Saturday, May 26, 2007

42 (Spoilerlicious)

Chris Chibnall has come in for a lot of flack since he scripted the absolute worst episode of Torchwood. The title Cyberwoman sends a shiver down many a spine even after all these months. It is difficult to defend the very nadir of what was at best a patchily successful series but it is worth remembering that much of what was wrong with Cyberwoman (the high heels; the flinching from barbecue sauce, deadly to Cyberwomen of course) were failures in the design or direction rather than faults in the script. Chibnall's other Torchwood scripts were good and his two Life on Mars episodes ranked among the best.

Where does all that leave 42, Chibnall's first crack at Doctor Who? Like some of the scripts mentioned above many of the elements of 42 are derived from other works; the setting strongly echoes last years Impossible Planet, there are similarities to The Planet of Evil, the realtime element of 24 (although Who previously borrowed that conceit with less fuss in The End of the World during series one), and yes it is possible to say that the elements of possession, sentient suns and spinning into the heart of a cosmological disaster have all been used before. However some excellent performances - especially from the stupendous Mr Tennant, and the supertight direction of Uber-Whooey Graeme Harper mean that what you end up with is an edge of the seat thriller putting the Doctor at the greatest risk he has yet seen and laying grim portents for the series finale.

The plot device of the ship being sucked into the sun exists to fuel the real time concept - a tried and tested method of generating pace and tension which is resoundingly successful here.

In order to save everyone Martha and Riley must get from one side of the ship to the other. Unfortunately there are an awful lot of sealed doors in the way. Incidentally these doors are 'deadlock sealed' thus rendering the sonic screwdriver of limited use once again. It's good to see the production team take even little criticisms on board. To get through these seals you have to enter the right code but instead of numeric or maths problems the alarm codes rely on general knowledge. This leads to a great comic moment as the Doctor tries to remember who had more number ones pre-download out of the Beatles and Elvis. Mundane trivia becomes a matter of life and death in the race across the crippled ship.

Martha's conversations with her Mother take us back to the present day to further foreshadow the inevitable showdown between the Doctor and the mysterious Mr Saxon. As black suited cronies listen in on Martha's conversation we can once again reflect on how very well prepared Mr Saxon is for the Doctor's arrival.

Martha's mother continues to be a source of concern. The character seems to have a strange attitude towards parenting and you must wonder why she would agree to her phone being tapped. She has been convinced of the danger that the Doctor represents very easily and her behaviour is suspect. It's almost as if she had been hypnotised. Adjoa Andoh gives a much better performance in her brief scenes here than she did in The Lazarus Experiment.

Of the guest cast Anthony Flanagan gives us a very down-to-earth spaceman. The crew of the Pentallian are more similar to oil riggers or builders than space adventurers which shows us that even blasting through space in the future will seem mundane. Michelle Collins' performance as the Captain is satisfactory, if a little undynamic. William Ash as Riley is an engaging foil for Martha to bounce her emotional turmoil off, not to mention a little love interest for Martha.

David Tennant gives another extraordinary performance in 42. Something that Christopher Eccleston commented on about playing the Doctor was that it is difficult to play a character that doesn't change or grow. He is the same every week and can't really vary from that established character. I wonder what he would have made of the Doctor being frightened when possessed by the sun, or of what's to befall him in the next episode Human Nature, or his love affair with Madame De Pompadour, or the heartbreak of losing Rose. The point Eccleston was making is true and yet the series seems to find many ways to challenge that static character of the Doctor. David Tennant's Doctor does change, he does develop and he definitely does suffer. In 42 he struggles terribly to control himself while under the influence of the Sun and there is little more frightening than seeing our hero scared.

This episode has buckets of pace and is visually stunning. The jeopardy that the Doctor finds himself in and the constant countdown to the ship crashing into the sun add to the urgency and gravity of the situation. The real standout moment comes as Martha's rings tap against the escape pod window as she drifts away through the vacuum of space and towards a toasty death in the sun.

