Saturday, 30 August 2008

The Week's TV Picks (1 - 7 September '08)

September will usher in a new wave of TV across British screens, so here's a quick look ahead at the first week's new stuff:

MONDAY 1st
Hell's Kitchen USA (9pm, ITV2) Fourth season of the US reality series starring Gordon Ramsay.
Ross Kemp On Gangs (9pm, Sky1) Fourth series of the BAFTA-winning documentary series starring Ross Kemp.

TUESDAY 2nd
American Gladiators (5pm, Sky1) UK run of the revived US version of Gladiators.
Big Brother (8 & 10pm, Channel 4) A surprise eviction before Friday's live final.
CelebAir (9pm, ITV2) Reality series where minor celebrities help run an airline. Presented by Anjelica Bell, starring Lisa Scott-Lee, Mica Paris, Chico, Amy Lamé, Tamara Beckwith, Dan O'Connor, Johnny Shentall, Lisa Maffia, Kenzie, Michelle Marsh and Phil Cornwell.
Prison Break (10pm, Sky1) Fourth season of the US drama, continuing the adventures of brothers Michael (Wentworth Miller) and Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) outside Panamanian prison Sona.

WEDNESDAY 3rd
The Riches (9pm, Virgin 1) Season 2 of the US drama starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as two con-artists who have assumed the identities of a rich, deceased family.
God On Trial (9pm, BBC2) Drama about Auschwitz prisoners putting God on trial for allowing Jews to suffer at the hands of Nazis. Stars Stellen Starsgard, Stephen Dillane, Rupert Graves, Antony Sher, Jack Shepherd & Dominic Cooper.

THURSDAY 4th
The Big Bang Machine (9pm, BBC4) Documentary about the Cern Large Hadron Collider.
8 Out Of 10 Cats (10pm, Channel 4) Return of the comedy panel show based on statistics and polls, hosted by Jimmy Carr, with team captains Sean Locke and Jason Manford.

FRIDAY 5th
Big Brother Final (8 & 10pm, CH4) The live final of this ninth series.
Harry & Paul (9pm, BBC1) Second series of the sketch show starring Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse as a wide variety of characters.
American Inventor (9pm, Virgin 1) Series 2 of the reality show where inventors have to impress a panel of judges that include Dragons' Den's Peter Jones and George Forman.
Ugly Betty (9pm, Channel 4) Season 2 of the fashion-based US drama continues.
Friday Night With Jonathan Ross (10.35pm, BBC1) Return of the late-night chat show hosted by Jonathan Ross, with guests Kelly Brook, The Mighty Boosh, Team GB's Olympic winners and music from The Streets.
8 Out Of 10 Cats: Big Brother Special (11.05pm, Channel 4) Famous faces from previous Big Brother series participate in the comedy panel show.

SATURDAY 6th
The Eurovision Dance Contest (8pm, BBC1) Second year of the international dance competition, presented by Graham Norton and Claudia Winkleman. 15 countries across Europe are participating and the UK are represented by Strictly Come Dancing stars Louisa Lytton and Vincent Simone.

SUNDAY 7th
Soccer Aid 2008 (7.30pm, ITV1) Charity event where a UK football team take on the world.
Charley Boorman: Ireland To Sydney By Any Means (8pm, BBC2) The motorcycling adventurer uses local transport to travel across the world from Ireland to Sydney, avoiding airlines.

MUST-WATCH: Prison Break, season 4

The official synopsis:

"After engineering an escape from the hellish Panamanian prison Sona, brothers Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows are determined to seek justice against The Company, the shadowy group responsible for destroying their lives and killing the woman Michael loves, Dr. Sara Tancredi."

"During their quest for vengeance, Michael's world is turned upside down when he learns that Sara is still alive. Realizing the only way they will truly be free, Michael and Lincoln avenge to find Sara and take down The Company. With the help of a government handler, they assemble a group of allies and familiar faces including Mahone, Sucre and Bellick to aid in their seemingly impossible task."

"Unfortunately for the brothers, they must also enlist T-Bag, who unknowingly possesses a vital clue to help them pull off their most difficult challenge yet. They’ll soon discover the only thing harder than breaking out is breaking in."


Prison Break premieres:
1 September (FOX), 8/7c pm
2 September (SKY1), 10 pm

Strictly Come Dancing 6 – Meet The Dancers



Last year I got sucked into Strictly Come Dancing, by focusing on the one thing all heterosexual man should be tuning in for: the sexy ladies. It's that simple. While it's camper than a field of pink tents and the best two celeb dancers become obvious by Week 6 (meaning half the show is spent waiting for the obvious semi-final decider), you basically get to see the likes of Lilia Kopylova and Flavia Cacace wiggle their hips. And I'm sure girls are just as excited about the men, like... erm, slimy Kiwi foot-shuffler Brendan Cole.

The sixth series is about to begin, so the BBC have revealed who's taking part. As usual, I'm going to focus on the ladies here. It's not sexist, it's just a bit of fun. Straight men can enjoy SCD too, y'know...

The Celebrities

Christine Bleakley, 27
Oh yes, Northern Ireland's lovely Christine; co-host of The One Show. So she was obviously talked into it by last year's contestant and One Show contributor Dominic Littlewood. Big smile, cute overbite, good sense of humour, down-to-earth, slim figure and long legs. I'd be surprised if she can dance spectacularly well, but I'll predict she gets at least half-way through. Dance partner: Matthew Cutler.

Jodie Kidd, 29
Former model, now trying to extend her fame by appearing on panel shows and suchlike. It's no wonder she's signed up for SCD, then. She has a competitive streak and tomboyish nature (did you see her wiz around Top Gear's track?), so I think she'll definitely have the poise, stamina and drive to succeed on the show. Of course, she might be a gangly uncoordinated mess – but I'd be surprised if she didn't get 5 weeks into the competition at the very least. Looks-wise; a statuesque 6 ft 1, blonde, very long legs. This years Penny Lancaster, minus the tears. Dance partner: Ian Waite.

Cherie Lunghi, 56
I've never heard of her. Apparently she was in Casualty 1906 and played a matron. She's this year's Stephanie Beachem, really -- so don't expect much. Let's not go into her looks, as it's a little unsavoury – she's older than my mum! Dance partner: James Jordan.

Heather Small, 43
Tall singer who found fame with M People. Great voice, big hair, not a bad body, but a bit too "manly" and scary-looking for my taste. She might be a good dancer, but I suspect not. Dance partner: Brian Fortuna.

