Sunday, 15 November 2009

Of Doctor Who - The Waters of Mars

I'm incredibly sorry for posting this so late, but honestly I've been really very busy, at least too busy to blog. I promised this weeks ago along with my thoughts on Muse. All I'll say about that is that was a fantastic night out, awesome set list (although a bit too much Resistance) and a superb light show. If you do ever get a chance to go see Muse ever, I would heartily recommend you do so as not only are they one of the best bands in the world, but also one of the best live bands in the world.

But anyways, on with my review of The Waters of Mars. Waters of Mars was one of the previously announced Doctor Who specials that we would get in place of a real season of Doctor Who this year. I gave Planet of the Dead a very positive review a few months ago (maybe a little bit too positive, but I really enjoyed it even if no one else did) and I'm going to do the same here. This review is going to be very short and sweet and I'm not going to delve into a lot of areas that I might normally do. If you've read any of my previous Doctor Who reviews then you know that David Tennant is absolutely superb and there's no need to reiterate that here. I will be doing say come new years which might devolve into more of David Tennant memorandum consider it will be his last foray as the Doctor*

So instead this review is going to focus on one thing. Russel T. Davies. I have a love/hate relationship for this man. He has shepherded this new Doctor Who since the beginning and has written some amazing episodes. He picked the actors and has done some incredible character moments. However he's also proven an incredible lack of ability at writing science fiction beats, relying quite frequently on dues ex machina type endings, particularly the finale to Season 4. The man has done a lot to help this series but also harmed with an overabundance of campy, kiddie humour and cop out endings. It's making me incredibly excited to think what Stephen Moffat will do when he takes over next spring, but on some level I will be upset to see RTD leave the show.

This episode was pretty much a showcase for RTD best and worst talents. Luckily the good out weighed the bad by a lot but there still existed a lot of quite annoying points about this episode. Firstly we had the robot. This was probably my biggest complaint about the episode. It was stupid and kiddie. Whilst it was arguably necessary for the conclusion, there was no reason for it to be so goddamn annoying or the weird inter-cutting of the guy controlling it being electrocuted. I should have known it would be bad when it was described as a 'cute robot sidekick, because kids love robots!' It was just stupid. It wasn't cute. TV and movies have done little cute sidekicks frequently before but this robot wasn't interesting at all. It didn't have any personality which was probably its biggest flaw and the scene where it is made to go super fast was awful. However that did save us from the awful running sequences. Whilst we got some funny jokes with the Doctor asking for little fold away bicycles, so much of the time was taken up by running sequences that it go a little tedious. For a time period where we had lasers and a space station on Mars (both of which could be possible by 2059 IaSg14) we for some reason don't have a transportation system between different sectors of the base? Seriously, if you want to make a joke RTD at least ground it in reality and not make the audience have to take massive leaps of faith.

Now the good stuff. It was character based and not really sci-fi based. Just like Season 4's 'Midnight' (also written by RTD) we had something alien causing commotion but the reactions were human and grounded. That's what made Battlestar Galactica work so well and it did so here. Whilst Doctor Who will never touch BSG in terms of darkness just due to when and where it airs, it was nice to see something that whilst not believable was grounded in reality. The situation was significantly harrowing with the crew being whittled down until we didn't know who would survive. There were some nice hero and sacrificial moments (guy in rocket ship which annoying at first was a sufficiently awesome death scene) as well as the emotional points where some of the lesser crew members who we haven't actually spent time with get water on them and we know they're done. It made you feel for them because they had personality, if only a little. Although it was weird to see the two least developed characters ultimately surviving.

Then we have Adelaide played by Lindsay Duncan. She was great and was the main focal point of the story. The fact is that her death is a fixed point in time and if she doesn't die then the universe would completely change as it is her death which brings about contact with the outside universe. This is where we get a really interested moral quandary on the behalf of the Doctor. He knows she must die and wants to stay uninvolved from this in order to keep time under wraps (he is a Time Lord after all) however he comes around and decides to save all of the people he can on the station. Ultimately he saves three, including Adelaide but also tells her that she is meant to die or else all the good things brought by her death won't come about. This leads to one of the most powerful scenes Doctor Who has ever done.

