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Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

You are not alone


Today I really need to rant about Doctor Who (ordinarily I'm not a massive fan. Since two weeks ago, where myself, Friend 3 and Friend 4 fell into a sort of mass hysteria after viewing the episode Utopia), so for all you nice film people who've so kindly turned up, here's a mini link-dump of other places to peruse while I rant:

Firstly, I've found another hub of info on British censorship here. Curiously, one of the articles does answer a query I raised a while back, asking if the censors cut things liable to deprave the public, what insane fiends must they end up:

"He explains that the board provides a counselling service for all its employees. "Not because we think any of them are going bonkers," he adds hastily."

I'll be the first to admit this is a tad nerdy. But everyone has one, slightly embarassing subject they're obsessed with. Mine's film censorship. I can quote dates. And this site's a mini-gem. This Film is Not Yet Rated is one I've just got to see...

And a second site dug up on the same site (probably already familiar to anyone who checked IMDB this morning...) is a top 100 movie moments list. Schpoilers abound - although it's likely you'll have seen, or be aware of all the biggies if you're properly into film. Ears, horses heads, showers and ferris wheels are all present and correct in what I'd call a pretty darn good list. Just for my sake, don't don't just don't read the Usual Suspects entry if you haven't seen the film. Or Don't Look Now. Or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And fer-the-love please skip L.A. Confidential. In fact it might be better to skip the ones you haven't seen...

That'll keep you busy :) Scroll down for this week's conundrum. I'll even put it in blue to aid the scrolling Now. Doctor Who...written in response to Utopia and not updated for last weeks episode which was ooookkaaaay provided the last one's of the three-parter is amazing.

Today I remembered quite how much I adore Doctor Who. After an abysmal run, finally they hit us with the quadruple whammy of Human Nature, Family of Blood, Blink and now Utopia to restore my faith in a flagging series.

Doctor Who’s greatest strength is the Tardis – every plot-author’s wet dream of a gimmick. It’s the deus ex machina box – if in doubt, we can either pilot the characters out of there, or introduce a new plot kink whereby it can also do THIS (well well, that’s what happens when you look into the heart of the Tardis. Who knew?). You’re not tied down a running plot when it becomes tedious, because you can cut and run just like that. The opportunity for something new every single week should prevent things becoming repetitive.

Yet the Tardis, if handled incorrectly, can also cheapen the series. Doctor Who has a fundamental flaw, and one which this series has blatantly exposed. It’s the fact that trouble strikes within instants of them landing, and is entirely vanquished by the time they leave. It’s an inherent flaw in the plotting – after all, the blessing of an episodic show without a running plot also means you have very little time for setting up. The best Doctor Who episodes successfully disguise the potentially repetitive nature of the show. The worst use the Tardis as a mere excuse to repeat the same plot on a different planet – the disregard for human life’s the same, it’s just the latex that changes. Did anyone notice they pulled the ‘monsters built a famous building as a power conduit’ trick twice this season – once with the Empire States building, once with the Globe, all in three dismal episodes.

The first thing I ask for in a Doctor Who episode is a good plot. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be highbrow, but I’d like a bit more intelligent than a sort of Alien-lite. One or two of these a season is ok, but the best manage to successfully hide the default land-meddle-leave plot and give us something which engages with the show (if you could replace the monsters with dragons and our heroes with a knight and princess, and the plot is not sufficiently impacted by the lack of Time-Lord technology, then it's not really sci-fi and we have a problem). The best are invariably those which screw with the formula, or look at the consequences of the same – take the return to Satellite 5 which shows that when they depart, all is not always dandy.

This series has been shoddy in that regard. Now I understand Doctor Who is a kids show, but if you’re going to do a stupid plot at least give it stupid style. Bizarrely forgetting how infantile the plots are, they’ve tried to inject with limp emotion what should be B-movie romps. No one is going to believe in the New York pigs, howevermuch “depth” Tallulah’s role adds. And the thread with the emotional appeals to the husband in 42 was predictable and unnecessarily slowed a fast paced episode.

All this might sound like I’m actually a Dr-Who-basher masquerading as a fan. I’m not, I just get annoyed when they squander what’s wonderful about it. EITHER give us adult plots and emotional reactions, OR give us bash-in-the-door adventures and treat them as such.