Lisa Snowdon, 36
One-time supermodel and TV personality, most famous for being the on/off girlfriend of George Clooney. Lovely smile, curvy figure, great legs, big bosom (34D guys), and 5 ft 11 in height. Needless to say, she's been partnered with womanizer Brendan Cole, so she's clearly intended to be this year's Kelly Brook. Another possible winner, then? At 36, she's older than she looks, too. Dance partner: Brendan Cole.

Rachel Stevens, 30
Former S Club 7 member whose solo career didn't quite take-off as she'd hoped – which was a shame, because I always thought she was a good, clean-cut role model for teenagers. Given her background, I would assume she's used to dance choreography, so she stands a good chance at succeeding. Beautiful features, petite, curvy figure – so definitely the sex kitten of the celebs. Dance partner: Vincent Simone.

Gillian Taylforth, 53
Ex-EastEnder who quit the soap years ago but never truly emerged from its shadow. Back in the '80s, she was quite attractive in a common-as-muck, husky-voiced way. A step too far into the middle-aged, embarrassing mum stage of her life for me, but she'll have fun on the show. Dance partner: Anton du Beke (i.e, not expected to win).

Jessie Wallace, 36
Another ex-EastEnder like Gillian, but much more recent. As Kat Slater, Jessie was dirtily-alluring trotting around Albert Square in her high-heels and leopard print tops. I wouldn't say she's unattractive, but she's definitely someone who needs to throw on the slap to look her best. I'm guessing she'll be wild, crazy fun, and a good laugh. She might blossom like fellow EastEnder Leticia Dean did last year. Dance partner: Darren Bennett.

The Dancers

Ola Jordan, 26
The petite Polish dancer with the tight, firm body, golden hair and beaming smile is back. This time she's dancing with GMTV's Andrew Castle, who will hopefully keep her in the competition as long as Kenny Logan did last year.

Camilla Dallerup, 34
The ever-so-slightly crazy Danish dancer, with the willowy good-looks, long blonde hair, and fierce determination, has been partnered with Tom Chambers from Holby City. Who?

Flavia Cacace, 28
The Cleopatra lookalike with "abs of steel", who whisked Matt DiAngelo to the final last year, gets lumbered with ex-EastEnder Phil Daniels. That's what happens when you do well the previous year, see? Oh well, hopefully Flavia will show us some hot flavours for a few weeks at least.

Hayley Holt, 27
A newcomer to the show, having starred in the New Zealand version of SCD (Dancing With The Stars). From the looks of her photo, she should be hot stuff. Blonde, slim, flat stomach, long legs – classic. She'll be dancing with swimmer Mark Foster, so I'd assume she'll do well because he's an athlete.

Erin Boag, 33
I'm not a fan of Erin, sorry. She's only 33, but looks 44. She's dancing with Austin Healey, a rugby player, so she'll likely be around for awhile this year.

Karen Hardy, 38
You can't beat Karen's determination and competitive streak. She might be pushing 40, but she's still great to look at, too – even if she occasionally freaks me out. She has Gary Rhodes to contend with, so I'm hoping he keeps her in the show longer than last year.

Kristina Rihanoff
Another newcomer, this time from America's version (Dancing With The Stars). And, what a crying shame, she's been lumbered with bloody John Sergeant – who will surely be the first to go. What a crime! Have you seen Kristina? Look above. I can't find her birth year anywhere, but she's white-haired, small, well-toned and pretty sexy. John Sergeant will be in heaven. But not, alas, for long.

Lilia Kopylova, 30
Oh yes, the beautiful Lilia. To be honest, there are prettier dancers, but nobody exudes raw sex appeal combined with a sense of cheeky fun like Lilia. I still dream about her silver air hostess costume last year. She's dancing with '70s Rising Damp star Don Warrington, so I'm hoping he's a dark horse and can bust a move or two. For me, SCD always take a dip when Lilia drops out of the competition. We need her spark, energy and adorable cuteness 'till the quarter-finals at least.

Strictly Come Dancing 6 starts on 13 September with a pre-show special on BBC1, but the competition really begins on 20 September.

BBC America: Skins


A little shout-out to American readers now. Why not give BBC America's Skins a try before the TV schedules are flooded in September? Skins is a BAFTA-winning British drama that deals with obligatory teen issues (drugs, girls, sex, school, parents), but it's a great deal more hip, edgy and relatable than US equivalent Gossip Girl.

The show revolves around a group of 17-year-olds from Bristol: handsome, egomaniac Tony; his sexually-frustrated best-friend Sid; his sexy, witty girlfriend Michelle; Chris, the class clown who fancies a teacher; Jal, a talented, intelligent musician; Maxxie, a gay man-magnet; Anwar, a Muslim with an amoral lifestyle; Cassie, a big-hearted oddball with anorexia; and Tony's quiet sister Effy.

The fact it's "foreign" shouldn't be a barrier to enjoyment these days. British shows may be less glamorous, with different jargon to wrap your head around -- but kids are kids. And isn't it fun to learn what "stroppy", "bangers", "bollocks" and "spliff" mean? Most importantly, Skins was written by young people for young people -- and that comes through in the characterizations, their activities and the storylines. No Californian rich kids driving to school in sports cars here!

I did hear Skins is been occasionally subtitled (!), but hopefully BBC America haven't censored episodes (which often got a bit risqué). I'm sure a lot of Americans would enjoy the show if they gave it a chance. Just don't follow the lead of Australian fans and start having "Skins Parties".

Philadelphia Daily News:

"I nearly wrote off Skins after the first episode. But as it continued… I found some of the characters, including a dreamy anorexic named Cassie (Hannah Murray), starting to get under my own skin."

Skins - BBC America YouTube

BBC America
Sundays, 10 pm (last week's episode repeated at 9pm)

Friday, 29 August 2008

BBC L.A


Thanks to the success of BBC America in reaching an appreciative American audience (with hits like Torchwood, Life On Mars and Robin Hood), the corporation is about to set-up an office in Los Angeles. Drama chief Jane Tranter will spearhead the BBC Worldwide West Coast drama production division early next year.

What will this mean for the BBC? Well, it will hopefully enable the BBC to shoot on location in the United States and utilize American talent in their shows. Rumours that two Doctor Who specials will be filmed in America have already surfaced recently. However, BBC Worldwide haven't release a formal statement about this L.A office, and what it means for British audiences.

I hope the BBC continue to focus on nurturing British talent at all costs, though. I'd hate to see British shows swamped by Americans looking for the creative freedom the BBC can offer. It might also become irritating if existing shows suddenly start having "America-set specials", or new dramas are created that send Brits to the USA for peculiar reasons. That said, it's sure to benefit dramas that should be more global in scope (like Doctor Who), and the recent serial The State Within was a good example of a British show that required the assistance of BBC America to film abroad.

