orff *did* write a few other pieces, you know.

Clara's Job This Week: Schoolteacher, at Coal Hill School. At least she seems to have given up dying for the moment.

Continuity Frakup of the Week: At least three, all deliberate. Tom Baker's presence as The Curator, and the number of regenerations the Doctor has used so far (plus Moffat's own remarks on the same), are sure to keep the hashtags active until Christmas. Less remarked-upon is the fact that one of UNIT's pictures shows Mike Yates with Sara Kingdom-- did the First Doctor secretly drop round UNIT in the 1970s/1980s, or did the parallel-universe Sara of “The Destroyers” get her hands on a Dalek time machine?

Other Frakups: One UNIT soldier sports a full beard (perhaps UNIT has laxer hair regulations than the rest of the military?). The hut in the desert contains leaves and agricultural equipment (that's one rapid desert?). Although the Zygons copy clothing and accessories, they don't copy Osgoode's inhaler or, apparently, Kate's mobile phone (since, when Kate changes into her Zygon form in the Black Archive, her phone doesn't change too).

Continuity Resolutions: Most of the problems with the Zygons get either resolved or flagged up, e.g. how they manage to know so much about the people they duplicate, and the fact that their shape-shifting includes clothing and accessories (though not inhalers). The memory thing explains how none of the past Doctors and companions involved in “The Five Doctors” remember its events.

Hurt or Eccleston? Regeneration scene aside, about the only lines that would need changing were Eccleston to play the War Doctor are the one calling John Hurt “Granddad”, and the one referring to his “posh gravelly” voice (but substitute “Jug-Ears” and “Northern”, and you'd be fine).

Nostalgia UK: It's an Anniversary Special, so practically every second minute involves some sort of shoutout to past history. So many people have been involved in spotting them that I'm just going to refer you all to Google.

Item Most Likely To Become a Toy: It just amazes me that there has been no release of a John Hurt action figure yet; although apparently a War Doctor Sonic Screwdriver was released as a convention exclusive at the Doctor Who Celebration. Oh, and if anyone from Character Options is reading this (evidence points to no, but what the hell), I'm adding a request for a Night of the Doctor McGann to my usual request for a dress-up Madame Vastra and Jenny.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

In between the TV box sets...

Point Blank: Classic, surreal, 1960s thriller that views like a Jacobean revenge tragedy.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within: Uneven but enjoyable computer-animated based-on-a-videogame film. Low points: a bit cliched, a bit derivative of EVA and other Japanese standards, plus, sigh, the sole black character dies in the third reel. High points: a surprisingly non-cliched ending to the romance plotline, some spectacular, almost photorealistic CGI, a heroine whose look appears to be based on Clea Duvall, and, well, Steve Buscemi like you've never seen him before.

Drag Me To Hell: Wicked and postmodern return to form for the Raimi Brothers; a horror film which subverts the moralistic cliches of the American teen-horror genre, and takes a gleeful swipe at the selfish and overprivileged while it's at it. Plus best CGI goat ever.

The Constant Gardener: The premise is interesting enough-- quiet civil servant investigates his wife's murder and discovers she was about to go public about the nefarious activities of pharmaceutical multinationals in sub-Saharan Africa-- but the story takes way too long to tell, and Ralph Fiennes, as the hero, is a little too uncharismatic to hold the viewer's attention.

Movie count for 2013: 63

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Doctor Who and the Repeated Meme Toywatch: How Did We Do?

The Name of the Doctor: Predicted Whispermen. Didn't get so much as a Richard E. Grant in a tophat, let alone John Frakking Hurt.

Nightmare in Silver: I correctly predicted the new-look Cybermen. What I failed to predict was the sheer amount of Hedgewick's World merchandise, presumably so fans can pretend they were there as if it were a real theme park and all that. However, given how terribly naff the whole thing was, I don't think they want to be reminded.

The Crimson Horror: Still waiting for my Madame Vastra and Jenny Dress-Up Playset.

Journey to the Centre of the Tardis: I predicted ash-zombies, but no. You could always make your own by taking a Doctor and a Clara figure and subjecting them to intense heat.

Hide: Well, I sure didn't see this coming. Kudos for surprising me!

Cold War: Ice Warrior, though that was an easy one as they'd already released the prototype by the time the episode aired. This is unexpectedly neat, though.

The Rings of Akhaten: I suggested the grill-mouthed stalking thingies. But no.

The Bells of St John: Clara. Albeit strangely flat-headed and yellow of skin.

The Snowmen: Neither Snowmen, nor Great Intelligence Novelty Snowglobe, have manifested. Do they just not do merchandise for Christmas episodes anymore?

The Angels Take Manhattan: I predicted new Weeping Angel variants; we get that, and, more interestingly, this. This is also amusing.

The Power of Three: I said Character Options would be missing a trick if they didn't release novelty desktop Cubes. They didn't.

A Town called Mercy: I said this was one for the action-figure customisers, and, well, it was. You'll have to make your own cyber-cowboys.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship: Likewise. Go buy your own triceratops (PS, isn't he adorable?).

Asylum of the Daleks: Daleks.You were maybe expecting something else?

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe: I predicted Tree People. We didn't get them, so you'll just have to carve your own.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Alien Nation

Hancock: Starts off as a comedy based around the idea that superheroes, if they existed in real life, would not be a good thing to have around-- which is not exactly original (coughWatchmencough) but is well done here, with a showily heroic stunt by the eponymous superhero being followed by a newscast in which the mayor bemoans the cost of the property damage. About halfway through, though, it completely forgets about that and becomes again a much more conventional superhero movie, even down to ignoring the abovementioned cost of the damage. Will Smith deserves a better vehicle.

Paul: Alien mythology gets the Shaun of the Dead treatment. Should get way more notice than it does; it's witty, knowing, funny about nerd culture without being nasty, there's a nice bait-and-switch at the climax, and the CGI alien's got brilliantly rendered eyes.

