Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Hi from America! Just a quick howdy before I jet back to the apparently rainsoaked UK, so I'd better make the most of the 91 degrees here in Ohio!

I have lots to report on from the USA when I get back (with photos), so be sure to check back when normal service resumes on 3 July...

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

'Tis the last post before I jet off to America! 7 hours on a plane -- yikes! So, as I'm away for the next three weekends, here are my personal movie pics for the rest of June, hitting UK cinemas soon...

15 JUNE


FANTASTIC FOUR - RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
The quartet of heroes discover they're not the only super-beings in the universe when a Silver Surfer descends on the planet. Comic-book sequel starring Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba.

22 JUNE

LUCKY YOU
A hotshot poker player tries to win a Las Vegas tournament, whilst fighting a losing battle with his personal problems. Drama starring Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore.

29 JUNE

THE FLYING SCOTSMAN
A champion cyclist, who built his bike from washing machine spare parts, is stripped of his title, provoking mental health issues. True life drama starring Jonny Lee Miller.

HOSTEL: PART II
Three American girls are lured to a Slovakian hostel and learn the macabre secret behind it. Gruesome horror sequel from director Eli Roth.

SHREK THE THIRD
The green ogre heads off to find the heir to the King's throne, as he's unwilling to accept the responsibility himself. Animated sequel with the voices of Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Yes. I have changed the title of the blog from Dan's Movie Digest to Dan's Media Digest. I'm still hyperventilating as I type this ;-)

I just felt I was reviewing more television shows than movies recently. I don't have as much spare cash as I used to, so can't "fritter it away" on trips to the cinema or £15-quid-a-pop DVDs. Not like in the "old days" (erm, a few years ago).

There'll still be film reviews here, but purely whatever I happen to watch and think worthy of a review. So expect an eclectic mix of brand new cinema releases, some old classics, a few films caught on TV and DVD releases of varying freshness!

BB8: NEW ARRIVALS

So Lesley has walked out of the house, citing intolerable boredom. I don't blame her, but it's a shame. I always like watching a normal human being try and integrate themselves amongst the rag-tag BB housemates. It'll be a sadder place without her withering put-down, mattress sniffing and eagle-eyes scanning the madness from behind those schoolmistress glasses.

But, we have two new housemates to focus on now. Two gay men. In a house of women and one straight man. Ho-ho-ho. The first bloke, Seany, was the straw that broke the camel's back with Lesley, after he cruelly snatched away her bedclothes at 4am in the morning. On his first night in the house. What a nice guy!

It's early days, but I find Seany irritating already. He's the kind of whacky knob that tries your patience just by talking. The look on his face when he realized he was having to share the "newbie attention" with Gerry was priceless. Seany travelled to the U.S to support Michael Jackson during his child molestation trial, dressed in the red Thriller outfit. 'Nuff said.

And so onto Gerry, a gay man who sounds like the Brazilian leopard in that Creature Comforts short. He seems pleasant enough, but nothing special. For pure entertainment value, Seany's atleast provoking a strong reaction, but maybe there's more to come from Gerry.

So, how are the rest of the house getting on, briefly:

Carole. Very disappointing. What does she do beyond linger around looking ugly and moaning during meetings? Where's the outrageous cow we were promised? I want to see a monster, not a grouchy old woman.

Chanelle. I sort of like her. She's cute and fairly normal compared to many of the girls. It helps she's the only housemate romancing anyone at the moment, too. That said, her hysterics at being likened to Victoria Beckham by Gerry was embarassing to see in a grown woman.

Charley. She milked "Emilygate" for all it was worth and there's a nasty/immature streak running through her (check out her grin when Seany disturbed Lesley's sleep). It beggars belief that she wonders why the crowd were chanting "Get Charley out!"

Laura. The Welsh lass has almost disappearing into the wallpaper these days. She's a nice enough girl, although she's likes to shit stir too much.

Nicky. Undoubtedly boring, but she's quite normal and harmless. It's just a shame that, unlike Lesley, her normality is so utterly tiresome.

Samanda. I can't tell Sam or Amanda apart! I know one has a chubbier face, but which one? The twins are the biggest BB8 disappointment. They were such a perfect housemates when they entered: fun, cute and bonkers. So what happened? They just sit around, looking bamboozled by any conversation that isn't about hair or make-up. The only time they cheer up is when breaking into their annoying, yet curiously watchable, dance ditty. Even though nobody can understand a word they say! Embarassing.

Shabnam. She's on a different planet. Totally self-absorbed. Undoubtedly due to be booted out any day soon. An awful attention-seeking bitch.

Tracey. It's amazing how normal she's become. She's still prone to that gurning and irritating outbursts, but it's been subdued for awhile now. For anyone who prefers the "oddballs" to win BB, she's a shoe-in right now.

Ziggy. There must be a dark side to this guy. Somewhere. He's so gracious, polite and charming it's unbelievable! The thing is, I genuinely think it's real, too. I can't see how he won't win this, unless people just hate "nice, boring guys" and vote for the more outrageous people. His romance with Chanelle should keep him in for awhile yet though.

So there it is. My last BB8 post until July! I wonder what the house will look like when I get back. Two weeks is a lifetime in BB terms! Will the twins get their groove back? Will Ziggy be unmasked as a pervert? Will Seany be kicked out? Will Chanelle develop her own personality? Will Carole lighten up? Will Charley show a softer side?

PRISON BREAK 2.22 - "Sona"

11 June 2007 - Five, 10.00 pm
WRITER: Paul T. Scheuring DIRECTOR: Kevin Hooks
CAST: Wentworth Miller (Michael Scofield), Dominic Purcell (Lincoln Burrows), William Fichtner (Agent Mahone), Paul Adelstein (Agent Kellerman), Sarah Wayne Callies (Dr Sara Tancredi), Amaury Nolasco (Sucre), Robert Knepper (T-Bag), Reggie Lee (Bill Kim), Wade Williams (Bellick), Callie Thorne (Pam Mahone), Leon Russom (Pad Man), Mark Harelick (Marty Gregg) & Wilbur Fitzgerald (Bruce Bennett)

WARNING! SPOILERS! WARNING! SPOILERS! WARNING! SPOILERS!

T-Bag and Bellick are jailed, Mahone plots to steal Michael's boat and Kellerman gives evidence at Sara's trial...

The season finale has certainly sneaked up, perhaps because there have already been two episodes that involved more natural places to climax (The Killing Box's escape redux and Sweet Caroline's conspiracy game-change). But here it is, nevertheless, courtesy of series creator Paul T. Scheuring, who tends to reserve the best stuff for himself.

Sona is certainly one of the episode's strongest episodes in terms of pure incident, with every character facing comeuppence or salvation (with a cruel twist, of course.) As always when reviewing season finale's, the following will contain major spoilers, so you've been warned.

Agent Mahone, the wonderful William Fichtner (who has saved this season from burnout on many occassions), holds Lincoln hostage in a warehouse, to lure Michael out of hiding. Mahone has been a very interesting character to see develop this year, blessed with interesting motivations and backstory.

I rarely mention Dominic Purcell in Prison Break reviews, mainly because his performances as Lincoln never elicit much response in me. Purcell just doesn't have much acting range, but he's reliably gruff and stoic. Meanwhile, Wentworth Miller is undeniably charismatic as Michael, but he rarely gets much opportunity to do anything but smoulder. That he succeeds as a leading man speaks more of audience sympathy for his character's plight than any acting skills.

A problem Prison Break has always faced is ensuring its sprawling TV formay doesn't bleed its premise dry. The best examples of the genre are movies (Great Escape and Shawshank Redemption), but while the premise would have been best served as a mini-series, I have to admit the "manhunt" conceit of season 2 has been interesting. It hasn't been without problems (great characters like T-Bag are castrated by freedom) and it contained periods of frustration, but it's always been enjoyable.