In the final analysis it doesn't really matter if a story borrows elements from preceding episodes if it provides forty two minutes of exciting, colourful and emotional television like 42. Series three, having had a stronger opening than it's predecessors, suffered a little wobble with Evolution of the Daleks. As enjoyable as The Lazarus Experiment was it somehow wasn't enough to set things right. 42 does a much better job and with Paul Cornell's adaptation of his beautiful novel Human Nature next up and Captain Jack and Mr Saxon waiting just over the horizon series three may just end up being the best yet.

Friday, May 25, 2007

24 Day Six Overview (Spoilers Ahoy)

More than ever before series six of 24 felt like it had been written by a roomfull of screaming, panicking men. As a matter of fact it was but it doesn't usually show this much.

Overall the series had some good moments but suffered from a lack of direction. The middle third suffered a serious shortage of Bauer power. The series relied heavily on the plot elements concerning the White House which, without the presence of Dennis Haysbert or Gregory Itzin, were dull and repetitive. Powers Boothe's performance as Vice President seemed to be based on a combination of Dirty Den Watts and the Ayatollah Khomeini. Wayne Palmer has a good stab at being a bargain basement David Palmer but fell far short.

Where in previous series political power struggles have been interesting and credible here they were silly and unconvincing. The one beacon of hope in the White House was Peter Macnicol as Tom Lennox who weathered every crisis with the same air of weary exasperation whether trying to avert a nuclear strike on a Middle Eastern country or choosing what soft drink to have with his pizza.

At CTU things were slightly better Nadia and Morris proved themselves worthy additions to the team. Morris was particularly interesting as for once a CTU operative didn't take everything in his stride. His brief struggle with the shadow of alcoholism showed a real world reaction to the situation he had found himself in that lent credibility to the series.

Nadia proved herself a worthy replacement for Michele Dessler. Her struggles in choosing between the right thing to do and the best thing to do were interesting even if her red herring relationships with Doyle and Milo were a little pointless.

A member of the CTU team who didn't come off so well was Chloe who seemed to have been relegated to office monkey despite seeming to help run CTU only the previous year. She was given nothing to do and did that poorly.

The great tombstone faced Bill Buchanan was less in evidence than usual and the counter terrorism World was a duller place for that absence.

The reintroduction of Charles Logan was unexpected and he proved as mercurial as ever. For a few episodes we really didn't know what his motives were or if he was to be trusted. As it turns out we may never know as he vanished from the series having been stabbed by his former wife never to be seen or referred to again.

And what about Jack? Having begun the day wanting nothing so much as a quiet death Jack was dynamised into action first by the threat of nuclear apocalypse on American soil and later at the involvement of his own family and the Chinese government. The exploration of his relationship with his father and brother added another aspect to Jack's character - though it may have been a mistake to kill his brother off so early. James Cromwell's performance was very weak initially but in his climactic return he seemed to have settled into the role at last.

Josh Bauer was a fascinating addition to the clan. On top of his golden moptop his readiness to boot terrorists in the chops and shoot his own grandfather make it seem more likely than ever that he may turn out to be the product of Jack's hinted at past entanglement with his brothers wife.

The sad state of affairs regarding Audrey Raines gave new pathos to Jack's tragic tale and it seems fair that the climax of the finale was an emotional one rather than one of spectacle.

After six series of Jack doing his duty to have him tell it like it is was powerful stuff. In encountering a problem he couldn't fix through intimidation, sacrifice or violence he was forced to the conclusion that he could do nothing. Perhaps Jack really is cursed.

We leave Jack Bauer, as we leave the production team of 24, at a crossroads. Serious thought must be put into what direction the show is to take now as another patchy series may do irreparable damage to the programmes previously rock solid reputation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

too many faces...

