SCREENWASH: FILM REVIEWS FOR APRIL 2015 BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH: FILM REVIEWS BY PAUL LAIGHT – APRIL 2015

Bit late with the old film reviews for April because I have actually been writing my own short film screenplays in the last few weeks.

I set myself a target of writing TWELVE original first draft short films in 2015 (one a month basically). I have completed TWO thus far.  I’m confident I will hit the target.

Still managing to watch a high-rate of movies via Cinema, Netflix, Amazon, Blu-Ray etc. so here are my reviews for April 2015. A pretty golden month for diverse and quality motion pictures; plus some right pony too.

**Now featuring a new marking system — in tribute to This is Spinal Tap — which goes up to ELEVEN**

**BEWARE OF MASSIVE SPOILERS**

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (2014) – SKY MOVIES

Comedy Western written, directed and starring Seth Mcfarlane started well with a plethora of great gags but once the story gets into gear Seth Mcfarlane the writer fails the director big time. Plus, Seth Mcfarlane the actor just fails. He is NOT a leading man and some quick-fire laughs at the start give way to a one-joke film which lasts 45 minutes too long. The film makes Carry on Cowboy (1965) seem like Shakespeare and while watching I was thinking of a million ways to kill myself. (Mark – 3/11)

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015) – CINEMA

After remaking The Seven Samurai (1954) with Avengers Assemble (2012) Joss Whedon was back at the helm of the good ship Marvel remaking Frankenstein  and delivering a bloody good sequel in the process. Indeed, despite sounding like a powerful washing powder Age of Ultron was way better than I expected. I love Marvel movies but was anticipating the moment when the formula just dies and thought this may be it. It wasn’t.

Amidst the green screen superhero carnage there is actually a story which involves the Avengers team battling Tony Stark’s sentient creation called Ultron which he knocked up by mistake thinking it would be good for mankind. The idiot!   Throw into the mix Hydra-children Quiksilver and Scarlet Witch who want revenge on Stark plus spandex buddies Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk and the rest of the team and you get a pretty impressive slap-bang-train-crashing-robot-killing-country-unearthing-war-machining-mind-bending-vision-melding-hulk-smashing popcorn muncher.

Highlights for me were:  the action of course; James Spader’s evil Ultron; Captain America as usual; Mark Ruffalo/Bruce Banner doing existential pain-like-a-modern day Lawrence “Wolfman” Talbot; some great Whedon one-liners; blink-and-miss cameo from Andy Serkis; plus Scar-Jo’s Nikitaesque backstory raised the blood pressure a tad. While Age of Ultron is thematically weak and the narrative feels transitory on occasions there is SO much happening it doesn’t matter. Overall, it’s a fun-packed-fizzing-firework of a film which stopped me thinking about death for two hours; so that was good. (Mark: 8/11)

 

BOYHOOD (2014) – BLU RAY

The most expensive home movie of all time is an American modern-day masterpiece in slice-of-life storytelling. Not a lot occurs but it does so with so much heart as we follow Mason Evans (aged 6) and his family life from 2002 to the present day.  Much has been made of the fact Richard Linklater shot the film over a decade using both Ellar Coltrane and his daughter Lorelei throughout the film and this organic approach to filmmaking is to be applauded.  More importantly I just fell in love with these ordinary characters as we experience vignettes from their lives over a number of years.  Brilliant character actors Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke shine too as their respective parents juggle the slings and arrows that life throws at them all.  While the pace is glacial and the structure elliptical Boyhood is a fine document to family life that touched my heart and mind throughout. (Mark: 9/11)

FAST AND FURIOUS 7 (2015) – CINEMA

Another snap, crack and popping addition to a film franchise which has gathered popularity at a breakneck speed over the last decade or more.  Fast 7 picks up after Fast 6 directly with meaty brute Jason Statham coming for Toretto and the team for pretty much marmalizing his brother (Luke Evans) to death in the previous chapter.  Having gone head-on with Duwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and incapacitated him Statham then goes after the gang, who meanwhile, are charged with the task of tracking down some generic macguffin called the “God’s Eye”. I didn’t really care about the plot as it’s mainly an excuse to join the dots between some stunning right-royal-rumbling car chases, shoot-outs, motor-parachuting and the vehicular carnage we’ve all come to expect from this series.

Better than Fast 6 (though not the superlative Fast 5) the film is deftly helmed by expert genre filmmaker James Wan and the action is beefed up by character actors like Kurt Russell and Djimon Hounsou. Statham steals the show as the rogue mercenary and Vin Diesel does his usual John-Wayne-act: mean-and-moody with a heart of gold.  The Rock is criminally underused (no doubt because he was shooting Hercules at the same time) but he does impress during the heart-pounding final set-piece.  I drank a big coffee before I watched this and as my mind was blazing on caffeine so was the screen. Great escapist cinema which pays a fine, if soppy, tribute to the deceased Paul Walker in the final reel.  (Mark: 9/11)

FORCE MAJEURE (2014) – CINEMA

This is one of those excellent foreign films which I hated.  I can see why critics and audiences may enjoy the character-driven drama of a family split apart by the father’s less-than-heroic actions during that of an avalanche but overall the film left me cold as an Eskimo’s nostril.  Technically, it is beautifully shot, performed, directed and there is some merit in the idea of a family holiday gone wrong, however, I just found the characters too irritating and in the end I was bored. I like many, many films with complex and dislikeable characters but not this one.  Personally despising ski holidays probably didn’t help either and I wish the characters had been killed in the avalanche to save on all the middle-class matrimonial moaning and Scandinavian soul-searching that ensued.  Great film, in some eyes no doubt, but not my cup of frozen piss. (Mark: 5/11)

HORNS (2013) – BLU RAY

Daniel Radcliffe stars as a young man who wakes up one day with the horn; no sorry that’s HORNS!  Plus a dead girlfriend and HE’S the prime suspect in her murder.   That is SOME hangover!  Basically, the small town where he lives thinks he’s the Devil incarnate so this collective emotion manifests itself physically and spiritually as the former Harry Potter starts being able to control and bring the most dark and fantastical behaviour out of the townsfolk.  I think these comedic scenes are the best bits of the film as he learns to control this ability and use it to his own means.  It’s a decent enough horror-drama-romance-comedy-detective-noir story which has some fine moments but at times the genre-melding jars the tone. Structurally it’s a bit all over the shop too flitting from long ago to now to not so long ago in a Noiresque fashion.  Overall,  a pretty fun film to watch on the smaller screen but a bit of pruning for pace would have been handy. (Mark: 6/11)

INBETWEENERS 1 & 2 (2011/2014) – 4OD/SKY MOVIES

I used to think The Inbetweeners was a rude, smutty, uncultured, lowest-common-denominator comedy of the basest level and after watching the three seasons of the TV show on catch-up plus two films back-to-back I still think that. However, I have to admit: it is fucking hilarious!  It concerns the tribulations of Will (the nerd), Simon (the neurotic), Jay (the liar) and Neil (the idiot) and their main trials are losing their virginities, trying to buy alcohol, avoiding bullies and trying not make fools of themselves. Laughs come thick and fast from them failing to achieve any of these things; often in the most humiliating of ways!

