Sunday, 31 January 2010

Game: Minimalist Posters

I love the vogue for minimalist poster design online, where fans have created their own unfussy posters, using only a few colours and shapes to communicate the identity of a TV show/film. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to compile some based on TV shows, but turn it into a game by erasing the titles and letting you guess the identity of each show the poster's advertising. To get you started, the poster at the top of this post is for Dexter (those are blood slides, get it?) But can you guess the ones below? The first person to identify all nine wins bragging rights.










CAPRICA 1.2 - "Rebirth"

WRITER: Mark Verheiden
DIRECTOR: Jonas Pate
GUEST CAST: Philip Granger, Avan Jogia, Hiro Kanagawa, Scott Porter, Polly Walker & Dale Wolfe
[SPOILERS] There are many things to enjoy, appreciate and admire about Caprica at this embryonic stage. The acting's strong, the production design's exemplary, the visual effects are fantastic, the characters show promise, Bear McCreary's score's wonderful (I also like the opening titles), and there are some interesting themes and ideas swirling around. But, despite all that, I can't help feeling I've seen one too many stories about people stuck in artificial bodies to be fully engaged with the show just yet -- despite Caprica's twist that the "ghost in the machine" is very literal, if digital...

But, I'm going to persevere with an open mind -- mainly because I can't believe the writers involved would devise a show with such a limited idea at its core. We can't really be in for years of parental grief and existential hand-wringing, can we? "Rebirth" wasn't overly concerned with progressing the storylines started in the "Pilot" that far, as it felt more like a reaction to episode 1's feature-length opener, further entrenching us in this fascinating world; an alien planet dressed up like the retro-futuristic Greece. It's stunning to look at and easy to lose yourself in the idea you're on another world that's both comfortable and deliciously foreign.

The main storyline this week involved Zoe, now inhabiting a Cylon robot body and having to endure various tests by her father's assistants, while secretly keeping in touch with her best friend Lacy (Magda Apanowicz). Speaking of whom, Lacy was invited to have dinner with her schoolteacher Sister Clarice (Polly Walker), who it's revealed is married to multiple wives and husbands (funny, polygamy was never once mentioned in Battlestar Galactica). It feels likely that Clarice is going to manipulate Lacy into doing what she wants, now Zoe's blown herself up for "the cause", and perhaps intends to use her youngest, hunkiest hubbie Nestor (Scott Porter) to keep her student sweet.

Elsewhere, lawyer Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) spent the episode trying to get in touch with Zoe's billionaire father Daniel (Eric Stoltz), to offload his fears about the virtual daughter Daniel created in the Holo-band to "replace" his own dead offspring -- but Daniel was too busy trying to distract himself to take his calls. His wife Amanda (Paula Malcomson) also came to realize that her dead daughter had a private life she was unaware of: learning from a detective that Zoe had a boyfriend – Ben Stark (Avan Jogia), the bomber; before coming to believe Zoe was involved with the monotheistic "Soldiers Of One" religious cult (correctly) and thus responsible for the MAGLEV train bombing (incorrectly). Amanda, unfortunately, makes the latter suspicion into a bold statement of fact during a very public, televised memorial service...

There was also an intriguing bit of business with young William Adama (Sina Najafi), who had a day out with his Uncle Sam (Sasha Roiz) and was immediately taught some tricks of the trade that have come straight from the criminal bedrock of the Adama dynasty. For William, his uncle's a more appealing father figure right now, in that he at least gives him some time and isn't so emotionally detached.

Overall, "Rebirth" was certainly a good episode in many ways. So far Caprica is proving to be a very intriguing sci-fi family drama that's playing in the universe created by Battlestar Galactica. I really can't fault it on many technical levels, or with its storytelling and performances. It's arrived fully-formed and has a definite confidence about it. But, as I said in my introduction, I'm just not that excited by the whole "teenage girl stuck in a robot's body" notion[*], which would appear to be the backbone of the whole series.

And I know Zoe's been written as someone who was very distant from her parents, but wouldn't you tell your father you're trapped in one of his robots? But if she did, then what happens? I suppose it's a good thing that Caprica feels so unpredictable right now, but I can't help worrying that there's not enough of a big incentive to tune in every week -- not helped by the fact Battlestar Galactica has already shown us where the broader Cylon story is destined to lead, and how it will end a half century from now.

29 JANUARY 2010: SYFY, 9/8c

[*] Speaking of which, how do we feel about the visual gimmick of Zoe's robot body sometimes being perceived as Zoe in her human form by us, the viewers? I don't see that they had another option (if only to save money having to animate that CGI Cylon), but the nitpicker in me hates how other actors have to adjust their eyeline because human-Zoe's petite compared to the giant robot-Zoe.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Competition: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs DVD + "The Art & Making Of" Book

Would you like to win a FREE copy of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs on DVD (reviewed here), together with a hardcover copy of The Art & Making Of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs? If so, boy have I got a competition for you!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer the following question:

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs is an amusing movie title that mentions an item of food, but can you change the existing title of a movie to include something edible?
Send me your food-related movie titles by e-mail (one per entrant), and I'll pick the funniest one as the winner. The competition closes on Wednesday 3 February @6PM (GMT), and is only open to residents of the UK and Ireland who haven't won a previous competition at DMD in the last 6 months. Terms & Conditions are otherwise the same as usual and can be read here.

Misfits meet Jonathan Ross

The young cast of Misfits were on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross last night, in case you missed it. They were there to promote the recent DVD release of the teen superhero drama, but them landing a spot on Ross' sofa surely means one of two things: (1) renowned comic book nerd Jonathan Ross is such a fan that he insisted on booking them, or (2) plans are afoot to spread the word about Misfits beyond its niche E4 audience, perhaps by repeating the show on Channel 4...

Anyway, the interview was light but fun. Ross is clearly a Misfits fan and made a point to really sell the show to the studio audience (most of whom were probably unaware of it), and I find it fun to spot the similarities and difference the actors have to their characters. There wasn't much scoop about what series 2 has in store later this year, beyond the fact they start filming in May and Lauren Socha is very excited about what her character (mind-reading Kelly) gets to do...

Incidentally, did anyone else notice that Ross' introduction at the top of the show spoiled Misfits' series 1 mystery about what Nathan's super-power is? Hopefully potential new fans won't remember what Ross said, but should everyone who's seen Misfits take Ross' slipup as confirmation of Nathan's ability?