Adelaide confronts the Doctor after he saves her and tells him how no man should wield the power to change time (all of this wonderfully grounded by David Tennant seemingly manic power rush from this event**) and eventually concludes with Adelaide deciding to take this into her own hands. So we get the darkest moment that Doctor Who has ever done and even rivals the superb scene in Torchwood from earlier this year. A companion literally kills herself. It was dark and well done and almost seemed like RTD had learned something from writing Torchwood that sometimes going a little dark is a good thing. It was necessary to sort out the timeline and show how power mad the Doctor had gone and whilst I've read complaints about that scene all I can do is applaud RTD for doing it. It was utterly fantastic and rounded off a great episode of Doctor Who.

Overall, this was a great special. Whilst a silly first 10 minutes drag this episode down a little, the rest is dark and dramatic with real tension and characters we can care for even with very little screen time. Overall this has probably been my favourite special that Doctor Who has done, including David Tennant's first Christmas Special and the dark turn towards the end to wrap up the story was the icing on the cake. I can't wait to see what Christmas will bring and am on tender hooks for Stephen Moffat's run. Lets just hope that RTD doesn't cock David Tennat's swan song.


*just as a note, I want to know if I should review the Christmas/New Year specials as a whole or two separate reviews. Considering they're a two parter I'm slightly torn and wondering whether I'll have a enough to say to pad out two reviews of what is essentially one story.

**goddamn it, I said I wouldn't do that

Monday, 9 November 2009

Of Mad Men Season 3

Well that marks the end of Mad Men Season 3 and this also marks the beginning of my third and final review of the show this year. Yup you read that right, I've reviewed all three seasons of Mad Men in these short 11 months. All I can really say is that Mad Men is without one of the best, if not the best, show that currently airs on television. Breaking Bad and Lost can both come close to reaching it's consistency but Mad Men just has that something that takes to a higher (and if you watch any of the shows I've just mentioned you know they're at a very high level to begin with).

So without further ado my review of the shows third season. If you have yet to watch the show then all I can really say is that there will be spoilers and that you should probably go out and watch it, it's just amazing.

So first off I want to get the acting out of the way just due to the fact that if you watch the show then you already know the high calibre that they have on the show. Jon Hamm continues to be superb as Don Draper, the character is just magnetic and Hamm just owns the character and his multiple layers and the dark past that he hides underneath all the business suits. January Jones as Betty was again amazing this year, as was Elisabeth Moss as Peggy, who sadly was sidelined a little after two superb episodes kicked off the year. John Slattery continues to steal pretty much every scene he's in as Roger Sterling with the best lines of anyone on the show. Christian Hendricks as Joan and Bryan Batt as Sal both were spectacular but they two sadly were left early on (but for completely understandable reasons). Also I need to mention Vincent Kartheiser as Pete for also being fantastic.*

However those were the main characters who we know are fantastic, this year we had several new characters and one in particular stood out. Jared Harris as Lane Pryce was an utterly superb addition to the cast this year. Jared Harris can be recognised for his work as Mr. Jones last season Fringe (ie the villain) and whilst he was a very good part of Fringe, he really shows off some astounding talent on Mad Men. It does seem like the writers were doing something similar to what the writers of Lost were doing in Season 2 when they introduced the character of Henry Gale. In Lost they were looking for an actor to portray the leader of the Others and went looking for an actor, if that actor worked then he would stay around, if he didn't he'd be killed off and they'd look for someone else. In both cases it worked and Michael Emerson came into play Henry Gale and is currently one of the best things about Lost and is easily one of the best character actors working today. Jared Harris has done a similar thing. Of all the scenes this season, I found myself looking forward to his scenes the most. He was funny and just a joy to watch, and with how the season ended it does look like he may be bumped up to main cast next season.

Now for the main crux of the season. Of course the show is set in the 60s and we've been told we'd see the entire decade in about 5 seasons. However the first surprise of the season was that the season didn't open like last year with a jump of a year but instead only a few short weeks. Meaning we saw a lot of the pregnancy announced at the end of last season. This led to some very trippy scenes which signaled that Mad Men was going to play around with pre-concieved notions of how the show normally is. There were hallucinations, sojourns to Italy, firings of not one but two main characters and unlike most cable shows the major event of the season didn't take place in the second to last episode but in the third to last episode AND the last episode.

