Saturday, 30 April 2011

'DOCTOR WHO' 6.2 – "Day Of The Moon"


It's tough reviewing episodes like "Day Of The Moon", which are so thick with incident and swathed in different layers that you end the episode gasping for air, feeling like your brain's been shaken for 45-minutes. As I said last week, there's a certain distancing effect when plots are as knotted as writer Steven Moffat enjoys making them, but I was glad the concluding part of this premiere had a greater sense of cohesion -- by virtue of resolving most of the storyline.

Moffat seems to enjoy reuniting-the-team sequences, as the episode opened with another one set three months after last week's 1969-set cliffhanger, with Amy (Karen Gillan), River (Alex Kingston) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) on the run across Utah from the FBI's Canton Everett Delaware (Mark Sheppard), while a bearded The Doctor (Matt Smith) languishes in a variant of last year's Pandorica prison inside Area 51. I'm still trying to fathom why that was the case, seeing as The Doctor earned the permission of President Nixon (Stuart Milligan) to solve the mystery of the "spaceman" and the crank calls to the Oval Office, but these are the kind of "plot holes" you suspect a repeated viewing or a question on Gallifrey One will patch over.

Regardless, it was another knockout sequence that quickly recaptured the frenetic pace of "The Impossible Astronaut", as the details and implications of The Silent villains took over. These sartorial alien memory-erasers proved to be the real stars of the episode, as Team Who devised a way to investigate creatures you forget about if you break eye contact with them. The Doctor later providing high-tech Dictaphones, buried in everyone's palm, which they activate and describe encounters with The Silent for a future replay. Or you can ink your skin with black marks to signify an encounter, Memento-style, although I didn't quite understand why you'd do that once The Doctor had implanted one of his pill-sized bugs...

One again, Moffat proves himself the master of ruthlessly gripping scenes built around fundamentally simple ideas that he stretches to logical extremes. Canton realizing he's made a recording of seeing a Silent over his shoulder, seconds after being given his bug; Amy, dressed conspicuously like The X Files' Scully, investigating a spooky orphanage with Canton; the aforementioned opening sequence, ending with River free-falling off a skyscraper and into the TARDIS, landing in its unseen swimming pool. Really, you could rattle off most scenes and find something memorable in the visuals or twinkling dialogue. Perhaps best of all, the method eventually used to rid humanity of The Silence (which we learn have been pervasive in society for millennia, nudging mankind along like parasites) was both simple, effective and actually made some sense -- with The Doctor inserting a recording of a captured Silent into the famous Moon Landing footage, edited to give humans a psychic nudge to kill any lurking Silents on the spot.

There were some strong character moments, too -- especially Rory feeling jealous about Amy's attachment to "best friend" The Doctor, made worse when he kept her extracted voice-recorder and learned about her false alarm pregnancy second-hand. More than at any time in the show's history, it really feels like this group are a close-knit family that also have to tackle their emotions and relationships in-between battling aliens. Plus, the first kiss between The Doctor and River Song when she was returned to prison -- although, from River's perspective, this kiss was tragically their last. To be honest, my brain turns to mulch whenever I try to parse the chronology of their relationship. All I know is it's heading towards an event we've already seen (David Tennant's Doctor putting her consciousness inside a supercomputer for eternity), so in some ways the love story loses its grip on me when I remember that fact. I just hope the actual identity of River Song (his wife, Amy's daughter?) is a surprise worth waiting for.

Of course, this story isn't really over. The Silence are too good to dispose with so easily, so they'll be back. Amy's pregnancy (why is the TARDIS scan so indeterminate?) will obviously be a central storyline going forward. And we still need to complete the season's arc by explaining who the little girl is, why she kills The Doctor, and how The Doctor is going to escape what appears to be an inescapable fate only his companions know about! Plus, there's the small matter of why that child is able to regenerate from injuries, exactly like a Time Lord, in this episode's jaw-dropping denouement.

Overall, "Day Of The Moon" was an unremittingly entertaining and surprisingly scary episode that I'd feel bad about nitpicking too much. It wasn't as baffling as part 1, and despite the fact a good 30% of everything that happened still needs to be fully explained, those are the plot threads Moffat's chosen to weave throughout this series, so categorical complaints will have to wait for the end of year finale. Above all, the pace, scares, humour, dialogue and a sense of scale was all present and correct. You can furrow your brow about many things, and I'm sure there will be people who felt bamboozled by the whole episode, but with the caveat that you allow several things to wash over you, "Day Of The Moon" was an extremely enjoyable and ambitious piece of sci-fi entertainment.