I think I scared a colleague the other day. I asked how busy the shopping centre was and he told me it was quite busy. So I said I probably wouldn't go out for my usual breath of fresh air because there would be 'too many faces'. I don't know what possessed me to say that out loud. I suppose sometimes we think things to ourselves so often that it's easy to accidentally say it out loud like anyone would understand.

I should explain. For a few years now I've felt that most people's faces look familiar. When I see a new person, someone I haven't met before, they already look familiar. I theorise that there are two possible explanations for this.

Firstly, perhaps my memory only has room enough for a limited number of faces. So after that number has been reached the older faces are wiped from my face-archive and new, more recent faces are assigned to those individuals instead (this explains why I never think people look the same when I see them after a period of time).

The second possible explanation is that I have discovered a glitch in the universe. That glitch being that there are only a limited number of faces available in creation and I actually have seen them all.

In any case the phrase 'too many faces' is now being hurled back at me on a daily basis as it amuses my colleagues so much.

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As real life caught up with me last week I found myself less able to spend time writing. This is the classic excuse of course and I must do better. It was all going pretty well until Thursday and then some workplace politics put me off my stroke.

As a result it's a whole week since my last entry - rubbish. I have not been completely idle however. I'm ready to script my Future Shock and anticipate submitting it within a few weeks. I may crack out a few more over the next couple of months as I've been reminding myself why and how much I love comics this week.

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News of a reputable sounding Doctor Who fan fiction ezine has excited me today. An introduction by Paul Cornell and the involvement of Mags L Halliday must be a seal of quality? I've looked at some fan fiction sites on the internet and literally been terrified by what I've seen (I never really thought of K-9 as a sexual presence).

I've a rather fun second Doctor story in need of a home, I wonder if they are looking for material...

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In other news Emma passed her driving test last week. Whilst this is fantastic news and a great achievement it does mean that we now have to buy a car. We have actually just returned from nonchalantly drifting around a used car lot with our hands in our pockets trying to look at cars like we know what we're doing. A bit like cows skipping into an abattoir.

A man approached us and asked if we needed help so of course we told him no. We may have to get Emma's Dad to help us. I am thirty-one.

We were going to go for a walk into town then but because it's so sunny there were a lot of faces out. Too many really. We came back home instead.

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It's very nearly time for us to watch the two part season finale to 24 series six. Will it all turn out OK? Is Chloe going to contribute anything at all to this series? Is Wayne going to wake up? Will we find out what happened to Logan?

Do I really care when Heroes is so very much better?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Q) How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

I impulse bought Writing Magazine in WH Smiths today. In spite of it's Womans Weekly-ish cover it does have some interesting tit bits. It's always educational to hear the insights and advice of other writers.

More educational were the poor proofing and spelling errors in a magazine about writing. Billy Piper? Another article uses an extract from a Katie Fforde book but can't quite decide how to spell her surname so alternates between a single and double use of the letter 'f'.

I'll stick to the Writers Handbooks from now on I think.

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The Counter is steadily rising down there under the 'Downloading Communism' poster (thank you Keith Topping). This reflects well on my work since I entered the 'blogosphere'.
The sad reality is that I get at least four hits a day from people searching for pictures of Kirsten Dunst (intel by Statcounter). I was thinking of removing the picture but why worry? It's all about footfall in this game. Apparently.
If you have come here looking for Kirsten Dunst she's just a little bit further down!
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Back at work since Monday but still doing my hour a day. An hour doesn't seem a lot but at least I'm making slow progress instead of no progress. Concentrating on a submission for the SFX Pulp Idol competition at the moment. I'm halfway through the draft. It will be finished this week (even at an hour a day!) without any worry.

In other news Emma and I went to the Comics Expo in Bristol on Sunday; despite the best efforts of biblical weather. It really inspired me to have a go at writing a comic script. With that in mind I've had the germ of an idea for a 2000AD Future Shock, the ideas really come thick and fast when you're writing every day.

