Sunday, 30 December 2007

Just checking in...

Hope you all had a great Christmas! I'm still on leave until 7 January, so daily updates won't start up again till the weekend. I hope the Doctor Who and Extras reviews satiated any festive thirst. I was meaning to review the double-bill of Robin Hood, but couldn't spare the 90 minutes. I'll catch-up sometime this week for a belated review.

Same goes for Strictly Come Dancing's finale, which saw Alesha Dixon win (cuh, I predicted that in week 2!) It will all be academic by the time the review is posted here, but it's a loose end that needs to be tied-up, so I'll sneak it in.

I'm also planning a special "50 Must-See Movies Of 2008" feature, which is written and just needs photos to accompany it. So keep checking back for that. Oh, and over the holiday period I got a chance to properly sit down and watch quite a few movies on Blu-Ray, so I'll be offering my opinion on the HD experience. Up until recently I'd only really seen instore demonstrations and 5-minute clips, and that all pales compared to actually sitting down and finding yourself immersed in the lush visuals.

So plenty of stuff to come in 2008. Reviews of Bionic Woman will come to a close, just as the series jumps to ITV2 in the UK. Prison Break's third season will resume on Sky One, too.

Sadly, the writers' strike in the US means 24 is being held up indefinitely, but the first 8 episodes of Lost's 16-episode fourth season are schedule to begin on 31 January in the US. So stay tuned for my reviews, which I'm hoping will follow the UK transmissions (if Sky One are just a week behind, as they were for season 3.)

Oh yes, and reviews of The Golden Compass and I Am Legend will be along soon, too.

Happy New Year!

Box Office Charts: w/e 28 December 2007

In the US, the National Treasure sequel is a surprise smash-hit, taking #1 with a $65m haul... nudging I Am Legend and the Chipmunks down to #2 and #3... Christmas week is cruel to all other new entries, though... Charlie Wilson's War is in at #4... Tim Burton's horror musical Sweeney Todd wasn't cheery enough for the masses, in at #5 with a dismal $13m take... Aliens vs Predator sequel only enticed undiscerning fanboys to cinemas, debuting at #6 after poor reviews... rom-com P.S I Love You flops in at #7... The Golden Compass takes a big drop from #3 to #8, now firmly labelled a Stateside flop (sequels don't look likely)... and, perhaps most undeservingly, comedy biopic Walk Hard opens with a disastrous $6m, holding up the chart at #10. All said, it was a terrible week for studios, with American cinemagoers far more concerned with seasonal preparations than a trip to their local multiplex...


1. National Treasure: Book Of Secrets $65.4m
2. I Am Legend $47.7m
3. Alvin & The Chipmunks $38.6m
4. Charlie Wilson's War $16m
5. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street $13.6m
6. Aliens vs Predator: Requiem $9.52m
7. P.S I Love You $9.28m
8. The Golden Compass $6.95m
9. Juno $6.82m
10. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story $6.26m

In the UK, things are a bit more festive with fairy tale Enchanted narrowly stealing #1, up from #2 in its second week... British audiences seem more willing to give Golden Compass a fair chance, as it only drops to #2... despite terrible reviews, the awful St. Trinian's update nabs #3... Alvin & The Chipmunks debut at #4... Fred Claus and Bee Movie hang on mid-chart... Trade debuts at a poor #7... Mr Magorium drops from #5 to #8, still doing far better than its dismal US performance... We Own The Night drops 3 places, and should be gone by next week... and rom-com P.S I Love You does just as terrible in the UK as the US, in at #10.


1. Enchanted £2.29m
2. The Golden Compass £2.22m
3. St. Trinian's £1.8m
4. Alvin & The Chipmunks £1.4m
5. Bee Movie £958k
6. Fred Claus £674k
7. Trade £369k
8. Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium £320k
9. We Own The Night £241k
10. P.S I Love You £224k


A man searched for the owner of a ring that belonged to a U.S WWII bomber pilot who crashed just outside Belfast in 1944. Romantic drama directed by Richard Attenborough.

After spending years in California, an Afghan boy returns to his homeland to help a friend. Drama directed by Marc Forster.

A teenaged skateboarders life hits the skids when he becomes involved in the accidental death of a security guard. Drama directed by Gus Van Sant.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

EXTRAS - Christmas Special

Writers & Directors: Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant

Cast: Ricky Gervais (Andy Millman), Ashley Jensen (Maggie), Stephen Merchant (Darren Lamb), Clive Owen (Himself), David Tennant (Himself), Nicola Redmond (Journalist), George Michael (Himself), Gordon Ramsay (Himself), Nicola Redmond (Journalist), Steve Brody (Estate Agent), Claudia Sermbezis (Wren), Stuart McQuarrie (Shop Manager), Ben Willbond (Film Director), Toby Foster (Journalist), Toby Foster (Northern Comic), Shaun Williamson (Barry), Ben Willbond (Floor Manager), Shaun Pye (Greg), Guy Henry (Iain Morris), Liza Tarbuck (Rita), Sarah Moyle (Kimberley), Jamie Chapman (Brains), Andrew Buckley (Gobbler), Gerard Kelly (Bunny), Adam James (Tre Cooper), Suzy Sharp-Kane (Amy), Gareth Hale (Himself), Norman Pace (Himself), Lionel Blair (Himself), Dean Gaffney (Himself), June Sarpong (Herself), Lisa-Scott Lee (Herself), Chico (Himself), Jonathan Ross (Himself), Vernon Kay (Himself), Scott Baker (Paparazzi), Jason Barnett (Doorman), Fergus Craig (Runner) & Dan Tetsell (Extra)

Andy's sitcom is now a huge success, but doesn't resemble his original idea, Maggie is still struggling as a lowly extra, and former-extra Greg's career is skyrocketing... which inspires Andy to make a decision...