Asides

  • So -- any theories on who the little girl is? It must surely by Amy's daughter, if the photos on her bedroom table are to be believed. But the child's ability to regenerate surely means that (a) Rory isn't the father, but a Time Lord is? Or (b) Amy spending so much time in the TARDIS has given her as-yet-unborn child the ability to regenerate like a Time Lord? Trouble is, both seem like humongous stretches to be plausible. Amy is unlikely to have slept around, certainly not with a Time Lord! Or was her joke about having a baby born with a "Timehead" right on the money? But how would that work? Have no companions ever had children after leaving the TARDIS? Or maybe the child is River's -- who at some point sleeps with The Doctor and gives birth to his daughter, but Amy becomes her baby's adopted mother? It's not Georgia Moffett's character Jenny from "The Doctor's Daughter", is it?
  • Maybe we should be asking not who the little girl is, but who she'll be regenerating into? I'm guessing River Song. There, said it. No, actually -- she's a clone of The Doctor, who we later see dying in "The Impossible Planet"? So the "little girl spaceman" murdered her future self? Oh, my head hurts.
  • Time Lords CAN grow facial hair! Did he use the sonic screwdriver to shave?
  • Who was the strange lady with the eye patch in the little girl's room? A creepy nanny? The eye patch must be significant. Who is going to be losing an eye at some point? The character is known as Eye Patch Lady (Frances Barber) and is confirmed as returning to the show later this series...
  • Rory can remember his 2,000 years spent as a Roman soldier, despite the fact that technically happened to a different Rory before the "Second Big Bang" that restarted the universe. It would be much easier to just say Rory can't remember that stuff, so I suspect the fact he can is a clue of sorts -- right?
  • The character of Renfrew at the orphanage was an obvious nod to Dracula's Renfield. I also felt some similarities to the Silence and the sack-cloth headed boy in the Mexican horror The Orphanage, how about you?
  • It's confirmed that The Silence have a proto-TARDIS like the one seen in last year's "The Lodger", but it's probably not the same one.
written by Steven Moffat / directed by Toby Haynes / 30 April 2011 / BBC One

Next time....

'CAMELOT' 1.5 - "Justice"


I didn't have much faith in this episode to begin with, but it slowly came together in a surprisingly pleasurable way that crystallized several things about Camelot and provided some much-needed glimpses at what the show's really all about. In particular, through the prism of justice, we learn that Morgan (Eva Green) is a shining example of the "old ways" (making allies by demonstrating she has the zero tolerance for criminals), while Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) is promoting a very modern judicial system that involves patience, investigation and fair-mindedness. Now more than ever it's easy to see them as two sides of the same coin, which heightens Camelot's drama as these half-siblings fight for the hearts and minds of their countrymen...

This week, Arthur and his men came to the aide of a villager called Colfur (Outcasts' Liam Cunningham) after hearing his daughter's cries for help while riding through a rainy forest. It appears that Colfur had murdered his village's leader by bludgeoning him with a rock, and is in the process of being lynched by his victim's brother Ewan (Luther's Steven Mackintosh), but Arthur calls a halt to the capital punishment and orders a proper trial at Camelot to ascertain Colfur's guilt or innocence. An event that a vengeful Ewan has no faith in, but Arthur believes Colfur's predicament is a great way to demonstrate his progressive attitude to lawfulness.

Over at the Castle Pendragon, Sybil (Sinéad Cusack) proved her usefulness to Morgan by summoning the locals to complain about the lack of protection from Camelot, and manipulate them into believing the true source of power in the land comes from Morgan, not the half-brother they've taken to their hearts on principle of his bloodline. This involved Sybil paying a mercenary to cause her physical harm, so the locals perceive Morgan as someone who knows their own suffering through personal experience. I said last time that Sybil's effectively Morgan's version of Merlin (a surrogate parent and mentor figure), and the parallels are fun to see play out. It was a particularly effective moment when Morgan seized on Sybil's plan and then embellished it to make converts of everyone gathered at her castle, by ruthlessly cutting the throat of Sybil's "attacker" and earning everyone's respect and admiration through a theatrical, grisly show of power and the kind of intolerance that speaks to the people of the day. She's the trusted right-wing politician to Arthur's uncommon left-wing approach to peacekeeping. Two people wanting to rule; one through hope, the other through fear.