Also at the Comics Expo I was lucky enough to meet Paul Cornell. They say you should never meet your heroes but I found him to be an enthusiastic and friendly man perfectly willing to indulge a nervous, damp and probably incoherent fan. This was the perfect end to a week of concentrating on my writing. There are people out there doing it every day and he's one of them.

I know I could be too.

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I've discovered a web site called Story War. You can post short fiction or poems on this site and people read and rate them. These ratings are tallied up into a league table of stories. This means you can watch your story get voted up and down the table at the slightest whim of a bored index finger. Sounds horrific doesn't it?

It's blighted by some conflict between users at the moment but I've put a few old stories up there out of curiosity. It's well worth a look.

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A) Practice, practice, practice.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Primeval (Episode 3)

If Primeval does fun and adventure well then it's weak spot is emotion. Episode Three begins with a swimmer diving from a springboard and being snatched out of mid-air by a great big sea-beastie, this spectacle is later followed by a plumber being devoured in a suburban basement and a prehistoric underwater battle for Doctor Cutter. In these scenes the show is successful as usual. The monsters interact with the actors and the setting realistically; although the water Abbie and Connor were stuck in with the monster did seem a little shallow to hold a creature that big. More fun is to be gleaned from Mark Wakeling's team of Special Forces soldiers containing Prehistoric threats, this week in the style of 24.

Also as usual Spearritt and Lee Potts are having fun. Their interplay sparkles and counterbalances the rather dreary turns from the rest of the cast. Ben Miller seems to have mistaken this programme for The Chucklebrothers while Douglas Henshaw does emotionally scarred by speaking softly and looking a bit sad. It's not that he's acting badly but that the Professor seems to be the least developed character in the series. This is a flaw when he's the lead role. James Murray too is back to a one dimensional performance this week after showing some spark of personality in the previous episode.

The emotionally fraught scenes concerning Cutters realisation that his dead wife is not so much dead as living in the prehistoric age (same difference?) slow the story down and show up flaws in the script that excitement and slick editing otherwise mask. For example how does Cutter know where this temporal fault line is? Come to that why does a zoologist know so much about space/time mechanics? How has Helen Cutter survived for eight years in a prehistoric world full of carnivorous beasties with only one change of clothes? Would even the geekiest of geeks really be looking forward to watching Battlefield Earth with directors commentary? Perhaps the writers have confused geeks with Scientologists?

Next week the Home Office interrogate Helen Cutter while she threatens the country with Sabre Toothed monsters. Howsa..? Let's hope there's more tooth and less jaw.

BBC ruining Television and Hammer rises from the Crypt...

You may have heard about the BBC's new plans for the end credits of it's programmes. Starting June 4th they're going to be ruining them as completely as they can manage.

Charlie Brooker is very excited about this and quite right too. I suggest you follow the link and see what he has to say on the matter as he phrases it much more clearly than I could. What I will add though is that I will be complaining via the BBC's website every time their new policy irritates me, which is likely to be pretty regularly (about 7.45pm every Saturday evening). On each programme page there is a 'Contact Us' link designed for just this purpose. I urge you to use it as and when appropriate.

I thought it was bad when they just talked over the middle eight...

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Hammer Films are in the news as they've been taken over again. This time though we're to expect new films. We've heard all this before of course but the level of publicity is something new as is purportedly £50,000,000 behind the brand.

In my excitement I emailed them to find out if they would be soliciting original scripts but have yet to get a reply (I imagine they're pretty busy).

I was concerned to see Simon Oakes talking about 'reimaginings' of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy but this may have been influenced by the interviewer. I hope they have something more imaginative and contemporary in mind than revisiting former glories.

Time will tell...

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It's the end of Writey week. This has been an encouraging week for me as I've produced more work this week than I probably have in the last year. I still didn't achieve all my aims for the week but I did prove to myself that I can get up every day and write for a couple of hours if I really want to. Also I found that each day I wrote more and longer so I guess it's like any physical exercise you take i that you start gentle and work up. Shouldn't be any problem me fitting in my hour a day when I'm back in work from Monday then should it?