The second most important thing in the series is the Dr himself. Keeping his character integrity is key – I love moments when they suggest dark things about his past; I get nervous when they start stating anything definite. The moment the Face of Bo shut his big eyes for the last time, I stopped wondering “now what exactly did he say in the cat-doctors episode” and started dreading the implications of his final words: you are not alone. Please Hitchcock no. Not an integrity destroying “other timelord”, God forbid not a female one. What a heart attack that gave me (even if my father hit the nail on the head instantly).

I understand that Tom Baker’s meant to be the man, but David Tennant is my doctor. Christopher Eccleston, great as he is, didn’t quite do it for me. Wacky, curious and basically a good guy – or is he? Merciful, enthusiastic, loves humans for their optimism…but he’s more than just an avenging paragon. Acquainted with what it means to mess around with timey-wimey stuff, he doesn’t overstep his power. Which means if it’s destiny for a race to die, then he’d let them die; just as he feels incapable of entirely destroying the Daleks. I love the Doc for his darkness. It’s waiting there beneath the surface, just behind the cheeky grin and madcap antics. This is the guy who is destined to live alone for a very long time, carrying a stooload of survivor guilt bigger than my ego. And when something offends his strong sense of right and wrong, he gets mean, and all of a sudden people are spending the rest of their eternities in abysses, mirrors or scaring crows. Hell, have we even worked out how he got away while the rest of the Time-Lords didn’t? I’m not willing to put money on cowardice, but you can bet it’s gonna be something awful. Watching him blank Jack so utterly in Utopia has to be some of my favourite scenes of the series ever. The prospect of an eternal companion has not excused Jack’s biological wrongness one bit. Compare his eagerness to reconcile with the Master, despite his moral wrongness, to solve the same loneliness.

For all the pseudo-sobbing for minor characters in the first half half-season, there’s being very little moral panic as far as the Doc is concerned. Obviously it’d become awful very quickly if he went through the emotional treadmill every week – see Torchwood to see how tiring and uncomfortable that becomes – but there was a certain lack-of-caring. The relationship between him and Martha has potential, but the return of Jack has just reminded me how I loved the old trio and how little I care for the current set up. I’m looking forward to seeing how Jack’s return changes the dynamic there…

I have been trying to like Martha, trying very hard. I’m not one of the rabid Rose lovers, I figured I could handle the change. Heh. I thought for a while it was just “George Lazenby syndrome”, the dislike of the new in comparison with the old, with dear beloved Rose as our “Sean Connery Bond” of companions. But actually, its because Freema Agyman can’t act and hasn’t yet proved worth caring about. I’d have been more enthusiastic had Sally, or even Tallulah joined the team. But something about her and the Doc doesn’t quite gel – there’s a complete lack of chemistry there of any kind. Contrast the rush of seeing Jack again. Hell, it was worth Jack going just so he could come back. It’s almost like the Doctor accepts this in his relationship with Martha – she is still just along for the ride and not a full paid up member yet. This could provide some meaty character development – in the background, Martha must know she could be dropped at any minute. Personally, I like her instant infatuation with the Doc, but it’d be good to see a little serious interior panic about the prospect of losing him. The moment Rose comes back into the picture (if that’s likely, or even possible) she will be dumped. Obviously she’d never articulate this in words, but the fact this blonde enigma connects these two guys and the knowledge that Jack-Doc’s-Close-buddy got dumped so quick, that’d put the quakes in me. She’s obviously never seen anything starring Kevin Spacy, otherwise she’d have learnt there’s more to acting than just saying the line. At times, it almost seems like she's acting on a separate day, having only been given her own lines, and being cut back in post-production.

The dismal companion brings down the number of good character moments available to the Doctor, and gives the whole set of episodes a lack of emotion.

But all in all, the plots have been improving, and the return of Jack looks to have remedied the latter very quickly indeed. And it was worth waiting for just for that other little return…

These returns were starting to get on my goat. Oooh look even MORE Daleks! When the Doctor grimly asks “why do they always survive?”, or words to that effect, I couldn’t help but nod. With a series packed with potential for all sorts of different things, how many times can there logically be another “last Dalek”. I’ve forgiven them now. I never saw the original series, so integrity for once isn’t my soapbox.