Like The Office before it, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's sophomore sitcom takes its bow after just two seasons and one Christmas special. And, while there is certainly more mileage left in their tale of a "background artiste" struggling to become rich and famous (whilst maintaining integrity), it's probably a wise decision. Certainly, this Christmas special doesn't have anything particularly fresh to say -- it just reiterates Extras' mission statement on a slightly grander scale.

Andy (Ricky Gervais) is still suffering through his catchphrase-based sitcom When The Whistle Blows, forced to don a curly wig and red spectacles to amuse the 7 million watching at home. But it seems the show is reaching its zenith, as the cash-in merchandise is struggling to sell and people are becoming fatigued with cries of "Are you 'avin' a laff?"

After a chance meeting with a high-flying agent, Andy parts company with his inept management, spearheaded by Darren Lamb (Stephen Merchant), in pursuit of the worthwhile projects that have alluded him thus far. It doesn't help his ego that snivveling former-extra Greg (Shaun Pye) has achieved such lofty aims already, getting rave reviews for his performance alongside Clive Owen in a biopic of Byron...

Maggie (Ashley Jensen) is still on the bottom rung of the showbiz ladder, forced to quit her job and become lonely cleaner, living in a one-room apartment. It's Maggie who begins to realize Andy has changed, as he's ignorant of her plight, condescending to his own sitcom's extras, and wrapped up in his own unimportant concerns.

The Extras special is essentially about Andy coming to realize that his true friends are more important than the shallow clique he's surrounded by, the famous idiots he tried to ingratiate himself with, and that everyday problems are more pressing than his vain quest for fame and fortune.

That it takes 80 minutes to make this statement is a self-indulgent, but this last episode takes great delight in its never-ending parade of celebrity cameos; from small walk-bys (Vernon Kay), amusing bit-parts (Hale and Pace), unnecessary fun (Gordon Ramsey), and the headlining appearances from George Michael (on the prowl for gay sex in a park) and Clive Owen (a chauvenist who won't lower himself to appear with Maggie in a bedroom scene.)

Truth be told, the celebrity appearances and blunter attempts at poking fun at the showbiz landscape are what keeps Extras bubbling along -- mainly because Andy himself has never been particularly engaging, Darren is pushed into the background far too much, and Maggie is often too simperingn for my taste. However, inbetween easy giggles like a Doctor Who parody (David Tennant versus Gervais' alien slug, there are a few near-classic moments: particularly the writers' famous brand of "cringe-comedy", when Andy fakes a phone call to Ridley Scott to impress a journalist, only to discover she knows Scott personally and wants to speak to him...

Despite being 30-minutes too long for is own good and a too reliant on its celebrity appearances, Extras does manage to go out on a poignant and emotional climax. Andy is later forced to accept his lot in life (as a C-list catchphrase-spouter) and sinks to an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother (alongside the likes of a constantly-dancing Lionel Blair and Lisa-Scott Lee from Steps). It's while in the house that he has an epiphany about celebrity culture and, via the medium of live TV, makes a connection to Maggie back at home.

Andy's heartfelt musings on fame suddenly make him hot property again after he walks out of Big Brother, but he decides to leave the dispiriting world of fame behind, and drive off to the airport with Maggie -- the only person whose approval really matters...

Overall, this is definitely one of Extras' best episodes, even if it's a little prolonged and the celebrity appearances always sound a little hollow -- probably because every one of them is written in the same disparaging, self-conscious tone. But they're still fun to watch, and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments throughout. I particularly liked Andy's girdle-bursting movie audition, the Ridley Scott phone call, Darren working at Carphone Warehouse with Dean Gaffney post-dismissal, the Doctor Who spoof, the Big Brother moments, and the intentionally dumb-but-oddly-funny When The Whistle Blows segments.

Gervais does some of his better work in this episode, particularly with his all-important tear-jerking speech, Merchant is always good comedy value, Jensen is less irritating than she became in season 2, and you have to applaud the A, B, C and D-list celebs who were willing to send themselves up throughout. Even if their paid appearances go against the very point of the show.

This was a solid end to a funny, if slightly underachieving sitcom. It was definitely the best Christmas special of the season, and a return to form for Gervais after a backlash year of naff film cameos (Night At The Museum, Stardust), unfunny live TV gigs (the summer Princess Diana concert) and his omnipresence on chat shows to flog DVDs and Flanimals books.

27 December 2007
BBC1, 9.00 pm

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

DOCTOR WHO - "Voyage Of The Damned"

Writer: Russell T. Davies
Director: James Strong

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Kylie Minogue (Astrid Peth), Geoffrey Palmer (Captain Hardaker), Russell Tovey (Midshipman Frame), George Costigan (Max Capricorn), Gray O'Brien (Rickston Slade), Andrew Havil (Chief Steward), Bruce Lawrence (Engineer), Debbie Chazen (Foon Van Hoff), Clive Rowe (Morvin Van Hoff), Clive Swift (Mr Copper), Jimmy Vee (Bannakaffalatta), Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott), Nicholas Witchell (Himself), Paul Kasey (Host), Stefan Davis (Kitchen Hand), Jason Mohammad (Newsreader), Colin McFarlane (Alien Voice #1), Ewan Bailey (Alien Voice #2) & Jessica Martin (Queen, voice)

The Doctor crashes into a spaceship orbiting Earth, and must avert a disaster when the ship is struck by meteors...