Also this week has created 'The Island of Dreams' where we now sit. This blog has been a great help in motivating me to write this week and I hope it will continue to do so. Expect it to continue to be updated regularly with my reviews, observations and updates on my writing.

If anyone wishes to comment on anything they see here, or any subjects covered, please feel free to do so...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Primeval (Episodes 1 & 2)

Having missed it when broadcast I’ve now caught up on the first two episodes of ITV’s Primeval. What a fun show. Exactly what Saturday night entertainment should be. Filled with spectacle, action, humour, scares and a little bit of flirting.

The premise is that space/time anomalies are appearing randomly across Britain forming portals from our time to the distant past… and we do mean distant. These portals allow anyone or anything to pass back in time to a prehistoric age. The real problem though is when creatures from millennia ago come through to our time and terrorise Asda car parks.
A small team of experts in zoology drift together and find themselves working with the government to identify and contain these anomalies. There is also a subplot regarding Henshaw’s characters wife, missing some eight years, who may be tied into the anomalies in some way.

The realisation of ancient monsters running amuck in familiar modern settings is staggeringly effective, particularly when obvious CGI elements interact with the physical set. This happens so regularly that it must be deliberate showing off but why not. The glossy sheen of the program with its slick editing and contemporary music makes for very exciting family tea time telly.

The cast are enthusiastic and likeable with only Douglas Henshaw and James Murray taking a little time to warm up. By the start of the second episode though everyone has settled into their role.

Particularly noteworthy in the cast are Andrew Lee Potts whose geek computer expert provides much of the humour, and Lucy Brown as the permanently bewildered Home Office dogsbody lumbered with keeping the time/space anomalies under wraps.

One of the most fun aspects of the series is that this team of academics and civil servants are very much making this up as they go. Naturally nobody knows what to do when you have a fifteen foot centipede in the London Underground so they have to improvise. So far they don’t always get things right which means all the more fun for us.

If Hannah Spearritt is going to make a habit of running around in just her pants a suspicion may arise that she’s only there for the Dads but I’m sure the powers that be are willing to take that chance.

The only other minus points on these early episodes are the somewhat cartoonish James Lester, as played by Ben Miller; and the slightly off target geek chums of Connor who are just a little too crudely stereotyped to ring true. If Hannah Spearritt is going to make a habit of running around in just her pants a suspicion may arise that she's only there for the Dad's but the powers that be are likely to be willing to take that chance. She's is actually very engaging with her jeans on too.

The best thing about Primeval is that despite clearly being ITV’s answer to Doctor Who it wasn’t scheduled against it. In the 1980’s genre television fans often had to choose between Doctor Who and The A-Team, or Knight Rider or Robin of Sherwood. As Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor) once pointed out in an interview these practices split the same audience straight down the middle. Hopefully the success of shows like Doctor Who, Primeval and Robin Hood can cultivate an audience, and a demand, for quality genre TV drama all year round. Perhaps then Graham Nortons’ National Lottery presents Tropical Strictly Celebrity X Factor can be cancelled before it starts.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

blog it baby, yeah...

Quick update on how writey week is going. Actually finished a short story this morning. I've been writing a lot this week but not actually fiction or scripts so it's nice to say I've created something. Irritatingly it was a story I started for the Big Finish Short Story competition but was too pathetic to finish in time. D'oh. It's ok though, needs a bit of polish but I'll let it settle a while first. I'm pretty sure BF have an open submission policy away so maybe I'll submit it eventually. Seeing as they're currently working through a couple of thousand competition entries I may leave that a while too though, eh?

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On the other hand I've been blogging my blogs off. Hope the Spidey review isn't too dull, I normally try to keep reviews pretty brief but I had more to say than I expected.
I may chuck a couple of more bits on here later as I'm up to date on 24 (Quick verdict - much better but can it erase the awful memory of the middle third?), and finished The Highest Science last night (Really good fun but bizarre conclusion). Next up? Something More by Paul Cornell, or possibly The English Civil War by Diane Purkiss; depends how I feel. Emma is currently reading the Screenburn collection which basically involves her giggling like a lunatic and reading every other paragraph out to me. Not that I mind as it is debilitatingly funny.