Then there was the lawnmower scene. Mad Men doesn't do violence or push the censors much. Of course the show is dark and there's lots of sex and occasional swearing but overall it's done in a tasteful and realistic way. However the lawnmower that runs over someones foot was completely unexpected, in much the same way as the vomit scene in season 1. It comes out of nowhere, or at least whilst it's obvious that something is going to happen, you don't think that THAT would happen. But it does and blood sprays everywhere and it was shocking. It shows that Mad Men isn't playing it safe and wants to mess around with the conventions that it's made for itself.

We of course have to mention that Sal and Joan both left Sterling Cooper this reason. Sal for reasons that amounted to black mail due to the fact that he wouldn't sleep with a male client. Sal is by far one of the most interesting characters. He's the only gay character in the cast and the 60s attitude to homosexuality is something that has only been lightly touched on and I just hope he comes back in Season 4, even if we don't see him get his job back. Then there is Joan who leaves for different reasons in the fact that it's due to the belief that her husband will be able to support them both. He doesn't and we get some awesome moments, particularly due to the fact that this was the guy that raped her in season 2. The best moment being hitting him around the head with a vase and of course the "Hell Yeah!!" moment in the finale when she shows up to help save the day. Whilst this did lead to the false hope Sal might come back to do something similar. Instead Don kicks in the door, which if anything was even awesomer.

Of course this being Mad Men, it isn't really a straightforward story. The show is more a random collection of events in the lives of the people at Sterling Cooper. When you begin a season, you have no clue how or where it will end up. At the beginning each episode will be very loosely connected to what preceded it and it isn't until about episode 7 or 8 that the landscape of the season becomes clear. Mad Men did that this year, adventures based on different characters. There were moments for both Peggy and Pete to shine. Sal's secret came out to Don, the episode where Betty gave birth and Betty's father, Gene dying (which led to Kiernan Shipka make me take back what I've said about child actors been incapable of acting unless they're on The Wire).

However then we saw where it was going.

This season is where it happened. Betty found out about Don's true past. How he stole the real Don Draper's identity. Of course she didn't take it well, although at first it did seem very strange. Divorce papers and photos of a man called Dick Whitman. Then we got the scene where it all comes out. It was played superbly and of course in the background we had the fact that Don was having an affair with his children's teacher who was sat in the car during the entire confrontation who could make this already tense scene blow up even more than it already had. She didn't but it was quite possibly the tensest thing the show has ever done. Betty forgave him after she heard the full least until the next episode where she revealed her plan to divorce Don. Which is where we ended season 3, Don and Betty's marriage has come to end. Whilst it was inevitable due to Don's endless affairs and secrets it does change the landscape of the show significantly.

The other significant event? Nope it wasn't the assassination of JFK which occurred in the second to last episode. Nope it was the shocking turn of events which led to the entire collapse of Sterling Cooper and the formation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. This is the game changer that the show unleashed on us in the finale episode. A pitch perfect episode from start to finish. Whilst it did contain some dark and emotional moments such as Don threatening to beat Betty when she announces the divorce and the reaction of their children to the news, the episode was actually amazing upbeat, hilarious and a hell of a lot of fun. The episode was built like an old fashion caper like Ocean's 11 where we got to see the building of the team over the episode, there was jazzy up beat music and of course some brilliant lines. We had the return of Joan where then she and Roger acted like an old married couple**, Peggy deadpanning a no when asked to coffee. The brilliant reaction of Pryce when he told his bosses how he'd fired everyone, got himself fired and then managed to wish the a merry Christmas. It was superbly well done and of course we got some beautiful moments such as the conversation between Don and Peggy and how he would spend the rest of his life trying to hire her if she didn't say yes to his offer. So by the end we'd lost a large proportion of the cast and I honestly have no clue where we're going in season 4.

Overall Season 3 was fantastic. It took Mad Men to unexpected and unusual places. It played with normal conventions and mixed in the normal fantastic writing and acting we've come to expect. I haven't even mentioned some of the mixing of real life events of the sixties and key figures. There was of course the matter of race where we found out about racially motivated murders, the fact that Conrad Hilton (yes Paris' grandfather) was a key character and then the murder of JFK. Mad Men is essential television. It is the best thing currently on the air, this season showed it doesn't go for the expected conclusion instead throwing frequent curve balls that constantly keep you guessing.