The movies cranked up the puerile gags in Greece and Australia respectively and I laughed my arse off at the many disgusting events in both films.  Having said that this isn’t just filth for filth’s sake as the character interaction and quick-witted scripts by Damon Beesley and Iain Morris have some heart notably when Jay pursues the girl he loves all the way to the Aussie outback.  Ultimately, though this search ends with Simon drinking Neil’s piss.  Recommended for those who enjoy romantic/sexual failures, toilet humour, broad stereotypes and a streak of unsophisticated adolescent rites-of-passage stuff thrown in. (Mark: 7/11)

JOHN WICK (2014) – CINEMA

If Keanu Reeves had been born in the silent movie era I think he would’ve been an even bigger hit because as long as he doesn’t have much dialogue he is a genuine bona fide movie star.  As John Wick he absolutely blows the back doors off as a “retired” assassin who rampages after the gangsters who killed his dog.

The script doesn’t insult us with any semblance of a plot and THAT’S a plus. It’s pure kinesis with Reeves racing from bullet-infested set-piece to set-piece carving up the criminal Underworld like a modern-day (M)Orpheus (see what I did there?)   Of course, the stakes are ramped up throughout as Wick must face all manner of super-assassins once there’s a contract out on him.  This is a dark-lean-comic-book-Hong-Kong-shoot-em-up-style movie shot on speed and edited on meth and a hugely satisfying cinema experience .(Mark: 8/11)


NEED FOR SPEED (2014) – AMAZON PRIME

I loved Aaron Paul as the desperate meth “protégée” of Walter White in Breaking Bad. His enunciation of “bitch this” and “bitch that” was often the highlight of the show as he was pulled this way and that by WW’s descent into power-crazed drug-dealing hell. I think we appreciated Jesse Pinkman was so out of his depth in that world and Aaron Paul brought a humour and humanity to the role despite being the wrong side of the law.

However, in the videogame adaptation Need For Speed he fails as a cool-as-ice-hard-assed-driver-extraordinaire in a role Steve McQueen would have sped through in his heyday. Plus, and I’m sorry to say, but Aaron is TOO short to impose himself on this Fast and Furious meets Vanishing Point mash-up. The supporting cast are very attractive although Brit actress Imogen Poots is irritating as fuck in the female sidekick role and the film is WAY too long.  Overall, great cars, amazing driving, sweet stunts:  shame about everything else! (Mark: 3/11)

OCULUS (2013) – BLU RAY

Karen Gillan from Doctor Who basically goes a bit mental in this effective low-budget horror film in which she battles a — wait for it — ghost-mirror that holds the secret to the parents’ death. Fun is to be had from the monstrous spirits and jumps as she ropes in her recently-released-from-the-nuthouse brother who just wants to move on.  Not for everyone I guess but I enjoyed it as it made the most of the one main location  plus it’s nicely directed and edited by newish filmmaker Mike Flanagan clearly working on a shoestring. (Mark: 6/11)

SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2009) – DVD – REPEAT WATCH

I’ve seen this Argentinian classic romance-noir-detective-political thriller many times now and it is one of the best genre films ever made. It has everything you could hope for in a story which concerns itself with a Government Prosecutor Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) and his decades-long search for the brutal murderer of a young woman.  Stunning characterisation supports a maze-like plot with many twists and turns throughout in a wonderful screenplay.

The most compelling vein throbbing element within the story is the “will-they-won’t-they” romance between Esposito and the classically beautiful Soledad Villamil playing the Judge who has captured his heart.  The film also finds time to make political comments on the “Dirty War” which occurred in Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s and has one of the most memorable long-takes in cinema history.  A breathtaking masterpiece of the thriller genre. (Mark: 11/11)

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS – (2014) – SKY MOVIES

A one-joke mockumentary which tries to do for vampires what Spinal Tap did for Heavy Metal. Maybe I should have had a few drinks but I found it quite boring like an overlong sketch which while brilliantly conceived sagged in the middle.   It follows four batty (sorry) housemates Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr as they go about their nocturnal activities in Wellington, New Zealand.  I was especially impressed with the contrast between the old-Nosferatu-style vampyr Petyr struggling with the new world plus Jemaine Clements is always a funny presence in any film.

The film has garnered great reviews from critics and is destined for cult movie status and the first half of the film had me chuckling heartily.  But I felt it ran out of narrative steam in the second half as the gag rate dipped. Also, the dark, handheld and grainy style too felt one-note and despite some witty one-liners in the script the loose improvisatory form felt aimless.  Bloody brilliant concept that may have suited a half-hour sitcom length but not a feature film. (Mark: 6/11)

WILD TALES (2015) – CINEMA

Last but definitely NOT least is my film of the month (excluding Secret in Their Eyes)!  Wild Tales is another soon-to-be-considered Argentinian film classic as it delivers a dark sarcasm and hilarity via six separate stories concerning themes of: revenge, political corruption, class division and bloody violence!

I loved the ye olde portmanteau films usually produced by the likes of Hammer in the past and this is a very modern take on the like as the screenwriter and director Damián Szifron conjures up a delectable and devilish set of stories.  It opens with a breath-taking little prologue featuring a horrific incident on a plane and culminates in arguably the wildest tale when the Bride goes on the rampage at her wedding.  Everyone’s favourite Argentinian actor Ricardo Darin pops up in the middle as an explosives expert who enacts revenge on City Parking fascists. I love the whole thing as the film delivers a full deck of twists that master of the macabre Roald Dahl would be proud of.

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SYMPHONY FOR THE DEVIL: CULTURAL UPDATE BY PAUL LAIGHT

SYMPHONY FOR THE DEVIL –  BY PAUL LAIGHT

I’ve been very busy culturally speaking this year and here’s a rundown of the various things that I have experienced in the last month or so.

BOROUGH MARKET – LONDON SE1

If you’re ever starving and skint (on a weekend) and near Borough Market then go there!  You can live like a King or Queen (of Lichtenstein – don’t get carried away!) on all the samples they give away from: cheese to meat to oils to bread to, curries to burgers to scotch eggs to cakes and so much more.  If you have money and DON’T want to live like a tramp then fill your boots; just don’t wear them after. Shut-up – it’s  a metaphor.   What I’m saying is the food is AMAZING – it’s an epicurean delight!
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CONFLICT, TIME, PHOTOGRAPHY – TATE MODERN

This fascinating photographic exhibition showed past and present images of war ordering them as per their chronological occurrence.  It was an intriguing idea and many of the works were very moving indeed bringing home the horror of the multitude of conflicts humans have perpetrated on themselves.

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/conflict-time-photography

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DEAD RISING 3 – XBOX ONE

From proper war to zombie warfare on the Xbox One, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing this videogame in my down-time.   It’s a stylish no-nonsense kill-fest with a reasonably coherent narrative unlike the mental horror game Evil Within.  Set during 2021 you are mechanic Nick Ramos, an unlikely hero, and you must get out of the quarantine zone (established in Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2) while battling hordes of the undead and the military and SAVE your disparate rag-tag bunch of fellow survivors. It’s bloody brilliant and as you’re a mechanic you get some amazing hybrid weapons and vehicles to massacre zombies with!