Brick: Raymond Chandler story set in a high school, as a teenager sets out to wreak revenge for his ex-girlfriend's death. The experiment was interesting, but I found it a bit too hard to suspend my disbelief to actually enjoy it.

Scott Pilgrim Versus the World: Didn't expect to love this one, but I did. It was funny, postmodern, and cute, with characters I universally enjoyed, and set in Toronto. A feel-good flick, but one you don't have to feel guilty about watching.

The Birds: Flighty socialite makes a play for cute man, only to be attacked by birds representing the unbridled id of his mother. Seriously, it's true.

Movie count for 2013: 58

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Could do better

American Gangster: Disappointing film loosely (very loosely) based on the life of Frank Lucas, a black gangster who made good in the drug trade of 1970s New York. Unfortunately the decision to portray him as a cultured, noble, even heroic man, and to downplay the appalling way he treats his subordinates and family members, means that what could have been an interesting and complex exploration of how intelligent and ambitious members of minority groups are drawn to crime (q.v. Scarface), instead winds up giving a pass to a deeply awful human being. The period detail is nicely done, though.

Kick Ass II: Disappointing adaption of the comic, which strips out the wicked subversiveness and just presents us with a right-wing nerd fantasy.

Movie count for 2013: 53


Sharknado: Likely to be voted badflick of the year; Birdemic-level plotting, acting, direction, CGI and continuity (the use of stock footage to simulate a flooded-out Los Angeles means the water levels apparently rise and drop dramatically from one second to the next). But then, that's about to be expected. Bring popcorn.

Ghost Shark: A surprisingly better movie than the above (and as such a worse badflick, but never mind); there are some decent touches of direction, and, for a change, we get to see the shark victims' families grieving instead of having them just treated as targets. However, there's enough sketchy CGI and daft continuity to keep fans of the genre happy.

Movie count for 2013: 51

A Hitch in time

A Field in England: Psychedelic tale that might be about a group of deserters during the English Civil War who take drugs and go mental, or might be about the Devil, or might be about the nature of English identity. Either way, it's brilliant.

Telstar (The Joe Meek Story): Biopic about the early experimental-pop pioneer, his temper and his misguided relationship with a blond would-be music star. The music is good, the story is tragic, and one can have great fun spotting the BBC sitcom stars dotting the supporting cast.

 Public Enemies: Inexplicably boring story about the pursuit and eventual shooting of John Dillinger. Also with some deeply dodgy gender issues regarding Dillinger's relationship with his girlfriend; the way he treats her, the only way she'd stay with him that long is if she's some sort of emotional cripple a la Natural Born Killers, but instead the whole thing is played just as her being naturally attracted to a strong man.

Hitch: Entertaining biopic about Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma during the making of "Psycho", focusing on Hitchcock's personal doubts and fears and Alma's frustrations as the aide-de-camp and primary collaborator of a great director. Not deep, but literate.

The Girl: Appalling biopic about Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren, which somewhat unbelievably portrays Hitchcock as a sexually rapacious bully who was obsessed with Hedren and never made a good movie after she quit (OK, "Topaz" was terrible, but "Frenzy" and "Family Plot" weren't bad). Completely undermined by any documentary about Hitchcock and/or Hedren ever.

Also went to a free screening of "Skyfall", but was rained out halfway through.

Movie count for 2013: 49

Monday, September 02, 2013

Clashing symbols

Clash of the Titans: Cheerful abuse of the legends surrounding Perseus and the Medusa, motivated by the success of the Star Wars franchise and in hope of sparking a Harryhausen revival. The stop-motion animation is brilliant in places (nobody can fault the Medusa sequence, even now), but they upstage the principal actor, and there are some particularly bizarre moments (what exactly was the business with the giant vulture all about?). Sian Phillips had, not so long before, told Gareth Thomas that he was "prostituting his art" for appearing in Blake's 7; presumably her presence here is simply because she was told she'd be acting with Sir Lawrence Olivier, Maggie Smith et al.

Movie count for 2013: 44 plus A Field in England.

Never having to say you're sorry

Natural Born Killers: Movies don't come much more Nineties than this, with everything from the visuals to the casting to the story being as postmodern as possible. It's like a strangely fun drug trip overlaid on a grim reality of child sexual abuse, murder, rape and grievous bodily harm, but as such, and as something that could probably never have been seriously made in any other time period, it works.

The Abominable Dr Phibes: Continuing the theme of film and period, this is an enchantingly beautiful example of the early-Seventies horror film, with stunning design, amusingly Clouseauesque policemen, an Edwardian setting with unremarked anachronistic touches, Vincent Price conducting an engaging and believable performance while only speaking about four times in the whole film, and a zany plot involving murders based on the Plagues of Egypt. The only problems were 1) that I clearly know more about biology than the film's intended audience, so I just found the killer fruitbats and brown-painted lab rats way too cute; 2) the really awful burn-victim makeup on Vincent Price at the end of the story and 3) Phibes' assistant Vulnavia getting murdered at the end (which was rather nasty, and unnecessary-- I'd been pretty sure up till that point that she was an android).

Dr Phibes Rises Again: Inevitable disappointing sequel to the above. The policemen are correct and present and Vincent Price is still brilliant, but there's no real theme to the murder spree this time, Dr Phibes talks so much you wish he'd just shut up, Vulnavia turns up played by a different actress and with no explanation as to why she's not dead, and the plot holes a lot less easy to gloss over. No wonder there was never a Phibes III.

Love Story: 1970s version of a kitschy Victorian novel: two students meet and fall in love, he defies his parents to marry her, she supports him through his law degree, and then dies of a wasting disease which might possibly be leukemia, albeit without the more gross symptoms. I might have felt sorry for them if they weren't both such irritating entitled jerks.