I suspect we'll see a few BBC shows that reverse the production example of Showtime's The Tudors -- an American series tackling British history, involving British acting/writing talent, that films abroad in Ireland? Oh yes, English actors doing American accents in a BBC mini-series about Chicago-based mobsters in the 1920s! Isn't that a good thing?

Box Office Charts: w/e 29 August 2008

In the US: Tropic Thunder keeps the #1 spot, but faces surprise competition from Anna Faris comedy "THE HOUSE BUNNY", about a Playboy bunny kicked out of Hugh Heffner's pad... Jason Statham stars in Paul W.S Anderson's "DEATH RACE" remake as a criminal who must compete in a dangerous car sport to secure his freedom... Kiefer Sutherland's TV appeal doesn't stretch to scaring up a cinema audience for "MIRRORS", which disappointingly debuts at #7 with just $5m... and sports comedy "THE LONGSHOTS" is a certified turkey, only managing a #10 placing $4m...

US TOP 10

(1) 1. Tropic Thunder $16.3m
(-) 2. The House Bunny $14.5m
(-) 3. Death Race $12.6m
(2) 4. The Dark Knight $10.5m [review]
(3) 5. Star Wars: The Clone Wars $5.66m
(5) 6. Pineapple Express $5.45m
(-) 7. Mirrors $5.01m
(7) 8. Mamma Mia! $4.31m
(6) 9. The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor $4.18m
(-) 10. The Longshots $4.08m


In the UK: "HELLBOY II" connected with audiences (perhaps helped by the original being shown on TV last week), going straight to #1 with nearly £3m, knocking Dark Knight down to #4... and "GET SMART" shoots in at #3 with a decent £1.5m haul, just behind Mamma Mia! at #2...

UK TOP 10

(-) 1. Hellboy II: The Golden Army £2.9m
(2) 2. Mamma Mia! £1.8m
(-) 3. Get Smart £1.5m
(1) 4. The Dark Knight £1.4m [review]
(3) 5. You Don't Mess With The Zohan £781k
(4) 6. The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor £641k
(5) 7. Wild Child £585k
(7) 8. WALL•E £459k
(6) 9. Star Wars: The Clone Wars £347k
(8) 10. Space Chimps £135k


UK RELEASES THIS WEEK

"Babylon A.D"

Sci-fi action. A mercenary agrees to escort a woman from Russia to the USA, unaware she's the host of an organism wanted by a bizarre cult.
Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Mark Strong, Charlotte Rampling & Gérard Depardieu
Tomatometer: 7% (Rotten; based on 29 reviews) "A poorly constructed, derivative sci-fi stinker with a weak script and poor action sequences."

"Daylight Robbery"

Crime thriller. A group of England football supporters steal millions from a London bank, using the World Cup as a cover.
Starring: Geoff Bell, Vas Blackwood, Robert Boulter & Max Brown.

"Step Brothers"

Comedy. Two middle-aged men still living at home become step-brothers when their single parents get married, causing upset and competitiveness.
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen & Richard Jenkins.
US Box-Office: $96 million
Tomatometer: 53% (Fresh; based on 153 reviews) "The relentless immaturity of the humour is not a total handicap for this film, which features the consistently well-matched talents of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly."

"The Strangers"

Horror-thriller. A young couple are terrorized in their isolated vacation home by three masked strangers.
Starring: Liv Tyler & Scott Speedman
US Box-Office: $52 million
Tomatometer: 42% (Rotten; based on 130 reviews) "The Strangers provides a few scares, but offers little else to distinguish itself from other slasher films."

"The Wackness"

Comedy-drama. New York, 1994. A lonely teenager spends his last summer before university selling marijuana – where his clients include his unorthodox psychotherapist.
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Famke Janssen, Olivia Thirlby, Mary-Kate Olsen & Josh Peck
US Box-Office: $1.8 million
Tomatometer: 67% (Fresh; based on 106 reviews) "Sympathetic characters and a clever script help The Wackness overcome a familiar plot to make for a charming coming-of-age comedy."

Merlin, BBC trailer



BBC1's new Saturday night drama is on the horizon. The Beeb have just released their first trailer for fantasy drama Merlin, which will be hitting TV screens and cinemas this weekend.

First impressions? It looks very slick, the gorgeous locations make Robin Hood look quaint in comparison, the glimpses of FX (particularly a dragon voiced by John Hurt) seem good, the cast look the part, the idea of King Uther reigning over a country where magic has been banned is a concept stolen from panto(!), and Colin Morgan seems decent as the eponymous teenage Merlin. The only misstep was the cheesy "keep the magic secret" line at the end. What do you all think?

Merlin will air in the Doctor Who/Robin Hood timeslot for 13 Saturdays, sometime this Autumn.

THE WRONG DOOR 1.1 - "The World's Most Annoying Creature"

"Theatre of the mind" is an underappreciated mechanism of comedy, typically employed by radio DJs and stand-up comedians. It relies, very simply, on audience imagination -- prodded along by a performer's verbal and physical descriptions. Amazingly, everyone gets a different mental image, but everyone laughs because the joke is half their creation. It's personal. People like to have their brains opened and stretched by comedians in this way...

The Wrong Door, BBC Three's latest sketch show, is theatre of the mind's arch-nemesis. The concept is that we're in a parallel universe, where all sorts of craziness takes place routinely: giant robots knock over skyscrapers looking for their keys, fairies embarrass a drunkard, the government create The World's Most Annoying Creature, superheroes have X Factor-style "tryouts", magazines come with free inflatable men, etc.

As the cost of effects plummets, visuals once the domain of Hollywood can be achieved with relative ease, and this sketch show was living proof. It was littered with CGI -- which were enjoyable to watch, making this Three's best attempt at a unique sketch show. Sure, it was awash with indie music (often the sign of a show struggling to entertain with its own material) and its visuals overshadowed the performances, but at least it was different.

Trouble is, while I entertained and giggled throughout, I was mainly enjoying the effects and trying to guess the next CGI-based punchline. That said, the Wrong Door is definitely worth watching and will likely succeed where Tittybangbang and Scallywagga failed. The fact most sketches resemble funny adverts (without the marketing) will make them popular on YouTube, too.

But I can't help thinking: if Lee Evans acted out a scene where a tiny-armed Tyrannosaurs Rex called Philip was taken home to meet its human girlfriend's middle-class parents and vomited on her granny, it would be funnier than actually seeing a computer-generated T-Rex do the same.