The question on most people's lips is how can the show sustain itself for a third season? Surely that's pushing things too far? Well, against expectation, Paul T. Scheuring makes some brave choices that left me eager to see Prison Break return...

By the episode's end, the tired conspiracy plot is finally resolved and Lincoln is acquitted following Kellerman's speech at Sara's trial -- before he's apparently killed. Other loose ends are tied up, such as the $5 million swag, while characters all meet a variety of ends: devious Bill Kim is shot, T-Bag's deal is welched on, Sucre fails to find Maricruz, Bellick is shipped off to prison, Mahone is framed for drug-smuggling and Sara arrives in Panama live to live happily ever after with Michael... as if.

In the closing moments, a brief appetiser of what to expect in season 3 is offered: "Pad Man" is shown to be military General at a Research Facility (foreshadowing Michael is a government experiment?) and Michael himself is thrown into a foreign prison -- the titular Sona.

And what a vision Sona is. Populated by transexuals and brutish deviants, the place is a repugnant hellhole of terrible living conditions with no signs of authority. It makes Fox River look like the Ritz. One thing's for sure, the return to prison should be very interesting next year. In a sly reversal it looks like dumb Lincoln is going to have to get brainiac Michael out... and tattoo'd building plans are no longer an option!

Monday, 11 June 2007

VOCAL SOUND FX

Ever heard of the Hollywood Film Choral Sound Effects Choir? No. They're also known as the Honda Choir in some circles. Beginning to ring a bell? Yeah, you know them -- the guys that worked on that famous Honda advert. The one where they duplicate various sounds of a car, vocally. Yes, them!


Well, you may like to visit their website here. It's pretty interesting. They're responsible for most of the choral musical cues in films (they must get a lot of work from Danny Elfman!), as well as appearing in films as choirs for church scenes, etc. Oh, oh -- they also do the "Theee Siiimpsoooons...." bit at the beginning of every Simpsons episode!

You may have missed their sound effects set to movie clips at this year's Oscars. If so, take a look below. It's pretty cool work...


COMIN' TO AMEEEEEERICAAA

The blog will be taking a break on Wednesday (12 Jun) for a few weeks, as I fly away to sunny Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

It's been a lifelong ambition to visit the States, although I'd prefer a trip to one of the big cities*, but will instead touch down in Middle America. The real America. So I'm told. Just as long as it's not like Deliverance, I'll be fine. Seriously, the moment I hear anything resembling a banjo, I'm back on the plane!

Due to my summer expedition**, all blog activity will cease on 12 June and resume sometime around 2 July. This means the season 3 reviews of Doctor Who will be suspended and the final (Alternate) Apprentice sketch will, unfortunately, never exist. For the record, I'm backing Kristina to win.

I hear the Americans have the internet too, so I'll try and post a few blogs on my adventure if I get a chance. So please check back from time to time. :-)


* There's a brief stopover in New York City, so I'll have my nose pressed up against a departure lounge window, staring dreamily at the skyskrapers...

** I realize this isn't a Blue Peter-style event, but the child in me thinks it is. Kind of.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

What are your favourite websites?

Ain't It Cool News is a regular haunt of mine, despite its often immature and badly written content. I just find it has an infectious sensibility from its staff and plenty of scoops, although the downsides sometimes overweigh the good stuff. I particularly enjoy the often ridiculous Talkbacks, where readers post their thoughts on stuff, which is a good place to get varied feedback on TV and films. Oh, and most of my Doctor Who reviews get posted there, too...

I can spend hours on Wikipedia sometimes, as it's a great resource for pretty much everything you could imagine. As it's written by users, not everything can be trusted 100%, although that goes for most stuff on the internet. To be honest, it's never been an issue with me and Wikipedia articles have kept my informed and intrigued on many occassions.

Digg. A friend recommend I give this site a look about a year ago and now it's a daily visit. It's essentially a list of websites recommended by users (or "digged"). There's often some fantastic stuff hidde in here, from eye-opening articles, amazing photos, bizarre websites, great video links and insightful sources.

For fans of Lost, I heartily recommend Lost Easter Eggs, which is a brilliant visual resource that highlights the variety of clues and in-jokes in each episode. It's often astounding to see all the little background details in each episode and the level of documenting and unravelling of Lost's complexities is great fun to takee a peek at after each new episode. But, be warned, this site contains major spoilers if you're behind the U.S showings.

If I'm ever bored, I always give YouTube a whirl. I spend less time there than I did a year ago, but it's always worth a little browse. The only thing I dislike about the site is the difficulty in searching for good content, as you tend to rely on friends sending you hyperlinks. The "Most Viewed" list is fine, but it tends to be stuffed with anime, unfunny U.S news bloopers and football clips!

A really quite brilliant site is VideoJug, which is sort of YouTube but with a point. Here you'll find simple tutorials, covering most bases -- like chatting up girls, folding T-shirts in two seconds, doing magic tricks, ironing clothes, how to make veggie juice, etc. If you're genuinely interested in learning a new skill/trick, give this site a whirl.

Other sites I tend to visit quite often, for various reasons, include: Film Freak Central, Torrentspy, IMDB and Simply Scripts. And, ahem, others I won't mention... ;)

DOCTOR WHO 3.10 – "Blink"

9 June 2007 - BBC 1, 7.10 pm
WRITER: Steven Moffatt DIRECTOR: Hettie MacDonald
CAST: David Tennant (The Doctor), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones), Carey Mulligan (Sally), Thomas Nelstrop (Ben Wainwright), Lucy Gaskell (Kathy Nightingale), Michael Obiora (Billy Shipton), Louis Mahoney (Old Billy), Finaly Robertson (Larry Nightingale), Ian Boldsworth (Banto), Richard Cant (Malcolm Wainwright) & Ray Sawyer (Desk Sergeant)

In an old, abandoned house, a young woman begins to find cryptic messages bleeding through from 1969 –- from a stranger called The Doctor...

Steven Moffat has earned himself a huge reputation in fan circles, after writing season 1's most tonally-correct adventure (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances) and season 2's sublime The Girl In The Fireplace. It's a reputation well-deserved and Moffat refuses to put a foot wrong with his fourth effort for Doctor Who, the wonderful Blink...

As with last year's Love & Monsters, The Doctor and his companion barely feature in this episode beyond a few scenes, with most of their work consisting of recorded "one-way" interviews on DVD footage. The story really belongs to Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan), a young woman who enters an abandoned building with "Weeping Angel" statues scattered about in the grounds outside. She also discovers cryptic messages behind wallpaper from someone called "The Doctor", before her friend Katherine is later zapped back in time to 1920 by one of the freaky sculptures...


The plot is fairly complex for a typical Who episode, perhaps a little above younger viewers' understanding. Blink's use of time-travel logic, predestination paradoxes, single it out as one of the most stylish and intelligent episodes of the revived series.


Carey Mulligan is superb as the intrepid Sally; attractive, intelligent and plausible in all her reactions. She's such a strong character it actually crossed my mind that she could handle her own Buffy The Vampire Slayer-style series, as she's an immensely likeable presence on-screen.


The supporting cast are quite perfunctory to events, with most vanishing into the past shortly after their introduced, but none hit a wrong note. Michael Obiora makes a good impression as Detective Inspector Shipton, as does his older incarnation played by Louis Mahoney.


Blink is also one of the most stylish Doctor Who episodes, which usually means the crew have done a great job with a period location, but Blink is actually mostly in a contemporary setting. The editing and directing are brilliant throughout, particularly in the scary abandoned house with its greenish tint and some beautiful rain-soaked exteriors.