I kinda get that after the Daleks, the Master IS the barstool of the universe. Did he create them? (Ed, nope that was Davros…) Anyway, he was one bad dude (a point missed by my sister, who innocently commented: “Oh, I thought he was going to say something important…” after the series’ big reveal.). Even my lack of acquaintance with the original didn’t prevent me going into a sweaty fan breakdown like nothing I’ve felt since Peter Jackson ended Return of the King with the same 3 words as Tolkien did his trilogy. And it’s been fun telling people who haven’t seen the episode yet that there’d be the return of a big character, and have them assume I meant Jack.

All that piles up to make Utopia sort of a runaway favourite.

So, to wind up. This seasons three best eps were in order, Utopia, Gridlocked and Blink. Why is Utopia great? Because the background plot is plausible and not to OTT. Because the emotion levels for the Redshirts are at a minimum (oh how I loathe being asked to care for characters I’ll only know for 20 minutes), and at the max for our heroes. And because I've been thinking tardiswise ever since, and we (Friend3+4+I) worked ourself into a complete and utter frenzy as a response. I'm eagerly awaiting the next episode for my bubble to be burst and life return to a semblance of normality (after all, it _is_ just a TV show, and not one I had particularly deep fondness for, until now...)

The highlight of the early season was, for me, Gridlocked. No villain, no world domination, just pure sci-fi and some set up for _the_ episode of the series. I just thought the idea of the eternal jam was cool, and I loved all the individual sets.

The third best episode, I felt, was Blink, just for using the time travel as part of the plot instead of just handy deus-ex-machina, for starring that lovely, endearing actress from Bleak House, for having the scene with the lightbulb, for the sweet black guy who asks for her number, for the dweeby brother, for the wonderful script, for a gleefully unresolvable paradox at the center of the plot, for actually being genuinely creepy without being too scary, for that house, for the end montage, for making us (Friends 2 and 4 this time) run for our lives after getting spooked, for the line about only having 17 DVDs, for the easter egg making sense both times she interacts with it and for having a list that long of great things. In fact, this episode was awesome. Wow. Did I mention the lightbulb?

Then I had to sit through several hours of OK-not-great waiting for Human Nature and Family of Blood. Guilty of a little “Magic TARDISNESS” with the convenient revelation that Time lords can assume human biology, at least it was novel. A slow reveal stopped the instant-enemy effect, while the fact our heroes were hiding from the monsters gave the whole thing a different dynamic. I liked the way they actually interacted with the time (references to the coming war, remembering Martha is female, black and of lower class - especially when she keeps forgetting to knock - and teachers shown as nice and good approving of beatings e.t.c) gave the whole thing a real feel deeper than just guys running about in costume. The transformation gave David Tennant to prove he can actually act - the Doctor is a great character, but John Smith proves he's not a one character chappie. Might even have brought me to tears had I not, er, seen them in the wrong order.

The change aided the calmer pace of the episodes, as did the presence of Joan who was wonderful in a quiet way (lets put it like that - she became love interest. If she had been even slightly bad, I would have loathed her) And it provided us with massive numbers of character moments! The end was particularly juciy Doctor-wise (even the fact he would forget to consider falling in love...), but it also, finally gave Martha room to strech and do more than ask "What's that, Doctor?" for the benefit of the audience. In fact, this has to be Martha episode numero uno.

Other things nice: the scary son, the overly harsh and unusual punishments, the "huh?!" factor of seeing them in maidwear/pajamas until you realise what's happened, the scene between Joan and the Doc at the end and the actual watch, a) because it's pretty and b) because it gave me the jolt of a life time seeing it again in Utopia.

Smith and Jones, 42, and the Lazarus Experiment, in my book are definitely good, passable episodes – not fantastic, but not half bad either – with lots of lovely little moments. I can't really rank them, as I've only seen them once and it was a long time ago. I'd say (possibly) 42 (the direction was actually quite formidable for TV - especially because I felt boiling by the end of it. Wins points for the silent moment as Martha drifts away, seeing the government peeps in Martha's mum's house and seeing the Doc meet a monster he's afraid of. Loses points for seeming a bit similar to both Sunshine and last season's episode where he meets the devil), then the Lazarus Experiment (I like Martha's family! I also liked the quiet bit in the cathedral, and the organ playing. And at times, this approached the gleeful B-movieness I missed above - you knew just what was going on, exactly who was going to get eaten when, and could sneak a little chuckle...), then Smith and Jones because I can't remember either liking or disliking it especially.