DOLLHOUSE 2.13 - "Epitaph Two: Return"

WRITERS: Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon & Andrew Chambliss
DIRECTOR: David Solomon
GUEST CAST: Felicia Day, Adair Tishler, Zack Ward, Nate Dushku, Maurissa Tancharoen, Christian Monzon, Brandon Dieter, Noah Harpster, Brandon Molale, Alan Tudyk & Summer Glau
[SPOILERS] It's time for Joss Whedon to put away his dolls and consign them to the attic. Dollhouse comes to a premature end after two short seasons, hobbled from the start by a bad timeslot and network insistence that they launch with a string of episodic stories. The series hit its stride once Whedon was allowed to build a serialized mythology mid-season, to quickly tackle some weighty existential themes. And, ironically, once he was given carte blanche to do whatever he pleased when the show was cancelled a few months ago, Dollhouse became one of the most enjoyable and stimulating sci-fi action shows of the past few years. Dollhouse won't be remembered as fondly as Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel (or even the briefer spark that was Firefly), but it was a more intelligent and mature piece of work in many ways, and at least Whedon managed to tell a complete, if heavily condensed, story...

"Epitaph Two: Return" will be unfathomable to the vast majority of viewers, as it's a sequel to "Epitaph One", which was only available to American audiences who bought the Dollhouse season 1 box-set. But, hey, I'm pretty sure Dollhouse's audience is entirely comprised of fans who are au fait with what's going on.

It's 2020 A.D (one year after the events of "Epitaph One"), where the world has become a dystopian wasteland thanks to Rossum using its remote imprinting technology to erase, amend or replace people's identities en masse against their will. A band of "Actuals" (people still have their original personalities) -- Mag (Felicia Day), Zone (Zack Ward) and Caroline (Adair Tishler) – are rescued from Rossum by the legendary Echo (Eliza Dushku) and Paul (Tahmoh Penikett), who are there to retrieve Topher (Fran Kranz), who's being forced to create a worldwide, cascading mind-wipe. The rescued are taken to the "Safe Haven" commune, where DeWitt (Olivia Williams), Priya (Dichen Lachman) and her young son T (Brandon Dieter) have been living in isolation.

They soon realize that Topher has the ability to create a reversible mind-wipe, effectively restoring everyone to their original mental states, but he needs technology only available inside the abandoned L.A Dollhouse. So, teaming up with Victor (Enver Gjokaj) and his Mad Max-ian team of "tech heads" (people who replace components of their mind with specialist skills, ad hoc), the gang decide to return to the City of Angels war zone, where the street are now stalked by mindless killers known as "Butchers", and hopefully launch a "wiping signal" into the ionosphere from DeWitt's penthouse office...

As finale's go, "Epitaph Two: Return" was entertaining, but obviously lacked the intrigue that its forbearer had because we've already visited this future world. Still, it was fun to see what had happened to various characters a decade from now, despite the fact only Priya and Victor's relationship had actually developed anywhere emotionally engaging. Once the team arrived at the Dollhouse it was a neat surprise to find that Alpha (Alan Tudyk) was already there, having evolved beyond his psychosis to become a trusted ally, but there weren't too many other big surprises. It was an episode of fun nods and moments, really – like Rossum bigwig Harding's (Noah Harpster) lifestyle being one of pure gluttony, growing obese, then simply selecting another well-toned, young body for his mind to inhabit.

The story was quite straight-forward, really, and I wasn't very convinced by Topher's sudden realisation that he could reverse all his damage. This didn't seem feasible, given what we know of the mind-imprinting process. Quite how Topher's device could restore everyone's original personalities was just one of those things you had to go along with, because otherwise there's just no feasible way to give Dollhouse a happy ending. And it was quite an upbeat ending, despite fears Joss Whedon would leave us on a real downer, although quite why Rossum can't just re-wipe everyone Topher saved is something I'm still pondering...

Topher himself became the saviour of the civilisation he'd helped destroy -- sacrificing himself by detonating the pulse while in DeWitt's office -- and it's worth reiterating the fact that Topher's character went from annoying, dislikeable geek in season 1 to a very fun, spirited, and appealing individual in season 2 – having grown a conscience over his actions and, briefly, found love with soulmate Bennett (Summer Glau, who made a cameo in an instructional video.) Topher actually became my favourite character on the show this year, so I was pleased to see him earn redemption here.

I was a little puzzled that Paul had been making unrequited moves on Echo over the years, because wasn't a condition of his healed brain using active architecture that Topher took away his feelings for Echo? Maybe he was still capable of developing those feelings again. I guess. It also felt a little anticlimactic to have Paul killed by a stray bullet during the mission to get to the Dollhouse, but I kind of liked how Echo decided to imprint Paul's personality into her brain during the denouement -– effectively "letting him in" in a far more personal way. It was just a shame that, frankly, the "great love story" between Paul and Echo just never really took flight during the series, which lost this scene a lot of emotional impact the writers intended. I think Penikett and Dushku are just so different (physically and as actors) that it was always difficult to see them as a couple –- especially now, because Paul's romantic story had primarily been focused on Mellie throughout season 2.

Overall, I was entertained but not especially thrilled by "Epitaph Two: Return", but it was a decent way to bring the show to an end. It was just unfortunate that Dollhouse basically had to fill nine episodes with storylines and developments that would otherwise have taken years to evolve more naturally, because recent episodes have felt slightly rushed. But, given the unfortunate behind-the-scenes problems with the network and early cancellation[*], I think Whedon and his writers did an admirable job turning Dollhouse into must-see TV for those clever enough to have sought it out (however ragged the tales became towards the end.) I hope Joss Whedon and his team get a chance to work on a similarly complex and intelligent genre series in the near-future, hopefully on cable television as rumoured.

But what did you make of this episode, and Dollhouse in general? Are you glad it ended like it did, or was this a disappointment to you?

29 JANUARY 2010: FOX, 9/8c

[*] Although I think it's worth remembering that, bad timeslot aside, Fox did renew Dollhouse for another season (despite bad ratings and poor DVD sales), they gave Whedon's team enough time to complete his story, and they aired all the remaining episodes. A better timeslot may have helped, but I think it was ultimately a clear-cut case that Dollhouse didn't appeal to many people, beyond Whedonites and sci-fi aficionados.

Foreign Objects: TV Burp Australia

There's something about foreign versions of beloved TV shows that's very compelling to me. I'm not ashamed to admit I became fascinated by the Greek version of Deal Or No Deal a few years ago while on holiday. I think it's the closest we'll ever come to stepping into a parallel universe, really. So here's the Australian version of Harry Hill's TV Burp, hosted by actor/DJ Ed Kavalee. The general humour seems the same, the set's similar, the use of clips is identical, but there doesn't seem to be as much spirit to proceedings. I think TV Burp is so entwined with Harry Hill's brand of madcap humour that it's difficult to translate with someone else. A few more clips from the show can be seen below, after the jump:

FRINGE 2.14 - "The Bishop Revival"

WRITERS: Glen Whitman & Robert Chiappetta
DIRECTOR: Adam Davidson
GUEST CAST: Lauren Attadia, Aaron Brooks, Magda Harout, Dan Joffre, Nancy Linari, Al Miro, Leonard Tenisci, Max Train & Brendan Zub
[SPOILERS] Fringe plays the "infection card" far too often for my liking, but "The Bishop Revival" nevertheless felt a lot stronger and became more complex than I was expecting from the teaser, where a Jewish family wedding descended into chaos when fourteen of the groom's guests died of asphyxiation at their well-ventilated venue, seconds after an elderly lady appeared to point the finger at a suspicious stranger lurking nearby...