Movie count for 2013: 43 (plus A Field in England)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trial Run

Town on Trial: Started out as a sort of 1950s version of Southcliffe, with John Mills' detective finding his efforts to investigate a murder in a small town being thwarted by local politics and personalities. Falls apart towards the end, though, when the murderer turns out to be someone rather unlikely and the explanation even less likely still. People drive Fifties cars so fast that when the brakes are applied, the car keeps going for several seconds; it's a wonder Mills himself doesn't wind up adding a few more deaths to the killer's total.

The Keep: Has two big problems: 1) it's actually three movies. There's a movie about a squadron of Nazis who occupy a Romanian town, throw their weight around, and wind up being picked off one by one by the local vampire/spirit, who is both a protector to and terror of the local people; a movie about a Jewish Holocaust victim who makes a deal with the devil to exterminate all Nazis everywhere in revenge; there's a movie about a demon-slayer who tracks down and slays a demon. Wedging them together into the same movie leads to confusion at best and cognitive dissonance at worst. 2) History. Actually, the Nazis got on pretty well with the Romanians, meaning the movie would be better off set in Hungary or the Ukraine, which also have a tradition of vampire legends. Problem is, if you're making a Slavic vampire movie for American consumption, you're going to hit the lowest-common-denominator issue that "everybody knows" vampires are Romanian. The 1980s effects are good; the castle set is nicely weird; Tangerine Dream are operating below their usual standard musically.

Movie count for 2013: 39 (I've also seen A Field in England, but I want to watch it again before I review it).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Great and Terrible

The Blue Lamp: An interesting ethnographic document about a now-lost time in British history, a society traumatized by WWII, in which both law enforcement officers and traditional criminals fear the rise of new, young and violent juvenile offenders. Oh, and Dirk Bogarde shoots Jack Warner at one point.

Les Miserables: I'm impressed. A cast that size, and not a single one of them can sing and act at the same time. Likewise, who casts Sacha Baron-Cohen as Thenardier and then gets him to underplay the role?

Oz the Great and Terrible: Actually neither great nor terrible but sort of banal, being Generic Disney Plot #48 (self-aggrandizing liar gets into trouble by lying, but redeems himself by admitting that he's lied and learning to Just Be Himself) mapped onto Oz, and lacking the weird surrealism of the original novels, the charming Freudianism of the film, and the witty revisionism of Wicked. Also, insert rant here about movies in which, at the end, The Hero Wins The Girl, as if The Girl is some sort of award to be given out for good behaviour. I think having more movies in which the hero's personal development turns out to be its own reward would lead to much less confusion and disappointment when its juvenile audience gets to relationship age.

Movie count for 2013: 37

Friday, June 28, 2013

Off to see the wizard

The Wizard of Oz: One of my favourite films, which I rewatch every few years just to remind myself how brilliant it is. However, my purpose in watching it this time is to apply it to a couple of David Lynch films:

Lost Highway: Opens with a headlong race down a road, yellow stripe prominently featured. Patricia Arquette starts the film as the Wicked Witch of the West: long dark hair, long dark dresses, black fingernails. She also clearly lives in the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks, if the red-themed decor and curtains are any indication. Bill Pullman then meets a wizard at a party and is pulled into a strange world where he is Balthazar Getty, Patricia Arquette is now the Good Witch Glinda, short blonde hair, white (later green) fingernails, and the local decor is predominantly green (i.e., emerald). However, through the predominantly-red garage he is drawn to a murderous encounter in which he meets the Wizard again, and returns home.

Mulholland Drive: Opens with a jitterbug (as in a deleted scene from The Wizard of Oz). Two men dining at Winkies' restaurant discover the Winkies' leader, the Wicked Witch of the West, living behind it; meanwhile, the events of Lost Highway are reenacted as a young person responsible for a murder wishes hard enough and the world changes, everyone in it takes different roles, and the dark-haired murder victim comes back blonde. The club Silencio is, once again, evidently the Black Lodge.

Movie Count for 2013: 34


Max Payne: Dreadful video-game adaption with an utterly predictable twist, slightly mitigated by the probably-unintentional subtext that the supposedly drug-induced visions of demons are actually real.

A History of Violence: Rewatched to prove a theory that this film is to Banshee what Star Wars is to Battlestar Galactica. It's true.

Movie count for 2013: 31

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Repeated Meme: John Frakking Hurt

The Name of the Doctor
(with thanks to Nick Lewis)

Central Premise Recycled From: "Alien Bodies", and Zelig.

Moffat Autorecycling: Timey-wimey companion, with sobriquet (The Girl who Waited = The Impossible Girl). Nursery rhymes (do the Whispermen just sit around all day trying to come up with rhymes for Trenzalore?). Madame Vastra, her household, and her hooters and honkers. Gratuitous Scottish jokes. Souffle Girl. Another person being clinically dead for long enough to cause brain damage, but revived unharmed through the use of a defibrillator. More Gentlemen-lite (the Whispermen). The stars all going out due to absence of Doctor (originally from “Turn Left", but more recently in the Pandorica two-parter). A crack in the universe. River bloody Song.

John Hurt. Any questions?
Recycling Other People: Inception (conference calls in dreams); Dracula (lunatic in Victorian prison with some sort of inside knowledge). The Matrix (Agent Smith's ability to manifest himself in any of the agents in the Matrix, like the Great Intelligence with the Whispermen). Sherlock Holmes (taking up bee-keeping as a retirement hobby). Star Trek: DS9 "Trials and Tribble-ations" (which also featured present-day characters green-screened into past adventures). Logopolis/Castrovalva (weird things happening to the Tardis during and after the Doctor's death). Quantum Leap, Battlestar Galactica (original and new), and every other story involving a person with an invisible advisor only they can see all the way back to Blithe Spirit (and the Doctor commenting that his kiss with River must have looked strange, is a direct reference to Baltar's sexual relationship with Head Six). Continuity references back to “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, “The Christmas Invasion” and “Trial of a Time Lord”. Back to the Future (characters disappearing or transforming as the past changes). “Edge of Destruction” (the fast-return protocol, or switch as it may be). “Trial of a Time Lord” (an evil secret incarnation of the Doctor). The time-rewriting thing has been done a lot, but the most obvious immediate referents are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and JJ Abrams' Star Trek.