Which leaves the Shakespeare Code (guilty of choosing one of the sonnets NOT addressed to "a dark lady" at the end, and just being a bit pants) and those two New York episodes as the total stinkers. Particularly New York – boring, predictable, certainly not deserving a two parter to set up a plot which went away as quickly. The series would not have been impacted had they been skipped entirely. The only cool thing was the Doc deciding to help the evolved Daleks.

I got a new B&W Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid print for my room. Eeee! And the only reason I'm telling you this is because escaping from a _massive_ movie shop with only that one reaffirmed its position as my favouritest everest film. Being in a place like that really focuses your mind. With infinite choice between movies, music, actors and TV, narrowing it down to one from everything you've ever seen soon becomes a serious task. Suddenly, my hibernating adoration of The Godfather starts jumping around in a hula skirt demanding attention, and Pulp Fiction slinks off and cowers behind its own briefcase, after being chased off by Jackie Brown.

I do get very precious over my favourite movies list. They don't have to be fantastic, they just need to be things I love. Like is not quite enough. Things that blew me away is not quite enough. Genuine affection and fondness must be present. And what do I do with Fellowship of the Ring which is so insanely special I just can't treat cinematically? Mercifully, Fellowship was the only other one which I seriously considered purchasing from that store, which restores my faith in the order of things. For some strange, random reason.


Finally, I see you all had fun with the telephone conundrum...I'm actually guilty of coming up with a question I couldn't have answered myself (I thought of the Matrix, and then flailed to remember the-name-of-the-one-where-the-hostage-calls-a-random-number-on-a-broken-phone thriller) It'll be Thursday by the time you get this, which means time for another. Yay! Without using IMDb, can you think of five films where Battleship Potempkin is spoofed. And just to even it out this time, I've already got a fair few in mind.

9 comments:

Rob said...

Five films where Battleship Potempkin is spoofed.

Brazil
The Untouchables
My film teacher said the staircase scene during The Shining was one, though I still don't believe him
28 Weeks Later
The Godfather

There we go.

Ninquelosse said...

Wooo well done. I can think of at least two more off the top of my head. The Godfather though? It never leapt out at me (I assume you're referring to the guys on the steps in the end montage?). Anyway...I like this game, it's fun...

Catherine said...

About Doctor Who: I agree with you to a certain extent. Like, they overuse the Sonic Screwdriver to a massive extent which is just bad, lazy scripting. And the Tardis is a major Deus Ex Machina (literally descending from the sky!) buuuut....I *do* like Martha and her interaction with the Doctor. I don't agree with you on her acting, I think she's a little more relaxed than Rose and sometimes she seems aloof, but that's just her character. The ending of The Lazarus Experiment when she's at the top of the cathedral with her sister, that was great acting! Plus, that episode was fantastic as it included both a Spinal Tap reference and two T.S. Eliot quotes. I love it when the Doctor gets literary - see; the Shakespeare episode, which, granted, had a shitty story, but ohmigo'ness the jokes! I feel overall that the crappier storylines of this season were saved by their quotes and feel, like the New Yoik ones had the whole George Gershwin thing... Okay, the human Daleks stunk.

The last half of the season was/is amazing though! Blink, The Family Of Blood, Utopia etc... David Tennant showed his true acting chops in The Family of Blood, and I cried so hard in that episode. Much like Doomsday, actually, in that regard.

Anyhow, I cannot wait until Saturday!!

Rob said...

Thank you.

There was also a bit where a character (I forget who) gets hit in the eye, much like the man with the eyeglass in BP

Catherine said...

Hullo!
You've been tagged. I still can't create a link in a comments box, but head over to my blog and check the summer post.

Aloha.

Catherine said...

Tag!

Catherine said...

I am totally fecking up your comments. Apologies! Ignore the above link,

Tag!

Aly Shephard said...

C'mon Em, Blink OWNED this series!!! Maybe I ruined the whole Master thing by guessing it 2 minutes in, but Blink was amazing! I've watched it 4 times ("Oh the moon landing's brilliant, we went 4 times...") already. Jack being the Face of Bo was best bit of this season though. I told you Martha's coming back didn't I? Probably...

Emma said...

Heya!

Regarding the blogathon and your entry on Monday - absolutely fine. No worries. I know I put the official date as 07/07/07, but I never honestly expected it last just that short a time length! I'll probably keep the thing open until Wednesday, so you're fine, Looking forward to your entry!

Emma
xoxox

 
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