Olivia (Anna Torv), Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Walter (John Noble) are inevitably called in to investigate the tragedy, with Walter eventually coming to believe that somebody released a virus that can actually target specific types of people, according to their hair colour, height, blood type, etc. As is typical of most Fringe stories, Walter even has some history with such a selective contagion -– or, rather, his late father had. It turns out that Dr. Robert Bishov (who emigrated to America in 1943 after working as an allied spy in Nazi Germany[*]), had actually been involved in devising a biological weapon for the Third Reich that could target certain people – which would have come in handy for a government intent on exterminating various "sub-classes" to create "das Herrenvolk" (the Master Race.) It would appear that someone has continued his father's work and is currently trialling what appears to be a breakthrough...

A killer virus and Nazis. Throw in some sharks and you have the ultimate Discovery Channel weekend marathon. "The Bishop Revival" was a run-of-the-mill story in many ways, but there were some excellent character moments that laced the whole hour. In particular, it was again fascinating (and rather frightening) to see Walter revert to his pre-asylum mental state in one scene -- when he realized that Peter had sold his father's treasured collection of books for money. I also enjoyed the notion that the German scientist behind the virus was over 100 years old, having apparently found a way to prolong his life through science, mainly because it was something that the main characters didn't come to realize themselves. I quite like it when the audience know, or suspect, something that the characters on the show are yet to discovery.

I also enjoyed the investigation into retrieving Robert Bishov's coded books he smuggled out of Germany, which had been bought by an artist and turned into fascist collages and mosaics for a project. It was a fun hour, with some nice moments to its credits, but I'm currently a little frustrated that we've had such little movement with the inter-dimensional shape-shifting villains, William Bell, or even Olivia's "special powers" she was given as a child. The season appears to have slipped into standalone story mode of late, and it feels like the season's gone very slack.

28 JANUARY 2010: FOX, 9/8c

[*] Yes, Fringe's fascination with Germany continues, and giving us confirmation of the Bishop family's origins makes it clearer why Walter wrote that manifesto from season 1 in German.

QI, 7.10 - "Greats" [Open Thread]

I don't have too much to say this week, because I think I've covered most of my feelings towards QI these days, and the guests who featured in this latest episode, "Greats". Jo Brand shoehorned in some gags about being fat or eating a lot[*], Sean Lock was okay but nowhere near as funny as he is on 8 Out Of 10 Cats, and David Mitchell remains the best at balancing genuine knowledge and sharp wit.

The topic of "Greats" threw up some fun trivia, though; everyone in Europe are related to all Europeans who existed in the 13th-century, that tortoises actually taste divine (so much so that early explorers regularly ate them rather than take them back to England for further study), and that most dictators we believe to be diminutive (Napoleon, Stalin) were actually of above-average height for their era. A decent episode, but I still find it gets bogged down at times, and the guests are now too familiar with the format to be tripped up with klaxons unintentionally. Incidentally, does anyone think QI XL (the edition shown on Saturdays with a 15-minute extension) is better then the abridged Friday show?

29 JANUARY 2010: BBC1, 8.30PM

[*] And when Jo Brand did step out of her comfort zone it was to make the astonishingly weak gag that David Mitchell's brothers are Phil and Grant Mitchell from EastEnders. A joke so amateur that David was forced to spin it off into something half-amusing (about fictional people being considered real) just to save Jo's utter embarrassment.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Lost: Sky1 Final Season Promo

Sky1 have an exciting trail running to promote the final season of Lost, which starts in the UK a week today (5 Feb), just three days after its US premiere. Once again, there's absolutely no new footage (the producers don't want to reveal anything about what happened at the end of season 5's finale), but it's a fun collection of clips, interspliced with comments from the cast, including a promise from Terry O'Quinn that "all will be revealed..." I will, of course, be covering the final season here (watching at US-pace, reviewing at UK-pace.)

At The Movies: w/c 29 January 2010

There aren't many new releases this week in the UK, beyond a vigilante Mel Gibson and an illiterate teenage girl from Harlem, of course...


Thriller. As homicide detective Thomas Craven investigates the death of his activist daughter, he uncovers not only her secret life, but a corporate cover-up and government collusion that attracts an agent tasked with cleaning up the evidence.

Director: Martin Campbell

Starring: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts, David Aaaron Baker & Jay O. Sanders.

Tomatometer: 57% (Fresh; based on 76 reviews) "For better and for worse, Edge of Darkness offers vintage Mel Gibson, working within the familiar framework of a bloody revenge thriller."


Drama. In Harlem, an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enrol in an alternative school, in the hope her life can take a new direction.

Director: Lee Daniels

: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz & Stephanie Andujar.

Tomatometer: 91% (Fresh; based on 164 reviews) "Precious is a grim yet ultimately triumphant film about abuse and inner-city life, largely bolstered by exceptional performances from its cast."

MOCK THE WEEK 8.2 [Open Thread]

Do I detect a slightly more relaxed and free-handed atmosphere now Frankie Boyle's not around to dominate proceedings? Mock The Week still can't match 8 Out Of 10 Cats' jovial atmosphere, but it's certainly getting there. The guests all got a chance to shine, which was the main thing. Chris Addison (best known for his role in political satire The Thick Of It, but also a stand-up comedian) got a few big laughs (mainly with his suggestion that we counter a tidal wave created by the Chinese jumping simultaneously with a similar wave borne of the UK's obese children), and stand-up comedians Sarah Millican and John Bishop both made enough of an impression to prevent total domination by the regulars.

But I'm still disappointed MTW even has so many "regulars" – because what's wrong with the traditional two team captains format? It just feel unbalanced and, frankly, I've grown tired of Hugh Dennis and Andy Parsons' shtick. And it still irritates me when the stand-up round features topics designed to give the guests the opportunity to reuse their stand-up routines (I mean, "Language"? The broadness of "Politics"?), but otherwise this was a fun episode -- if still something you'll have forgotten about by ten o'clock.

28 JANUARY 2010: BBC2, 9PM


WRITER: Jamie Brittain
DIRECTOR: Neil Biswas
In the first of a trial-season of guest reviews, regular reader Dan Lester takes a look at the series 4 premiere of E4's teen-drama Skins...