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Enough words for now. Perhaps more later. Have to monkey about with the DVD player this afternoon as it has ceased to function. Technology eh? I used an old Betamax VCR for years and years and never had a problem with it. It had great big ker-chunk keys like an old cassette deck. You had to throw all your body weight down on the buttons to make it go. They don't build 'em like that anymore.

Spider-Man 3 (Major Spoilers)

The Spider-man films have been a real turning point in comic adaptations. While not slavishly sticking to the original storylines they have kept them in mind and what has translated most clearly to the screen is the enthusiasm that the production team have for Spider-man and his world.

The first film succeeded in laying the foundations for the franchise without dulling it's own effect. It was an exciting, fresh film that for the first time took you web swinging through Manhattan and showed you a spiders eye view of New York. The second built on this by developing the regular characters themes and also retelling the sad tale of Otto Octavius; it achieved these aims with aplomb and resulted in an exciting, breathtaking film that quickly joined the limited ranks of sequels that surpass their predecessors.

Anticipation for Spider-Man 3 has been high indeed, particularly in my household. It is sad to report then that this latest venture was, while not a failure, certainly not a qualified success. The problem is that the film gives itself too much hard work to do; and in this perhaps Raimi and co's enthusiasm has back-fired. It takes as it's subject matter not just Peter's love triangle with MJ and Gwen Stacy, but also the rivalry with Eddie Brock, the creation of Venom and Flint Marko, and the culmination of the ongoing story of Harry Osborn's obsession with destroying Spider-man; who he believes to be responsible for his fathers death. If that reads like a long list it's because it is. Juggling so many strands it's surprising that it manages to *ahem* spin them together effectively largely without showing the authors hand. Indeed it is only in the climactic yet improbable team-up of villains that events seem contrived.

What is less surprising however is that none of the listed plots are explored in the depth they deserve. Gwen Stacy is superfluous and the inclusion of her father, a cruel tease for fanboys, is entirely pointless. Mary Jane, at the centre of events and pivotal to the plot, is given less to do than in preceding films and comes across as selfish and whiney. Whilst these can be traits of the character it does seem unfair on Kirsten Dunst after two strong turns.

The Sandman, here with an added sob story tacked on and then forgotten, is a great character who is used only for visual effect and in the already mentioned unlikely team-up with Venom. Eddie Brock is one dimensional, and his fusion with the symbiote suit will make sense only to those who fill in the blanks with their knowledge of the source text. As for the alien itself it appears to be named only in the end credits and apart from some, staggeringly accurate, guesses from Dr Connors (another continued fanboy tease) nothing more is learned about it. A further irritation is that it is destroyed at the end meaning either an awkward resurrection or no return appearances.

Harry Osborn on the other hand is given a chance to shine in this outing. Having discovered his fathers secret lair at the close of Spidey 2 he has familiarised himself with it's contents by the time we rejoin him. His subsequent memory loss after a Spider induced head injury allows James Franco to be freed from the dull brooding frown-fest of his last appearance. The scenes where he is painting and making omelette's with Mary Jane are touching even if you know it can never last. Sure enough the memory of his father has him back to his evil ways before long. His story and his ultimate redemption are well handled though and probably the most satisfying element of the film. Sadly they do reduce the impact of his final moments by playing them out too long.

Tobey Maguire is as sympathetic as ever as trouble laden Peter Parker. He really comes to life though in his bad-Peter stint. The jazz cafe dance sequence and his Travolta-ish strutting are hilarious as Emo-Parker shows his moves under the spell of the black suit. Maguire can convey more emotion with a look, a stance or a smile than many of his contemporaries could with a monologue.