I love Doctor Who. But, while I often defend its sillier episodes against criticism, I have to admit the new incarnation is frustratingly inconsistent. I think a lot of this is down to showrunner Russell T. Davies, even though it's now become a cliche to pour scorn on the man who successfully relaunched the show.

But, the fact remains that Davies' episodes are the ones most guilty of sloppy plotting, embarassing creative decisions, repetition, unoriginality and tonal awkwardness. This year's Christmas special, Voyage Of The Damned, while being perfectly agreeable on-the-surface, suffered from biting off more than it could chew, flopped around for over an hour, and then just fizzled out.

Events pick up where we left off at the end of season 3, with the TARDIS smashing into the side of the Titanic. It's not the iconic ocean liner we'd imagined, just an unfortunately-named spaceship currently orbiting Earth to... well, observe our Christmas festivities, apparently -- but that aspect stretches credibility. The episode would have worked better without the seasonal nod just because of the episode's transmission date.

The Doctor (David Tennant) repairs his TARDIS and decides to stick around for the shindig, where he meets beautiful waitress Astrid Peth (Kylie Minogue). As ever, The Doctor's stumbled into the a brewing crisis, when the ship's Captain (Geoffey Palmer) intentionally causes three meteors to slam into the Titanic and cause its slow, inevitable destruction on the planet's surface. Oh, and everyone on Earth will also die because of the destructive power of the ship's engines, just in case the stakes weren't big enough for you.

From there, it's the usual ingredients for a Davies-penned Doctor Who: more blank-faced evil robots (a minor twist on those Santas from the previous specials), a ragtag group of underwritten characters The Doctor has to save, plucky heroine duties from a bland Ms Minogue (reminding us why her biggest acting accomplishment was Neighbours), an alien with a comedically strange name, a few moments of death and self-sacrifice that provide more sniggers than shocks, a few more Doctor/Messiah overtones (ascending with angels?), a cyborg/homosexual allusion, duff "celebrity" cameos (Nicholas Witchell!), and a little political jab from the Doc at the end.

Perhaps I'm being too cynical, but Voyage Of The Damned was on pure autopilot for long stretches and Davies' brand of breezy, stream-of-consciousness, light-hearted adventuring is looking extremely creaky now. Things all happen on a whim, obstacles are overcome with blind luck or convenient plot-twists (the tiny alien was a robot with an E.M.P tummy, whodathunk?), and David Tennant's slow-motion posturing and grandiose speech-making makes The Doctor look ridiculously pompous, not selfless and heroic.

Kylie Minogue is pure stunt-casting, too. She doesn't embarass herself (well, the silly fork-lift truck finale wasn't her fault), but she has zero chemistry with Tennant and lacks charisma. The rest of the supporting cast fade into the background; a forgettable mix of fat oafs (Debbie Chazen and Clive Rowe), an affable idiot (Clive Swift) and a selfish stereotype (Gray O'Brien). None of them make any impression, so when each is given their turn in the limelight (usually to monologue their life's history) the episode squeals to a deadening crawl.

Sadly, Voyage Of The Damned becomes reliant on its special-effects to entertain. There are some gorgeous shots of the Titanic cruising through space (never mind the fact Futurama did this far, far better) and a cavernous expanse to cross later on, but everything else is a bit hit-and-miss. The finale, with the ship entering Earth's atmosphere, was solid -- but ruined by the Queen making a silly appearance on Buckingham Palace's roof -- while there were some shoddy greenscreen effects throughout (particularly when the Doc hitches a lift with the flying angel robots...)

Overall, this was a very disappointing episode with little seasonal cheer, hardly any originality and bad plot construction. It was The Poseidon Adventure on a shoestring budget, strangled by Russell T. Davies' usual inability to tell a compelling story without resorting to coincidences, weak jokes, contrivance and cheesiness. Once Max Capricorn (George Costigan), a villainous Davros rip-off, shows up in a box-like wheelchair, you'll be about ready to throw a mince pie at the screen. After three seasons and three Christmas specials, Davies output is even beginning to recycle itself now -- which doesn't bode well for season 4...

As always, the under-10s will probably enjoy it, and many will argue they're the audience that really matter... but that excuse has never washed with me. Doctor Who isn't a children's show, it's a family show, where half the fanbase are over 25. We're entitled to some decent storytelling, original ideas, exciting plots and engaging characters -- but you won't find any of that here.

Voyage Of The Damned is a real sinker.

25 December 2007
BBC1, 6.50 pm

Friday, 21 December 2007

'Tis the season to be jolly...

Hooray! I have 2 weeks off for Christmas (22 December – 7 January). Consequently, the frequency of updates will be much lower for the next fortnight. But I hope you'll continue to drop in – if only to keep my traffic from flatlining...

There will be some updates, of course. I definitely want to review Doctor Who and Extras, for example. I'm also likely to see a few films in the cinema (like I Am Legend), while seasonal inspiration may hit me throughout the holiday period.

As 2007 draws to a close, I'd also like to say thanks for your support of Dan's Media Digest this year. I genuinely appreciate everyone who visits -- and even people who stumble here by chance!

Keeping a blog active, interesting and entertaining can be hard-work. I only do it because I enjoy television and films enough to jabber on about it for free. Knowing there are so many people reading makes it all worthwhile.

In particular, thanks to all those people who took the time to comment on my posts, or e-mail me with some kind words.

Thank you and... Merry Christmas!