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LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA – FESTIVAL HALL

Myself and my girlfriend once again went to a follow-up concert entitled: Rachmaninoff: Inside Out featuring the compositions of the great Russian genius. I have to admit that having been to a couple of recitals this is just not my bag. I appreciate the wonderful talent on show and the incredible ability of the orchestra but I find the experience TOO passive and without narrative.  I love classical music in films, radio, via the IPOD and even in adverts but not in the live environment. Weird!

THE OFFICE – AN AMERICAN WORKPLACE – FINAL SEASONS

After my comedy binges of South Park and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia in the last couple of years I set about watching all 200+ episodes of this amazing ensemble comedy giant starring Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski and Rainn Wilson my favourite character Dwight K. Schrute. Of course, it used the British comedy classic as a springboard but for pretty much most of the episodes it was just gloriously funny. I think it peaked around Season 7 and lost something when Michael Scott left but the final seasons still had some wonderful times and gags and events. It was all wrapped up with many happy endings by the finale and will stand as one of the consistently great comedies of our time, in my opinion.

SPANDAU BALLET,  BRIGHTON CENTRE

To cut a long story short I went to see Spandau Ballet in concert in Brighton. No, I haven’t lost my mind because I went as a new romantic gesture for my girlfriend. I basically took one for the team guys! But you know what they were absolutely fantastic and a testament to the professionalism and talent of Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Tony Hadley, John Keeble, Steve Norman et al that they delivered a powerful show full of hits from their illustrious past. I personally prefer their early Depeche Mode synthy stuff over their slushy ballads but overall it was a highly entertaining concert.

STEWART LEE’S COMEDY VEHICLE SEASON 3 (DVD)

Preaching to the converted here but if you like Stewart Lee’s comedy then I’m sure you’ve seen this DVD of his 3rd season for the BBC. Comedy Vehicle 3  mixes incredible stand-up rants, opinions and intellectual ideas and routines with fine sketches/short films; all interspersed with Lee verbally sparring with another comedy legend Chris Morris.  32-Carat Comedy Gold!

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE – WYNDHAM THEATRE

**SOME SPOILERS**

Oh this was just terrifically meaty drama.  I haven’t been to the theatre much in recent years but I was right in the heartland of culture here with a sinewy, socio-familial-gut-wrenching story driven by jealousy, self-destruction, masculinity-in-crisis, lust etc.

The setting is New York, 1955, and Arthur Miller’s emotionally complex script shadows Eddie Carbone, a longshoremen at the docks, as he comes to terms with the chaos of family life, hiding immigrant ‘cousins’ from overseas, and the fact his adopted ‘daughter’ is fast growing into a woman.  As Carbone attempt to control those around him his family are pushed further and further away until one act of treachery leaves him stranded socially and politically.  Mark Strong is incredible as the docker Carbone as he sees all he loves slip from his grasp and he is ably supported by Nicola Walker who plays his wife.

The sparse set made me feel like I’d walked into an intimate, yet  souped-up rehearsal and the ending was something to behold as the family literally go to hell in the final moments.  The play, not surprisingly,  has just won Olivier Awards for acting and direction by Ivo Van Hove.

SCREENWASH: FILM REVIEW ROUND UP FOR MARCH 2015 BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH:  MARCH 2015 BY PAUL LAIGHT

**MASSIVE SPOILERS**

I was pretty ill with flu for half-of-March and then lost both my voice and get-up-and-go too, thus, only went to the cinema once during the month.

However, while recovering in my sick hole I caught up with quite a few films via streaming and on Blu-Ray/DVD.  So, here’s a round-up review of movies I watched during the month of March.

 

CITY ON FIRE (1987) – DVD

Ringo Lam’s hard-boiled crime thriller was a massive influence on Tarantino’s low-budget classic Reservoir Dogs (1992).  It’s shot in a raw Lumet/Friedkin style with the streets of Hong Kong filled with blood, bullets and breakneck speed car chases. Great thriller which made a star of a young Chow-Yun Fat.

 

FURY (2014) – BLU-RAY

This film rocked!  It was rip-roaring action with the blood, the guts and the gory!  Brad Pitt plays the Tank Commander with his loyal crew including Shia Labeouf, John Bernthal and new recruit Logan Lerman.  It’s close to the end but there are pockets of German resistance while their Tank grinds its way toward Berlin. The theme of “war is hell” isn’t exactly new but it is tremendously illustrated during the brutal battles.   I enjoyed the claustrophobic nature of the tank, earth-shaking manouevres and testosteronic highs plus there is some subtle characterisation and a moving mid-point scene where we see the softer side of Pitt’s war beast. Overall it’s an exciting melee of explosions and death and pays fine tribute to the noble savagery of the men who laid down their lives to win the war.

GET HARD (2015) – CINEMA

Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart’s silly comedy uses broad stereotypes to land its very puerile humour. It’s politically incorrect and sends up all manner of: black, white, Hispanic, gay, female, religious, upper, lower and middle classes and cultures.  The double team of Ferrell and Hart works well as they play a soon-to-be imprisoned banker and his prison “trainer” readying him for a stretch in jail.  The humour is unsophisticated but it made me laugh throughout in a series of silly scenes and set-pieces, plus there’s mild satirical content amidst the smut. Highlight is Will Ferrell as an urban gangster; should’ve been much more of that!

HERCULES (2014) – NETFLIX

This not-as-bad-as-you-think swords and sandals epic has some pretty awesome fight scenes but it’s mainly for die-hard fans of the Duwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Plus, there’s a very decent set of character actors earning some dough including:  John Hurt, Peter Mullan, Rufus Sewell and Ian “Lovejoy” McShane.  There’s some stuff about the “making of legends” in the script as the story eschews fantastical monsters in favour of muscular 300esque fight scenes. More blood would’ve made it even better though.

 

JERSEY BOYS – (2014) – BLU-RAY

This biopic of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is another decent poke at what has come to be known as the “jukebox” musical subgenre.  Based on the effervescent stage play it’s a decent, yet undemanding–felt-like-a-TV-movie-Sunday-matinee-nostalgia-watch.  Of course, the songs are grand but the direction was a tad functional and the groups’ difficulties with the mob, financial issues and family losses are touched upon yet not dramatically satisfying. I liked the direct address narration but it’s only during the end credits where the film cuts loose with an imagination and pizazz that much of the film lacks.

LA CABINA (1972) – YOUTUBE

This is one of the best short films I have ever seen.  It is Spanish and is very simple in concept and delivery but very powerful in symbolism and potential meaning. Basically, a Spanish man becomes trapped in a red Telephone Box and cannot escape.  After a slapstick beginning which results in a huge crowd witnessing his plight, the film takes a grim twist in tone and becomes very dark by the chilling denouement. What does is all mean?  Well, like great art it is open to interpretation as it contains surreal, existential and political themes. In my opinion it means all and everything and the horror will remain with anyone who sees it.

 

LUCY (2014) – BLU-RAY

Director Luc Besson is quoted as saying:  “…I intended the first part of Lucy to be like Léon, the second part to be like Inception and the third part to be like 2001: A Space Odyssey.”   I would say he succeeded with the first part but completely failed with the 2nd and 3rd parts. It’s a shame the kick-ass action was wrapped in a load of sci-fi babble because I really enjoyed many of the bone-crunching fight scenes. Scarlett Johansson was awesome as usual despite the story making NO SENSE at all logically and it didn’t even work as conceptual sci- fi for me. 