[SPOILERS] Skins 2.0 returns with a bang, or rather a snort, as the first couple of minutes of series four begin with an impressive tracking sequence of a club so chaotic, rampant with sex and drugs, and characteristically overblown that it threatens to overshadow the anarchy seen in the opening moments of Syfy's Caprica Pilot. The sequence climaxes with an unknown teenage girl jumping to her death off a balcony into the crowd below. It's a sinister opening, but the episode fails to build on it, as the action soon gives way to fourty minutes of repetitive, emotionless, and ultimately tedious nihilism.

The episode centers around Thomas (Merveille Lukeba) who, having been running the clubnight at which the teenage girl committed suicide, is confronted with a sense of guilt for her death. Police confront Thomas and the rest of the characters, whilst the club owner attempts to pay him off to keep quiet. Meanwhile the attempts of his friends to comfort him come to no avail.

The heart of the plot lies in the unstable relationship between Thomas and the ever-irritating Pandora (Lisa Backwell), following on from Pandora cheating on Thomas with Cook in the last series. As a result of his confused emotional state, Thomas grows increasingly cold toward Pandora, and is drawn to an attractive singer who he first notices in church, and in typical Skinsian style, within twenty minutes they’re having sex in a hospital laundry room. He later confesses to Pandora, and is subsequently deserted by both her and his friends, and expelled from school for his part in the drug-fuelled suicide, before finally concluding that, yawn, he is still in love with Pandora.

The problem with Skins all too often lies in it’s over ambition. The episode would appear to be an attempt by the writers to capture the kind of blank, emotionless nihilistic youth fictionalized in the writing of Bret Easton Ellis in, for example "Less Than Zero". But Lukebar's performance is frankly not good enough to carry it, whilst the script itself strikes a bizarre balance of melodrama and eccentric comedy sections that allows the episode function neither as the intelligent examination of youth culture that it might aim to be, nor as the entertaining teen show which the majority of it's audience watch it for.

But more frustrating than this is the writers' refusal to allow the episodes to more widely focus on the group as a whole, instead closely examining one character at a time. Without the interaction between the cast, Skins lacks of the kind of story and character development that made it's first couple of seasons such compelling viewing, whilst the current characters are not nearly as likeable as the likes of Sid and Cassie were.

But it's not all bad; the cinematography is stylish and the music selections are as brilliantly eclectic as ever (featuring Grizzly Bear as well as lesser known acts like Ida Maria and Oumou Sangare), but with the third series being relatively poorly received in comparison to the first two, and another entire cast reshuffle recently having been confirmed, the writers don't have long to salvage something from Skins' current incarnation.

28 JANUARY 2010: E4 / E4 HD, 10PM

Would you like to guest review a TV show not currently covered by Dan's Media Digest? If so, please get in touch. I'm especially interested in talented writers who would like to review Desperate Housewives on Channel 4 and Supernatural on LivingTV, but other suggestions are welcome. I can't guarantee your work will be posted here, so please don't take offence if your submission doesn't get used. It's also uncertain if my "guest review season" will become a regular fixture, so I'd appreciate some feedback on the above review from readers. Thank you.

HUMAN TARGET 1.3 – "Embassy Row"

WRITERS: Matthew Federman & Stephen Scaia
DIRECTOR: Steve Boyum
GUEST CAST: Emmanuelle Vaugier, Alex Fernandez, Tyler McClendon, Claire Smithies, Aleks Paunovic & Sean Maher
[SPOILERS] Three episodes in and Human Target's mostly delivering what you demand of an action-adventure series about a freelance security expert putting himself in the line of fire to protect clients. It's fun, it's fast, the stories are easy to grasp (yet feel more robust than anything on, say, Chuck), and the casting has been excellent so far. It's still not digging its hooks into me, but that's mainly down to the decision to drip-feed information about its regulars over time, so Chance (Mark Valley) is still something of a macho cipher...

In "Embassy Row", a "spyhunter" friend of Chance's called Danny (Tyler McClendon) is killed by an enemy Russian agent after a foot chase at night, but not before he calls his reporter brother Aaron (Sean Maher) and passes on vital information relating to a case he's been working. Aaron was unaware his brother was a secret government agent, and soon finds his own life in danger from Danny's foreign enemies.

Fortunately, Chance has been made aware of Danny's demise and agrees to help Aaron avenge his sibling's murder by assuming Danny's cover at a black-tie event being held at the Russian Embassy. He's even helped gain access by calling in a favour from the Secretary of Defence, no less, and once inside Chance intends to find and eliminate Danny's target and thwart Russian plans to sell a dangerous device during a secret, Bluetooth-enabled auction. Matters are complicated by the fact both Aaron and Chance have contracted a deadly airborne poison left at Danny's apartment, and Chance finds himself having to work alongside beautiful FBI Agent Emma Barnes (Emmanuelle Vaugier) who's undercover at the Embassy as a guest of Danny's.

Again, it's hard to fault Human Target in terms of telling a rollicking story in an mostly exciting way -- with fun stunts, good fights, and a smattering of ways to make Chance's mission anything but easy. Winston (Chi McBride) and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) were again left to do the donkey work to aide Chance's mission, but it never feels like a wasted effort when the story switches over to them to give us ab break from the A-story.

Partnering Chance with feisty Barnes also proved to be a masterstroke; the pair made for an engaging duo with a prickly attitude towards each other, and both actors gave credible performances in the action stakes. The fact the episode ended with Barnes tracing Chance's identity[*] from a fingerprint he (intentionally) left on a handcuff, suggests that Barnes will be around for a little while longer. And that's a good sign, because I think Human Target needs more threads to stitch individual episodes together right now, not to mention a strong female involved in some way. Emmanuelle Vaugier has the smouldering good looks, but she also had good chemistry with Valley and looked competent handling the fight sequences.

Overall, "Embassy Row" was another very solid episode that took some espionage clichés (a function at a foreign Embassy, involving a sexy agent in a red dress, and a fight choreographed liked a Tango) and still managed to make it work. Sometimes clichés are fun and comforting, basically, but it helped that Human Target had some more original tricks up its sleeve (from the twist of the slow-acting poison, to an exciting motorcycle chase to American soil near the end.)

I think it's self-evident that Human Target has a strong foundation to build a show on already. I just hope it starts to explore the characters soon, before we start to grow a little tired of its simple formula. I love action and spycraft as much as the next guy, but I don't yet care about Chance or feel much trepidation when he's on a dangerous mission. If anything, the fraught relationship and banter between Winston and Guerrero is eclipsing any dynamic that's involved Chance, and that doesn't really need to be the case. Valley's not quite the hunky plank of wood his character's in danger of becoming.

26 JANUARY 2010: FOX, 9/8c

[*] Or, to be more precise, Chance's dizzying array of aliases she'll have to labouriously trace, at any rate. Let's hope she does it alphabetically, eh?