And in a small subplot, Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) wrestled with his demons many days of self-imposed isolation in the bowls of the castle, driven to a near-manic state by the fact he caused the drowning of an innocent girl over a sword. I'm still unsure if Fiennes' twitchy performance is a masterstroke of tangled frustrations and mental toil, or simply a ludicrous case of overacting, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt again. It helped that there was a surprisingly good scene between him and Queen Igraine (Claire Forlani), who discovered the sorcerer's whereabouts and shared a touching moment with him that almost turned passionate, until Merlin broke the sexual tension. He's an isolated man who believes anyone who gets close to him becomes tarnished, as he's effectively playing on the outskirts of a magical world that gives him great power at the price of a normal existence. This unexpected will-they/won't-they between Merlin and Igraine is likely to return, as Merlin's the perfect example of a damaged man a kindly woman like Igraine would want to fix.

Overall, "Justice" was probably the best episode of Camelot to date, simply because it seemed to have some intelligence to it. Previous episodes have been enjoyable because of the violence, nudity and magic on display, but this story worked because the characters and ideas behind the series began to take clearer shape. Arthur's interactions with Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton) even felt more enjoyable this week, as it wasn't totally driven by mutual lust. If Camelot can keep this up, then bring the magic in to compliment things without looking too silly, I have hope the series may actually become something to look forward to each week.

Asides

  • A very good performance from Liam Cunningham as the man on trial, who has his private reasons for desiring the death of a fellow villager. Cunningham was one of the main reasons to keep watching the recent BBC series Outcasts and it was great to see him give a very different performance here, in his natural Irish accent.
  • I'm a little confused that people have so quickly taken Arthur to their hearts and descended on Camelot in droves. Word spreads a lot quicker than I would have thought, but we know the show likes to get a move on with things. It was also interesting to get a feeling that some villages aren't so willing to accept Arthur's new regime and may fight against change. In many ways, the big challenge to Arthur is going to be changing people's longstanding beliefs and preconceptions of what being a good King actually means, while his sister Morgan sticks to what's worked in the past: prove to people you're the biggest bad-ass in town and that they should come to YOU for protection from enemies.
written by Sarah Phelps & Terry Cafolla / directed by Stefan Schwartz / 29 April 2011 / Starz

State of the Blog: updates & Thrones


My Blogger/IE6/Disqus issues are back in force, so just don't expect many updates or replies to your comments until after 5pm on weekdays. There will be a few instances when I can auto-post things from the day before (TV Picks, Jump the Blast's, Polls), but in general DMD won't be updating until late-afternoon now. It's all beyond my control, but could be fixed by May when my workplace finally upgrade IE. I'll keep you informed!

"Am I reviewing Game Of Thrones?" I hear you all cry. Well, a few of you. The answer is: um, no. I had every intention to make Thrones a weekly review after my pilot appraisal at OWF, but after watching episode 2 it dawned on me that I'm not enthused enough to bother. I quite like the show and enjoyed episode 1 (more for its potential than content therein), but it's not something I feel passionate enough about to wade through in next-day reviews.

If I was being paid, there would be no problem. I'd happily sit through each episode a few times, make extensive notes and research the material. But I don't get paid. I blog for fun and a desire to communicate, and Thrones isn't speaking to the passion necessary for that. As I sat down at my laptop, facing a blank Word page, trying to distill my thoughts on "The Kingsroad", I realized that writing 800-1000 words on that episode would just be a drain on me.

My apologies if you were looking forward to regular Thrones reviews here, but my state-of-mind takes priority. I'll still be watching the show, so there's an outside chance I'll find away to chime in with a quick mini-review of an episode that speaks to me more, but don't bank on it.

In a similar vein, my reviews of Camelot and The Killing are still on shaky ground, owing to low comments/page-hits since they started. As I've said before, there's no point stealing time away from reviews of shows people DO care about to cover ones most people DON'T. Of course, those shows are on US cable channels, currently not being shown in the UK, so it's possible the core audience for these reviews just aren't in sync with me. That's always the risk you take with reviewing brand new US cable shows.

Finally, owing to the fact I have quite a few unfinished reviews/articles scattered about, I may put those all together for a special post soon. This will include: an aborted Being Human Series 1-3 DVD review, a short review of Dexter Season 4's DVD, an episode of Caprica, and a partial review of Dollhouse's Season 2 DVD.