PERFUME: STORY OF A MURDERER (2006) – DVD

I read the wonderful novel and saw this at the cinema years ago so this was the first time I had seen it since. Ben Whishaw plays a strange man, abandoned as a baby in the stinking slums of Paris, who grows up to be one of the great perfume-makers but is also a murderer.  In pursuit of the perfect scent Jean-Baptiste Grenouille can only find what he wants during the killing of beautiful young girls. It’s an odd story but has a wonderful poetry and rhythm to it as we at first empathise but then exhale at the horror of Grenouille’s actions. John Hurts narrates a peculiar but haunting story which also features fine turns from Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman.

 

TRANSCENDENCE (2014) – BLU-RAY

This film about Artificial Intelligence promised so much and had a terrific cast including: Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Johnny Depp and the always grand Rachel Hall.  For an hour it really seemed like a great bit of science fiction as scientist Will Caster dies but is brought back to life by means of computerisation of his mind and soul.  With his brainbox uploaded to the web like a crazy sentient FrankensteinMonster.com he begins what appears to be a nefarious plan to take over the world.  However, the narrative quickly falls apart and I felt like I was trying to put together a jigsaw with many pieces missing and bits that just don’t fit.  It looks and sounds amazing but I was so bemused by the end I just did not care!

TRIANGLE (2009) – BLU-RAY

This is an absolute cracker of a Sisyphean-time-loop-paradox-movie.  Melissa George portrays a single mother hoping to escape it all with a yacht trip with her wealthier friends.  However, things don’t quite go according to plan following a massive storm knocks the group way off course.  I’m not going to give anything away but this film gripped me throughout with a complex criss-cross narrative which confounds and delights in equal turns. While its clever-clever plot tightens the film also creeps you out with a series of violent events and startling images.  Melissa George carries this film like Atlas did the world, and I really hope writer/director Christopher Smith gets more work as he and his star deserve much bigger films based on this existentially loopy horror film.

WALKING DEAD – SEASON 5 (EPISODES 9 – 16)

The Walking Dead Season 5 finale was less crash, bang, gore than the previous seasons’ end but there were some wonderful episodes filled with great suspense and tension.  The group led by Rick Grimes eventually come to a place called Alexandria which kind of has a hippie commune feel to it.  There paranoia sets in as the post-trauma of previous losses haunts Rick, Carol, Abraham and Sasha.  We lose a couple of stalwart characters on the way but the series introduces new people at Alexandria and that’s where suspicions and doubt begins.  It’s a softer, moral and more emotional denouement although there is some fantastic zombie executions too! I particularly enjoyed the doubt the writers created as to whether Rick and Carol were going totally over to the dark side. Great drama!

WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (2014) – BLU RAY

This covers much of the same ground as The Equalizer (2014) starring Denzel Washington, with a lone wolf operative fighting his demons overcoming big city villains in a most violent way.  Once again Liam Neeson flexes his recent-tough-guy-status muscles wiping out bad guys with a gruff voice, mean stare, tough attitude, big fists and guns; but mainly guns.  Working outside the law he hunts down the perpetrators of a series of shocking murders before their next victim comes to a similarly grisly end.  Denzel’s film just shades it for brutal violence and style and has a better baddie but Walk Among The Tombstones is a decent stab at an evening’s bit of DVD entertainment.

 

WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT (2012) – SKY MOVIES

This low-budget horror film set in Britain is actually well-made and surprisingly quite scary, as a Yorkshire family are terrorised by a nasty spectre from t’other side.  Based on the “Maynard Haunting” from the 1970s it’s well acted and directed by Pat Holden.  I enjoyed the sly build up of terror as the nefarious poltergeist targets the youngest member of the family, Sally.  It’s got some decent scares and a nifty little twist at the end.

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DOCTOR WHO: A SPACE (AND TIME) ODYSSEY – PART THREE by PAUL LAIGHT

DOCTOR WHO: A SPACE (AND TIME) ODYSSEY – PART THREE

**CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**

MATT SMITH

Suddenly the Doctor was very, very young; almost a child in vision and attitude as played by the tall-stick-insecty-excitable-Tigger that was Matt Smith.   My brain exploded.  I was used to the Doctor being an elder statesman and of course this shifted somewhat with Eccleston and Tennant, however, they seemed older. These were actors who had done Shakespeare (I think) and looked like they’d lived. Not Matt Smith. He was an unknown. He looked like he had just left school and was on a gap year to India or a kibbutz. He was posh. His Doctor wore a bow-tie!  A bow-tie!  Never fear though because Matt Smith made the role his own over 4 years, a multitude of brain-twisting episodes and seven specials.  His strengths were his physicality, mania, fun and playfulness and there was a lot of Patrick Troughton in his performance; playing the fool before revealing a devilish plan by wrong-footing the villain and audience.

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Here are my favourite episodes of SEASON FIVE.

EPISODE 5.10 – VINCENT AND THE DOCTOR – Writer:  Richard Curtis

Steven Moffat had written some amazing Doctor Who episodes so it made sense he would take over the production running reigns.  The 5th season of the rebooted genesis veered from Davies’ strong science fictional, yet plausible, arcs to something more akin to science fantasy under Moffat.  Quite frankly, I found some of the plot twists utterly barmy but still very much loved many of the episodes. Indeed, The Eleventh Hour was a fantastic introduction to Matt Smith and his feisty companion Amy Pond. Plus, the finale involving the Pandorica opening and subsequent Big Bang were impressive works of television.

However, my favourite episode of the whole season was one, which while rewriting history in a most memorable way, had at its heart a very warm, tragic and human story.  Vincent and The Doctor was about depression, art, failure, creative perception and did what we all would hope to do with time-travel: right the injustices of the past. At the heart of the story is the Doctor and Amy’s meeting with Vincent Van Gogh and the artist’s battle with his demons, both literally and symbolically.  The monster of course is depression and the writer Richard Curtis handles the subject deftly and gives Vincent an incredibly emotional denouement to the artists’ life; something denied him in reality.

 

EPISODE 5.10 – THE LODGER – Writer:  Gareth Roberts

This season was brimming with imagination and great science fiction and the story arc involving the “cracks in the Universe” worked paradoxically but still created SO many unanswered questions. Moffatt asked us to take a massive leap of faith and his ambition and vision was to be applauded; but with the fantasy, complex structural conceits occurring at such it was sometimes tough to keep up on first watch.

Thus, The Lodger was a welcome moment in the season when The Doctor – with Amy ‘chilling’ on the TARDIS – came into the lives of Craig (James Corden) and Sophie (Daisy Haggard). The Doctor had a big impact on Craig’s life playing accidental matchmaker, impressing his mates with his football skills and his boss at work. Utilising Matt Smith’s great comedy timing and buddy-buddy act with the excellent Corden, The Lodger relies not just on laughs and but emotion too. Throw in a nefarious alien presence to deal with and you have a wonderful episode that is a lot of fun.