J. Jonah Jameson, The Bugle Staff, Dr Connors, Mr Ditkovitch, Ursula and Bruce Campbell all get beefier appearances than previously while Aunt May seems a little poorly served. Stan Lee's obligatory appearance is perhaps a little more distracting than usual; 'Nuff said.

In summary the film is very enjoyable. Throughout it's mighty running time it holds the interest. They succeed in tying up most of the threads that have run through the preceding films yet the ending is underwhelming as Peter is once again left alone while MJ walks away. With the news that Sony intend at least another three films ringing in our ears there is still plenty of time for Peter and Mary Jane to get married, seperated, cloned and retconned but it would have been nice to see this trilogy end with these actors playing the parts and their characters united. Sony shouldn't assume that Raimi, Maguire, Dunst or their supporting cast and crew will stick around forever.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

hell is other cinemas...

When I was a child I loved going to the cinema. If I could have gone everyday I would have. I loved queuing, popcorn, I loved the anticipation of waiting for the curtain to go up. The merchandise stand. The trailers were a highlight surpassed only by the feature itself.

How did it come to be that the boy who loved going to the pictures could come to so despise the inconvenience of having to leave the house to see a film. As it stands these days I have to use the cover of daylight for my quick forays to the multiplex... ah multiplexes... to see whatever I'm after. I can't face going in the evening as I'll be surrounded by other people, damn them.

It's not all cinemas mind you. I'm a big fan of Chapter, my local art house cinema/arts centre. There's a lovely little cinema next to New Street station in Birmingham called the Electric where they used to sell home made cakes instead of popcorn. These are places that hark back to those halcyon days of my youth, or better yet; to a time when most films weren't rubbish and most cinema goers weren't idiots with heads full of glossy magazines.

My usual cinema of choice, the Cineworld, has become familiar ground. I know where I am with it's dodgy revolving door that I can't quite shuffle through without feeling like a moron; and the cashiers who seem to be praying for the blessed release of a sudden aneurysm. I don't mind that there's so much glass in the place that you feel like the animated Fox trying to ascend the Glacier Mint in those adverts the cinema loving child I used to be so enjoyed. I don't even mind all that much when I have to wait to enter the theatre in an inadequately sized room with a bunch of the strange, socially retarded weirdos that can't face going to the cinema when it's busy (which is to say people like me).

I thought I hated the Cineworld; but fate had a lesson in store for me.

I have returned from a sortie to the Vue. Where the ticket counter stands idle whilst the refreshment bar offers tickets. Where the volume so loud that my eardrums are playing a military beat before the film even starts.

Then there's the entertainment. When I was a boy you got a cartoon and the feature, maybe a trailer or two. Now you just get a stream of adverts beaten into your head while you sit strapped into a seat by your own money. Dross even worse than the tripe I mute at home in the advert break halfway through Peep Show.

Three Guinness ad's; a baffling short film that seemed to be about how cool being drunk is but turned out to be for Playstation Three, which is then revisited just before the trailers; two Mitchell and Webb Mac ads (may they burn in hell forever), and incidentally what is the naughty step all about - what you can't password protect content on the PC? Presumably Mac prefers to use the superinformation highway to submit children to snuff films, happy slapping mobile phone videos and dutch pigeon-fisting marathons; coke (Wayne Rooney representing the beautiful game); Carling; a bizarre advert that shows us that driving your car into children at 80mph is bad but at 30mph it's OK. Even better to avoid hitting children in your car altogether surely? That disturbing one with the superhero retrieving the girls purse who turns out to be the sort of lagered up throwback that 'OYOY's at you in the street on Sunday morning at eight o'clock when you're on your way to work and they've not yet made it home; an interminable nokia ad; a reasonably amusing orange ad and one that shows you what a pirate version of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer might have looked like had it been made fifteen years ago by someone whose equipment was antiquated even then.