THE MIGHTY BOOSH 3.6 – "The Chokes"

Writers: Julian Barrett & Noel Fielding
Director: Paul King

Cast: Julian Barrett (Howard Moon/Jurgen Haabemaaster), Noel Fielding (Vince Noir/Montgomery Flange), Michael Fielding (Naboo), Dave Brown (Bollo) & Rich Fulcher (Bob Fossil)

Howard takes acting lessons so he can perform with Vince at the Velvet Onion, just to impress a Danish filmmaking legend in the audience...

The disappointing third series of The Mighty Boosh drags to its conclusion with The Chokes, another slapdash adventure that doesn't go anywhere particularly interesting or inventive. Indeed, the whole series has been frustratingly tied to the Nabootique and local surroundings, making you yearn for the days when the Boosh boys would genuinely take you on unpredictable adventures. This year? It's all been a bit flat.

Vince (Noel Fielding) hopes to join hip band The Black Tubes, but first has to prove he can get into some drainpipe trousers. The band are due to play at The Velvet Onion club, which prompts Howard (Julian Barratt) to consider performing as an actor, despite having a debilitating case of stage fright (known as "the chokes"). The majority of the episode is based around Howard trying to beat his phobia with the help of acting coach Montgomery Flange (Fielding again), to impress Danish director Jurgen Haabemaaster, who will be in the audience.

The best thing about this episode is the pitch-perfect parody of experimental cinema, in a little piece by Haabemaaster called "The Doctor And The Pencil" from 1972. Montgomery Flange is also quite engaging, if only because he's not quite as ridiculously unbelievable as stereotypical Boosh characters. The scene when Howard is being taught in Flange's "acting dojo" is nicely done and pretty funny.

But, everywhere else, The Chokes is just messy. There's some nonsense about rival actor Sammy The Crab (an actual crustacean) that doesn't seem to really fit in, while Vince's subplot about joining the band is pretty much abandoned until the final few minutes. The Boosh are often guilty of overloading episodes with too much nuttiness, to distract you from the lack of an actual story, but The Chokes is particularly dumb.

There are some smiles to be had from the stage acts on the bill ("The Umpire Of Folk" and "The Blue McEnroe Group"), but these are just throwaway gags in a sea of meandering pap. It's a shame, because Jurgen Haabemaaster promised to be more fun than he was, and earlier moments seemed to indicate this episode would have a stronger plot than usual. But it turned out to be just another example of The Mighty Boosh on autopilot, riffing on a vague idea about conquering stage fright, and throwing in a talking crab for good measure.

By the end, everything is back to the status quo and most fans will be glad to see the back of the Nabootique shop and its restricting influence on the Boosh. If the series does return for a fourth series (and, let's face it, it's still BBC Three's best show -- which isn't saying much), then I hope writers Barratt and Fielding realize they need to take viewers on fun adventures, because smaller-scale character-based comedy isn't their forte... it just shows up their limitations.

20 December 2007
BBC Three, 10.30 pm

Box Office Charts: w/e 21 December 2007

In the US, The Golden Compass tumbles to #3, knocked off the top by apocalyptic drama I Am Legend at #1 and talking chipmunks at #2... No Country For Old Men climbs one place to #5... This Perfect Holiday debuts at #6... Fred Claus drops from #4 to #8... and UK smash-hit Atonement disappoints at #9...


1. I Am Legend $77.2m
2. Alvin & The Chipmunks £44.3m
3. The Golden Compass $8.83m
4. Enchanted $5.53m
5. No Country For Old Men $2.83m
6. The Perfect Holiday $2.28m
7. This Christmas $2.26m
8. Fred Claus $2.22m
9. Atonement $1.81m
10. August Rush $1.77m

In the UK, The Golden Compass clings onto #1 for its second week... Enchanted debuts at #2, with Bee Movie at #3... Mr Magorium enters the chart at #5... Hitman takes a big drop from #3 to #7... as does American Gangster, down 4 places to #8, and Beowulf, down 4 places to #9...


1. The Golden Compass £3m
2. Enchanted £2.5m
3. Bee Movie £2.2m
4. Fred Claus £720k
5. Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium £459k
6. We Own The Night £441k
7. Hitman £288k
8. American Gangster £221k
9. Beowulf £109k
10. The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford £57k


A man discovers a trio of talking, singing chipmunks and decides to make them popstars. Comedy starring Jason Lee.

A professional ping pong phenomenon is recruited to enter an underground table tennis competition. Comedy starring Dan Fogler and Christopher Walken.

After an apocalyptic virus is unleashed, the last man on earth discovers he's not alone... Sci-fi thriller starring Will Smith.

Ruminations on Bob Dylan' life, with six characters embodying a different aspect of the iconic musician's career. Biopic starring Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Richard Gere and Heath Ledger.

A motley group of troublesome girls rescue their unruly boarding school from bankruptcy. Comedy starring Gemma Atherton, Rupert Everett, Russell Brand and Mischa Barton.

The Fountain (2006)

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Darren Aronofsky (story by Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel)

Cast: Hugh Jackman (Tommy Creo/Tomas/Tom), Rachel Weisz (Izzi Creo/Isabel), Ellen Burstyn (Dr Lillian Guzetti), Stephen McHattie (Grand Inquisitor Silecio), Cliff Curtis (Captain Ariel), Mark Margolis (Father Avila), Fernando Hermandez (Lord Of Xibalba), Sean Patrick Thomas (Antonio), Donna Murphy (Betty), Ethan Suplee (Manny), Richard McMillan (Henry), Lorne Brass (Dr Alan Lipper), Abraham Aronofsky (Lab Technician), Renee Asofsky (Lab Technician) & Arish Majumdar (Dr Spencer)

In three different time zones, a Spanish conquistador, a scientist, and an astronaut, try to discover the secret of eternal life...