Here are my favourite episodes of SEASON SIX

 

EPISODE 6.3 – THE DOCTOR’S WIFE – Writer:  Neil Gaiman

This is the season where Steven Moffat really made things VERY complicated with all manner of twisty, turny, space operatic plots delivered at a whizz-bang pace that at times left me dazed and confused.  It was paradox upon paradox as the Doctor faces an existential crisis being given the knowledge of his own death and also knowing his mysterious assassin. Also, thrown into the mix is Amy’s pregnancy, a weird eye-patched villainess  as well as horrific memory-melding monsters called THE SILENCE. Moreover, enigmatic River Song pops up all over the place just to confuse the viewer further!  These stories encapsulated within:  The Impossible Astronaut, Day of the Moon, A Good Man Goes to War, Let’s Kill Hitler, The Wedding of River Song etc. are all great and full of wonderful ideas and I think in time will be considered classic Doctor Who. However, they don’t quite make my list.

The Doctor’s Wife was an immediate and cracking hit for me with a wonderful concept, beautiful effects and stunning cast including Suranne Jones as a physical incarnation of the TARDIS.  Doctor, Rory and Amy pass through a rift which means the TARDIS ends up in a weird isolated place run by a nasty sentient being called HOUSE.  In HAL-like fashion, House (voiced by Michael Sheen) steals the TARDIS along with Rory and Amy on board and it is left to the Doctor and an odd, sparkly female being called Idris to save the day.  It’s a lovely relationship between Idris (the TARDIS personified) and Matt Smith’s frantic Doctor as they exchange flirtatious banter while constructing a makeshift TARDIS from the scraps lying around the amidst the crumbling tip that is the place on which they are trapped.  Suranne Jones is amazing and beautiful as Idris and there is great chemistry between her and Smith as they race to save Amy and Rory from the murderous HOUSE.

 

EPISODE 6.10 – THE GIRL WHO WAITED – Writer:  Tom McCrae

This is what time-travel films and TV shows are all about for me: presenting complicated paradoxical timelines where individuals eventually face different versions of themselves and must deal with a moral dilemma.  It’s occurred to the Doctor many times before in the classic older and the newer series but in The Girl Who Waited it was Amy Pond who becomes trapped on Chen7 in a timeline that splits her character into younger and older versions of herself.  So, when the Doctor and Rory attempt to save her trapped soul they overshoot by 36 years and find a bitter, rabid Amy now characterised as an ass-kicking-Sarah-Connor-survivalist-type who refuses to save her younger self.  It’s a heart-wrenching episode which can be considered Doctor-lite, however, Karen Gillen owns it; giving two great performances. The relationship between Rory and Amy hangs heavy in the air as there is papable sense of loss to the core of The Girl Who Waited. 

 

Here are my favourite episodes of SEASON SEVEN

 

EPISODE 7.1 – ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS – Writer: Steven Moffat

This season wasn’t as mind-blowing in terms of the over-complex story arc as Season SIX, but it still tested the grey cells and by the time we got to the excellent-almost-made-this-list-season-finale The Name of the Doctor plausibility was on the creative rack screaming for mercy; in a good way.  The season traversed the loss of not one, but TWO companions in Amy and Rory, and introduced Clara Oswin Oswald in her various incarnations. One may argue the whole Clara-in-the-Doctor’s-timeline arc was quite baffling and needn’t be so insane but I enjoyed the mystery of the “Impossible Girl”; and it was great to see all the old Doctors again.

Anyway, the season opener Asylum of the Daleks is an absolute cracker as the Doctor, Amy and Rory are “summoned” by the Daleks to venture into the Dalek “nut-house” and save them from a bunch of crazy rogue Daleks threatening their very existence. Oooh, what a switcheroo; the Doctor SAVING the Daleks!  The production values of Doctor Who just got bigger and better as the seasons progressed and with an Army of Daleks and the planet Skaro on show here the special effects teams were producing TV work of the highest order in shiny, shiny high-definition. Arguably, though the writer(s) could have dug the season into a narrative hole in relation to what comes after but Jenna Coleman’s appearance was a fine touch and her lightness in performance was a fine counter-point to the heavy nature of the insane Dalek asylum. The subplot of Rory and Amy’s marriage difficulties, the crazy Daleks and the sadness in the final reveal really added to the drama and pulled at the heartstrings. This episode breathed further life into the Daleks as one, if not the greatest, of the Doctor’s greatest foes.

 

EPISODE 7.5 – ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN – Writer: Steven Moffat

Angels Take Manhattan wins out over episodes I loved like:  Cold War, Hide and The Snowmen, because it is just so heart-wrenching.  Matt Smith excels in a very dramatic show which finds the Doctor lose Amy and Rory to old foes the Weeping Angels! The opening of the episode begins in a film noir style story and is framed like a detective novel as Moffat delivers a meta-fictional structure combined with a spooky haunted hotel story.  It’s full of grand twists and turns which pull the viewer from past to present and back again.  Moffat ratchets up the scares by introducing us to new version of the ‘Angels’ like little buggers the Weeping Cherubs. And get this:  the STATUE OF LIBERTY is a WEEPING ANGEL!  Incredible!  Saying goodbye to a companion is always tough but Amy and Rory went out in great style and are still out there somewhere.

 

PETER CAPALDI

Malcolm Tucker as Doctor Who?  Say that again:  Malcolm Tucker as Doctor Who?  Yes!  This is where the whole-huge-behemoth-new-Doctor-Who-binge-catch-up began for me.  Peter Capaldi is a great actor and has been in many fine shows, not least the iconic-Machiavellian-sweary-political-demon in the awesome Thick of It.  So, when it was announced he would replace Smith the younger, I was back into the Whoniverse like the proverbial rat up a drainpipe. This would be, in my mind, the return to an older, darker Doctor spitting out words of wisdom and barbs to his companions while shooting venomous looks and ire at his villains.  The season kind of was like that and kind of wasn’t.  I think Capaldi is a fine, fine Doctor and probably would have been better in the previous era as his visage and ability is probably more suited to age of Troughton, Pertwee and Baker. But, overall, he brought a real depth and dark sarcasm to the series which leavened out the more ridiculous and fluffy aspects of the show; the slushy romance and kids basically.

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Here are my favourite episodes of SEASON EIGHT


EPISODE 8.8 – MUMMY ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS – Writer: Jamie Mathieson

I struggled big time picking two out because I enjoyed most of the episodes of this season. Many of them had moments of greatness in them but they also had some elements which I personally didn’t like such as: over-reliance on Danny and Clara’s Hollyoaks romance.  Having said that there were some memorable concepts, baddies and nods to film genres including: heist movies; earth-saving trees; hatching moons; a Dinosaur in ye olde London; half-faced clockwork Victorians; chilling 2D Boneless; the mysterious Missy; the Doctor as a child; an analysis of a Dalek’s soul; Robin Hood and a shrinking TARDIS!

Capaldi was brilliant as I thought he would be and I loved one of his opening gambits to Clara:  “Am I a good man?”  Then, just then, I thought we are really going to take a deep look at WHO the Doctor really is!  Indeed, the army of writers led by Moffat developed this character subtext very well notably in the episode Listen, where not much occurred on the page yet in the murky margins and shadows there was impressive suspense and terror.  However, my first choice is the awesomely titled Mummy on the Orient Express and this crammed so many great things into the 45 minutes running time.  The Doctor and Clara are on one last voyage before going their separate ways yet a vicious Mummy (AKA The Foretold) is killing passengers who only have 66 seconds to live once he targets his victim.  It’s great fun and kind of scary and as the Doctor cracks the case he shares some fine one-liners and banter with  a terrific cast including Frank Skinner and David Bamber.  Brilliant script too.