Evil Household Objects: Candles.

Doctor Who!: Spoken by Simeon/The Great Intelligence, but then it would have been surprising if nobody had said it.

Outfits!: The brief clip of the Doctor's Christmas-episode stovepipe hat.

Small Child!: A Scottish urchin, the annoying Maitlands, a young Clara.

Murray Gold's Top Ten: Starts channelling Enrico Morricone, for some reason, when the Doctor and River have their snog.

Clara Dies Due To: Quite a lot of things, apparently. Jenny manages it twice.

Clara's Job of the Week: Saviour of the universe (ah-ahha!)

Run, you clever boy, and remember”: Clara says it, most notably right before chucking herself into the gap.

Topical Reference to Puzzle Future Generations: Richard E. Grant played an alternative ninth Doctor in the cartoon “Scream of the Shalka”; could there be a sly reference here?

Continuity Frakup of the Week: Strax is rendered unconscious through a blow to the head-- not the probic vent. If the Doctor almost never noticed Clara during his adventures, how is it we see the First, Third and Seventh Doctors all seeing her and reacting? And how is it he hasn't noticed her, given all the interfering she does? For that matter, how is it none of his companions or foes noticed her? Also, how is it the Doctor never noticed The Great Intelligence (other than, presumably, “The Abominable Snowmen”, “The Web of Fear”, “The Snowmen” and “The Bells of St John”)? When did the Second Doctor go to California? It's a Physics Fail rather than a continuity frakup, but a) you don't need antigravs to keep you floating in space above a planet, and b) turning them off wouldn't mean you plummet towards the planet, but that you'd go into orbit around it. Why don't the Daleks, who have a damn sight more reason to hate the Doctor than the Great Intelligence does, just go to Trenzalore and ram six million Daleks through his timeline? Also, if Clara is born, lives and dies in many places, how does she somehow invade the uteruses of millions of women throughout time and space? Why is the First Doctor dressed in Victorian clothes on Gallifrey, and when did the Sixth lose all that weight? In “The Doctor's Wife”, we learn that the Tardis chose the Doctor, rather than the Doctor being steered towards a particular Tardis by Clara (and if Clara did direct him towards the right Tardis, why does the Tardis dislike her?). Clara sees eleven faces of the Doctor, but she should see at least twelve, and more likely thirteen (depending on what or who John Hurt actually is). If John Hurt deliberately chose not to go by the name “The Doctor”, why the caption “Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor” (and he's credited as the Doctor in the end credits as well). Lincoln and Haisman still not credited as creators of The Great Intelligence.

The World's Biggest Continuity Frakup: So, now that time has been rewritten, it seems the Doctor has never actually saved the universe; it's all Clara. Every single Doctor Who story has now gone completely differently; that's fifty years down the pan then.

Nostalgia UK: More Victoriana.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: The Whispermen, probably.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Repeated Meme: Nightmare in Cardiff

Nightmare in Silver

Central Premise Recycled From: Remembrance of the Daleks” and “Asylum of the Daleks” (the Doctor's old enemy need children and/or the Doctor to resolve their problems).

Moffat Autorecycling: Moppets, humorously incompetent soldiers. The comic fat soldier would probably be played by James Corden if they hadn't already used him for something else. Another mention of how special Clara is.

Gaiman Autorecycling: Steampunk Victoriana; there was a Sandman comic which dealt with a Roman emperor who used to disguise himself as a beggar and go out among the people in the company of the court dwarf. A villain calling themselves “Mister Clever” is a very Gaiman sort of thing to do.

Recycling Other People: Lots of references to “The Moonbase” (e.g. a lunar surface mockup; weather control). The eighteenth-century chess-playing “automaton”, the Turk, which was actually controlled by a hidden dwarf operator and the Blake's 7 episode "Gambit" with its chess-playing dwarf; “Dalek” (indomitable enemy that is currently a theme-park exhibit); “Death to the Daleks” (the chess-playing Cyberman is the 699th wonder of the universe; the City of the Exxilons is the 700th). “The Curse of Fenric” (the Doctor playing chess with the villain and trapping him by telling him he can win the game in three moves);The Hand of Fear” (the Cyberman's independently-moving hand). The Cybermen have supposedly been wiped out for a very long time, like in 90% of all other Cybermen stories. The Matrix (bullet time). The original-series Battlestar Galactica episode “The Young Lords” (group of children/incompetents attacking/defending a fairy-tale castle against robots). The Cybermen base features design elements which appear to stem from a misunderstanding of “The Tomb of the Cybermen” (those semicircular depressions around the doors were steps in “Tomb”), and the final scene showing a live Cybermite is also a reference. The Star Trek: TNG two-parter “The Best of Both Worlds” (that's the one where Picard is absorbed by the Borg, for those of you who don't remember); actually there's a lot of Borg references, e.g. the Cybermen being vulnerable to each weapon only for a brief period. Poltergeist (“They're he-eere!”). The Cyberiad was a book of satirical and allegorical short stories by Stanislaw Lem, set in a universe populated by robots. “Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways” (act of self-sacrifice needed to destroy the evil alien enemy). There are allusions to the Anglo-Russian imperial rivalry popularly known as the Great Game, or the Tournament of Shadows, which would suggest that there's a theme of two empires, mirroring each other, in competition, but it only really works as a theme rather than contributing any major subtext to the story.

Evil Household Objects: None, but there's an evil theme park.

Doctor Who!: “Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Doctor!”

Outfits!: The Doctor's Borg-like facial implants.

Small Child!: Angie and Artie.

Murray Gold's Top Ten: Exaggeratedly bombastic orchestral score during the battle.

Clara Dies Due To: Nothing, but after the annoyingly arch way she acts this episode, most sane people are wishing she would.

Clara's Job of the Week: Child-minder and senior officer.

Run, you clever boy, and remember”: Nope.