Originally intended as a $75 million epic starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchette, acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky's film hit the skids in 2002 when Pitt bailed, but resurrected a few years later... with its budget halved and its leads recast...

I'm sure the extra cash would have made The Fountain even more wondrous and visually enthralling, but $35 million still buys you a lot of eye-candy. Consequently, too, Aronofsky's streamlining of his script to focus on character and small-scale moments surely benefits his cerebral sci-fi parable.

Hugh Jackman takes the lead as Tomas; a 16th-Century Spanish conquistador exploring a Mayan temple for the "Tree Of Life", so he can save the Spanish Queen (Rachel Weisz) from tyranny. In the present, Jackman is Thomas; a scientist trying to cure brain tumours in monkeys, so he can use the technique to save the life of his terminally ill wife Izzi (Weisz again). In the distant future, Jackman is Tom; a bald astronaut inside a "bubble spaceship" containing a gnarled tree, on his way to a nebula with a dying star in its centre.

Each "incarnation" of Tom is essentially after the same thing: immortality. The chance to defeat death and find divinity, if only to save the ones we love from being lost forever.

The most compelling time zone in The Fountain is the contemporary era, which affords Jackman and Weisz more opportunities to shine, in a relationship drama with considerably punch. Terminal illness is a devastating thing to grapple with, particularly when a couple have such opposing views on how to deal with it...

Tom is driven to find a cure, to be pragmatic, even if that means leaving his wife alone in hospital; while Izzie is more spiritual and accepting of her fate, finding solace in ancient Mayan myths about life and our place in the universe.

The Mayan sequences are less emotive, but weave nicely into the story's texture, while the futuristic scenes are intriguing and bizarre – but feed into the contemporary story well, gradually becoming more understandable as various pieces of the puzzle drift together and connect.

Jackman is haunted, passionate, and soulful as the lead; clearly relishing the opportunity to wring every ounce of emotion from the script and his triptych of characters' explorations. Weisz is heartbreaking and beautiful as his wife, making her relationship with Jackman really work. Their scene in a bathtub is particularly intimate, while her characters' dreamy self-belief in something greater tugs at the heartstrings.

Visually, The Fountain's budget notably restrains the Mayan sequences, but not enough to make them flounder. Thankfully, the panoramas of space are impressive and brilliantly conceived by filming micro-organisms under microscopes, with very little computer-generated effects involved. The result is beautiful, fluid and fresh-looking.

The Fountain will likely polarize audiences, as it doesn't spell anything out, but it should reward those who enjoy films with depth and ambition behind them. It's not a classic, and pales when compared to Aronofsky's gut-punching Requiem For A Dream, but it's not often a film comes along that aims for 2001: A Space Odyssey-style credibility.

So, while imperfect, The Fountain's performances are superb, its visuals are inventive, and the themes are universal and timeless. It doesn't quite come together for a mind-expanding pay-off, but it's a compelling journey across time and space... and one that that remembers to keep things small, personal and truthful...

Warner Brothers
Budget: $35 million
96 minutes

Thursday, 20 December 2007

The Sexiest Women On TV In 2007

Rule 1: Only actresses in scripted drama and comedy are eligible -- not celebs on reality shows or television presenters/newsreaders, etc.

Rule 2: Each actress must have had a sizable role in a TV show that aired in the UK or US in 2007.

27. Jaime Murray

The British star of Hustle took her accent and did her best Helena Bonham-Carter impression as loopy Lila, the sexy new girl in serial killer Dexter's life. A free spirit with charisma, devilishly cheeky smile, sexy boots and the strange inclination to take her top off. To die for.

Sexiest Moment: It seemed that Jaime was under contract to show her boobs nearly every episode (which was nice), but the first time was the sweetest – with Jaime stripping naked and hitting the shower.

26. Sarah Paulson
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip

As Harriet Hayes, she was the talented starlet of Studio 60; infectiously likable and in that bracket of sexy TV characters you might actually stand a chance with – if you can make her laugh. She's a bit tomboyish and highly-strung at times, but also the ideal best friend... who could credibly become more at an after-show party...

Sexiest Moment: A moment of cheekiness when two men wander into her dressing room, accidentally surprising her into dropping the towel sparing her modesty...

25. Katee Sackhoff
Battlestar Galactica / Bionic Woman

I've never found Katee Sackhoff particularly attractive in BSG, as her Starbuck character is too brash and tomboyish for my taste. No, it was Bionic Woman that gave Katee the chance to be a vixen-like femme fatale, and she gives a barnstorming performance of devious, sexy, witty, angst-ridden malice. It's good to be the bad girl sometimes.

Sexiest Moment: A post-coital cuddle with conflicted lover Jae in a hotel room. When did Starbuck get sexy, eh?

24. Rena Sofer
24 / Heroes

Despite supporting roles in two big shows in '07, Rena Sofer wasn't given much to do in either -- which was a shame. She certainly makes an impression – if only because of her dazzling, otherworldly eyes. Rena's undoubtedly one of the hottest older women on this list. So, despite being underwritten in 24 and confined to a wheelchair for Heroes, she's gorgeous to look at in both. Here's hoping she gets a proper chance to act soon, though...

Sexiest Moment: Her entrance in 24; standing atop a flight of stares, eyes piercing and skin glistening. Gulp.