EPISODE 8.11 – DARK WATER – Writer: Steven Moffat

This episode is pitch black darkness personified.  It opens with Danny Pink’s death, before moving onto a tricky scene where Clara fails to get to the Doctor to change this event.  Yet, the Doctor rewards Clara’s desperate attempt to trick him by saying they are “going to hell”.  Thus, they attempt to track Danny’s spirit and end up in the NETHERSPHERE or “Promised Land” where they finally get to meet the enigmatic Missy who had popped up at the end of quite a few episodes throughout the season.

Death casts a looming shadow over this episode and even I had my pillow over my face when I heard the screams of the dead cry: “Don’t cremate me!” in one particularly harrowing scene.  Further, we also get to delve into Danny’s backstory such as that of the child he killed when serving in the army which, along with Clara’s grief, added texture to the theme of mortality within the show.  By the time the Cybermen are marching down St Paul’s (in tribute to The Invasion from 1968) steps I was gripped. The performances are superb from Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi and the Mistress herself Michelle Gomez, who demonstrates a gleeful mania to great effect.  A superb episode with thankfully no kids to ruin it and one which the second part Death in Heaven had to go some to match.

 

SPECIAL MENTION: THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR – 50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL

I’ll round up this run through of the Whoniverse with a special mention of The Day of the Doctor, which was the closest we’d get to a new Doctor Who movie.  It was a spectacular piece of writing by Steven Moffat and a brilliant story which rewrote the whole Doctor Who narrative. It brought THREE Doctors (Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt’s War Doctor) into a mixture of high concept sci-fi and operatic drama which soared in tribute to fifty years of the Timelord. The chemistry between the Doctors was a joy (and Tom Baker popped in at the end too) as they go back to the Time War era and review the decision to destroy Gallifrey and the end the war with the nefarious Daleks. This was a Doctor Who production of the highest order and it demonstrates the power and prowess of the show that it was shown simultaneously in 94 countries hitting the Guinness Book of Records for largest ever live simulcast!

Finally, in doing this piece I have read a lot of critical, blog and online forum reviews during my research I have realised Doctor Who is MORE than a TV show.  It’s a huge cult with fans all over the world who are as passionate about the show as people are about religion or their chosen football team.  If I’m honest the old show I watched as a child holds so many great memories but nostalgia can be a cruel guide so it could be easy to dismiss the new show “because it’s not as good as when I was a kid!”. But, the reboot has on the whole. has been brilliant too.  I may not like everything about it but it still retains that magical quality I experienced as an earthly child growing up on a high-rise estate in South London.

DOCTOR WHO: A SPACE (AND TIME) ODYSSEY – PART TWO by PAUL LAIGHT

DOCTOR WHO: A SPACE (AND TIME) ODYSSEY – PART TWO

**CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**


CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON

It was so important to get the casting right for the new Doctor Who.  They could have gone for someone more comedic but in casting serious stage and screen actor Eccleston I think they got it spot on.

Famous for his dramatic roles in: Let Him Have It (1991), Shallow Grave (1994), Jude (1996), Our Friends in the North (1996), 28 Weeks Later (2002) and many more; he brought a depth and earthy humanity to the Gallifreyan.  He also brought a certain pathos, danger and aggression which gave meat to the drama and grounded us in a believable reality despite facing foes such as the Autons, Slitheen, Reapers, plus old favourites the Daleks and Cybermen.

Billie Piper’s working class shop girl Rose Tyler was a wonderful companion to Eccleston’s Doctor.  Despite, on occasions, seeming to reign in the darker edges it was a cracking shame he only did 13 episodes.

Here are my favourite two episodes of SEASON ONE.

EPISODE 1.6 – DALEK – Writer:  Robert Shearman

This episode found the Doctor and Rose going underground in Utah, 2012. There, a megalomaniac collector, Van Statten, has all manner of alien artefacts including a Dalek that is being experimented on.  This was a very gripping episode and one where Ecclestone’s dramatic muscles were really flexed. I loved the fact the Dalek was defeated having been ‘infected’ with  humanity. It also had a great bit of dialogue when the Doctor is told: “You would have made a good Dalek!”

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EPISODE 1.9 – THE DOCTOR DANCES – Writer: Steven Moffat

This episode concluded what began with The Empty Child.  I loved the wartime setting and the gas-masked creatures really sent chills down the spine. The subtext of war children hung heavy over the episode and in their own way both Rose and the Doctor are orphans.  The episode introduced dashing space and time con-artist Captain Jack Harkness and, while not a fan of John Barrowman, the character added intergalactic pizazz to the show. In this thrilling episode the emotional barriers come down between Rose and the Doctor too as they dance together during a touching moment amidst the horrors of World War II.

 

DAVID TENNANT

So the legend goes a young child by the name of David McDonald once proclaimed his intention to become an actor because of his love of Doctor Who.  His parents scoffed at this suggestion.  But flash-forward through time and that dream became a reality.

Having appeared on stage and screen, even sharing a scene with Eccleston in Jude (1996), the now-monikered David Tennant would become a Time Lord!  Arguably, Tennant is probably the perfect Doctor Who: funny, serious, crazy, good-looking, smart, tricksy, great hair, honest and at times slightly scary.

While Eccleston was excellent with the drama he sometimes struggled with the one-liners but Tennant encompassed all the emotions taking the baton from his predecessor and running riot with some incredible performances in many, many great episodes.

Here are my favourite two episodes of SEASON TWO.

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EPISODE 2.4 – THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE – Writer – Steven Moffat

What would happen if the Doctor fell in love?  This incredible episode asks that question and others with a mind-bending yet very romantic intertwining of the Timelord and Sophia Myles hot French historical figure Madame De Pompadour.  3000 years in the future Rose, Mickey and the Doctor find a floating space vessel with temporal windows to the past. The Clockwork Android crew on the spaceship require De Pompadour’s brain to save their ship but the Doctor comes to the rescue on horseback!  Yes there’s a horse on a spaceship in this one too plus: humour, romance, action and under-the-bed-frights. The pace zings along and the chemistry between Myles and Tennant is electric. This is great because it collapses the historical with imaginative sci-fi concepts and a very touching love story.


EPISODE 2.13 – DOOMSDAY – Writer: Russell T. Davies

And so it came to pass Rose and the Doctor part in the most spectacular of ways, amidst a war on Earth between Cybermen and Daleks. Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) was a brilliant companion both sparky and brave and loyal until the end sacrificing herself to save the man she loves; the Doctor.  It’s a great episode full of action and emotion as the Doctors’ greatest enemies’ face-off on Earth and as the Doctor and Rose’ bid a sad goodbye, Rose’s familial backstories dovetail with great effect as she is reunited with her mother and ‘dead’ father in a parallel universe from which she cannot return. Russell T. Davies’ strength as a writer was making the science fiction seem very real and imbue the fantastical with real emotional kick.  Tennant just rocks in the episode too!

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Here are my favourite episodes of SEASON THREE.