However, it's clear that Steven Moffat is the man to worship for Blink's success. He's written a marvellous script, not only for its sharp and logical plotting, but with some genuinely funny lines (The Doctor's hen joke) and sparkling dialogue. Above all else, it's just a wonderfully imaginative story that combines old-school spooky houses and sinister statues with the world of DVDs "easter eggs" and time-travel.


The Weeping Angels are a marvellous creation and it's incredible to realize they're actually make-up effect and not genuine stone! Their modus operandi and back-story is unsettling and effective, particularly in the final moments with our heroes having to resist blinking (as the Angels are only inanimate when being looked at). Marvellous stuff and, for once, we have a story where The Doctor's eventual resolution to crisis is solved by genius-level intellect -- not coincidence, luck or his bloody sonic screwdriver!


Overall, Blink is one of Doctor Who's greatest episodes and a textbook example of the intelligence and tone Russell T. Davies' staff should be aiming for more often. If there's anybody you know who doesn't rate Doctor Who's output, just show them this.


Blink is imaginative, compelling, exciting, scary and clever.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

What podcasts are you listening to?

I subscribe to Russell Brand, whose schtick is getting a bit tired on TV but I like his podcast because he can interact with Matt Morgan, who's often funnier. Maybe that's where his TV stuff is going wrong; he needs a co-presenter of equal wit.

I also get the Best Of Moyles podcast, as I'm a fan of Chris Moyles' Radio 1 show. A lot of people like to diss him, but I think his stuff is entertaining and there's a good ensemble feel to the show. A great way to start the morning and the Best Of podcast allows me to catch-up on some bits I miss.

Also on Radio 1, the Scott Mills Daily is pretty good, although it's often frustratingly short sometimes, but still occassionally hilarious. I particularly like his phone pranks.

The Official Lost Podcast is great, once you get used to the oh-so-geeky Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, who are undoubtedly great writers, but often wander into unfunny digressions. But this is an invaluable resource for Lost fans, particularly the Q&A session.

Battlestar Galactica Podcast. I'm quite new to this, subscribing for some insider thoughts on the stunning season 3 finale. I downloaded some from the archive, but to be honest I found them a little dry. Ronald D. Moore's stuff is usually the best, while budding writers will love the Writer's Room special... which basically has the writing staff chewing the fat over some season 2 episodes. Very illuminating about the creative process.

Mark Kermode's Film Reviews. This is probably my favourite podcast, as Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode's chemistry is great fun and Kermode's infamous rants are brilliant. I sometimes don't agree with his thoughts and he's a little too high-brow at times, but he also knows his stuff and has changed my opinion on a few things.

Scene Unseen Movie Reviews. I've only been subscribed for a few weeks, but I'm quite enjoying this podcast. Chris and Jimmy are two American movie-lovers who review films, but the "twist" is that one will see the movie, the other won't. It's very American, but interesting to see the fan perspective on stuff from across the pond -- particularly when discussing British stuff like the Bonds, Hot Fuzz, Shaun Of The Dead and The Wicker Man, etc.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Nobody's knocking Johnny Depp off the top spot in the US or UK, although adult comedy Knocked Up tried valiantly in the US with a superb $30m hault, knocking Shrek The Third into... um, third.

Disappointing to see 28 Weeks Later nosedive in both charts; it seems post-apocalyptic thrillers are fast-burners with the moviegoing public. Interesting to see Wedding Daze nab the #2 in the UK, too. People are obviously after something a bit more tranquil after Spidey, Shrek and Depp.


US TOP 10

1. Pirates Of The Caribbean - At World's End $44.2m
2. Knocked Up $30.7m
3. Shrek The Third $28m
4. Mr Brooks $10m
5. Spider-Man 3 $7.58m
6. Waitress $2.01m
7. Gracie $1.36m
8. Bug $1.29m
9. 28 Weeks Later $1.21m
10. Disturbia $1.11m

UK TOP 10

1. Pirates Of The Caribbean - At World's End £5.3m
2. Wedding Daze $803k
3. Spider-Man 3 £588k
4. Paradise Lost £406k
5. Zodiac £316k
6. The Hitcher £217k
7. Bridge To Terabithia £209k
8. 28 Weeks Later £186k
9. Mr Bean's Holiday £63k
10. Cheeni Kum £60k

UK RELEASES THIS WEEK

ARE WE DONE YET?
Two newlyweds decide to build their dream home in the suburbs, but it all ends in disaster. Family comedy starring Ice Cube.

THE CHUMSCRUBBER
A young boy discovers the dead body of his friend, but decides not to tell the self-consumed adults of his neighbourhood. Comedy drama starring Jamie Bell.

OCEAN'S THIRTEEN
Danny Ocean rounds up his team for another heist, after one of his original "eleven" is double-crossed by a casino owner. Crime caper starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

BIG RACIST?

After seeing the "racist incident" between Charley and Emily on Channel 4 last night (in context), I think it's been an overreaction kicking Emily out of the house. But an understandable one.

She was clearly trying to be street-wise when telling Charley "you pushing it out, you n****r" as she danced. Culture is full of examples where black people have tried to "reclaim" the N-word, trying to nullify it through open use. Just look at black characters in Pulp Fiction, or countless hip-hop/rap tracks by singers like 50 Cent.

Certainly, it's a word you'd never treat as acceptable in general use, so it was still wrong of Emily to use it. But, as Charley accepted, it wasn't intended to be derogatory and she wasn't offended, just shocked.

To be honest, I think Charley tried to milk the situation a fair bit. She's quite the drama queen, so to have a potentially "controversial" incident happen around her amost a gift for the attention-seeker. Her endless talking about it afterwards (including a cryptic discussion in the bedroom with Ziggy) seemed to indicate this was true. To me, anyway.

It doesn't excuse Emily's remark, but if the situation had been better extinguished (not a chance once Shabz got wind of it), then BB may have just cautioned Emily very sternly. Instead, as the moment sparked quite a few subsequent chats and shocked faces from Nicky, the moment was blown out of proportion and Emily was given the boot six hours later.

It wouldn't have happened just one year ago, that's for sure. But clearly Channel 4 are taking no chances and even kicked Emily out in the middle of the night! She'd be forgiven for thinking it was just a bad dream.

Oh well. No eviction tonight, but two men are apparently set to enter the house: one gay, one bisexual.
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Liebesman
WRITER: Sheldon Turner (based on a story by David J. Schow)
CAST: Jordana Brewster (Chrissie), Taylor Handley (Dean), Diora Baird (Bailey), Matthew Bomer (Eric), R. Lee Ermy (Sheriff Hoyt), Andrew Byrniarski (Leatherface/Thomas Hewitt), Lee Tergesen (Holden), Cyia Batten (Alex), L.A Calkins (Sloane), Tim De Zarn (Eddy), Terrence Evans (Old Monty), Kathy Lamkin (Tea Lady), Marietta Lamkin (Luda Mae Hewitt), Marcus H. Nelson (Lackey), Emily Kaye (Alex The Biker) & Lew Temple (Sheriff Winston)

A group of teenagers become the first victims of a degenerate hillbilly family, one of whom wields a chain saw...

Ever since Tobe Hooper's seminal shocker The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was released, it spawned bad sequels that eventual resulting in the inevitable 2005 remake. The franchise can't avoid the current vogue for prequels, so Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Beginning (hereon, The Beginning) arrives to answer all the questions fans have never demanded an answer to.

This might as well be a sequel to the remake, as the elements that identify The Beginning as chronologically first in the canon are limited. We open with a flashback to the birth of Leatherface, see how Hoyt (R. Lee Ermy) becomes a fake lawman, witness the closure of the local slaughterhouse and see the first use of a chain saw...