Thursday, 28 January 2010

MAD MEN 3.1 & 3.2 – "Out Of Town" & "Love Among The Ruins"

WRITERS: Matthew Weiner (3.1) & Cathryne Humphris, Kater Gordon & Matthew Weiner (3.2)
DIRECTORS: Phil Abraham (3.1) & Lesli Linka Glatter (3.2)
GUEST CAST: Ryan Cartwright, Michael Gaston, Embeth Davidtz, Lauri Johnson, Brynn Horrocks, Sunny Mabrey, Kelly Huddleston, Annie Little, Jamie Elman, Ryan Cutrona, Eric Ladin, Kiernan Shipka, Abigail Spencer, Brian Carpenter, Kevin Cooney, Megan Henning, Talia Balsam, Elizabeth Rice & Jeremy Scott Johnson.
[SPOILERS] Watching Mad Men somehow makes you feel like a more intelligent, sophisticated person. The glacial pace may not be to everyone's taste, but the acting, production design and scripts are so precise and beautiful that it's like letting your mind slide into the '60s for a bit of urbane escapism. Season 3's premiere "Out Of Town" picks up only six months after the events of season 2's finale, so it's April 1963...

Betty (January Jones) is still pregnant with Don's (Jon Hamm) baby, although we open on Don remembering his stepmother's traumatic miscarriage, his own birth from a prostitute mother (who christened him "Dick" because that's the appendage she'd love to cut-off his client father), and his eventual delivery to his stepmother as a "gift from God". The fact Don's warming milk on a stove as he reminisces, eventually creating a horrible thick skin on the surface, is another of those excellent symbolic touches Mad Men excels at.

Last year's merger of Sterling Cooper with British firm PPL has gone through, with one third of the existing Madison Avenue staff consequently fired in a downsizing, ending today with Burt Peterson (Michael Gaston), the Head of Accounts. SC's new Financial Officer Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) is quick to replace him with an overjoyed Pete (Vincent Kartheiser), without telling him he'll actually be sharing the workload 50/50 with eager pup Ken (Aaron Staton). Predictably, while Ken reacts with a maturity above his years at the promotion, despite its dual nature, Pete is simply infuriated that his power's been halved and he's apparently being squared-off against a rival.

The most enjoyable storyline concerned Don and Sal (Bryan Batt), who take a flight to Baltimore to schmooze the London Fog Coat Company, while allowing time to flirt with two air stewardesses by posing as Jimmy Hoffa's accountants. At their hotel, Don's square-jawed charms work a treat on tall blonde Shelly (Sunny Mabrey), whom he takes to his room, and Sal gets an unexpected surprise when a handsome bellhop (Orestes Arcuni) makes a pass at him, instigating what appears to be Sal's first homosexual encounter... only for both men's would-be conquests to be rudely interrupted by a fire alarm.

Most interestingly, while evacuating down the fire escape with a barefoot Sally in tow, Don passes Sal's window and notices his friend's tryst with another man, although he never mentions it. Perhaps Don understand only too well what it must be like for Sal to essentially invent an identity that's fooled everyone (including his wife Kitty) all these years, so respects another "fake". I loved Don's double-meaning he slipped to Sal on their flight home, by using a London Fog raincoat slogan "limit your exposure" as a friendly word of warning about the dangers he faces trying to fit in.

As premiere's go, it was an interesting and slick start in Mad Men terms, although anyone new to the show may feel underwhelmed and thrown into the deep end. It's still the kind of series that really needs the audience to attune themselves to its unique style, pace and mentality. Nothing is given to you on a plate, and the pleasure of most episodes is noticing the symbolism and themes to each week's story (I particularly like it when a current ad campaign echoes something happening in the character's lives.) It should be interesting to see how the British takeover pans out, speaking as a Brit who loves anything that features an Anglo-American clash in drama. The wonderful Jared Harris (son of the great Richard Harris, and last seen as a villain in Fringe), is a sublime piece of casting, and I can't wait to see more from him.


"Love Among The Ruins" contained a very interesting theme of infantilizing adults, for their own good or the benefit of others. We're immediately shown a scene from the musical "Bye Bye Birdie", with actress Ann-Margret singing the titular tune and being described by the unimpressed Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) as having the ability to "be 25 and act 14". Pepsi want an advertising campaign based on this sequence from the movie, to sell their new diet cola Patio, and Don doesn't agree with Peggy's claim the Ann-Margaret-inspired ad will only appeal to men who swoon over childlike, naïve-looking women.

Interestingly, Peggy is later seen re-enacting the "Bye Bye Birdie" song in her mirror at home, before heading out to a club alone and playing the role of a subservient "girl" in order to attract a young student (whom she even lets assume she's a lowly typist at Sterling Cooper, not a copywriter), so she can later dominate him in bed and be the one to leave for week in the morning.

The meat of episode 2 actually concerned the arrival of Betty's ailing father Gene (Ryan Cutrona) with her brother William (Eric Ladin) and his wife Judy (Megan Henning) to the Draper home in Ossining. It appears that Gene's mental deterioration is quickening pace (in one scene he mistakes a distant police siren for a liquor raid, believing there's still Prohibition, and pours the Draper's alcohol down the kitchen sink.) Betty wants to takeover responsibility of nursing her father (possibly because she's jealous of Judy's role?), whereas her brother would apparently prefer he was put in a home, and Betty suspects it's because that would result in a quicker death and subsequent inheritance of her father's house. Again, to push this episode's apparent theme of infantilized adults, William and Judy are forced to sleep in child's bunk-beds, Gene is palmed off to watch TV amongst a group of kids (or play cards), and there's even a sequence towards the end when a grownup girl joins children in dancing around a maypole to celebrate springtime.

At Sterling Cooper, Pete is asked to pitch a campaign to redevelop the beautiful Penn Station at Madison Square Garden, the demolishment of which is causing a lot of public outcry from "beatniks" according to developer Mr. Raffitt (Kevin Cooney). The liberal-minded Paul (Michael Gladis) upsets the meeting by agreeing with the protesters, forcing Don and Roger (John Slattery) to fix things over a dinner with Raffitt, where they persuade him he can "change the conversation" to people are less concerned about losing something, and more excited about gaining something. I always find the advertising business curiously fascinating in Mad Men; how these men can help shape perceptions and turn situations around with carefully chosen words. It's a kind of magic that works in tandem with the whole show's somewhat dreamy, laissez-faire approach, where you sit spellbound for nearly an hour just soaking it all up like a sponge. Matthew Weiner's and his writers put Don Draper to shame.

Overall, "Love Among The Ruins" wasn't quite as satisfying as "Out Of Town", but both were about on par with each other and gave us an interesting inroad to the new season. It looks likely that Sal's sexuality will play a big role this year, now that Don knows the truth about him, and it should be interesting to see how the Drapers cope with nursing Gene (particularly once their new baby is born).