28 August 2008
BBC Three, 10.30 pm

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Nathan Fillion: King Of The Castle


Comedy crime drama Castle, starring geek favourite Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Stana Katic and Molly Quinn, has been ordered to season by ABC. The show is about Nick Castle (Fillion), a murder mystery writer who teams up with the NYPD to catch a copycat killer replicating scenes from his books.

When I first heard about the pilot my expectations weren't high. That was basically because the "copycat killer" aspect hadn't been revealed. At the time, I couldn't fathom why a crime writer would be of any use to real cops. But, having a spate of murders based on his books is a nice little twist. But where can they take it when the killer's inevitably caught?

Anyway, I'm sure Fillion's fans will be glad to see him headlining another TV show. The poor guy's never found a project that's clicked. Firefly was axed by Fox, the film spin-off Serenity underachieved at the box-office, horror-comedy Slither was a turkey, Fox cancelled Drive after a few episodes, nobody saw White Noise 2, etc. Hopefully Castle will reach an audience, and Fillion's run of bad luck will come to an end…

Big Brother 9: Share


Remember BB4's live tasks on Saturdays? They were very exciting in principle, but plagued by erratic pacing and a general feeling of uncertainty, as the Endemol crew tried desperately to ensure things run smoothly and they hit the ad breaks. No wonder they got rid of them… until now…

On Wednesday, a "twist" arrived in the BB9 house. The remaining housemates had to nominate in front of each other, on live TV. Each housemate wrote two names on a piece of card and held it up for all to see. It was like The Weakest Link, basically. Of course, the housemates were aghast at the imposed "cruelty" -- but should probably have been happy they weren't asked to give reasons for their noms. That would surely have been the really toe-curling bit. They should have done nominations as usual earlier in the day, and then played the Diary Room footage through to the house.

A missed opportunity was the best way to summarize this live special, really. The public nominations were slightly uncomfortable (mainly for the housemates), but not as vicious as hoped. The two housemates with the most nominations were up for Friday's eviction: Lisa and Sara. The evening's main twist was to give the apparent "losers" a chance of winning a "life-changing sum of money"…

Continuing the Las Vegas theme of the week's shopping budget task, Lisa and Sara were sent to the Task Room to participate in a game. As the housemates watched on the plasma screen, Lisa and Sara were told that they had a chance to win £50,000. Sitting opposite, each had two signs ("SHARE" and "TAKE"). If they both held up TAKE, neither of them would get the cash. If they both held up SHARE, they would each receive £25,000. If the result was mixed, the person who chose TAKE would pocket the entire £50,000.

After a minute's deliberation (where they were allowed to lie to each other) both agreed to hold up SHARE. And they did. To cries of joy, each walk away with £25k. That will certainly pay for Lisa and Mario's wedding, and keep Sara in cigarettes 'till… ooh, October? There was also an element of karma here, as bullied Sara was justly rewarded following Rex and Darnell's odious name-calling on Tuesday.

However, I think you'll agree, this was a disappointing waste of a good idea. It would have been more interesting to see any combination of the men take part in that game. It was just too obvious Sara and Lisa would share. What would have happened in a Rex vs. Darnell game? Or Mo vs. Rex? Darnell vs. Mo? Hmm. It's all far less predictable with the men. The only combination less thrilling than Lisa vs. Sara would have been Kat vs. Rachel. Zzzz. Couldn't BB have worked out the most likely participants using last week's nominations?

Like I said, a missed opportunity -- but hopefully the game will resurface in a future series, and be played by people who don't like each other. Sara vs. Darnell would have been very exciting to see play out. Oh well.


17 August 2008
Channel 4, 9.00 pm & 11.05pm

Dave Lister on Dave

Following on from Robert Llewellyn's suggestion the BBC are about to make a one-off Red Dwarf special, it seems that's not quite the case. The Sun reports that the cast will reunite soon -- but only to make 4 half-hour specials, for broadcast on Dave next year. The specials will combine new material with classic footage. So yes, clip-shows to celebrate 21 years of the sci-fi sitcom.

I know this news comes from The Sun (a purveyor of showbiz bullshit), but it does sound much more likely to me -- if only because it'll be cheap and easy to make. It's a shame Red Dwarf won't be given a chance to end properly (or at least answer season 8's cliffhanger!), but there you go. I'm sure it'll still be fun to see the gang back together.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

No Heroics



Strange. This wasn't on my radar at all. No Heroics, a sitcom set in a world where practically everyone is a superhero. The series will focus on a bar frequented by off-duty superheroes like The Hotness, Electroclash, She-Force and Praying Mantis.

Reasons to be excited: (1) it stars some fairly talented people (Nicholas Burns and Claire Keelan from Nathan Barley; Patrick Baladi from The Office; James Lance from I'm Alan Partridge), (2) superheroes are white-hot right now, thanks to Heroes and The Dark Knight, (3) the above trailer looks quite amusing at times.

Reasons to be nervous: (1) it's created/written by an exec-producer of High Spirits With Shirley Ghostman and Lip Service, (2) it starts on 6 September and nobody's even heard about it 'till now, (3) it's on ITV2, (4) superhero spoofs are unoriginal and quite predictable, (5) it's on ITV2.

Still, worth checking out. I think. The jokes in the trailer are quite "obvious"... but the effects look half-decent, the costumes are appropriately naff, James Lance actually looks pretty funny, and at least it's fresh content for ITV2. Did I mention it's on ITV2?

Doctor Who: Coming To America

You have to admire Doctor Who's publicity department. The continual drip-feed of news and rumours about DW makes the months of waiting between seasons and specials much easier to bare. The News Of The World has reported that two of the 2009 specials will be filmed in America.

A "BBC insider" had this to say:

"Doctor Who already has a huge following in the States. It’s on The Sci-Fi Channel and is watched by millions of people there every week. But two specials in America, with a US setting and a US assistant, will take it to another level. David Tennant is already gaining a huge following and this will make him really hot property. [Russell T. Davies] is determined to go out with a bang and the specials will be explosive. We're spending much more money on them than normal."

Now, anything you hear about DW has to be taken lightly. Our tabloids are notorious for making up showbiz news (did you hear about Cher as Catwoman?), so they have a field day with a British product the masses care about. That said, it would make sense to do something on this scale. I already assumed the specials would be bigger budget, but the increase in production time will leave room for location filming abroad and suchlike, too. And that would really help expand the scope of the show.