Beyond these uninspired moments, it's the usual equation for the genre: teens + psychos = blood. There's no reason for this movie to exist, as it offers nothing new or anything of interest. But if you're after an extended sequence of "what would I do in that situation?" gory scenes, The Beginning may pass invaluable time.

The actors give adequate performances, but only R. Lee Ermy is particularly memorable, reprising his role from the remake. Jordana Brewster is the plucky, sexy heroine this time, acting alongside other token teens (brave boyfriend, scared friend, reckless stranger, et al.)

The only aspect that caught my interest was the lesser members of the degenerate family; crazy, but nowhere near as nasty as Hoyt or as bloodthirsty as Leatherface. A moment when Hoyt has Leatherface saw-off his grandad's legs (just one was injured, but both were taken "for balance...") is suitably grim, but also bizarre that gramps doesn't take exception to his dismemberment. The rest of the family are similarly zonked-out when it comes to eating fingers in a reprise of Hooper's classic dinner sequence.

The structure of the movie is almost the same as the original, with a "biker babe" replacing the creepy hitch-hiker as the mechanism of their capture. As mentioned, the dining sequence is resurrected (following its absence in the remake) and the prequel even ends with a familiar field chase with Leatherface's chain saw buzzing away. The greatest hits replayed.

Nobody seems to realize that prequels, by their very nature, demystify their subjects and The Beginning's attempt to force back-story onto its characters just takes away what little power they still wield. There's also a major problem inherent with a Chain Saw prequel, because we know all the villains survive and none of the teens will -- because the villains are in the sequels and if the kids escape and get help, there'd be no sequels! Consequently, you're just watching the inevitable happen, which is a bit of a drag...

Director Jonathan Liebesman has some talent, as fans of the 15-minute short Rings can testify (a bridge between The Ring and its sequel, that ended up being better than Ring Two!), but he's wasting himself here. Sadly, it seems the South African director is a glutton for punishment, as his next project resurrects Jason Vorhees, another moribund horror character, for Friday 13th Part XI!

Overall, The Beginning is a competently-filmed bore with serviceable performances and a few grisly scenes. But there's no originality. The concept of murderous hillbillies is played for schlock pleasure rather than grizzly terror. I pray this is the last time Leatherface's chain saw cuts up the silver screen, as he's finally outstayed his welcome.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Tut, tut, tut...

Ziggy nominates Shabz and Emily for eviction, then the latter goes and says a naughty word ("n***er") to Charley. Charley told Big Brother she was shocked, but not offended by Emily's comment, but after Shilpa Shetty's treatment in Celebrity Big Brother, the producers weren't taking any chances... so Emily was kicked out of the house at 3.30 a.m. The rest of the house weren't told until 9.30 that same morning.

Following Emily's exit, the eviction tomorrow has been scrapped. So, is this all a gross overreaction by Channel 4, or the only possible reponse these days? You decide.*


* This last bit works best if you employ a Geordie accent, as is customary.

THE (ALTERNATE) APPRENTICE #8

After hearing the views and opinions of three of his most trusted employees, Sir Alan calls the remaining five candidates into the boardroom: Lohit, Katie, Kristina, Simon and Tre...

Sir Alan: Welcome. Long day?

Affirmative murmurs saying "not really"...

Sir Alan: Today, each of you were interviewed by three of my top employees, personal friends and bowling partners. Using their expertise, I'm going to fire three of you, leaving two for the final. Got that?

Murmurs of "yes".

Sir Alan: Lohit. Nice guy. Bit of a tailor's dummy. You've been in a lot of winning teams, but they were carrying you, weren't they?
Lohit: I don't believe that, Sir Alan. In all of the tasks I performed to the best of my ability and, I think, was instrumental in winning each. I'd go as far to say we always won because of my tireless phone-calling.
Sir Alan: Blah, blah, bleedin' blah. Come off it! I can't even remember a single thing you've even done! Tre, what's his name?
Tre: Uhh, he's Lon... Lint.. Loohl...
Sir Alan: See? People don't even know your name! Lohit, I'll make this quick to put you out of your misery--
Lohit: I'm not miserable.
Sir Alan: You will be in a second, mate. With regret, and all that bullshit, you're fired.

Lohit nods, gets up and miserably traipses out of the board room.

Sir Alan: Tre, back with you. I just don't know why you want to work for me. You being a globe-trotting world business entrepreneur.
Tre: Well, I've reached the end of what I can achieve in that area. I want to work for you, whoever you are, doing... y'know, whatever Amistad does.
Sir Alan: Amstrad.
Tre: I thought it was Amistad.
Simon: Wanker...
Tre: Hey, it's an easy mistake to make!
Simon: Amistad's a film about slavery!
Sir Alan: Slavery is involved here, it has to be said. You can't see, but both Margaret and Nick are chained at the ankles. They only get let out for a few months each year to shadow you guys.
Tre: I am the best, Sir Alan. I'm a winner. The next apprentice. I've won seven out of ten tasks. I've worked abroad!
Sir Alan: No, no, you've visited your cousins and uncles overseas who are also part of your dad's business empire.

Tre chews his lip.

Sir Alan: Tre, well done for getting this far, but... you're fired.

Tre gets up and leaves. Sir Alan locks eyes with Katie, who immediately springs into a toothy grin and flutters her eyelashes.

Sir Alan: Katie. You made a big impression in all the interviews. My brown-nosers think you could run a company for me. But I'm not sure if you're just in this for yourself... y'know, "won the Apprentice, done that, I'll give it a few months, then I'm off". Plus you lives bloody miles away!
Katie: Hmm, yes, I can understand your concerns, Sir Alan. I can only say that I'm not here just for the sake of it.
Sir Alan: You already earn ninety grand a year! What do you need me for?
Katie: I don't think my current salary has anything to do with it. I want the best and sometimes you have to do difficult things, like this show, to achieve those aims.
Sir Alan: I'm not moving my businesses to your neck of the woods.
Katie: I'll move. I have no problem with that. I've moved to be on this show!
Sir Alan: But London's not your home, is it!
Katie: My mum and dad will move nearer. Bournemouth sounds good. I can commute. It'll be fine, trust me...

Katie glowers at Sir Alan. Sir Alan nearly sways hypnotically.

Sir Alan: Katie, I've given it a lot of thought and... you're in.

Katie shows no reaction.

Sir Alan: You're in the final.

Katie barely moves, head hung.

Sir Alan: Cheer up, love, it's not a bloody death sentence!

Katie manages a weak smile. Sir Alan turns to Simon and Kristina.

Sir Alan: Simon, I reckon you could have a job as my biographer, even if you don't win. You know all about the job being offered here -- unlike some people.

Sir Alan glances at Katie, who looks miffed.

Simon: You were my childhood hero, Sir Alan. Beating He-Man, Bagpuss, Optimus Prime and Garfield. Oh, and Mr Benn.
Sir Alan: Now, during the interviews my colleagues said that--

Sir Alan stops and turns to Katie, who has barely moved.

Sir Alan: Katie, if you don't mind me saying, you don't look like someone who's just been told they're in the final. Do you, uh, want to perhaps rethink things? I'd hate for you to take away an opportunity Simon and Kristina desperately want.

Simon and Kristina cross their fingers...

Katie: I'm... you're right... maybe it's not fair. I can't be sure about the Bournemouth thing. I've heard commoners live there. I just need a few seconds.

They wait. A few seconds later...

Katie: Right. Well, as much as I want the job, the hundred grand, the executive lifestyle and its trappings... I'm not 100% sold on location. Maybe I should have thought about something as obvious as "can I actually get to the job I'm applying for" twelve weeks ago...

Everyone gives a "no shit" look.

Katie: So I suggest I stand down.

Katie gets up and leaves. Sir Alan sighs, focusing on Simon and Kristina.

Sir Alan: Right, well... luckily for you two... you're both in the final now. But, just so you know... I was going to fire SImon. So think on.