23. Alex Breckenridge

If skinny uberbitch Courteney Cox wasn't to your taste, you likely preferred the more curvy charms of Alexa Breckenridge's naïve-yet-feisty young reporter Willa. Beautiful and disarmingly down-to-earth, Willa was the lighter side of the gutter press, although her character was slowly hardened by experience.

Sexiest Moment: A rampant sex scene with her boss's boss Brent Barrow. Willa was on-top, in-charge... but unaware she's been surreptitiously filmed by the perv...

22. Natascha McElhone

Her presence always lends a bit of class and sophistication to movies, with her enchanting beauty and cut-glass English accent. But in Californication, she turned on the American sass as the ex-wife of David Duchovny's lothario author. As former wild child Karen, Natascha was the character most likely to get you fantasizing -- because she was less likely to get naked at the drop of a hat, unlike the rest of the show's cast!

Sexiest Moment: No standout sequences, really -- just Natascha's exquisite beauty pouring from the screen. Hotter than the California sun.

21. Eve Myles

She's the cute Welsh lass with big eyes and freckles, and the only down-to-earth member of the alien-fighting Torchwood team. Her appeal lies in her earthy normality, although her tendency to sleep with work colleagues doesn't hurt either!

Sexiest Moment: There were a lot of naughty scenes for Eve (including a lesbian smooch), but a passionate bit of fumbling with Owen held most of her fans rapt.

20. Elizabeth Mitchell

The brains-as-well-as-beauty conundrum of Lost's third season, Elizabeth played mysterious Other scientist Juliet -- alternating through kindness, sexiness, bitchiness, and back again. You were never quite sure of her intentions, but found yourself falling under her hypnotic spell and dignified, intelligent beauty.

Sexiest Moment: Elizabeth's sexiest scene was a flashback to Juliet's time on the island, naked on a bed with her lover. The research scientists are this attractive on the remote tropical island? Sign me up, DHARMA!

19. Marisol Nichols

The eye-candy of CTU for season 6, who was supposed to help get fans over the loss of Reiko Aylesworth's gutsy heroine and Kim Raver's legs. While Nadia didn't make much of an impression plotwise, you can't deny Marisol's exotic beauty lit up the sterile corridors of CTU. She also fancied horse-faced Milo, so everyone stands a chance of office romance with her...

Sexiest Moment: In a disappointing season, we hoped CTU hottie Nadia would become the action heroine to rival Reiko Aylseworth's Michelle, but it wasn't to be. Still, bumping into sexy Marisol Nichols in the corridors of CTU would certainly make that counter-terrorism desk-job a worthwhile risk.

18. Freema Agyeman
Doctor Who

Within minutes, we were asking "Billie who?" as Freema Agyeman's natural, infectious enthusiasm became the latest companion of time-traveller The Doctor. Girly yet professional, excitable yet unassuming, her Martha Jones was the perfect injection of intelligent sass, blessed with a perfectly-formed booty to boot.

Sexiest Moment: Well, things aren't going to get you too hot-under-the collar on a family show, so just keep yourself glued to Freema's tight jeans throughout.

17. Anna Friel
Pushing Daisies

For British viewers, she'll probably always be the lesbian from Brookside, but she's swapped Liverpool for L.A, to star in "forensic fairy tale" Pushing Daisies. As Chuck, the dead (but now resurrected) girlfriend of miracle pie-maker Ned, she's pretty, offbeat, fun and feisty – if a little too sugary at times.

Sexiest Moment: Unfortunately, it's all extremely lovey-dovey on this show, so you just have to let her sexy perkiness wash over you...

16. Grace Park
Battlestar Galactica

As a Cylon sleeper agent who has defected to the humans, cute and sexy Sharon Valeri faces prejudice most weeks, which only makes her more sympathetic. It's just a shame Grace Park is rarely allowed out of that green jumpsuit for a little R&R...

Sexiest Moment: Grace Park hasn't been given anything to make pulses race since stripping naked for the season 1 finale, so fans will have to satiate themselves with her Maxim photoshoot.

15. Missy Peregrym
Heroes / Reaper

She had a belated entrance on Heroes, as vision-inducer Candice (a tubby woman who wisely keeps herself in the form of Missy Peregrym) and like to woo men like a black widow spider. after just a few episodes, Missy jumped ship to Reaper for the new TV season, to play the object of a demon-hunting geek's affections.

Sexiest Moment: In Heroes, whenever she used her powers to entrance red-blooded men. So alluring you'll willingly take her at face value, and try not to think about the fatty flesh lurking beneath the babe...

14. Courteney Cox

After playing neat-freak Monica for so long on Friends, the naughtier side of Courteney Cox was restrained to a few film roles and magazine shoots, but Dirt finally gave her the chance to steam up the screen. As bitchy magazine editor Lucy Spiller, she double-crossed, blackmailed and shagged her way through the year, becoming the scarlet woman we'd all struggle to say "no" to... if only because she probably has compromising photos of you in her vault.

Sexiest Moment: There are quite a few to choose from, but the best is probably her hot sex scene in the back of a limo with Holt. Or the bedroom scene with the vibrator. Or...

13. Dania Ramirez

Dania was cruelly saddled with a character who just flips between crying and moaning, so she didnn't get much of a chance to endear herself to people. However, she's a very beautiful woman with a sexy accent, who deserves some better treatment when Heroes returns...

Sexiest Moment: Her character wasn't afforded any sexiness (just a lot of sobbing), so the only thing that comes close was a kiss with villain Sylar.

12. Amanda Peet
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip

An impossibly gorgeous woman with an elfin quality and big, bright eyes. As idealistic network president Jordan McDeere, Amanda was compellingly tough, vulnerable, radiant, clever, blessed with razor-sharp wit and... well, she just looked the biz, didn't she?