Topical Reference to Puzzle Future Generations: Warwick Davies is seriously flavour of the month right now.

Continuity Frakup of the Week: Last week, Angie was so eager for a time and space adventure that she strongarmed/blackmailed Clara into taking her into the Tardis; this week she's sulky and bored. I know teenagers are famous for their mood swings, but seriously. Also, what the hell age is Angie supposed to be? She looks about twelve, but acts about seven. “You are full of surprises”, Clara says to Angie (cough). “The Pandorica Opens” showed that Cybermen can indeed operate on a basic level without organic parts, so why has the Doctor forgotten it this quickly? The fool's mate is one of the first chess gambits anyone interested in the game learns, and yet Artie, who's in his school chess club, doesn't catch it. The Cybermites remake Angie's mobile phone, but that particular gun on the wall never gets fired. How did the Cybermen build a bloody great facility like that, and cybernise enough theme-park-goers for an army of that size, without anyone noticing? And why do they only make their move now? A Cyberman walks through the moat of the castle, but the rest enter the castle through the door, which means they crossed the bridge instead. If only the Cybermen's brains are human, why do they need people for “spare parts”? Clara's skirt isn't tight.

This is not a frakking drawbridge, people.
Other Frakups Special To This Week: Are the people of the Empire, for whom space travel is a normal boring part of everyday life, really going to be that thrilled by a “spacey zoomer” anti-gravity ride? Why does the Emperor think it's a fun idea to go to an abandoned theme park housing a punishment battalion of soldiers, and sit around in the bottom of a chess-playing automaton hoping for someone to come along and trade a sandwich for a game? “Punishment platoons” were generally put on the front line to absolve their crimes through blood (and/or conveniently get killed), rather than being put in the rear where they won't do any harm. The bridge in front of the castle isn't a drawbridge, so can't be drawn up (corollary frakup: 
the Cyberman walks into the moat rather than cross the bridge). It's been a thousand years since the last defeat of the Cybermen, which should make their return the equivalent of a party of Norman longships turning up in the English Channel, but the military seem unsurprised and even apparently have standard tactics in place for fighting them. Why do the Cybermen only do the bullet-time thing once, as it would have been pretty useful when storming the castle? Why does Clara say she can see nothing in that particular sector of space when there's a huge nebula there? That's an explosion, not an implosion.

Nostalgia UK: Fantasy Victoriana, with empires and shillings and waxworks.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: Foregone conclusion again. I'm also betting we'll see cosplayers with Cybernetic face implants one way or the other, regardless of whether they're official or not.

Monday, June 03, 2013

The Repeated Meme: Frying Tonight!

The Crimson Horror
(with thanks to Matthew Kilburn)

Hooters! And Honkers!
Central Premise Recycled From: The Avengers (no, not the movie about the superheroes, the TV series about a team of posh British investigators, one in a catsuit, who infiltrate communities of crackpots determined to rule the world)
Moffat Autorecycling: This isn't a Doctor Who story, it's a Madame Vastra Investigates story which guest-stars Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman among all the Hooters and Honkers. If this were the Davies Era, they'd have their own spinoff by now. There be Moppets, and a quick reference to Clara's Victorian alter-ego.

Recycling Other People: “The Ark in Space” (the eye retaining the image of the last thing it sees);Ghost Light”; “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” (Utopian villain who is selecting the brightest and best to take to a new Golden Age on Earth); “Talons of Weng Chiang” (anybody surprised?); Frankenstein and its various sequels/remakes; comedy coroners feature in a lot of Britsploitation horror films, such as The Blood Beast Terror and Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde; The Road to Wellville; Carry On Screaming; Tipping the Velvet (Rachel Stirling in a story of aristocratic lesbians and their working-class lovers); Bram Stoker's Dracula (ironic use of period colour film effects); The Man Who Was Thursday; Total Recall (Mr Sweet's symbiotic relationship with Mrs Gillyflower); The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town (Mr Tuesday's fainting fits). “Rose” (time traveler is busted through compilation of badly-photoshopped historical photos).

Evil Household Objects: Salt-shakers.

Doctor Who!: Nope.

Outfits!: The Doctor goes the full Victorian.

Small Child!: Victorian urchin, plus the return of the Maitlands.

Murray Gold's Top Ten: Tinkly-piano comedy Victorian music as the investigators go North.

Clara Dies Due To: Not exactly, but she does get put in suspended animation by Mrs Gillyflower.

Clara's Job of the Week: Waxwork.

Run, you clever boy, and remember”: Nope.

Topical Reference to Puzzle Future Generations: Thomas Thomas, the giver of accurate directions (assuming future generations forget the TomTom satnav brand). Pausing the recording to view the handbills on the walls yields a lot of entertaining in-jokes for fans of Doctor Who and/or Hammer Horror: a circus featuring “Talking dogs, performing rats and DASTARDLY DONNA”, while another promises “Scarred Sam's weird and wonderful Human Waxwork”.

Continuity Frakup of the Week: OK, this is actually just a rant about the repeated gag of Thursday fainting every time he sees Strax. Considering the lack of plastic surgery and other modern medical techniques available in the Victorian era, there would have been enough strange facial dysmorphia about that Strax would not stand out as particularly hideous, so the fainting just looks silly. Rant part II: who the hell puts a secondary firing mechanism in the tower that's holding the rocket? Triggering it ought to burn up anyone in the tower at the time, events of the story to the contrary notwithstanding.

Nostalgia UK: Sixties horror films and mystery series.
Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: Still rooting for a dress-up Madame Vastra and catsuit-wearing Action Jenny, though Mr Sweet, in the form of a stick-on cosplay item or a Pez dispenser, is also crying out to take physical form.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Repeated Meme: It's Cold Outside, There's No Kind of Atmosphere

Journey to the Centre of the Tardis
(with thanks to Daniel Fox)
Central Premise Recycled From: “The Mind Robber”, “The Edge of Destruction”, and “The Doctor's Wife”, without the excitement.