BBC Wales have done extremely well to find interesting British locations, forgiving the dominance of London/Cardiff and tendency for adventures to take place indoors (on spaceships, satellites, etc). The UK doesn't really have the variety of scenery and climates to make DW appear truly global on TV. I really enjoyed "The Fires Of Pompeii", where the crew traveled to Italy to film -- it immediately gave the whole episode a sense of realism.

So, let's hope this comes true. I'm sure American fans will get a kick out of seeing The Doctor on US soil, and hopefully the writers will make the most of the opportunity. Can you imagine a DW episode set in modern-day New York (forget the greenscreen of "Daleks In Manhattan"), the Nevada Desert, or the Florida Everglades. Or, hey, what about San Francisco?! Oh, hang on…

Big Brother 9: Slut


Wave bye-bye to that £100,000, Darnell. I never thought you'd win BB9 with that huge chip on your shoulder, but now I'm not even sure you'll be in the final 4! The albino grump sealed his fate by making spiteful, rude remarks to Aussie Sara. He "jokingly" estimated she'd slept with 63 men, called her an "ugly bitch" and inferred to the other housemate she's a slut. What a guy!

Now, in all fairness, I can understand why men would suspect Sara's "been around the block", shall we say. She does have a trashy, promiscuous air about her. Of course, you can't judge a book by its cover, so I'd never claim to know that was the case. And even if I did, I wouldn't be so ungentlemanly to call someone a slut to their face -- even on the shaky grounds of "having a laugh".

What's distressing about BB9 this year is how dominant characters trample all over their fellow housemates, and nobody sticks up for the harassed. As Darnell continued to bait Sara to the housemates on the sofas (suggesting she'd definitely be the one to flash her breasts for £1 million), Kat looked on in shock, Lisa's face never changed expression (surprise), and Rachel just looked bewildered that someone could even be that rude.

Did anyone stick up for Sara, or tell Darnell to shut up? No. In the house this year, people get away with awful behaviour and housemates are left to huddle together for post-row support in the bedroom or ashtray. While it was nice of Kat to lend Sara a shoulder to cry on in the walk-in wardrobe afterwards, it's a shame she lacks the courage (and, let's face it, vocal clarity) to fight her friend's corner when she needs the back-up.

But I expect Kat and Rachel to sit in silence, really. Both are in cloud cuckoo land half the time and never want to cause problems, or get involved in squabbles. But Lisa? A tough, brassy, northern bodybuilder who once stood up to Rex and silenced him? Where was she? It seems she's just too loved-up over getting engaged to Mario to really care now, as the finishing line approaches.

From Sara's discussion with Big Brother in the Diary Room, it sounded like the producers were ready to issue Darnell (and Rex and Mo for that matter) a formal warning over their spiteful comments. I don't think Sara realized that offer was being made, or maybe she was too proud to take it. She strikes me as the kind of girl used to fighting her own battes. But I hope Big Brother has a quiet word to the guys, anyway...

Isn't it strange how often BB housemates start showing their "true colours" in the final weeks, though? They'd do well to keep up whatever "act" they've managed to settle into for months. Darnell was quite a perceptive, intriguing "outcast" in the early days. Yes, he was always highly-strung and loudmouthed -- but not really malicious. How times change. I think he carries a lot of baggage around with him. He has issues.

Okay, it's pseudo-psychology time: maybe Darnell's so used to being a pariah (because of his albinism) that he's comfortable being a shunned outcast. Consequently, he'll happily attack Sara on national TV to get himself hated by housemates and viewers. It's easier for him to ostracize himself and not have to deal with the house "bullshit", because the alternative is opening up to people properly. I feel sorry for him. It all stems from him being "shunned" by Sara for Stu weeks ago, but he's a grown man -- so that's no excuse. He should definitely be evicted this week. As Sara said to Kat shortly after the argument, once Darnell's outside, watches the VT, and get unbiased feedback from viewers, he'll hopefully apologize for his bad attitude.


Channel 4/E4, various

THE MIDDLEMAN 1.10 - "The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation"

Writer: Andy Reaser
Director: Sandy Smolan

Cast: Natalie Morales (Wendy Watson), Matt Keeslar (The Middleman), Mary Pat Gleason (Ida), Brit Morgan (Lacey Thornfield), Jake Smollett (Noser), Drew Tyler Bell (Pip), Annabelle Milne (Jamie), Boris Kievsky (Oliver), Fred Ochs (Chaplain), Scarlett Chorvat (Irena Dubrovna), Sadie Stratton (Elizabeth Rousset), John O'Brien (Newscaster), Gideon Emery (Vladdy), Sean Davis (Joe 90), Jason Chambers (Anvil), Steve Valentine (Nikolas Pherides), Vic Chao (Dr. Judd) & Rob Nagle (Renfield Rehnquist)

The Middleman
If you want to help Mr. Noser right now, you'll dedicate yourself
-- mind, body, and soul -- to preventing undead creatures of the
night from rising from the grave to suck him dry.

Wendy
You don't talk to other humans much, do you?

While it's still great to see The Middleman keeping its characters central -- the teaser finds Wendy (Natalie Morales) discussing Lacey's (Brit Morgan) sex dreams about her ex-boyfriend Pip (Drew Tyler Bell) -- "The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation" is unfortunately very muddled and doesn't do justice to a fun idea…

In this Child's Play-style episode, The Middleman (Matt Keeslar) is out to stop the spirit of Vlad The Impaler regaining physical form. It turns out the real-life inspiration for Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (evidently a real vampire) was imprisoned inside his ventriloquist puppet Little Vladdy after his death. Now, centuries later, he's making a bid for freedom by controlling the body of an auctioneer selling Vlad memorabilia.

The simple idea of a puppet controlling the body of its puppeteer is an enjoyable twist on the "haunted doll" idea -- most famously portrayed in Magic (1978) and the aforementioned Child's Play/Chucky films. Writer Andy Reaser definitely finds himself an imaginative, oddly humorous and slightly creepy idea -- but the script doesn't push much beyond your own imagination. There's not enough vampirism on display and the solution to the problem is too swift and easy considering we're dealing with "Dracula".

Most bothersome is how the sub-plots prove distracting, and strain to eventually connect with the A-story. I have a lot of affection for Brit Morgan's appealing performances as Lacey, but this episode asks us to accept she suddenly has a strange affection for Pip -- the dislikable ex-boyfriend of her best-friend Wendy, whose actions in previous episodes have been reprehensible. It all smacks of the writers being forced to hook up two characters (no matter how unlikely) because there just isn't time to introduce someone new for Lacey. Even worse, the Lacey/Pip coupling is over with by the time the credits roll, so the whole thing just made Lacey look silly and easily swayed by good-looks. To compensate slightly, the Lacey and The Middleman's "true love" is returned to in earnest, but it's too little too late.