Don's already back to his old tricks, seconds away from bedding an air stewardess, but it was quite noble of him to help Betty win the family argument over what to do with her dad, by emasculating her brother in private. And we also learned that Roger's daughter Margaret (Elizabeth Rice) is going to marry a handsome young "kid" on 23 November -- the day after John F. Kennedy's assassination -- so I'm sure the writers will find a fascinating way to make that political tragedy (and iconic moment of the 20th-century) be reflected in the fictional world of Sterling Cooper.

So yes, I was happy with these episodes because they setup some significant changes for Sterling Cooper's business operations with their British parent company, and the Draper's family life suddenly got a lot more complicated.


HBO's Mind Hunter

Fox 21 have optioned John Douglas and Mark Olshaker's best-selling book "Mind Hunter: Inside The FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit", intending to turn it into a HBO drama series. Director David Fincher (Seven, Zodiac) and actress Charlize Theron (who won an Oscar for her role as a female serial-killer in Monster) will serve as executive-producers on the show, which will be indebted to the real-life cases covered by criminal profiler Douglas.

Douglas' career has been the inspiration for a number of crime thrillers through the years; from Thomas Harris' Red Dragon and Silence Of The Lambs novels (which gave us Hannibal Lecter) to Chris Carter's Millennium TV series. Mind Hunter has already tapped Dexter writer-producer Scott Buck to pen the pilot script. It certainly feels like they have a lot of serial-killer affiliated talent involved, so this should be an interesting show.


WRITER: Gaby Chiappe
DIRECTOR: Jamie Payne
GUEST CAST: Fiona Douglas, Patrick Malahide, Alisa Arnah, Aleksandar Mikic, Mia Fernandez & Barry Aird
[SPOILERS] I appear to be enjoying Survivors' second series more than most people are, which is interesting to me. I don't concur with claims there's been a lack of action this year, either; in two episodes we've had people trapped under a burning hospital, a life-or-death gunshot operation, foot chases from drifters, and some escapes from an underground lab! That's enough for me. The show also feels more enjoyable now it's taking place in a big city (the production team are doing a fantastic job replicating 28 Days Later's aesthetic and eerily empty streets on a TV budget), and there's a decent mystery to the scientists over their back-story and future plans are. So, while I agree Survivors can be silly and most of the characters aren't particularly well-crafted by the writers, I'm not ashamed to admit I find it entertaining...

This week, Tom (Max Beesley) has been ostracized from the group, but after robbing a gang of fellow survivors of their food and water, he returns to his own party with this stolen "peace offering" to try and make his usefulness to them more apparent. His plan seems to work, helped by the fact Najid (Chahak Patel) and Anya (Zoe Tapper) both want him to stick around, but Tom's deception with the provisions causes nothing but problems when those he robbed seek revenge and go after Tom's friends.

Meanwhile, Abby (Julie Graham) proves to have a stunning natural ability to defeat the 'flu virus that wiped out most of the population, even when the scientists re-infect her with a more virulent dosage. That said, Whitaker (Nicholas Gleaves) realizes they may have to induce a vegetative state in order to continuously harvest Abby's body as a source for their vaccine -- because it's the least painful, "humane" thing to do. Abby must irritate him, too.

Elsewhere, trouble was brewing in a secret area of the facility where Whitaker's wife Jill (Alisa Arnah) has been locked away from the prying eyes of her husband's staff with their young son Lucas. Jill's been fed lies about the state of things above ground and her husband's role in helping the government defeat the contagion, but she's starting to grow suspicious of his soothing words and has been trying to escape...

Okay, so this episode didn't really amount to much in the cold light of day -– beyond a lot of running around, chased by the foreign actor who appeared in Doctor Who's "Waters Of Mars". I was never really convinced by Jill's situation (can a woman be that stupid?), and I was rather hoping Abby would remain locked up for a few more episodes – not least because I'm not a fan of Julie Graham in this role. I confidently predict she'll be moaning about her missing son Peter in the next episode. Oh, joy. It was also bizarre how easily Abby made her escape once Jill got wise to what was really going on and released her -- but that's again down to Survivors having a tough time making its action plausible.

Overall, a mild disappointment consider how enjoyable the first part was, but I like the idea that Abby is the Holy Grail for the surviving scientists, who make for good bad guys whenever they turn up in gas masks and HazMat suits, or scour the countryside in their black helicopters. I'm hoping there's going to be a fun explanation for why Greg (Paterson Joseph) has heard of their pharmaceutical company (did his wife run off with an employee?), and I have my fingers crossed that there's more to the scientists' story than meets the eye. But then I remember Primeval's Adrian Hodges is the showrunner, so I revise my expectations accordingly. Still, if Survivors can keep up the action and pace, the crew continue doing great work making this end-of-the-world scenario feel right[*], and the stories keep enough of a grip so the sillier moments melt away, I'll be happy.

26 JANUARY 2010: BBC1 / BBC HD, 9PM

[*] That said, I'm still perplexed by why everyone keeps saying they have to leave the city because there's no food or water. I mean, the average city must have hundreds of supermarkets, and each one must be full of bottled water and canned food... so, why the alarm? Have they all been looted? Just how many survivors are there?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Lost: Answers Song

Lost returns next Tuesday (2 Feb) in the US and Friday (5 Feb) in the UK, so there's a lot of excitement and anticipation in the air. There's also some fantastic videos created by fans to help promote the show online, but my favourite is the one above by the Fine Brothers: a funny, animated song illustrating just how many questions the show needs to answer in its final season. Needless to say, there are major spoilers contained within, so only fans who've seen up to the end of season 5 should take a look. Enjoy!

Dancing Inmates: Michael Jackson's This Is It

Do you remember that viral with the Filipino inmates dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" awhile back? Well, the inmates of Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Centre are back, this time tutored by Michael Jackson's choreographer Travis Payne and dancers Daniel Celebre and Dres Reid. It's all to help promote the DVD/Blu-ray release of Michael Jackson's This Is It (out 22 Feb in the UK) Check it out, it's a fun video. I wonder if these prisoners will reform and get some song-and-dance work when they're released.

HEROES 4.17 - "The Art Of Deception"

WRITERS: Mark Verheiden & Misha Green
GUEST CAST: Todd Stashwick, Harry Perry, Elizabeth Lackey, Erin Allin O'Reilly, David H. Lawrence & Ray Park
[SPOILERS] I feel like I'm beginning to rate the success of Heroes purely on how much happens in an episode, how quickly, and how well it keeps me entertained. See, if I rate it on storytelling complexity or my emotional connection to events, it's still barely working at all. "The Art Of Deception" was better than last week's dross because it had more relevance to the season's storyline, and there were a few scenes I rather enjoyed, but that's about as upbeat as I can get about Heroes now, as it plods towards it finale...