EPISODE 3.8 – HUMAN NATURE – Writer: Paul Cornell

In this stunning episode we get Tennant’s Doctor BUT he isn’t the Doctor; he’s actually a teacher called John Smith hiding from aliens so deep under cover he doesn’t know his real identity.  It’s a wonderful concept and much fun is had by Tennant in his performance while the episode brims with dramatic irony as Mr Smith has weird deja vu of a life he believes he has lived only in his dreams.  Martha (Freema Agyeman) had a tough role following Billie Piper but she excels here and the story – set in 1913 on the eve of war –  doesn’t shy away from critiquing the racial and class politics of the day.  There’s a lovely Remains of the Day subplot as the Mr Smith/Doctor falls for Jessica Hynes’ matron just as the Family of Blood come to call. Again, wartime is used to fine effect and of course the real Doctor comes back just in the nick of time to save the day.

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EPISODE 3.10 – BLINK – Writer Steven Moffat

What makes a classic Doctor Who episode?  Is it the story and the action and the science fiction and the laughs?  Yes, of course! But what REALLY makes is a great monster: a seemingly undefeatable foe that tests the Doctor and his companion to the limit of their powers.  Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, The Master, The Autons, Ice Warriors etc.  were awesome but Blink introduced the terrifying WEEPING ANGELS.  I shiver with fear at the thought of these seemingly harmless statues which move when you are not looking at them. So, don’t BLINK or they’re on you like the taxman for non-declaration of earnings; and they’ll drain your life just as quick. This is a blinding Doctor-light episode and contains a lovely Carey Mulligan playing Sally Sparrow. The writing and structure are tricky yet superb and while the Doctor and Martha mainly appear via obscure video messages Moffat really pulls all the strings together on this one.

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EPISODE 4.7 – THE UNICORN AND THE WASP – Writer:  Gareth Roberts

Most of the episodes I have chosen so far have been quite heavy. Indeed, I almost chose The Fires Of Pompeii over this one as it had a terrific moral dilemma at its heart with Catherine Tate’s warm-hearted Donna attempting to change the paths of history at the destruction of Pompeii. However, I chose this light and fluffy episode over it because I’m a sucker for Agatha Christie murder mysteries.  It skilfully throws Christie’s actual 3-day disappearance in with a monstrous wasp, a cunning jewel thief and a wicked murder plot. The Doctor and Donna play detective in a ripping yarn which features an early appearance from Oscar nominee Felicity Jones.

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EPISODE 4.10 – THE FOREST OF THE DEAD – Writer: Steven Moffat

This two-parter began with the episode equally brilliant Silence in the Library which set up a thrilling plot involving the first appearance of the enigmatic ‘companion’ that is River Song (Alex Kingston). It also established the nasty microscopic dust-mite Vashta Nerada i.e. “the shadows that melt the flesh”.  Moffat once again conjures up a mind-bending plot which jumps from a 51st Century Library — that has somehow become a humanity vacuum — and a strange dream world which Donna gets sucked into.  It was this surreal and somewhat Bunuelian nightmare place which stayed with me as Donna gets married, has children and then loses them all in a matter of moments.  As the Vashta Nerada kill off River’s space crew one by one the Doctor must save Donna and the Library!  Does he do it?  Spoilers, darling!

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Okay, so I’ve had to cheat here.  I’ve added another episode because as Season 4 was extended by a series of specials which would see the handover from Davies to Moffatt as showrunner and the eventual passing of the TARDIS from Tennant to Matt Smith. 

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EPISODE 4.15 – THE PLANET OF THE DEAD – Writers: Russell T. Davies and Gareth Roberts

Planet of the Dead was the first Doctor Who episode to be filmed in high definition and was another fun episode full of verve and pace.  I liked the fact the Doctor was companion-lite in The Next Doctor, Waters of Mars and this exciting segment.  It was full of great images including a bus stranded in the desert with echoes of Flight of the Phoenix and in the guise of foxy Michelle Ryan we had more than a nod to the videogame character Lara Croft.  I love Doctor episodes when they’re in the far flung netherworlds of space and this was a lovely light bit of sci-fi fluffery before the imperious drama and pathos of Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.

DOCTOR WHO: A SPACE (AND TIME) ODYSSEY – PART ONE by PAUL LAIGHT

DOCTOR WHO: A SPACE (AND TIME) ODYSSEY – PART ONE

I loved Doctor Who as a child. I am 44 years of age and STILL that child.

For a kid growing up on a Battersea council estate in the 1970s, Doctor Who was an eccentric, colourful, funny, tempestuous and brave hero who fought men, women, aliens, monsters and a plethora of villains and bullies across time and space.  The Doctor is the original Guardian of the Galaxy who every Saturday (and later midweek) would travel into my home via the TARDIS and cut a blaze across the living room all to the wonderfully eerie and memorable theme tune.  Moreover, he’s a sci-fi James Bond but without the testosterone, misogyny and faint whiff of STDs.

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Of course he has his companions and gadgets but Doctor Who is more complex than 007 due to the plethora of fascinating concepts pertaining to temporal and spatial ideas which can brilliantly propel us to any moment in time and place from past to present to future.

Allied to this the mystery and suspense created by utopian and dystopian locations and societies; use of historical figures; incredible and fantastical aliens; and finally allegorical narratives which comment on the politics, socio-economics and scientific aspects of humanity all make Doctor Who one of the greatest dramas in televisual history.

I read someone once write that Doctor Who is a kids show adults can watch. I think it’s the other way round. Doctor Who is a scientist, an action man, an enigma, a righter-of-wrongs, moral, amoral, simple, complex, protector of children and the underdog; sometimes even a villain; but above all else an Earthly treasure and long may he continue.

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My Doctor Who childhood timeline contains vague recollections of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton repeats; misty then firmer visions of John Pertwee; solid memories of my favourite – the bold, bellowing, mischievous – Tom Baker; and the young, dashing Peter Davison.  I continued watching as the show as it slid down the BBC management’s pecking order.

Indeed, controller Michael Grade hated it while Colin Baker was in tenure. Thus, the nonsensical visual mess, over-synthed-80s-soundtrack and miscast Sylvester McCoy would become final nails in Doctor Who’s creative coffin.  They were dark days indeed for the Timelord who went into permanent stasis.

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The show was consigned to a televisual black-hole never to be seen again.  So it seemed until It briefly sparked as a BBC TV movie starring the handsome and quirky Paul McGann. Yet that star burst as quickly as it arrived. Flash-forward to 2005 and Doctor Who was relaunched with Russell Davies as the showrunner and serious actor Christopher Eccleston adorned in a cool black leather jacket commandeering the TARDIS.  We were ready, once again, to go boldly go where no Gallifreyan had gone before. Sorry, wrong show.

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With one foot in the past I watched the Eccelston season and really enjoyed the reboot.  But somewhere along the line I lost touch around 2nd season David Tennant.  Thus, when one of my favourite actors, Peter Capaldi, was announced as the 12th Doctor I decided to get back on board the TARDIS and in 2014 did a massive catch-up on the show. And you know what?  I loved it.

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So, in appreciation of Doctor Who, circa 2005 onwards, this piece looks back in admiration at 10 years of the “new” Doctor.  I’ll list my favouritest TWO (not necessarily the best) episodes of EACH SEASON; and with so many good episodes I am probably wrong!   Remember it’s just the internet and my opinion so let’s do this: GERONIMO!!!