The disappearance of Noser (Jake Smollett) is another aspect of the episode that didn't work -- as Lacey and Pip are trying to find out why the bohemian guitarist has vanished. Unbelievably, his story ties in with the Vlad storyline by revealing Noser's a closet ventriloquist of great fame. Sorry, but that just didn't click for me. I'm willing to bet Noser's convenient hobby is never mentioned ever again on the show, as it was purely in service to this episode.

Still, " The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation" has some memorable moments. The sudden possession of a kooky Tarot card reader at a party was amusing, there were the usual smattering of witticisms throughout, a sequence involving Little Vladdy transforming into a bat and dragging his puppeteer into the sky was delightfully bonkers, and the endearing performances continue to prevent The Middleman from becoming a bore.

After such a strong run of episodes recently, this is an unfortunate return to the haphazard tone that typified earlier stories, but its entertaining premise and several quirky moments keep it watchable.


18 August 2008
ABC Family, 10/9c pm

Stars in your eyes

The eagle-eyed may have noticed DMD now has "star ratings" for readers! Yes, that's right -- you can now "rate" every post on a scale of 1-star (awful) to 5-stars (excellent).

I only intended to make this option available on my TV/film reviews (as interactive feedback), but it was beyond my skill to make the rating system that specific. So, they're on every post published. Which is fine. It means you can show your love/hatred for a piece of reported media news, a trailer, an interview, a web-link, or just my quality of writing! Go mad!

As far as I can tell, the star-ratings are working perfectly on Firefox2/3 and Internet Explorer 6. Actually, in a rare quirk, the stars look better in MSIE than Firefox (less squashed at the bottom, for some reason). If you have MSIE7 or another browser, I'd be grateful if you could let me know if the stars aren't visible, or don't work, in the comments section below.

Finally, the stars aren't visible in my RSS feed -- so you won't see them if you read DMD through Bloglines, Pageflakes, Google Feedreader, etc. You have to visit the actual website to add your personal rating. Hopefully this new interactive addition will prove interesting and fun for everyone. It's quicker than leaving a comment, too. And I'm looking forward to seeing if my own star-ratings gel with my readers!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

'80s RETRO: The Fly (1986)

Director: David Cronenberg
Writers: Charles Edward Pogue & David Cronenberg (based on a short story by George Langelaan)

Cast: Jeff Goldblum (Seth Brundle), Geena Davis (Veronica Quaife), John Getz (Stathis Borans), Joy Boushel (Tawny), Leslie Carlson (Dr. Brent Cheevers), George Chuvalo (Marky) & David Cronenberg (Gynaecologist)

A textbook example of how to properly remake a film, David Cronenberg's 1986 re-conceptualization of a 1958 B-movie (itself inspired by a short story) is an operatic tragedy and body-horror classic. Jeff Goldblum stars as Seth Brundle, eccentric scientist extraordinaire, who meets science-journo Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) at a party and decides to impress her by demonstrating his teleportation system back at his dilapidated warehouse abode. How's that for suave?

Awed by the revolution in global transport Seth's machine represents, Veronica's eager to tell the world -- until Seth reveals the fatal flaw of his "telepods": they can't transport fleshy people. After persuading her to hold off publishing an article about his invention, Seth allows Veronica to document his search for a breakthrough in organic teleportation, and the two fall head-over-heels in love in the process.

Unfortunately, during a spur-of-the-moment trip through the telepods while alone one night, Seth doesn't notice a stowaway in his pod: a housefly. Now genetically-fused with the insect and consequently endowed with great strength, stamina and dexterity (which he wrongly attributes to a "purification" side-effect), Seth's relationship with Veronica falls apart just as quickly as his body -- which disintegrates and gradually starts to morph into that of a fly.

Sci-fi horror concepts don't come much juicier or hideously compelling, and Cronenberg's particular fascination with the human body and insects makes The Fly tailor-made for his passions. It's very hard to imagine a more perfect marriage of director and subject-matter, as the cheesiness of the 1958 original is repackaged by Cronenberg into a tense, emotional, gruesome spectacle.

Goldblum's gangly scientist is one of his finest screen roles, before his curious inflection and irregular speech patterns became part-and-parcel of every Goldblum performance. Specific to The Fly, it helps that there's already something bug-like about Goldblum (watch for his darting eyes in the opening scene), and Seth's physical decay is poignantly handled by the actor from under a body-suit of increasingly grotesque make-up.

Davis is a perfect romantic fit for Goldblum; being an actress of similar attitude and idiosyncrasy she makes for a plausible, sympathetic lover. Her reactions to the spiralling events are believable, too -- well, ignoring the moment she agrees to accompany nutty stranger Seth back to his spooky warehouse, which would send most ordinary women running. Fortunately, Seth didn't want to test the sharpness of an axe under his bed. More importantly, you can sense the connection between the pair and Veronica's disgust, fear and sadness over Seth's situation is handled well by Davis.

The Fly is practically a two-hander between Goldblum and Davis, punctuated by few diversions beyond Seth's lab (a woman Seth "wins" in an arm wrestle, a maggot birth nightmare -- complete with Cronenberg cameo). The only other actor of note is John Getz (Stathis Borans), Veronica's slimy ex-boyfriend and magazine boss. Oddly, Stathis starts the picture as an unlikeable creep and becomes something of a hero towards the end, almost by accident.

For gorehounds, The Fly is a noteworthy entry in the "body horror" sub-genre that proliferated in the '80s, and the effects work from Chris Walas (who went on to direct risible '89 sequel, The Fly II) is another component of the film's overall success. The make-up and camera trickery are all great, and Walas' animatronic man-fly of the finale (with its sad, blinking bug-eyes) is a solid reminder of how practical effects are often more fun than photo-real CGI.

Overall, The Fly is a wonderful film where director, actors, premise and design all pulled together to craft a modern sci-fi classic. Howard Shore's bold score is also very majestic and exciting; no wonder he and Cronenberg collaborated on a stage opera of this film in '08. The Fly is grungy and weird enough to retain a mostly cult following after 2 decades, but its B-movie premise and intermittent gore never obscures the film's aim to show us a compelling, self-destructive, doomed romance.


20th Century Fox
Budget: $15 million
95 minutes

Back to the Dwarf?