Simon looks stunned.

Sir Alan: Just a joke. Well done. Back to the house and I'll tell you what the final task is in a few days.

Simon and Kristina hug and leave together.

Sir Alan: Well, that was a turn up for the books.
Nick: Katie's a gameplayer, that's all she is. Oh, and she looks like a Toby Jug.

Sir Alan nods, sagely...

Margaret: Can I take these ankle cuffs off now, please? They're beginning to chafe.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


SEEK OUT HYDE!

Steven Moffat is a name that should be familiar to genre fans, as he's written arguably the best Doctor Who episodes of the revived show's run. He also created the sitcom Coupling, amongst others.

His latest venture is a modern take on the classic horror story Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, starring James Nesbitt (Cold Feet) as the eponymous split-personality, ex-EastEnder Michelle Ryan (soon to be the Bionic Woman for US TV), Meera Syal (The Kumars At Number 42), Mark Gatiss (League Of Gentlemen) and Denis Lawson (Bleak House).

The BBC have just released a press release for the new series on their website, here.

"Dr Jackman's life is in tatters. Recently, he's been playing host to an uninvited guest – a dangerous alter-ego. Desperate to protect his wife and children from his dark side, Jackman has been forced to leave his old life behind and strike a diabolical deal with his own devil.

Now the two share a body, and an impossible life is somehow lived. It takes a trusted assistant, lots of second–guessing and the best surveillance hardware around to keep the "night shift" in check.

Savage, carnivorous, carnal, Hyde is everything that the repressed Jackman is not – a narcissistic newborn in a grown man's body, with a Disney habit to go with his drink problem. And he's getting stronger. Every time Jackman falls asleep, gets angry or aroused –- Hyde threatens to take over.

He won't be chained up forever.

What neither of them knows is that an ancient organisation with limitless wealth and power is monitoring their every move, and a plan over a century in the making is coming to fruition.

Part conspiracy thriller, part horror, part love story, Steven Moffat's dark and very modern take on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic brings the ultimate tale of inner conflict to unforgettable new heights."


It sounds like a great show, so I hope it gets bumper ratings. Then maybe the BBC will start cranking out more quality, intelligent, imaginative television... and less cops and doc's dramas, sandwiched between singing and dancing reality shows.

We can hope...

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

DVD RELEASES: JUNE 2007

A quick look at my personal picks of the best Region 2 discs available to buy in the shops this June.

4 JUNE


JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING (HD-DVD)

An Antarctic research team accidentally bring a shape-shifting alien into their base. Classic sci-fi with Kurt Russell.


11 JUNE


APOCALYPTO (DVD)
Action drama about the last days of the Mayan civilization shortly before the arrival of the Spanish. Directed by Mel Gibson.


HOT FUZZ (DVD)
London's best police officer is sent to a sleepy English village by his jealous peers, where he soon unearths sinister goings-on. Action comedy spoof starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.


18 JUNE


FORBIDDEN PLANET: 50TH ANNIVERSARY 2-DISC EDITION (DVD)
A spaceship's crew investigate the silence of a planet's colony, where they find two survivors, one of whom has a deadly secret. Classic sci-fi adventure co-starring Leslie Nielsen.


HOSTEL: SPECIAL EDITION (DVD)
Three American backpackers find themselves unwitting victims of a secret underground torture ring. Gruesome horror directed by Eli Roth.


25 JUNE


ARTHUR & THE INVISIBLES (DVD)
A young boy, in a bid to save his grandfather's house from being demolished, searches for fabled creatures in his back garden. Live-action/CGI animated kids adventure from Luc Besson.

All release dates subject to change.

BB8: 8 RANDOM THOUGHTS

1. It's the most back-to-basics Big Brother since series 4*. There isn't a foreign transexual, sari-wearing gay man or a bottle-shagging slag in sight! Instead, they're the kind of annoying people you'd find (or maybe know) in real life. How refreshing!

2. The all-girls thing has worked brilliantly! They're a watchable mix of the brash (Charley, Shabnam), the quiet (Lesley, Emily, Carole), the bonkers (Tracey, Sam/Amanda) and the semi-normal (Chanelle, Nicky, Laura).

3. Why do we call BB housemates "characters", anyway? You rarely heard the term "people". Maybe it's because calling them "characters" denies their ability to send us mad, because it implies they're not real?

4. Is it me, or is the injection of testosterone (a.k.a, ex-boybander Ziggy) so charming, understanding and normal he's bound to win? He has those ladis wrapped around his little finger already! Maybe once more blokes turn up, he'll be knocked off his Alpha Male perch and his shiny veneer will start to crack?

5. Are the twins fizzling out already? Their synchronized singing, giggling and diary room chats were just the kind of oddball craziness BB excels at. But there hasn't been so much of that recently. Have the producers decidedto edit their focus on newboy Ziggy, or are the twins relaxing their "act" a bit now?

6. Lesley, Lesley, Lesley. Please explain to me what a 60-year-old member of the Women's Institute is doing in there! I just can't fathom why she's in the house, particularly as she admits she's hardly even seen Big Brother. Is she mad?

7. I detested Tracey when she entered the house, but she's chilled a bit and seems fairly normal behind her pink hair, Jon Pertwee face-pulling and spasmic shouts of "Aveit!"

8. Funniest moment so far: Lesley collapsing under her duvet in tears, after a chat in the diary room, only to claim she's just "sniffing my mattress" to a worried Emily. The Worst. Excuse. EVER.


* Of course, series 4's semi-normal people made for the worst series ever! Boring Scotsman Cameron Stout won, remember? So maybe back-to-basics isn't the best way for series 8 to go!

PRISON BREAK 2.21 - "Fin Del Camino"

4 June 2007 - Five, 10.00 pm
WRITERS: Matt Olmstead & Seth Hoffman DIRECTOR: Bobby Roth
CAST: Wentworth Miller (Michael Scofield), Dominic Purcell (Lincoln Burrows), William Fichtner (Agent Mahone), Paul Adelstein (Agent Kellerman), Sarah Wayne Callies (Dr Sara Tancredi), Amaury Nolasco (Sucre), Robert Knepper (T-Bag), Wade Williams (Bellick) & Tina Holmes (Kristine Pace)

Michael is forced to help Bellick steal T-Bag's millions, Lincoln finds Agent Mahone is in Panama and Sara's trial begins...

Is this it? The penultemate episode? It's all quite underwhelming and doesn't seem to offer any hints as to what season 3 could bring. Michael, Bellick and Sucre join forces to capture T-Bag (Michael wants him jailed, Bellick wants his $5 million and Sucre wants Maricruz's back safe).

This plot didn't excite me and some flashbacks of T-Bag in season 1 highlights only served to illustrate how far the character has sunk in season 2. He was a fascinating creep last year, but this year he became a slimy idiot.

The one unquestionable highlight of season 2 has been William Fichtner as Agent Mahone. I could watch Fichtner all day. He's superb and the character has constantly surprised me. Fin Del Camino isn't his greatest hour (he spends it fighting Lincoln), but he's always good value.

Sara Tancredi's trial gets underway, with the doctor facing 12 years if she pleads guilty to helping the Fox River escapees. There's no real courtroom drama presented here, just a reminder that her storyline is bubbling away.

There's really not much else to say about this episode. Prison Break has always been very good as stretching itself, so the episode passes by quite harmlessly and didn't test my patience. But, considering next week is the season finale, Fin Del Camino is an incredibly weak appetiser.

If you compare the trajectory of season 2 to season 1 it's clear this season has struggled. If it wasn't for the writer's startling ability to tread water so brilliantly, or manage to make ludicrous twists work within the show's freewheeling style, Prison Break would have crashed and burned months ago.