Moffat Autorecycling: Timey-wimey stuff going on inside a living Tardis with whom the Doctor has a special relationship; Clara is somehow magic; she is also “feisty”; big reset button which nonetheless allows people to learn valuable lessons from the events they didn't experience. The Doctor's crib, and Amy's handmade Tardis, are in the storage areas as well as the Seventh Doctor's first-season umbrella. Magic libraries.

Recycling Other People: The Van Baalen Brothers are like an unfunny version of the Red Dwarf crew; in fact, in the episode "Out of Time", Lister becomes convinced he's an android and does menial tasks. Tricky's human aspects are initially passed off as him being a skinjob android, as in Terminator and the unmade second season of Caprica. The Tardis apparently contains, as well a swimming pool, something closely resembling the giant telescope from “Tooth and Claw”. “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” also featured a ship where the control rooms look like landscapes rather than architecture. The History of the Time War (no doubt written by Faction Paradox). A maze which continually reconfigures itself ("The Horns of Nimon"). “Death to the Daleks” involved a city which defended itself with artificial “antibodies”, and “Alien Bodies” featured defense systems derived from the attackers' own DNA. “Father's Day” (time consciously trying to reassert a particular timeline).

Evil Household Objects: The Doctor's “architectural reconfiguration system” is basically a really pretty 3-D printer.

Doctor Who!: Clara, reading his name in the History of the Time War, says “So that's who!”

Outfits!: Nothing this week, so I'll just say, where the hell did Clara get the idea that the red frock was at all flattering? Has she been taking fashion tips from Mad Men?

Small Child!: None.

Murray Gold's Top Ten: Mad props for musically referencing the Red Dwarf theme in the opening scenes of the Van Baalen Brothers' ship.

Clara Dies Due To: Being turned into some sort of “Fires of Pompeii” ash creature.

Clara's Job of the Week: Enigma.

Run, you clever boy, and remember”: Not spoken; however, through seeing the writing on Clara's hand, the Doctor is induced to remember, and runs.

Topical Reference to Puzzle Future Generations: Ashley Waters, who plays Gregor, is apparently some sort of hip-hop artist.

Continuity Frakup of the Week: There must, by implication, be three iterations of events: the first, where the grenade is not thrown through the rift, and the Doctor, Clara and the brothers all die in the Eye of Harmony room; the second, where the grenade is thrown through the rift but the Doctor fails to grasp the significance; and the third, where he does figure it out and hits the Big Friendly Button. However, if everyone dies in the first iteration of the timeline, who threw the grenade through the rift in the second?

Nostalgia UK: Not apart from the Red Dwarf stuff mentioned above.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: Another fairly toy-free week, though I suppose we might get some of those ash-zombies (the fused-bodies one would be best).

Saturday, June 01, 2013

The Repeated Meme: The Polystyrene Tape


Central Premise Recycled From: The Stone Tape.

Moffat Autorecycling: Alien that 's Not Bad, Just Misunderstood. Girl caught in timey-wimey phenomenon, people living at different speeds, “everybody lives!” type ending, Scottishness.

Recycling Other People: Multiple references to Quatermass, for reasons to be detailed below. Sapphire and Steel, that episode of Sarah Jane Adventures which also rips off The Stone Tape, The Omega Factor (creepy psychic phenomena in Scotland). “Battlefield” (chalk circle). The Haunting. “The End of the World”. “Planet of the Spiders” (well, not much, but that damned Metebelis Crystal has had so much press it has to be mentioned). That bit in “The Robots of Death” where the Doctor explains a complicated space-time phenomenon using a pair of boxes of different sizes, as here where he explains pocket universes using a pair of balloons of different colours. “The Parting of the Ways”.

Evil Household Objects: Just the usual psychic-phenomena stuff like candles that blow out, temperatures that drop, and so on.

Doctor Who!: Sort of: “Doctor What?” “If you like”

Outfits!: The Doctor just had to remind us that “The Satan Pit” exists, didn't he?

Small Child!: Mercifully, no.

Murray Gold's Top Ten: Shrilling minor-key horror-film incidentals this week.

Clara Dies Due To: Nothing, but she does get to see her own doppelganger.

Clara's Job of the Week: Holder of candelabras.

Run, you clever boy, and remember”: Again, no.

Topical Reference to Puzzle Future Generations: Ghostbusters, possibly.

Continuity Frakup of the Week: Others have pointed it out, but it's worth repeating that Professor Palmer is way too young for his backstory; the actor is 49, meaning he'd've been 19 in 1944, making him rather young for covert ops. The explanation is allegedly that the writer had wanted to make the character Professor Quatermass and set the story in the Fifties, but that would have raised an equal number of continuity issues (Nigel Kneale's own idea of the character's war record was rather more ambiguous and less heroic, and Quatermass, leaving aside the fact that he was married and father of a grown daughter in the 1950s, was never one to fancy younger women). Also, who took the photo of the Doctor that Palmer is developing?

Nostalgia UK: And now we're in the Seventies, so we get to feast our eyes on lots of pretty earth-tone knitwear, wallpaper, shearling coats and Cadbury's tins, plus lovely old tech like Westclox alarm clocks and Kodak slide projectors.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: Nothing toy-worthy this week; for once I'm actually glad Character Options don't go in for cosplay accessories, or they'd probably give us a blue crystal headband.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Repeated Meme: Recycling Like the Wolf

Cold War

Central Premise Recycled From: “Warriors of the Deep” crossed with “Dalek”, and obviously “The Ice Warriors”.

Moffat Autorecycling: None, and indeed the story seems to have been engineered deliberately so as to exclude the usual tropes: setting it on a Russian submarine precludes the presence of children and Time Travelers' Wives, making the antagonist a lone Ice Warrior rules out Gentlemen-lite hordes or Weeping Angel creeping unknowns. The script mercifully refrains from repeated catchprases and speeches about how wonderful libraries are. All that leaves is a villain who turns out to be Just Misunderstood, and song-based technology.