If you aren't watching Mad Men then honestly there is something wrong with you. The fact the show gets very ratings proves that the vast majority of people of idiots. Mad Men is one of the most unique and brilliant shows on the air. I have no clue what is going to happen in Season 4, how long will the time jump be? Will Don stay away from Betty for long? Will SCDP be succesfull? Will we still see all the old characters? When is Don going to have his next affair? All I do know is I can't wait till next August and the return of the best show on television. Especially with the scope of the show now being expanded beyond the confines of the Sterling Cooper offices.


*If the acting quality weren't so high on this show I may have focused a little more on or two specific actors but it is and I love it for that.

**Side note, get those two back together in a relationship!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Of Jennifer's Body

Some few weeks ago I'd organised to go see Frightened Rabbit in concert, sadly the lead singer became ill and our date has re-compensated to a date next year. However this still meant a night out with friends was needed. After a day of texting non-stop to figure out a film, me wanting to go see Fantastic Mr. Fox them wanting to see a horror such as Saw VI and Fourth Kind. In the end we settled on Fourth Kind because Fantastic Mr. Fox wasn't on late enough and I put my foot down about see a Saw. However my friends girlfriend took so long getting ready we missed our movie by about 20 minutes. So looked to see what else was on, this was Jennifer's Body. So we buy our tickets and wait 40 minutes to go in.

What followed a mix between really quite funny and almost tear inducing boredom.

Jennifer's Body is aimed at teenage guys. No doubts there. There is literally a scene halfway through where Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox start making out on her bed with closeups. The ironic thing is it's another 30 minutes before Megan Fox informs she goes both ways. Congratulations movie I believe we figured that out when you were attempting to eat the contents of her stomach (an act they both enjoyed I'd like to add).

The plot of the movie is that a band want to make it big so they decide to offer a virgin up to a demon to give them fame, because as the lead singer points out (played by the best thing in the OC and also this movie, Adam Brody) there are just so many indie bands around nowadays it's impossible for any of them to make it. However Jennifer is not a virgin and the spell goes wrong. Now Jennifer is possessed and wants to eat boys to maintain her beauty.

Due to the fact that this is a Diablo Cody we get her patented faux-teen dialogue just like in Juno (which won her an Oscar). Sadly this movie will not win anyone an Oscar unless they create one for Best Lesbian Kiss. When Amanda Seyfried's character, Needy, mutter's "Cheese and Fries" instead of "Jesus Christ" it gets quite grating. Diablo Cody's writing seems to almost perfect for a self concious indie film. Not for a horror comedy. Whilst there is some humour in some scenes, most of the time it falls tremendously flat. Diablo Cody thinks she being so fucking funny and witty but really it does come off like a 30 year old woman trying to hang out with teenage. Trying to forget about the inevitability of menopause and wrinkles. In fact some of the dialogue just kills the movie, when Jennifer starts spouting witticisms when she supposed to be the Alpha Bitch it just doesn't make sense. She's an airhead and completely stupid there is no way she could speak like an indie movie character. Needy we can forgive because she is stereotypical down trodden girl but Jennifer?

Diablo Cody wants this to be some sort of alpha female kind of movie. Sadly she fails at that. Instead of a pro feminist message we just get a girl who fucks people to get what she needs. If you want to see something that gives off good messages to girls about how to take control but give up your dignity by showing your tits to everyone then watch Veronica Mars, Buffy or hell even Diablo Cody's far superior Juno. None of those characters want to fuck everything with a cock because they don't need to assert dominance. There's something about all those characters that makes them good examples for girls. They're strong, independent and know what they want and know how to use they're given talents without having to rely on they're sex to get boys what they want them to do. In Jennifer's Body there is a line about tits being smart bombs, point them at boys and BOOM (at which point the scene from Crank 2 in the strip club came to mind and I giggled).

Speaking of Veronica Mars, Jennifer's Body is a reunion for Veronica Mars actors! Sadly neither of them were major major (both really only appearing in one season each) and if I recall never actually being on screen at the same time throughout the show (however when one of them was murdered in the first episode of the show that's forgiveable. Kyle Gallner (Beaver in Veronica Mars) was another of the few bright spots in the film. He was great in Veronica Mars and has a few very funny scenes in this as well as being the only real victim of Jennifer we get to see kind of onscreen. It also led to one of the best moments of the film if only for my friend's girlfriends reaction when just by climbing through a window he made her jump out of her skin (she's not a big horror movie fan)

Back to the film! It's completed disjointed. It's only about 100 minutes long but it feels like about 200. There at least 4 different closure points that could be had and the place we think we'll have an epic final encounter isn't actually the place of that encounter. Instead that happens about 10 minutes later and is far less cool. After this the film should be over. However no they keep it going for another 10 minutes for no reason whatsoever. What's worse is that the final final encounter takes place during the credits but with pictures an not film. Imagine the credits to Hangover but instead of being a cool little collection of funny picture it's actually something important to the plot which could have been filmed properly and not in this idiotic and doesn't actually make a statement other than apparently the actor cannot direct some kind of action/mass murder scene.