Essentially, the problem is very simple: Prison Break is a prison drama that has been forced to take place outside of its natural setting. For sporadic moments, it works. On occassion, it works brilliantly. But, ultimately, the show lost itself the moment those eight men jumped over the barbed-wire fence...

Monday, 4 June 2007

24, 6.24 - "05:00 AM - 06:00 AM"

3 June 2007 - Sky One, 10.00 pm
WRITERS: Robert Cochran, Manny Coto & David Fury DIRECTOR: Brad Turner
CAST: Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer), Peter MacNicol (Lennox), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O'Brian), Marisol Nichols (Nadia Yassir), Carlo Rota (Morris O'Brian), Powers Boothe (Noah Daniels), Ricky Schroder (Mike Doyle), Tzi Ma (Cheng Zhi), Rena Sofer (Marilyn Bauer), James Cromwell (Philip Bauer), Evan Ellingson (Josh Bauer), Kenneth Choi (Cheng's Operative), Nick Jameson (President Yuri Suvarov), William Devane (James Heller), Kim Raver (Audrey Raines), Tom Everett (Dr Hastings), Lex Cassar (CTU Agent Ryan), Marci Michelle (Marci), Christian Maccio (FBI Agent #1) & Bob Gunton (Ethan Kanin)

The airstrike on the oil rig is moments away, Daniels begins to questions his suitability as acting-President, Chloe has some amazing news and Jack attempts a daring rescue...

This is it. The final hour. It was hard to envisage Episode 24 managing to turn around the poor start to the two-hour finale, although the fact three writers were involved gave me some hope. Robert Cochran, Manny Coto and David Fury each had a hand in this script, so surely three minds could find some way of reversing the decline for a last hurrah?

Sadly not. This is mildly better than Episode 23, but only by virtue of finality and the lack of exposition. Things move along fairly swiftly, but also with painful predictability. As it's the last episode of the season, enjoyment comes from predicting who'll survive events. Will dastardly Cheng escape? Will Jack kill his evil father? Will Josh be sacrificed?


The main action moments, with Jack boarding an oil rig to rescue Josh, minutes before it's blown to smithereens, is pretty good action machismo. That said, I found it frustrating that Philip's comeuppence lacked bite. James Cromwell does his best with the material, but his age renders him unthreatening these days and his character has been badly written. Jack Bauer's father deserved to be a far more threatening and iconic character than Cromwell managed to deliver.


James Heller (William Devane) would have been a far better choice to play Jack's daddy and his return in this episode is certainly good evidence for this. Devane is again superb and it's a shame Heller has been underused since his debut in season 4. He just occassionally turns up to give fans a brief thrill. Devane works particularly well with Kiefer Sutherland, and this episode's denouement is an extended scene where acting takes precedent over action.


Kiefer Sutherland rarely gets a chance to act in
24, with Jack Bauer becoming increasingly two-dimensional as the seasons tick by. At best he's thrown scraps by the writers and does his best to inject pathos into his character between the gunfire, fights, explosions and tortures.
It's a crying shame, as Sutherland proves he's capable of so much more in his scene with Devane at the episode's close. Here, Jack quietly rages at Heller's condemnation of his life, culminating in a touching farewell to Audrey (Kim Raver).

The final scene is poignant, but ultimately disappointing when compared to previous season's jaw-droppers of faked deaths, assassination attempts, harrowing deaths and enemy captures.


Instead, season 6 bows out on a quiet note with Jack staring out to a dark sea. Fans may not have been given a final boost of adrenaline they perhaps deserved for sticking with season 6, but it's a sign the writers are going to tread more carefully in season 7. Let them reflect on the backlash to season 6 and dream up a new adventure for Jack Bauer; one that does justice to the real-time concept but isn't a rehash of past glories...


Jack will be back. But better than ever? Well, let's just wait and see.


The clock's still ticking...

24, 6.23 - "04:00 AM - 05:00 AM"

3 June 2007 - Sky One, 9.00 pm
WRITERS: Joel Surnow & Michael Loceff DIRECTOR: Brad Turner
CAST: Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer), Peter MacNicol (Lennox), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O'Brian), Marisol Nichols (Nadia Yassir), Carlo Rota (Morris O'Brian), Powers Boothe (Noah Daniels), Ricky Schroder (Mike Doyle), Tzi Ma (Cheng Zhi), Rena Sofer (Marilyn Bauer), James Cromwell (Philip Bauer), Evan Ellingson (Josh Bauer), Kenneth Choi (Cheng's Operative), Nick Jameson (President Yuri Suvarov), Lex Cassar (CTU Agent Ryan), Marci Michelle (Marci), Chris Kramer (Stuart Pressman) & James C. Victor (Agent Hal Turner)

Doyle has to exchange Josh for the chip, Karen helps Bill break Jack out of custody and Chloe isn't feeling well...

This is new territory. I'm watching a 24 season finale and, for the first time ever, I'm not excited and giddy with expectation. Instead I'm just anxious the final hours will entertain me, reach a decent conclusion and the denouement will hopefully foreshadow a big change of direction for season 7.

With expectations lowered by a limp season, Episode 23 remains disappointing for numerous reasons. The scramble to squeeze whatever life remains from season 6 has taken the writers down an emotionally cold road. The human interest element of the episode revolves around kidnapped Josh Bauer being traded for the high-tech Russian component, currently held by Josh's grandfather Philip (who's now back in cahoots with the Chinese, keep up...)


Consequently, much of the episode is taken up with Agent Doyle and Josh discussing the unfairness of the situation on a windy beach. Needless to say, Jack doesn't trust his father, so his escape is engineered by Karen Hayes from, with her husband Bill Buchanan's help.


Joel Surnow and Michael Loceff's script isn't particularly strong for a finale's first half, so they attempt a few tricks to try and create an epic scope. Firstly, the key location is an offshore oil rig (almost Bond-like in its use) and secondly, Daniels orders an airstrike by fighter jets. The visual strength of the rig is good and
24 always works well with a tight deadline, but it all feels like desperate measures.

There's just no grand cohesion with the rest of the season; it's just characters used earlier in the run now shoehorned into a ridiculous situation. Season 6 was supposed to be about exaggerating the real world's "war on terror", so it's sad to see it devolve to this.


Philip's allegiance changes every week (depending on what suits the script) and the crux of the episode hinges on the injustice of a teenager being traded for technology. I know Jack is related to Josh, but one teenager's sacrifice is a better option than full-scale war between the USA and Russia.


On the positive side, Episode 23 may be lazily written and based on an uninteresting situation, but
24 is still a superb production. The helicopter sequences, jet fighters and oil rig are all great fun, as is the episode's one genuine surprise involving Doyle's exchange.

But
24's just going through the motions.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

US TV - 2007-08 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

As you probably know, I love American TV drama. There aren't many home-grown shows that reach their level of creativity and professionalism, in my opinion. Only British telly's Doctor Who and Life On Mars have proven their worth in recent years... with occasional short-lived anomalies like State Of Play.

I mean, seriously -- Grey's Anatomy or Holby City? House or Doc Marten? There's just no competition. I'd love UK telly to start delivering the goods, but you just get an occasional drip-feed of greatness. I'm not even a fan of Spooks, Hustle or Shameless, although I admit they're steps in the right direction (i.e, away from Heartbeat, The Bill and Midsomer Murders).

Anyway, the new US TV season (07-08) is beginning to take shape, so I thought it would be interesting to look at some of their upcoming shows. Expect to see some of these hitting UK televisions from autumn...

In order of personal preference, lowest to highest, is as follows:

20. SWINGTOWN (CBS)
Drama about suburban wife-swappers in the 1970s, from a writer of The OC and Jericho, starring Molly Parker (Deadwood), Grant Show (Dirt) and Jack Davenport (Pirates Of The Caribbean). Another show that seems to have a concept thinner than a stretched thong, so I'm not expecting much...