Recycling Other People: Has all the hallmarks of the Troughton-era Base Under Siege stories, albeit with fewer weird psychosexual undertones. Also “The Horror of Fang Rock” (base under siege at sea, with an alien that's pretty good at hiding and picking people off one by one). “The Krotons” (HADS). Gatiss indulges his fondness for eccentric old professors (see “Nightshade” among others), and has characters named “Zhukov” and “Onegin” (presumably there's a ship's doctor named Zhivago somewhere aboard).  
“The Curse of Fenric” (sympathetic Soviets). “The War of the Worlds” (the Ice Warrior's hand coming up behind Stepashin's head). “World War Three” (world on brink of nuclear annihilation thanks to an interfering alien). “The Unquiet Dead” (time is in flux, and the fact that Clara is alive in the 2010s does not preclude her dying in the 1980s). “Alien” and sequels, though that practically goes without saying. “Battlefield” (the Doctor's antiwar rant). “The Sea Devils” (submarine invaded by prehistoric lizard-creature).

Evil Household Objects: Not exactly, but there's a treacherous walkman.

Doctor Who!: Again not exactly, though Zhukov does ask “who are you?”

Outfits!: The Doctor dons aviator glasses for a visit to Las Vegas.

Small Child!: No, but then, where would you fit one on a submarine?

Murray Gold's Top Ten: Rather banal this week.

Clara Dies Due To: Nothing, though she does get knocked out for a while.

Clara's Job of the Week: To channel the spirit of Deborah Watling for forty-five minutes.
Run, you clever boy, and remember”: Nope.

Topical Reference to Puzzle Future Generations: Lots of Eighties references, so we can puzzle them right now. “Daddy, what's an Ultravox, and why are you and Mummy laughing?”

Gratuitous Plot Hole of the Week: That's an awfully big and spacious submarine they're on, and why's it got ventilator shafts?

Continuity Frakup of the Week: Strangely it's actually not a frakup, but a correction, in that the Ice Warriors were always meant to be cyborg-type creatures with really technological armour. However, since they haven't up till now, it comes across as a frakup. It's been pointed out that the Doctor saying he's never seen an Ice Warrior out of its armour renders certain New Adventures uncanonical, but I'm not sure most of the audience is bothered.

Nostalgia UK: We're back in the Eighties again, when everything was bigger. At least the choice of Ultravox and Duran Duran for period stylings means we miss out the “Ghost Town” embarrassment of last week.
Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: Foregone conclusion. Suffice it to say we're not going to be getting little plastic David Warners.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Repeated Meme: Song for Akhaten

The Rings of Akhaten

Central Premise Recycled From: “The End of the World” crossed with “The Satan Pit”.

Moffat Autorecycling: The Doctor visiting/stalking some girl over the course of her childhood; Moffat Moppet; stalking, whispering creatures that are basically The Gentlemen from Buffy with the serial numbers filed off; lots of mumbo-jumbo about how wonderful stories are.

Recycling Other People: Robes and priests and impending fiery doom straight out of “The Fires of Pompeii”. An evil deity-figure called The Grandfather. One of the background aliens is wearing a water-breathing apparatus like the ones seen in “The Doctor's Daughter”. Living suns, like the one in “42”. Yet another alien market that owes way too much to Mos Eisley.

Evil Household Objects: No, but there's a magic leaf.

Doctor Who!: Not said.

Outfits!: The Doctor's still in the tweed, and Clara's got some ultrafashionable boots on.

Small Child!: Merry, the Moffat Moppet of Years.

Murray Gold's Top Ten: The moment the Doctor mentions that singing is part of these people's beliefs, everyone should start bracing themselves for the return of the Welsh Choir of The Damned. Props to the sound effects department for giving the sun a cool rumbling effect, though.

Clara Dies Due To: Nothing, this week; it'll be a while before this trope comes back.

Clara's Job of the Week: Child.

Run, you clever boy, and remember”: One of the aliens in the marketplace says it, highly distorted, as the Doctor enters for the first time.

Topical Reference to Puzzle Future Generations: This story's pretty free of them.

Gratuitous Plot Hole of the Week: So, the resolution of this story involves the Doctor destroying the sun, and thus the entire system? And everybody's OK with that?

Cliche of the Week: Pyramids with supposedly impenetrable tombs containing evil mummies. “I've seen things you could never believe, etc.!”

Continuity Frakup of the Week: Not so much continuity this week as Massive Science Fail, namely, the idea that one can ride a space-moped through the system without any sort of protective gear or breathing apparatus. Likewise, although it's not entirely improbable that the audience to the concert just sits there passively while the whole drama with The Grandfather reawakening unfolds, it does seem a little weird; do they think this is a normal part of the show, or what?

Nostalgia UK: The early 1980s are envisioned as a place of Beano annuals, suburbs, earth-tone Ford Capris, and the song “Ghost Town” cutting out right before the political part of the lyrics begins. The Doctor mentions his granddaughter.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: If this were the Star Wars franchise, we'd have multiple versions of every single alien in this story. This isn't, and the mummy, with its chair and glass box, is too big to be anything other than a limited-edition figure, so we'll probably just get one of those grill-faced stalking thingys. If NBC can sell Tauron Mafia temporary tattoos from Caprica, why can't Character Options come out with stick-on Chorister scarification marks?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Repeated Meme: For You, But Not For Me

The Bells of St John

Central Premise Recycled From: “Silence in the Library” blended with “The Long Game” and garnished with just a soupcon of “Partners in Crime”. That, or “The War Machines”.

Moffat Autorecycling: Mysterious force absorbing people into it; person trapped in alternate dimension sending video warning to others, “Don't click” = “Don't Blink”; “I don't know where I am” = “Hey, who turned out the lights?”/“Are you my mummy?” Moffat Moppets (two of them); spoon-headed robots with the faces of absorbed people; Monks; the Doctor becoming obsessed with some unlikely woman; the Tardis phone ringing; jammy dodgers; Amy Pond Williams apparently wrote a novel called Summer Falls. For the second time this season, someone is clinically dead for enough time to cause brain damage and yet wakes unaffected.