To be continued:

SCREENWASH: FEBRUARY 2015 BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH: FEBRUARY 2015 BY PAUL LAIGHT

Ola!   Hope you’re well. Here’s another wash-up of movies I saw in the month of February at the cinema, on Blu-Ray or streamed via Netflix et al.  In alpha order.

***THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD***

 

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (2014) – SKY MOVIES

This sequel/sidequel is an adequate facsimile of the muscular and far superior original adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300. It’s a teenage boy’s wet dream with bloody ultra-violence and often-topless Eva Green’s war-whore Artemesia taking centre stage amidst the carnage. Once again the Greeks and Persians go to battle but this time at sea as greased-up, muscle-ripped men-in-pants knock the crap out of each other. Eva Green aside this film lacks the star quality of the first one as well as a consistent narrative as it takes an age to establish its cardboard characters prior to the well-orchestrated battles.

 

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) – AMAZON PRIME

I’ve said this before but Lucio Fulci’s films are horror classics and should be given more respect in my view. They have creepy music, horrific images and tense atmosphere that are the stuff of nightmares. If surrealist genius Luis Bunuel had directed horror films they would have resembled Fulci’s oeuvre. With a dreamlike narrative City of The Living Dead unleashes hell when a priest commits suicide in Dunwich causing a series of memorable horror moments including characters: being buried alive; throwing intestines up through the mouth; bloody-eyed zombies wreaking havoc; brains impaled on a lathe and many more horrible deaths.

 

CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE (2009) – NETFLIX

This stupid but highly entertaining movie-come-live-action-videogame once again has Jason Statham getting up to all kinds of shenanigans to keep his ticker (in this case an electric heart contraption) going or he dies. Cue the killing and torture of gangsters aplenty in a high-octane offensive speedy comedy-actioner.


DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2014) – BLU RAY

Eric ‘Chopper’ Bana finds another functional film on his CV as director Scott Derrickson fails to reach the horror heights of his previous film Sinister (2012) in this cop-meets-exorcist thriller. Some decent scares along the way and Sean Harris is excellent as the man-possessed, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

 

IT FOLLOWS (2014) – CINEMA

IT FOLLOWS is a very good film with great music and well-constructed composition of shots plus a really good central premise. So, basically a curse is passed sexually between suburban teens and if you have it an entity hunts you down to a grisly death. I very much enjoyed it and felt very tense throughout. The problem is there’s so many bad films around when a good one comes along the critics go crazy for it. In short: a fine teen frightener compared to much of the crap around but it was too subtle especially at the end when I wanted a bloodier finale. However, the Director is definitely one worth following.

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2014) – CINEMA

Having seen four kind of serious Oscar-worthy films in January I watched the spy-action-comedy-Bond-parody KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2014) finding it bally brilliant fun. While I like some of the more serious comic book adaptations this is a blast from beginning to end with jokes and violence aplenty. Pitch perfect pace and delivery by cast and crew as the script hybridizes kitchen sink, action and spy genres. I was especially pleased they didn’t squeeze out the bloody action and make it a 12A as the Marvel, DC and Peter Jackson films have done in the last few years. THAT scene in the “Church” is a case in point and is certainly one you won’t forget in a hurry. To quote the parlance of our age: “The film is well sick, bruv!”

 

JOE (2013) – NETFLIX

Nicolas Cage is outstanding and on very restrained form as the working class lead of this depressing character study. It shares similar traits with MUD (2012) where McConaughey’s criminal bonds with local kids but this is a whole different beast as it features: alcoholism, dysfunctional families, inner rage and general abuse against humans. Overall, existential despair prevails in a genuinely gruelling experience that very much haunts the viewer.

 

ONLY TWO LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013) – BLU RAY

Jim Jarmusch’s elegant vampire film is so slow-moving I ended up finishing it the day before I started watching it. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are the best thing about this character study about the inertia of immortality. I enjoyed many of the rock and music references and the subtext of virulent human blood killing off the undead but it was too ponderous overall to recommend to anyone. For hard-core Jarmusch fans only.

 

OUT OF THE FURNACE (2013) – NETFLIX

A terrific cast including: Bale, Harrelson, Saldana, Defoe and the always impressive Casey Affleck feature in this steely drama. It centres on two brothers (Bale and Affleck) just trying to get by in a run-of-the-steel-mill Pennsylvanian town. Tension comes from Affleck’s gambling losses which culminate in his taking up bare-knuckle fist fighting to pay off debts. Woody Harrelson chews up the scenery as the dominant nemesis and while some of the narrative turns don’t quite fit it’s pretty gritty and Bale is on good form as the brother trying but failing to maintain a normal existence.

 

PREDESTINATION (2014) – CINEMA

I think most time-travel films are paradoxical by nature and holes can always be found in the logic but as a time-travel/thriller genre film Predestination worked really well providing an intriguing gender-political angle too. The nature of the loner and finding love for others and oneself was also an interesting theme plus the inevitability of fate was there in the subtext too. It may completely fall apart on subsequent viewings but for the running time it offered a lot more than many other star-driven, big-budget movies. Even though I enjoy seeing stuff blown up on screen I do love a brain-twister too.

Thus, if you like any of the following: TimeCrimes (2007), Looper (2012), The Adjustment Bureau (2011), Time After Time (1979), Back to the Future (1985), The Terminator (1984), Doctor Who etcetera… then do watch this one. It’s a fine low-budget time-travel film starring Ethan Hawke and breakout performance from brilliant Sarah Snook.


ROCK ‘N’ ROLLA (2008) – SKY MOVIES

Guy Ritchie’s big budget upgrade of Snatch (2000) is a shiny and stylish gangster folly full of British talent including: Tom Wilkinson, Toby Kebbell, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Gerard Butler and Idris Elba; with Thandie Newton keeping the testosterone levels down in a decent knockabout bit of fun.

 

SELMA (2014) – CINEMA

This is political storytelling of the highest order with David Oyelowo brilliantly portraying one of the greatest humans that ever lived: Martin Luther King. Tom Wilkinson is also superb as political rival Lyndon B. Johnson as the two lock horns over King’s pursuit of the equal rights vote for African-Americans. This is a moving story of injustice and violence at the heart of America’s recent past as King and his brothers and sisters fight the good fight for one of the most basic of democratic rights. Lives were lost and blood was shed but above it all Martin Luther King is shown to be a majestic force in the righteous fight which culminates in a ground-breaking march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama, 1965. I was very ill watching this but it is fantastic filmmaking with sterling performances and an in depth examination of a vital part of American history.

 

THE VILLAGE (2004) – SKY MOVIES

M. Night Shymalan’s recent films have been panned and bombed at the box office and very much lost the plot. Some might say that that the rot set in with The Village but I really like this movie. I like the design, colour, pace, acting, direction, horror, romance and central premise. Arguably it hangs by a thread in regards to plausibility but on a re-watch it was genuinely tense and had so much atmosphere I was captivated by the whole narrative. Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard shine as two lovers trapped in the village by the threat of strange beasts and the elders who know an incredible secret.

 

My Top Three Bestest Films that I enjoyed for February were (in alpha order):

  1. X)  KINGSMAN
  2. Y)  PREDESTINATION
  3. Z)  SELMA

 

 

Thoughts on Cinema, TV and Life!