This week, Samuel (Robert Knepper) has become a pariah amongst his own people for destroying an entire town (and a good few thousand people, right?), which has an uneasy similarity to what's going on in Haiti right now. Claire (Hayden Panettiere) decides to return to the carnival, after being told by Lauren (Elisabeth Röhm) that her father (Jack Coleman) has tracked down Samuel's location and they're on their way to take the carnival barker by force. As Claire persuades Samuel to give himself up, knowing her father's close by with a gun trained on him, Mr. Bennet is surprised when another gunman starts to viciously shoot members of the carnival – including Claire, Samuel, Lauren and Lydia (Dawn Olivieri). It turns out Samuel's framed Bennet as a bloodthirsty enemy of his people -- with the real shooter being his henchman Eli (Todd Stashwick) -- and has thus created a bigger villain than himself in the eyes of his people.

Quite why the carnies don't think it strange that Bennet would shoot his own daughter is a question left unmentioned. Neither Claire or Bennet offer that fact as proof he probably wasn't the gunman. Also, it felt ridiculous to me that Lydia died from her gunshot wound, considering the fact Claire has already demonstrated she can heal people by saving Peter's life from a gunshot wound only a few episodes ago. So why did Claire suddenly forget she could save Lydia's life very easily? Oh, it's because Heroes constantly fails to keep its own mythology feeling plausible, consistent or airtight. If it's dramatically necessary to have someone die, they'll die, even if viewers are left to view Claire as either very stupid, utterly heartless, or both.

The only other significant storyline involved Sylar (Zachary Quinto) turning up at the Parkman residence, pretending to be an old cop buddy of Matt's (Greg Grunberg) in front of his unsuspecting wife Janice (Lisa Lackey). Sylar was there to get his powers "mentally blocked" by Matt, which he now believes is the only way he'll ever find peace in this world. Yes, Sylar wants to turn over a new leaf again. To be honest, it's rather laughable that Sylar's character is asking to be neutered once more – it's as if the writers have forgotten the plot arc of season 3 that saw Sylar "depowered", only to crave the return of his abilities. So, why doesn't Sylar remember that having no powers won't bring him happiness? Oh, because the story demands that we go down this avenue.

Anyway, Matt eventually manages to go through with Sylar's bizarre demand, but takes the opportunity to imprison him inside his own mind, then goes to the time and trouble of bricking up Sylar's body behind a wall in his basement. No, seriously. Matt's suddenly twisted enough to let a man starve and die in his own basement, and isn't in the least bit concerned that he's acting like a creepier murderer than his own, unfortunate victim. He even went out and bought some bricks and mixed some concrete, it would seem. I worry about him.

But none of it really mattered, because Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) arrived at Matt's house to interrupt his activities (Peter must have a lot of air miles), leeches his friend's mind-reading ability, and heads down to the basement to free Sylar because he knows from a precognitive dream that Sylar will rescue his friend Emma (Deanne Bray) from Samuel's carnival in the near-future. Speaking of whom, Emma turns up at the carnival towards the end of this episode to tend to Samuel's gunshot wound, despite the fact she doesn't have a compass to let her find the way (am I wrong about that?) –- but, hey, it's what the story demands, just forget about internal logic. The writers always do.

Sure, I'm giving some nitpicks more weight than they deserve, but that's perhaps a bad sign in itself. It's now more fun to pick Heroes' threads apart, because none of the characters or storyline are interesting enough to make me give its silliness a free pass. I'm glad the carnival are united behind Samuel against "so-called normal people", because they'll at least become the awesome force of villainy they were supposed to be from the start, but that's about the only welcome development contained in this episode.

25 JANUARY 2010: NBC, 9/8c

CHUCK 3.5 - "Chuck Versus First Class"

WRITER: Chris Fedak
GUEST CAST: Brandon Routh, Kristin Kreuk, Steve Austin & Josie Davi
[SPOILERS] The storyline may have been coincidentally similar to Human Target's "Rewind" (both involved espionage aboard a commercial passenger jet, with a data-stick MacGuffin), but "Chuck Versus First Class" didn't suffer too badly in comparison. Human Target's episode was definitely more inventive with its action, but it doesn't yet have the emotional depth to its characters that Chuck has. This fifth episode of the third season felt like a notable turning point for the series, too...

Chuck (Zachary Levi) finally got to go on a solo mission, thanks to the trust placed in him by CIA Special Agent Shaw (Brandon Routh), who believes that Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) have mollycoddled Chuck these past few years and haven't allowed him to reach his full potential as a prospective spy. So, Chuck's booked on a First Class flight from L.A to Paris as part of a special mission, unaware that his assignment is actually aboard the plane itself once airborne, where he must steal an encryption data-stick from a burly Ring operative called Hugo Panzer (WWE wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin) who's delivering the gizmo to colleagues in France. While up in the air at 35,000 feet, Chuck meets a beautiful passenger called Hannah (Kristin Kreuk), who appears to take a shine to Chuck's wide-eyed wonder of his environment, seeing straight through his "cover" as a globe-trotting businessman.

Elsewhere, I was glad this week's Buy More subplot wasn't a total dud, even if it reprised the overused idea of the Buy More staff acting like imbeciles and striving to find ways to humiliate their immediate superior. We've had this storyline fed to at least six times already, so it's outstayed its welcome on many levels, but Chris Fedak's script just about made it tolerable because the target of abuse was Morgan (Joshua Gomez) -- who knows most of their tricks.

And, while Morgan can thus avoid a few "old favourites" (including an electrified door handle!) he's eventually forced to seek help from Casey to defeat chief "insurgent" Lester (Vik Sahay). And yes, it was admittedly rather fun to see Casey become the willing Darth Vader to Morgan's Emperor (in one scene they even echoed that Star Wars relationship with Casey standing to Morgan's side, arms folded, and briefly impersonating Vader's iconic breathing while he sucked on a cigar.) The story even threw in a rather bizarre moment when Casey resorted to abducting Lester from his bed and brainwashing him late at night in front of the TV, Mancunian Candidate-style, to ensure total compliance with Morgan the next morning.

Second of Strahotness: I won't make the obvious "joystick" gag

But the real delights of the admittedly slim story was to be found in Chuck's aerial mission, where he got to play James Bond all by himself (well, for the most part); squirting tranquilizer fluid into Hugo's mouth, hiding in a casket with a corpse to avoid detection, and managing to "flash" in order to download some fencing skills and win a swordfight in the cargo hold. All very entertaining moments, played with the usual assured charm by Levi. I could even swallow the later silliness that took hold of the episode, as Shaw's team had a fortuitous high-tech satellite that allowed them to take control of Chuck's plane, meaning Sarah could help from afar by forcing the Boeing into a sudden dive. You don't really expect realism from Chuck, I guess – with most of the passengers melting into the background throughout this episode, and the reaction of the pilots when their plane stopped responded never made known to us.