Red Dwarf star Robert Llewellyn attended a 20th anniversary bash at PBS station KTSC-TV and told the American crowd that the BBC are planning to shoot a one-hour Red Dwarf special in October! The popular sci-fi comedy started in 1988 and ran for 8 seasons until 1999. In recent years, co-creator Doug Naylor has been trying to get a big-screen version made, but the project never found much momentum.

This special would tie-in with the show's 21st anniversary, so it does seem appropriate. But, who knows how true this is. I'd personally like to see another Red Dwarf, even though the show spiritually died after season 6. The last two seasons, particularly the seventh, were atrocious. A great example of what happens when a co-writer (in this case Rob Grant) decides to move on, a principle actor (Chris Barrie) jumps ship for awhile, and they mess with the concept (by introducing new character Kochanski).

Red Dwarf always worked best with slob Lister and anally-retentive Rimmer as a space-age "odd couple", in a lonely environment with no women. I understand TV shows tend to evolve (Dwarf undoubtedly improved with its own season 3 revamp), but once it abandoned its core premise -- even going so far as to resurrected the long-dead crew in season 8, the show just died for me. They even "re-mastered" old episodes and made the eponymous ship into a red CGI dildo! Terrible.

That said, you have no idea how huge Red Dwarf was for me back in the '90s. I had the videos (including the two Smeg Ups outtakes), the excellent novels (that mixed the storylines of some episodes into a fresh narrative), T-shirts, issues of the official magazine, everything. If they'd thought to release action figures, I'd have bought them. At school, we even used to make hologram H's in woodwork class, by cutting up sticky-backed plastic with the band-saw. This was before girls.

Consequently, the drop in quality after season 6 (which I remember thinking was itself weaker than season 1-5 at the time) really hit me hard. Beyond a few amusing lines and sequences, season 7 and 8 were god-awful and forgot what made Red Dwarf so great.

If this hour-long special really does happen, they'll sadly have to continue with the season 8 set-up (repopulated ship, Kochanski part of the gang), but hopefully they'll use the opportunity to reverse the damage (i.e., kill the crew and get rid of Kochanski), and just leave Lister and Rimmer as bickering bed-bunkers forever...

Modern Sherlock


Sherlock Holmes is the current hot ticket in TV and film. Guy Ritchie (Snatch) is preparing a revamp of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective (based on an upcoming graphic novel), a comedy is on the way with Sacha Baron Cohen as Holmes and Will Ferrel as Dr. Watson, and now a contemporary version is being made by Doctor Who showrunner Stephen Moffat and The League Of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss.

Moffat and Gatiss have each written one episode of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, and a pilot is being made by Hartswood Films for the BBC. Interestingly, this is the second time Moffat has updated a Victorian character for modern times (following Jekyll) and Gatiss has often written stories revolving around the Victorian period -- like his Who episode "The Unquiet Dead".

If a series is greenlit for next year, Gatiss will become showrunner, but Moffat will focus on Doctor Who for 2010's fifth season.

This certainly sounds like an interesting proposal, if only because of Moffat and Gatiss' involvement. Jekyll was a very enjoyable and unpredictable update, and I'm intrigued by the idea of doing the same for Sherlock Holmes. But, by making it contemporary, don't you immediately lose Sherlock's iconic look (although his pipe and violin could stay)? Will it retain the sense of "Victoriana" everyone associates with the character? And with so many modern detectives owing something to the Sherlock/Watson partnership, will it stand out from the crowd in a contemporary setting? Or will it be just another murder mystery, albeit one with famous names and wry nods to the novels ("Elementary, my dear Watson", Baker Street, Professor Moriarty, etc.)

Lots of questions, to be sure. But, I think we're in safe hands here.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Tim Kring talks Heroes season 3


Creator Tim Kring has been speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, and he let slip a few details about season 3 of Heroes. Apparently, "Volume III: Villains" will last 13 episodes and be immediately followed by "Volume IV: Fugitives", which will run for 12 episodes.

Make of that what you will, but it suggests characters will be on the run from authority figures of some kind. I'd like to think the world will be made aware of super-powered people, and force the "specials" underground, a la X-Men.

Kring also mentioned that, if the writers' strike hadn't forced the premature end of season 2, the second half of season 2 would have been called "Volume III: Exodus". He also mentioned fans won't learn anything more about Kaitlin (Peter's Irish girlfriend, last seen ditched in a "possible future"), we will see more of Echo deMille (the postman with sound manipulation abilities, originated in the recent webisodes), and plans are afoot for invisible man Claude to return (once scheduling conflicts with Christopher Ecclestone have been sorted out). Update: Digital Spy have the video of Kring confirming the above here.

Heroes' third season premieres 22 September on NBC.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Doctor Who: The Movie - Coming Soon?

David Tennant: star of a Doctor Whovie?

Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Doctor Who's new showrunner Steven Moffat revealed his thoughts on a possible big-screen version of the hit show:

"As long as it was great and fantastic then yeah. But a film is on [for] 90 minutes and that is not as important as the series. But as long as it doesn't get in the way of the show we could do it."

Moffat also revealed that Steven Spielberg (who hired him to write three Tintin films), was very gracious in allowing him to leave the project for Who, having only written the first film. Spielberg apparently told Moffat:

"The world would be a poorer place without Doctor Who."

He also had a word for anyone who posted massive spoilers on the internet:

"Shut up, just shut up. It is easy to find out what's going on with the show. We virtually publish the scripts and we film in public. But in giving things away you become that bore in the pub who delivers the punchline of a joke a second before it is delivered."

Interestingly, he also addressed the idea of a casting a much older actor as The Doctor:

"The show is really tough for a super-fit David Tennant, so you might kill somebody who takes on the role in their 60s. For Doctor Who to turn into an old man you'd be pissed off. Even [original Doctor] William Hartnell had trouble back then. He was often ill and he forgot his lines. I think the Doctor will always be about 40."

I guess that ends speculation about 59-year-old Bill Nighy one day assuming the mantle. Well, unless Moffat's eventual successor thinks otherwise.

In the meantime, can you imagine how huge Doctor Who would be in the UK as a big-budget movie? Even if they pumped a relatively modest £13 million into the film (approximately the cost of a whole season), they'd definitely make that back from UK and European box-office alone, without having to worry about "cracking" America to make ends meet. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before Who hits the multiplex.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

UK TV lineup: Autumn 2008

There's so much talk about American TV around the world. It's dispiriting to find yourself more excited about a foreign country's output than your own. To redress the balance a little, here are some home-grown TV shows heading our way this Autumn, that I think will be worth checking out...