Sexiest Moment: Whenever she breezes into a room, it was enough to get everyone's attention and make them want to climb the corporate ladder.

11. Yvonne Strzechowski

More lingerie model than CIA agent, Yvonne Strzechowski is the fantasy figure for Chuck's geeks – a blonde Lara Croft of the espionage world. With breathtaking smile, radiant hair, ample curves and delicious legs, there isn't a baddie alive who wouldn’t crumble under her interrogation...

Sexiest Moment: In the first episode, we see Yvonne alone in an apartment wearing sexy lingerie, tooling up for her next mission...

10. Lucy Griffiths
Robin Hood

Sexy and cute as plucky tomboy Marian (and likely to start her own fashion range of pastel-coloured medieval women's wear), Lucy Griffiths is refreshingly normal and down-to-earth in the role. While the garments of Ye Olde England unfortunately leave everything to the imagination, it's clear from her heaving bosom that she'll one day make Robin a very, very merry man.

Sexiest Moment: Hmmm, beyond stolen glances and a few snogs in Sherwood with rascal Robin, the show is disappointingly cautious when it comes to showing Lady Marian as a woman with needs. Best make do with her one-photo appearance in FHM (see above).

9. Lucy Lawless
Battlestar Galactica

Most famous for playing lesbian pin-up Xena: Warrior Princess, Kiwi actress Lucy Lawless focused her earthy personality into darker territory as Number 3 -- an amazonian blonde beauty, who was basically the evil sister of Tricia Helfer's Number 6.

Sexiest Moment: Lucky dog Baltar wakes up in bed alongside Tricia Helfer and Lucy Lawless... and the every geek's next wet dream was suddenly made visual. Oh, for a deleted scene of the night before...

8. Kristin Chenoweth
Pushing Daisies

A star of Broadway for years, Kristin's sure to win more fans in the UK when Pushing Daisies arrives. As loved-up waitress Ollie Snook, Kristen Chenoweth is just adorable: tiny, blonde and kooky, with saucer-eyes, curvy body and that impossibly sweet voice.

Sexiest Moment: She's eminently squeezable throughout, but when she first launched into a rendition of Grease's "Totally Devoted To You" is when Cheno's charms really took hold.

7. Julie Benz

The one-time Buffy nemesis turned sympathetic and caring as single-mother Rita, the unwitting girlfriend of serial killer Dexter Morgan. Julie Benz is delicate, gorgeous, and willing to show a sexier side in a few welcome nude scenes. Dex has definitely bagged himself a babe – but in a good way for once...

Sexiest Moment: In season 2's premiere, Rita seduces Dexter into the bedroom, where she promptly drops her clothes to the floor, revealing a smooth/ toned back, before pushing him backwards onto her bed...

6. Tricia Helfer
Battlestar Galactica

A statuesque goddess in anyone's book, Tricia Helfer has become the primary source of fanboy worship on Battlestar Galactica as blonde Cylon vixen Number 6. Pert breasts, golden hair, perfect face, slinky body and legs up to her armpits, she's walking evidence that those pesky Cylons may be the future of evolution after all...

Sexiest Moment: Straddling boyfriend Baltar as he's being tortured and taking his mind off the pain with pure pleasure...

5. Michelle Ryan
Bionic Woman

The Brit goes bionic for this remake of the 70s show, with Michelle Ryan's bee-stung lips, heaving bosom and girl-next-door appeal helping keep interest in the misfiring series. She may not be the most plausible heroine ever put on-screen, but she holds her own in the fighting sequences and provides enough allure and good-humour to keep your attention.

Sexiest Moment: There's something oddly alluring about a sexy young woman, dressed in black, doing one-armed pull-ups. Isn't there?

4. Ali Larter

Having struggled for a breakthrough hit post-Final Destination, leggy Ali Larter finally became a poster girl for boys everywhere as beautiful, maternal stripper Nikki in Heroes. And when Nikki's simpering goody-two-shoes act grows irritating, there's always devilish alter-ego Jessica to contend with; an ass-kicking babe who enjoys throwing men across rooms.

Sexiest Moment: An unexpected strip tease for congressman Nathan Petrelli in a Vegas hotel, as bad girl Jessica takes over -- wearing sexy lingerie and showing off those heavenly legs...

3. Evangeline Lilly

Who wouldn't want to be stuck on a desert island with the delectable Evangeline Lilly? Shame there are other survivors, polar bears and a smoke monster to contend with, too. As Kate, she's forever caught in the middle of competing males Sawyer and Jack – and who can blame them for wanting to get Kate into their hammock? With jet-black tumbling hair, lithe figure, cute freckles and shapely legs, she's the treasure of the island.

Sexiest Moment: Undoubtedly the frantic, passionate sex scene with Sawyer inside a bear cage – snooped on by security cameras, for added thrills...

2. Kristen Bell

Having made a cult name for herself as teen detective Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell's bid for wider stardom got underway by becoming the best thing about Heroes' weak second season. As electricity-wielding Elle, she was the naughty good-girl-gone-bad with a kinky masochistic bent that juxtaposed nicely with her blonde, sex-kitten allure.

Sexiest Moment: Relaxing on a sun lounger in a tiny bikini, soaking up some rays before being asked to get her hands dirty. Or try her photoshoot in Complex magazine.

1. Hayden Panettiere

She's the diminutive, all-American girl whose cherubic good-looks, flowing blonde locks and tendency to bounce around in a cheerleader uniform endeared her to young girls looking for a role model, hormonal teenage boys and young men who should know better. Hayden Panettiere is the Britney Spears of sci-fi.