If there was one disappointment it's that Hannah's character didn't get much to do beyond look adorable, although Kreuk (best known as Lana Lang on Smallville) acquitted herself nicely. I haven't seen enough of Smallville to assess her fully as an actress (although I hear she was often rather underwhelming on that show compared to the likes of Alison Mack), but I thought she felt relaxed and charming on-screen.

Anyway, I'd be more upset about the story wasting Hannah if I didn't know she's actually going to stay around for a major plot arc this season, making her this year's sexy brunette for Chuck to chase and make Sarah jealous. Yes, again. But I'm hoping there'll be more to her than that, without resorting to making her too similar to last year's Jordan Brewster character than she already feels. But I'm certain the writers wouldn't be that predictable or stupid to pull the same trick twice, so I look forward to seeing what Hannah's role will actually be, as this episode ended with her taking up Chuck's offer to return to California and get a job at his Buy More. I assume a position will be granted by Morgan as a favour to Chuck, so maybe her presence will help make the Buy More storylines more interesting? Lord knows they need to do something about that facet of the show.

Overall, "Chuck Versus First Class" was, well, first class, only let down by some storytelling weakness and repetitiveness at the Buy More. It was especially good to see Shaw get some development (we learn his wife Evelyn was killed by Ring agents while retrieving intelligence that the data-stick can access), and while Brandon Routh's delivery sometimes feels rather flat, there's also an indefinable streak of intrigue and decency to his performance. Right now, I'm not sure if that's partly down to the fact I associate him with Superman -– but perhaps that's why the producers cast him, to make us like Shaw all the quicker. Or maybe they're planning a twist and will reveal Shaw to be a double-agent who killed his wife, tricking everyone who bought into his Man Of Steel association? We'll have to see. But so far, Shaw seems on the level, and his character feels like an amalgamation of Chuck and Sarah's personalities in many ways, which is fun to see.

25 JANUARY 2010: NBC, 8/7c

Box Office Charts: w/c 22 January 2010

In the US: Avatar is still flying high at #1 in the States, having taken an impressive $36m last weekend, and it's now the highest-grossing movie of all time (having toppled Cameron's own Titanic on Monday with a worldwide gross of $1.843 billion)... Paul Bettany's supernatural action-thriller LEGION does quite well, in at #2 with $18m... Dwayne Johnson's critically slated comedy TOOTH FAIRY makes $14m to grab #4, which isn't too bad considering the bad reviews... and the Harrison Ford/Brendan Fraser drama EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES debuts at #7 with just $7m, which isn't good news...


1. (1) Avatar - $36,000,000
2. (-) Legion - $18,200,000
3. (2) The Book Of Eli - $17,000,000
4. (-) Tooth Fairy - $14,500,000
5. (3) The Lovely Bones - $8,800,000
6. (5) Sherlock Holmes - $7,115,000
7. (-) Extraordinary Measures - $7,000,000
8. (4) Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel - $6,500,000
9. (7) It's Complicated - $6,190,000
10. (6) The Spy Next Door - $4,750,000

In the UK: There's still no stopping James Cameron's Avatar in the UK, as it's still sitting pretty at #1 with a mighty £5m over the weekend (repeat business?)... the 3D re-release of TOY STORY 2 perhaps didn't do as well as one would hope, in at #6 with £909k... Tobey Maguire drama BROTHERS doesn't open very well, taking just £366k to debt at #9... French prison drama A PROPHET actually does quite well considering its lack of advertising and reliance on word-of-mouth, in at #10 with £312k... and there's terrible news for NINJA ASSASSIN and THE BOYS ARE BACK, with both failing to make the Top 10, in at #11 and #14 respectively...


1. (1) Avatar - £5,155,844
2. (2) Sherlock Holmes - £1,632,172
3. (3) Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel - £1,454,278
4. (5) Up In The Air - £1,205,881
5. (4) It's Complicated - £1,140,684
6. (-) Toy Story 2 - £909,093
7. (6) The Book Of Eli - £825,508
8. (7) Daybreakers - £420,199
9. (-) Brothers - £366,290
10. (-) A Prophet - £312,237

District 9 Competition: Winners

My weeklong competition to dish out three sets of District 9-related prizes came to an end on Tuesday, with plenty of amusing 82-word entries in response to the following question:

"In the film District 9, an alien spaceship hovers above Johannesburg and its extra-terrestrial occupants are put into a ghetto. But, if an alien spaceship appeared overheard where you live, what would you do with all the aliens inside?"
After literally hours (oh, okay, four minutes) deliberation, I have decided that the best three entries, in ascending order, are as follows:

3rd Prize
(1x "non-human" dog tag + 3x stickers)

I'd leave the aliens where they were. But every so often I'd introduce a celebrity or two to live among them for a few days, all the while broadcasting the internal security camera feed live 24/7 to the watching world. Then the public could choose to vote the celeb back out, or leave them there among the visitors. Channel 4 need a replacement for Big Brother, I believe, and Celebrity Alien Filth Survivor would fill that gap. – Iain Hepburn
2nd Prize
(3x "non-human" dog-tags + 5x stickers)

After viewing the spaceship from afar for several hours, I grabbed just one DVD and approached the off-worlders. Despite their primitive appearance and indecipherable facial expressions, they seemed to hold a certain degree of intellect. So I played the film entitled 'District 9'. For two hours they stared in horror. But as the film ceased and the ambiguous ending arrived, the chief adventurer turned to me and smiled. "Yes," he said. "His work is done. We will take back Neill Blomkamp now." – Neil Baker
1st Prize
(District 9 DVD/Blu-ray +
3x "non-human" dog-tags + 7x stickers

I would round up all the aliens and put them into an amusement park, where they would be the main attraction. The male and female "prawns" would be separated into separate compounds, so as to eliminate breeding, and visitors would be protected by electric fences and hi-tech security systems. I would spare no expense, even organising a safety inspection by a small team of extraterrestrial and sea-food experts, prior to public opening. What could possibly go wrong? "Welcome to Arthropod Park." – Christopher Howard
Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter this contest, and better luck next time if you didn't win a prize. Special congratulations to the above winners, but particularly Christopher Howard, who walks away with the top prize of goodies.

The three winners must now e-mail me an address to send their prizes to, so I can get the ball rolling with Sony Home Entertainment. In Chris Howard's case (can I call you Chris?), I also need to know if you'd prefer your copy of District 9 on Blu-ray or DVD. Hopefully everyone will receive their prizes by the weekend.