The Devil's Whore (Channel 4) Dominic West (The Wire) stars in this English Civil War drama as Oliver Cromwell. Co-stars John Simm (Edward Sexby) and Peter Capaldi (King Charles I). Written by Peter Flannery (Our Friends In The North)

James May's Big Ideas (BBC2) The Top Gear presenter takes a trip around the world to investigate supposedly zany ideas; like can you build an elevator to the stars?

The Last Van Helsing (ITV1) Six-part horror drama starring Philip Glenister (Life On Mars/Ashes To Ashes) as CIA operative Rupert Galvin, who mentors Luke Forsythe (Christian Cooke) -- a British 17-year-old descended from vampire hunter Van Helsing. Co-starring Mackenzie Crook. Written by Peter Tabern and Lucy Watkins (Hex) with Howard Overman (Hotel Babylon).

Merlin (BBC1) 13-part Saturday evening drama focusing on the young life of wizard Merlin (Colin Morgan) and his dealings with a young King Arthur (Bradley James). Co-stars Richard Wilson (Gaius), Anthony Head (King Uther), Kate McGrath (Morgana), Angel Coulby (Guinevere), Santiago Cabrera (Lancelot), Michelle Ryan (Nimueh), Eve Myles (Mary Collins), Julian Rhind-Tutt (Edwin Muirden) & Will Mellor (Valiant).

Oceans (BBC1) Another flagship natural history documentary series, as a team investigate the world's oceans to uncover strange creatures, shipwrecks and underwater landscapes. Presented by explorer Paul Rose, environmentalist Philippe Cousteau Jr, maritime archaeologist Dr Lucy Blue and marine biologist Tooni Mahto.

Stephen Fry In America (BBC1) The genial egghead drives across the USA, encountering Zulus in New Orleans, Sioux Nation drummers in South Dakota, and much more.

Survivors (BBC1)
13-part remake of the classic '70s sci-fi series, set in a post-apocalyptic Britain after a virus wipes out 99.9% of the world's population. Executive-produced by Adrian Hodges (Primeval), starring Max Beesley (Hotel Babylon), Julie Graham (Bonekickers) and Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who).

Sunshine! (BBC1) Sitcom written by Craig Cash (The Royle Family), starring Steve Coogan, Bernard Hill & Caroline Ahearne, focusing on three generations of the gambling-addicted Crosby family.

Wallander (BBC1) Kenneth Branaugh stars as quick-witted Swedish detective Kurt Wallander, in a three-part series based on the novels by Henning Mankell.

Wire In The Blood (ITV1) Sixth series of the crime thriller, starring Robson Greene as clinical psychologist Tony Hill, who has to investigate a case of cannibalism.

This is by no means a definitive list, but it gives you a flavour of what to expect in the next few months.

The BBC iPlayer gets "stacked"

The BBC will start offering "series stacking" on their popular iPlayer service. "Stacking" means viewers will be able to watch ALL episodes of a currently airing TV series. The BBC Trust has enforced a restriction, so stacking will only be available on 15% of its on-demand programs. A maximum of 13 episodes will also be available per series, not an entire back-catalogue.

The first shows to be "stacked" will include fantasy drama Merlin, costume drama Tess Of The d'Urbervilles, Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit and post-apocalyptic drama Survivors.

The new initiative begins on 13 September.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Lost casting call & Torchwood writers

A casting call for two new Lost characters has been released:

Darlene: early-20s, any ethnicity. A bored clerk who hates her sucky job and looks for any burst of excitement to get through the shift. Alternative in dress and style, plays guitar in her own band but needs the day job to pay the bills.

Jill: late-20s to late-30s; any ethnicity. A butcher who is one hard-as-nails cool chick. A tomboy, bit of a searcher, and highly competent beyond her station in life.

More details about Torchwood's five-episode long third season, "Children Of Earth", have also come out: Russell T. Davies is writing 3 episodes, James Moran ("Sleeper") is writing one, and Whoniverse newcomer John Fay (Robin Hood's "Lardner's Ring") the other. The photo above shows regular Eve Myles on set with actor Paul Copley. An extra has also confirmed the appearance of Noel Clarke as Mickey Smith.

Box Office Charts: w/e 22 August 2008



In the US: Ben Stiller's war comedy "TROPIC THUNDER" is the movie that finally knocks The Dark Knight off the #1 spot, despite widespread protesting over the film's use of language... "STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS" becomes the first theatrically-released Star Wars flop, with audience apathy over this CGI cartoon meaning it debuts at #3... Kiefer Sutherland's horror "MIRRORS" fails to scare up much business, in at #4... while Woody Allen's latest, "VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA" starring muse Scarlett Johansson, is a veritable turkey at #10 with a meagre $3 haul...

US TOP 10

(-) 1. Tropic Thunder $25.8m
(1) 2. The Dark Knight $16.4m [review]
(-) 3. Star Wars: The Clone Wars $14.6m
(-) 4. Mirrors $11.2m
(2) 5. Pineapple Express $9.81m
(3) 6. The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor $8.21m
(6) 7. Mamma Mia! $6.1m
(4) 8. The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2 $5.79m
(5) 9. Step Brothers $4.81m
(-) 10. Vicky Christina Barcelona $3.76m




In the UK: We may have been distracted by The Mummy last week, but The Dark Knight returns to the top spot thanks to poor word-of-mouth for the Brendan Fraser flick... Adam Sandler comedy "YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN" does quite well to take #3... likewise "WILD CHILD", which still breaks the £1m barrier despite bad reviews... but only die-hard fans turn out for "STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS", with the CGI sci-fi flopping in at #6...

UK TOP 10

(2) 1. The Dark Knight £2.3m [review]
(3) 2. Mamma Mia! £2.2m
(-) 3. You Don't Mess With The Zohan £1.5m
(1) 4. The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor £1.4m
(-) 5. Wild Child £1.1m
(-) 6. Star Wars: The Clone Wars £895k
(4) 7. WALL•E £783k
(9) 8. Space Chimps £230k
(8) 9. Kung Fu Panda £223k
(6) 10. Singh Is Kinng £178k


UK RELEASES THIS WEEK

Get Smart

Comedy: A dimwit secret agent helps a more-competent, sexy agent defeat an evil corporation.
Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin & Terence Stamp
US Box Office: $128 million
Tomatomer: 52% (Fresh) "Get Smart rides Steve Carell's considerable charm for a few laughs, but in the end is a rather ordinary summer comedy..."

Somers Town

Comedy-drama: Two teenage newcomers to London start an unlikely friendship over a hot summer.
Starring: Thomas Turgoose, Piotr Jagiello, Elisa Lasowski, Ireneusz Czop & Kate Dickie