Sexiest Moment: Given her age, the show wasn't that keen on milking Hayden's sex appeal too much in season 1, so you'll have to make do with her ever-present cheerleader outfit. I suggest you seek out her FHM photoshoot, too.

Bridge To Terabithia (2007)

Director: Gábor Csupó
Writers: Katherine Paterson, David L. Paterson & Jeff Stockwell (based on the novel by Katherine Paterson)

Cast: Josh Hutcherson (Jess Aarons), AnnaSophia Robb (Leslie Burke), Lauren Clinton (Janice Avery), Zooey Deschanel (Julia Edmunds), Jen Wolfe (Mrs Myers), Robert Patrick (Jack Aarons), Kate Butler (Mary Aarons), Devon Wood (Brenda Aarons), Emma Fenton (Ellie Aarons), Bailee Madison (Maybelle Aarons), Grace Brannigan (Joyce Ann Aarons), Cameron Wakefield (Scott Hoager), Latham Gaines (Bill Burke) & Judy McIntosh (Judy Burke)

A bullied boy starts a friendship with a peculiar girl at school, and the pair let their imaginations run wild to create a make-believe kingdom...

Based on a beloved novel I wasn't even aware of, Bridge To Terabithia is an interesting little movie that reminded me of those morally-sound family films that get played mid-afternoon. But where those movies are usually saccharine and full of do-gooders, Terabithia is commendably more robust and textured.

Jess (Josh Hutcherson) is an ordinary boy with a flair for drawing, who spends most of his school days fending off bullies in class and putting up with abuse on the bus ride home. His life changes when next-door neighbour Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) arrives at his school and touches him with her creative writing and kooky nature.

Leslie's dreamy demeanour also makes her a target for bullies, but she finds refuge with Jess after school, when the pair venture over a creek into a forest, and begin imagining their own private kingdom (Terabithia), where they can escape harsh reality...

Unfortunately, to say any more would ruin the film's main surprise -- but by skirting over it, Bridge To Terabithia thus becomes very difficult to review, as the real punch comes from this bombshell. Suffice to say, it's a memorable jab in the heart that's sure to elicit a few tears and ensure the film lingers in the memory for awhile...

Directed by Hungarian-born animator Gábor Csupó (famous for creating dozens of Nickelodeon cartoons, like Rugrats), Bridge To Terabithia has an unusual vibe to it. Despite what the marketing team would have you believe, the film isn't a "fantasy film" in the Narnia tradition -- as its sequences with fantastical creatures are restricted to fleeting glimpses and rest solely in the overactive imaginations of the child leads.

It's actually a character-based drama that touches on childhood issues (particularly bullying), and undoubtedly became a successful classroom book because of how it deals with these weighty themes.

The film does have a vague smell of cosy, forgettable whimsy at times, but it avoids easy labeling because of its gutsy blow to the audience: a real upset-the-apple-cart moment that elevates Bridge To Terabithia a few notches.

The child actors are all very good, particularly Josh Hutcherson as introverted Jess and the sublime AnnaSophia Robb as his spirited (girl)friend Leslie. Individually, both young actors give enjoyable and realistic performances, and together they have an obvious chemistry.

All the supporting child cast are fine, if not spectacular -- mainly because their roles are quite minor and one-note. But there are some decent adult turns, particularly from Robert Patrick as Jess's grouchy father, and Zooey Deschanel as sweet-natured music teacher Miss Edmunds.

Overall, Bridge To Terabithia could disappoint if you're expecting a fantasy adventure, as it's a more reality-based drama with some imaginative flourishes, but otherwise this is commendable children's entertainment. I can see it becoming a minor favourite amongst kids who find it, and it's refreshing to see a film with its finger on the emotional heartbeat of childhood reality.

Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media
96 minutes

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


Again, sorry for the delay from Sunday... phew, all that Christmas shopping leaves you scrambling to catch-up with stuff! So yes, Week 11 and it was semi-final time -- with the three remaining competitors: pro-dancer Camilla, celebrity singer Alesha and pro-dancer Flavia...

Camilla Dallerup

Argentine Tango: She looked great in this Bond-themed dance, with her golden hair up, pink tassels on a black skirt, and her thin legs really put on a show!

Paso: A very fast dance with a neat silver cloak that opened to reveal a long skirt, with an open-backed top, and welcome glimpses of those great pins!

Flavia Cacace

Argentine Tango: Sexy blue dress, with a cut up the skirt to show some shapely leg, with a very slow/sexy performance.

Waltz: A long red dress with frilly handkerchief accessories, but too slow and twirly for my taste. I don't care if he did get perfect scores!

Alesha Dixon

Argentine Tango: Hot red dress with long gloves, but the skirt could have been shorter (grrr), although her amazing legs did get some airtime. This was slow and sexy stuff.

Quickstep: A long white dress and a sparky energy on the dance floor. Great cleavage and open-backed top, with a fast pace.

At the end of Sunday's results show, poor Camilla had to go (despite doing the sexiest dances this week!) I think she took it well, didn't she? By shunning the after-show party and crying in her dressing room, according to the papers... Oh well, there's always next year, Cammy!

My current scores, by taking the average of both dance scores this week, are:

1. Alesha Dixon -- 65
2. Camilla Dallerup -- 58
3. Flavia Cacace -- 57

Well, unless Alesha has a nightmare, I think she's won the show now. And, unless she wears a pair of old jeans and a bag over her head, I think she'll top my personal scoreboard. Which is what really matters...