So what was bad about Jennifer's Body? It feels like it stretches on for eternity (and not in a good way like Lord of the Rings), it fails on almost level throughout the story (and not just the third act like Men Who Stare At Goats, but the entire fucking movie), it's not scary at all (unless you're my friends girlfriend), the dialogue just doesn't work, it's way to far up it's own arse trying to be cult classic (which hopefully it'll never get to be). Oh and Megan Fox can't act for shit. Also she's not that hot. Also Transformers 2 is shit. Making Megan Fox's good movies of the year a grand total of none!

What was good? Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm...............

Adam Brody?

That scene where Kyle Gallner got eaten juxtaposed with a sex scene (which has the line "am I too big?" and also some quite funny facial expressions as the guy thinks hes a sex god)

And yeah I guess the Megan Fox/Amanda Seyfried kiss was good. But it was soft core lesbian porn. Also the kiss was like 2 minutes long. You could just tell every guy in the room with his girlfriend was uncomfortable during it. Mostly due to that fact they were probably thinking "god I wish I could get her to do that"

Overall, Megan Fox's body is overly mediocre. Bad dialogue, it's neither overly funny or scary. It's pretty much the quintessential teenage boy movie. Most boys will go in there for Megan Fox, wishing they were the guy who saw her tits or made out with her. Inevitable cum all over themselves during the lesbian scene (or at least have a wet dream about it later) and just forget about all the bad points later. Luckily I didn't because I am critic and I say this film is bad. Not diabolically bad. Just bad, and boring. There's no cohesion to anything, it lacks the buoying talent that Ellen Page was in Juno and fails on all the levels that it was supposed to succeed apart from being a voyeuristic fantasy look at Megan Fox's cleavage.

2009 is going to go down as the year of Megan Fox. After slow motion running in the Transformers 2 and lesbian kissing in Jennifer's Body she's going to be every boys fantasy. However I'm here to say that shes' not that hot, she couldn't act her way out of a wet paper bag and probably did use her tits to get the job. There are far scarier, far funnier and far better feminist movies out there. Skip out on this one if you know whats good for you. However if you're just going for the lesbian kiss knock yourself out, I assure you, there is far better stuff out there.

4/10 (for normal people)

837/10 (people who don't know how to find porn on the internet)

PS. Oooooh I remembered another positive! There's a really catchy song in the movie! Yeah that's it.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

November 2009

November really is the beginning of my favourite period of the year. It's a time where you don't ridiculed for not wanting to go outside because no one really wants to. It means you can stay in and watch films, play games or even if you want to go out its normally to somewhere indoors or something festivey or related to winter sports. It's a time of hibernation which doesn't really let up until February (or in the UK when we have that last freak snow storm). I love it. It means winter is almost upon us and I can actually have a bit of time to think (surprisingly I get more done during the Winter than in summer, my blog is testament to that).

So what do we have planned for the coming November? Well I've seen a few films I wouldn't mind reviewing. Stuff like Moon and Hurt Locker as well as hopefully Let the Right One In (I've had the DVD for months). I'm also going to cinema some point soon, whether the film is review worthy shall be seen.

I've also got two gigs in the coming weeks. First being Frightened Rabbit this Saturday (the awesome Scottish band and forerunners for my favourite band in the UK), which I'm sure will be awesome. I might do a review but only if the loudness has died and I can remember the set list. This is followed by Muse on the 13th which will be epic with their renown for being one of the best live acts on the planet.

November will also result of a review of Mad Men Season 3 going up in the next two weeks (I promise). This season has been awesome, but I really didn't need to tell you that.

Currently Listening To: Surf Solar - Fuck Buttons
Currently Reading - Fables
Currently Watching (TV) - Mad Men Season 3 Episode 12