Recycling Other People: Clara miraculously gets mad computer skillz, like Donna in “Journey's End.” The Doctor rides a motorbike, like in the McGann Telemovie and “The Idiot's Lantern”. Lincoln and Haisman yet again uncredited.

Evil Household Objects: The wifi.

Doctor Who!: Clara says it, and he goes on about how much he enjoys hearing it.

Outfits! (hats are no longer cool): Monk's robe, until monks are not cool that is. The fez does make a couple of cameos.

Small Child!: Clara's babysitting two of them, and another one turns up in the cafe. Miss Kizlett turns out to be one on the quiet.

Murray Gold's Top Ten: Abysmal Disney kids' movie comedy music as the Doctor gets changed.

Clara Dies Due To: Being zapped by the spoon-head, then revived as above. Twice.

Clara's Job of the Week: Child-minder.

“Run, you clever boy, and remember”: turns up as a painting title and a wifi password mnemonic.

Topical Reference to Puzzle Future Generations: the London Riots of 2011 were apparently down to the baddies as well. There's something which can be mistaken for a Tardis at Earl's Court (no doubt in the Doctor Who Exhibition, though Matthew Kilburn points out that there's also a police box in Earl's Court Road).

Gratuitous Plot Hole of the Week: Who gives Clara the Doctor's phone number as a helpline, and why?

Cliche of the Week: Could Clara please dial down the feistiness a bit? It's very wearing.

Continuity Frakup of the Week: Miss Kizlet probably ought to be a younger person; she was picked up by the Great Intelligence as a child and the wifi operation can't have been running for longer than about ten years, and yet she's clearly in her sixties.

Nostalgia UK: Reverse nostalgia-- the Shard is new, but give it ten years and setting a story on the Shard will sound like setting one on the Post Office Tower.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: No really marketable monsters this week, so we'll have to settle for Clara, and the Doctor in yet more outfits, spoonhead format, and so forth. “Summer Falls” is already a  downloadable e-book.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What I saw at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival, by Fiona aged 38.5

Birdemic II: The Resurrection: Possibly the worst film I've seen at the festival so far (and that includes such gems as Manborg and Sharktopus), combining appalling acting and effects with terrible production, a soundtrack which makes one appreciate the role of levels and foley, and a script crammed with inappropriate references to better films. It's eitehr an accidental or deliberate work of genius, I'm not sure which.

Dark Star (with live accompaniment): Sort of like a cross between Silent Running and Red Dwarf, I'd argue this is secretly a Vietnam film, featuring as it does four young American men thrown out into space on a mission they don't particularly understand and facing perils they can't cope with, slowly going insane under the pressure. This production had live accompaniment by Sheffield-based synth duo  Animat, which was extra groovy.

War of the Worlds: Goliath: An anime take on the War of the Worlds, so naturally the human race band together to fight the Martians using giant mecha, and World War I is called off due to alien invasion. Clear and distinct themes, with a slate of two-dimensional but likeable characters and a lot of cheery homages to the various takes on the story over the years (hoping they release their techno-remix of "Forever Autumn" as a single sometime).

Channelling: Pacy thriller about a near-future world in which people broadcast their experiences live over the Internet through contact-lens cameras; a sort of cross between Neuromancer and Strange Days via Twitter results.

Piercing Brightness: Aliens living incognito in Preston, Lancashire, receive a call to come home; not a bad story but I think it could have been told in a lot less time, and with fewer arty shots of birds.

Dark by Noon: Time-travel story; well thought out and atmospheric, but again could have been told in about half the time.

 Short Films: As usual too many to review in detail. The standout film was definitely "The Golden Sparrow", a strange and beautiful rotoscoped take on superheroes, but other highlights included "Judge Minty", a Dredd fanfilm about an aging Judge who's starting to question what it's all about, shot on a much smaller budget than you'd realise; "Une Monde Meilleur" a Tatiesque surrealist comedy about a bureaucratic functionary in a totalitarian regime who is left at a loss when said regime collapses; "Nyanco", a spoof of Japanese monster movies featuring a cat, and "Fist of Jesus", reimagining the New Testament as a zombie martial arts movie.

Movie count for 2013: 29

Monday, April 22, 2013

Django Unencountered

Django Unchained: Brutal but surprisingly hilarious, sort of *Blazing Saddles* meets *Inglorious Basterds*. I was a little disappointed by a lot of the casual sexism; Brunhilde is basically just a damsel-in-distress, and the intriguing fact that one of the gang of thugs on the Candieland plantation is clearly female was never really explored. But Christoph Waltz is hilarious as Dr King-Schultz, and the whole thing winds up as a kind of pop-culture riff on oppression and complicity. I saw the censored-by-the-Chinese-government version on an airplane, so I'm looking forward to the DVD release.

  The Big Sleep: Still brilliant and complex and compelling, a noir with the actual plot told in euphemism, allusion and things left unsaid.  

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: I was actually pretty astonished at how bad this was. The plot is minimal and predictable, the protagonist is thoroughly unlikable (I'm pretty sure the director *didn't* intend that I should be cheering when his wife took the kids and left him, but I did), and it's one thing to get a famous French director who speaks no English in for a cameo, but giving him a major part is asking for trouble. The spaceship was pretty but even as a big fan of early-Eighties electronica I found the whole communicating-through-synth sequence got boring really fast. Seriously, the same guy made Munich and Empire of the Sun?  

Yesterday's Enemy: Before they got pigeonholed as a horror studio, Hammer used to make other things, and this movie, adapted from a teleplay by Peter R. "Doctor Who and the Sensorites" Newman is a rather good morality-of-war piece: a British unit in WWII Burma commit a war crime, shooting two Burmese villagers to get a third to talk, and then are captured by the Japanese and subject to exactly the same treatment. With a young Leo McKearn.

Movie count for 2013: 23