19. CAVEMEN (ABC)
A sitcom, based on some popular US adverts, about three cavemen living in modern times. The Pilot has been leaked onto the internet to widespread derision, so it's difficult to get excited about this fun-in-theory concept. It seems like a blend of California Man/Encino Man with Third Rock From The Sun. Low expectations.

18. LIFE (NBC)

An offbeat, complex detective (Band Of Brothers' Damien Lewis) returns to the forced after spending 12 years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Sounds more like another concept for a film to me, so not sure how this will stretch itself for multiple episodes. But I like Lewis, so I might give the pilot a try.

17. MOONLIGHT (CBS)

A detective drama, from the creator of cult TV hit Beauty & The Beast and producer Joel Silver (The Matrix), about private detective Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin, The Invisible) who is also a vampire. Nice concept, shame it's already been milked by Forever Knight and Angel!

16. WOMEN'S MURDER CLUB (ABC)
Based on the novels by James Patterson, this drama concerns four woman in San Francisco (a detective, an attorney, a medical examiner and a reporter) who realize they are collectively very skilled at solving murder.

15. PRIVATE PRACTICE (ABC)
Spin-off series to the incredibly popular medical drama Grey's Anatomy. Practically a hit already given Grey's success with mass audiences in America and its loyal following in the UK... despite a crappy title.

14. THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS)

A sexy babe befriends a group of super-intelligent nerds, starring Kelly Cuoco and Johnny Galecki (Roseanne). It's a sitcom version of that Beauty & The Geek reality show -- maybe with a Weird Science vibe, who knows? Could be fun. Could be awful. Probably awful.

13. REAPER (THE CW)

Supernatural drama from writers of Law & Order: SVU. Reaper concerns a boy who discovers his soul was sold by his parents and he must now become Satan's bounty hunter -- a job that means capturing escaped souls from Hell. Pilot directed by Kevin Smith (Clerks). A sort of youthful version of axed 90s drama Brimstone, about a cop who acted as Satan's bounty hunter and had to catch 113 souls who had escaped from Hell. I'm betting those Law & Order guys saw it, too...

12. NEW AMSTERDAM (FOX)

From Six Feet Under writers Allan Loeb and Christian Taylor comes this detective drama about a 400-year-old New York cop. In 1642 a Dutch soldier called John Amsterdam (Kingdom Of Heaven's Nikolaj Coster Waldau) saved the life of a Native Indian girl who bestowed immortality on him in return. Consequently, he will not age until he finds true love... something that has resulted in centuries of failed romances and watching lovers and children grow old and die around him...

11. JOURNEYMAN (NBC)

Romantic mystery about a San Francisco reporter (Rome's Kevin McKidd) who begins to travel through time to help people's lives. Remember Quantum Leap? The creators certainly do! This has potential despite its unoriginality, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's cancelled within five episodes.

10. LIPSTICK JUNGLE (NBC)
Comedy-drama about three high-powered New York businesswomen; a magazine editor (Kim Raver, 24), a movie exec (Brooke Shields) and a designer (Lindsay Price, Beverley Hills 90210). The series will follow the ups-and-downs of their professional and personal lives. It sounds like (Not Very) Desperate Housewives meets Sex In The City, for female highfliers.


9. THE IT CROWD (NBC)
Bizarrely, the recent British sitcom from Father Ted co-creator Graham Linehan is being remade by the Yanks! Even stranger, original star Richard Ayoade gets to keep his role as geeky oddball Moss! Undoubtedly purchased as a result of The Office remake's huge success, this should be a surreal experience for British fans familiar with the original. Will it be a straight translation, or become Scrubs via computer helpdesk?

8. SAM I AM (ABC)
A terrible accident leaves Sam (Christina Applegate, Married... With Children) in a coma for eight days. She wakes up with severe amnesia, unable to recollect anything from her past. To her dismay, she realizes she wasn't a particularly nice person -- in fact, she was a narcissistic bitch. But can she change? This sounds okay, but it will survive on Applegate's performance and how the writers evolve an idea that could be told in a 90-minute movie. Starring Jennifer Esposito, Tim Russ (Star Trek Voyager's Tuvok) and Jean Smart (24's Martha Logan). Pilot directed by Robert Duncan McNeill (Star Trek Voyager's Tom Paris).

7. ELI STONE (ABC)

Drama about a San Francisco lawyer (Trainspotting's Johnny Lee Miller) who begins to suspect he's a prophet after experiencing hallucinations that may, or may not, be caused by a brain aneurysm. Yep, another premise that seems better suited to a movie. On the surface anyway. Probably worth watching for Miller's likeable performance and a George Michael cameo!

6. PUSHING DAISIES (ABC)

Heroes' writer-producer Bryan Fuller is behind this drama, about a man called Ned (Lee Pave) who can resurrected the dead for short periods of time -- a skill that proved invaluable when investigating murders. The Pilot is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (Men In Black). The concept is very similar to Fuller's cancelled series Dead Like Me (he must really like the idea of resurrection) and reports on the script have been very positive. Also stars the UK's Anna Friel as Ned's resurrected girlfriend (who will be permanently killed if Ned touches her again).

5. CHUCK (NBC)

A computer geek called Chuck accidentally downloads government secrets into his brain after opening an e-mail containing subliminal information. Chuck comes under the protection of the US government and must learn to survive in the dangerous world of espionage because the fate of the world is now, literally, in his head. Johnny Mneumonic meets Alias, via Joe 90? Sounds interesting. Looks funny.

4. VIVA LAUGHLIN! (CBS)

A comedy/musical/drama based on the British show Blackpool, about small-time businessman Ripley Holden (Young Indiana Jones' Lloyd Owen) who dreams of opening a big Nevada casino. Co-stars Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Madchen Amick, Wings Hauser and D.B Woodside (24). I loved the original with David Morrissey, Sarah Parish and David Tennant (Doctor Who), so this will be interesting stuff, particularly to see Jackman warble his larynx. I was also amused to hear that the original show's Stateside airing was renamed Viva Blackpool in case people thought Blackpool was a movie about a haunted lake! Got to be worth a look if only to see 24's Wayne Palmer singing and dancing, surely!

3. HEROES: ORIGINS (NBC)
The success of Heroes has been so phenomenal, a spin-off series has already been greenlit before the first season has finished! Wise decision, or greedy folly? Well, Origins will actually plug a gap in Heroes' second season schedule, showcasing the origins of different character's powers each week. Viewers can vote for their favourite "hero" and that character will join the cast in season 3! An interesting way to keep interest and maintain Heroes' interactive relationship with its fans. I just hope the episodes are actually worth watching.

2. THE BIONIC WOMAN (NBC)

A modern update of the classic show about a female tennis player who has an accident and is upgraded by bionic implants, from a Battlestar Galactica producer. The '07 reimagining stars British babe Michelle Ryan (Zoe Slater in EastEnders) as the bionic Jaime Sommers and Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) as a rival cyborg. I'm mostly interested in seeing how Ryan performs in such a high-profile role, so the Pilot will have to be something special for me to stick around. The pitfall likes with a concept that's been done countless times (Now And Again, Jake 2.0...) but I'm hopeful. A little strange that Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop) has been cast as a boffin, though --he should realize creating cyborgs brings nothing but trouble!

1. THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES (FOX)

Set between Terminator 2 and 3, this serial sci-fi adventure finds Sarah Connor (300's Lena Headey) and her son John (Heroes' Thomas Dekker) fleeing civilization after the events of T2. This is undoubtedly a cash-in, but it has an interesting pedigree: noted Hollywood screenwriter Josh Friedman wrote the Pilot, it's helmed by X-Files director David Nutter, Dekker is already better casting than T2's Edward Furlong, while Lena Headey is an inspired choice to take over from Linda Hamilton as the gutsy heroine. The only question is -- how will the story surprise given the fact T3 is set after its events? Can it sustain multiple stories? Will audiences care for a Terminator TV series without Arnold Schwarzenneger?