When we finally get to the film trailers they seem to only last a third as long as the adverts did. Even so I was exhausted enough to leave then. I've just paid for that, I was thinking, surely the advertisers pay for their screentime? Am I being ripped off?

By the time the film starts I'm so mentally and emotionally drained I just want to come home.

Still, at least it was half price Tuesday.

Monday, May 07, 2007

You're not blogging in there are you?

It's Bank Holiday Monday and the beginning of my week off. Well I was off yesterday as well but spent most of the day fiddling with my new blog. This blog draws together all of the bloggy stuff I've had a go at before and going forward will be the venting point for any journal entries, writing news, reviews or diatribes I feel it necessarry to spit into the inertweb.

The week ahead is intended to be one of writing. I want to come out of this weekwith a couple of short stories complete and a new script underway. I have to commit to one script because at the moment I'm hopping between too many ideas. It's now six months since my reply from the BBC regarding Riks Records, my sitcom pilot, and I am no closer to submitting the solicited second script.

Little man got big job to do!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Lazarus Experiment

Despite the slight apathy I was feeling after last weeks episode I had regained my Doctor Who excitement by mid-week, no doubt at least partly thanks to a shiny new issue of Doctor Who Magazine and a few sly episodes of Frontier in Space. Therefore all was right with the world again when I sat down to watch episode six of the third series; The Lazarus Experiment.

Fairly straight forward story but so well executed. The Doctor gets to be a proper science whizz and fiddle with wires and all that sort of boffin stuff, Gatiss was excellent as a baddie not so far from the Doctor's level of intelligence and I loved their scenes together. This episode makes Mark Gatiss only the third person to have written for and acted in Doctor Who since 1963. I bet he's pleased as punch (whatever that does mean). He must have ben thrilled to be a part of an episode that homages Nigel Kneale as much as this one does with all it's science tapping into ancient horrors. Thelma Barlow was an unexpected boon in this story as I hadn't expected a great deal from her part. Lady Thaw was as much of a monster as Lazarus.

The monster was grotesque and well realised. Scrabbling along corridors and leaping across balconies. Very scary.

Mr Saxon's Evil Little Helper was a nice touch - really building him up aren't they. How long has he been watching the Doctor? Since Canary Wharf? Since the Sycorax invasion? Since the Slitheen? He must be very well prepared to take the Doctor on when he's good and ready. Whoever he is.

Not crazy about Martha's family but they serve their purpose. Considering her Mother seems to have an extra function as Mr Saxon's pawn I'm not thrilled with the acting so far; Adjoa Andoh seems to be a bit more Albert Square than the Powell Estate. Also it seems to me that Reggie off of radio one may as well not be in it so far. Why were they all invited to this experiment anyway?

Martha is briliant and I much prefer her to Rose; and also that her relationship to the Doctor is very different. The Doctor manages to be rude or insulting to her at least once an episode - which I love. He's got a real edge to him now. She keeps making moon eyes at him though so I guess that'll be where it goes.

DT, free of the winking atavism of last weeks closing scenes, is splendid here. Cool and distant to Martha at the beginning; his interaction with Martha, her Mother, and most of all Lazarus is a pitch perfect pleasure. Best of all is the Cathedral conversation between Lazarus and the Doctor. 'You think history's only made with equations?' Lot's of great dialogue throughout the script.

With it's glossy look and fast pacing topped off with multiple climaxes, this story felt more like a good old fashioned SF blockbuster and I think that was the right thing to follow last weeks psuedophilosphical clunking imagery and Star Trek sentimentality. As a result I was already grinning all over my face when the episode ended...

AND THEN... there's the trailer. We're halfway through the series and at the risk of jinxing it I don't see what can go wrong with any of the remaining episodes, Jack, Saxon, Cornell, Moffatt, Chibnall, Derek frickin' Jacobi! If the scarecrows and spaceships and explosions weren't enough for you there's John Simm in a room full of dead or incapacitated people wearing a respirator and tapping the table. The scariest thing I've seen in Who yet.

Vote Saxon!