Saturday, 2 June 2007

DOCTOR WHO 3.9 – "The Family Of Blood" (Part 2 of 2)

2 June 2007 - BBC 1, 7.10pm
WRITER: Paul Cornell DIRECTOR: Charles Palmer
CAST: David Tennant (The Doctor/John Smith), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones), Jessica Hynes (Nurse Joan Redfern), Harry Lloyd (Jeremy Baines), Thomas Sangster (Tim Latimer), Tom Palmer (Hutchinson), Pip Torrens (Rocastle), Rebekah Staten (Jenny), Gerard Horan (Mr Clark), Lauren Wilson (Lucy Cartwright), Matthew White (Phillips), Sophie Turner (Vicar) & Lucas Jacobson (Jason Smith)

John Smith refuses to accept his destiny as a Time Lord as The Family descends on the school...

The conclusion to Paul Cornell's two-part adaptation of his own novel fails to disappoint on any level, proving to be an effective, dramatic and poignant climax to last week's set-up.

John Smith continues to struggle with the news he's actually an alien time-traveller, forced to choose between a loving human existence and his true nature as the universe's protector. This indecision forms the crux of the episode and David Tennant is a revelation, deftly creating a believable alternate character and making Smith's situation emotionally truthful throughout.


Jessica Hynes was somewhat perfunctory last week as love interest Nurse Redfern, but she really shines here. Her scenes with Tennant are very powerful, particularly the moments together in the school and the scenes spent agonizing over whether Smith should transform back into The Doctor.


Elsewhere, the episode crafts marvellous moments of tension and violence as The Family instruct their scarecrow soldiers to attack the school, leading to a haunting moment where young schoolboys are forced to slaughter these "straw soldiers" with machine guns. Director Charles Palmer does a great job of milking the emotion, with the scene played in slow-motion as straw flies, boys sniff back tears and John Smith looks on in horror at the carnage.


In fact, the parallels to World War I soon come thick and fast, particularly once the episode's denouement shows schoolboy Tim Latimer avoiding death in No Man's Land thanks to The Doctor's watch and a subsequent scene with Latimer (now an old man on Remembrance Day) catching sight of an unchanged Doctor and Martha wearing poppies. It's dangerously close to being heavy-handed and schmaltzy, but the episode has earned leniency and the scene works well.


The production values are very slick. I've mentioned before how Doctor Who always seem in its element when the fantastical meets the old-fashioned. The costumes, sets and location shooting is all brilliantly handled and the performances from the supporting cast are great, particularly Harry Lloyd as lead villain Baines; a wonderful creation. The way the script despatches the Family brood is also inventive, creepy and the perfect solution. It'll certainly have children nervously glancing at scarecrows and peering into mirror for a few weeks!


Overall, I really can't fault this episode to any great degree. There are a few irritations with some of the younger performers, but nothing beyond that. This is magical storytelling from writer Paul Cornell that will hopefully inspire further adaptations of the tie-in novels, but it really flies on the performance of David Tennant, who is simply remarkable.

THE (ALTERNATIVE) APPRENTICE #7

Sir Alan waits for Tre, Simon and Naomi to arrive in the board room (although Sir Alan waits for no man/woman, in reality. Of course.)

Sir Alan: Right, then. This week I send you to Peterborough to appear on a shopping channel, buying and selling products live on-air. Now, you lost the task, only managing a pathetic nine-hundred quid! Simon, you were the project manager, explain yourself.

Simon: I'm not good on TV.

Sir Alan: Tell me about it! I've been watching the repeats on Sky+!

Simon: I tried my best, but Tre and Naomi weren't very supportive.

Naomi: We did support you.
Simon: No, no, you ridiculed the wheelchair.
Sir Alan: Well, who would want a bloody wheelchair!
Simon: The disabled.

Sir Alan goes quiet.


Simon: I mean, I did my best with the trampoline.


Sir Alan smirks. Tre stifles a snigger. Naomi bites her lip.


Simon: I did star-jumps and everything.


Sir Alan tries to contain himself...


Simon: What's so funny?

Sir Alan: You looked like a dickhead! What were you doing? It looked like you were having one off the wrist when you skrewed the trampoline legs in! Margaret went even redder than usual!

Simon: It just needed a professional keep-fitter to demonstrate it. I did say this to Tre and Naomi.

Naomi: Maybe the wheelchair needed a professional disabled person to demo it.

Sir Alan: Naomi, what about your product -- those paper things.

Naomi: Decoupage.

Sir Alan: Eh?

Naomi: Decoupage.

Sir Alan: Hm?

Naomi: De-cou-page.

Sir Alan: Wha-?

Naomi: Bits of paper you layer ontop of each other to make pictures.

Sir Alan: Hmm, right. I mean, what were you thinking, woman?! I mean, these choices were the biggest load of toot I've ever seen!

Tre: Sir Alan, I did what I could with the hair remover, but I'm not a TV presenter.

Sir Alan: This task wasn't about being on TV. You're not here to be TV stars.


Simon gives a quizzical look.


Sir Alan: It was all about choosing and selling products. But I've got no idea where your brains were at! Naomi, you weren't as bad as these two numpties, so why weren't you the solo presenter?

Naomi: You'll have to ask our leader Simon.

Sir Alan: I will. And my name's not Simon.

Simon: Ummm, well... did you see me behind-the-scenes in the gallery? I'll say no more. I did less damage on live national television, bringing laughter to millions.

Sir Alan: You certainly did that! But where was the integrity and dignity! It was a total shambles. I felt embarassed for you all! The channel got e-mails from people!

Sir Alan lifts up a sheet of paper, reading...

Sir Alan: P. Doff from Cambridge said: "Get these morons off my telly". N. Consolable from Tunbridge Wells wrote: "Where are the normal presenters. I'm scared." Gareth Turner in human resources said: "Why the hell did you hire Michelle Dewberry, she's a bi--" Oh, that's got mixed up in the wrong pile. But you get the idea!

Simon: I've been hard done by. I did my best, Sir Alan. I hate to point fingers, but--


Simon points at Tre and Naomi.


Simon: It was their fault.

Sir Alan: No support, you reckon?

Simon: Exactly.

Sir Alan: Tre, what are your thoughts?

Tre: What can I say? I am the best. I was crapping myself the night before the task, but I got on with it and did the best I could. In retrospect, maybe we should have gone for the Gorilla Glue.

Sir Alan: Hmm. Y'know, it's getting to that stage when I need to start thinking "who can become the apprentice?" Tre, something tells me you'd be a bloody nightmare in an office. Simon, you're a bit of a kid, but you have some okay ideas. Margaret likes you too.


Simon glances at Margaret, who winks and gives him a silent air-kiss.

Sir Alan: Naomi. Ultimately, it was bad products that ruined this task for you all and you chose some real stinkers.


Sir Alan sits back to think.


Sir Alan: Tre, you're fff--ortunate to be here at this late stage.


Tre nearly has a heart attack.


Sir Alan: So I'm sorry, Naomi, but I think you messed up here. And, without getting personal, you're neck's just too long and sometimes freaks me out. But I like your skirts. So, you're fired.


Naomi gets up and goes in a split second.


Sir Alan: Now, you two. Lucky escape. And don't think that just because you've seen me laugh I'm a nice guy really. I'm not. I'm a shrewd, take-no-shit businessman. Remember that. Oh, and when can I expect that wheelchair to be delivered?