By popular demand, what are my favourite shows right now? In descending order of greatness:

Doctor Who (S6)
Fringe (S3)
The Good Wife (S2)
Justified (S2)
Arrested Development (S2)
Community (S2)
The Killing (S1)
Game Of Thrones (S1)
Camelot (S1)
The Event (S1)
Chuck (S4)
The Ricky Gervais Show (S2)
Rubicon (S1)
Glee (S2)
Nurse Jackie (S2)
Campus (S1)

Friday, 29 April 2011

Trailer: BBC Original British Drama


The BBC have released another Original British Drama trailer with more footage of upcoming shows like The Shadow Line, Exile, The Hour, Luther and The Night Watch. It also includes a few snippets from Doctor Who and, towards the end, what appears to be a world-exclusive look at Torchwood: Miracle Day (featuring a car chase on a beach with a helicopter, an exploding house, people in creepy masks, and a rather amusing confrontation between Eve Myles and Dollhouse's Dichen Lachman.) Enjoy!

Who's at the Royal Wedding?

via GaryTomWilliams

Did you enjoy the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton this morning? I certainly had a fun time tweeting snarkily about it for a few hours, but it was genuinely a lovely occasion. One of the funniest tweets that caught my attention was the above photo, proving that The Doctor himself couldn't resist making an appearance, which I can't resist posting here.

'RUBICON' 1.4 - "The Outsider"


This wasn't the big turning point I was hoping for. "The Outsider" took things in a different direction, but in so doing it rested most of the storylines that were already in play. That seems like a terrible decision, as audiences are surely clamoring for revelations and developments not fresh material. Still, it was nice to leave the usual confinements, with Will (James Badge Dale) accompanying API boss Spangler (Michael Cristofer) to Washington D.C, for a meeting with military top brass to convince them their company is still a necessary and vital part of intelligence-gathering that demands heavy financing. Will was the titular "outsider" of the hour; learning that Spangler cherishes the "gifts" of solitude that espionage brings, whereas Will's unconvinced by the lifestyle. Spangler even made attempts to befriend Will (buying him a briefcase, singing his praises to the officials), but is he just playing a game?

Back at API, Will's team had to work to a deadline without their leader, trying to ascertain if it's necessary for the US government to order an airstrike on the hideout of a mujahideen operative, even if it might cause collateral damage that includes innocent children. It was a pretty simple moral quandary, although the interaction of Grant (Christopher Evan Welch), Miles (Dallas Roberts) and Tanya (Lauren Hodges) appears to be coalescing into something fairly interesting to watch. It was also interesting to see how much stock they put in Will, to guide them to the right decisions. It was almost like they're siblings who've been set a tough homework assignment by a teacher, and struggled without their wiz kid brother around.

There were only a few strands that connected to the ongoing story: Will receiving intel from a CIA contact called Daniel, who has researched the seven decoded names Will discovered last week, and discovered six were part of the CIA's Middle East division in the '80s, but only two are still alive; while Katherine Rhumor (Miranda Richardson) received the personal effects of her late-husband, including a cell phone with a threatening voicemail ("if you keep this up, you know what's going to happen"), before getting confirmation her husband's friend James Wheeler knows about the townhouse she was bequeathed because he ordered Chinese takeout from there. Will also noticed that an attractive woman is suddenly noticeable from his apartment window, living n a building close by, so I'm assuming she must be surveilling him.

A strange episode, when all's said and done. Too much of the previous week's storylines were ignored, despite the fact Rubicon hasn't reached a point where a break from the matters at hand would be appreciated. So I'm still waiting for the moment when the story begins to crystallize and it's not so willfully vague about everything. But "The Outsider" also felt a little fresher than usual, and turned Spangler into one of the show's best characters in the blink of an eye (his speech about ties was a little clunky, but delivered so well it worked.) I guess the show's intriguing enough that it manages to keep me tuning in every week, but I'm restless for that moment when the show makes enough sense that I can properly invest in the characters and the situations they're embroiled in.

written by Richard E. Robbins / directed by Jeremy Podeswa / 28 April 2011 / BBC Four

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Poll Result: who's your favourite resurrected character?


Last week I asked you to vote for your favourite resurrected fictional character (i.e a character who "cheated clinical death".) There were 52 votes, with the results below:

ONE VOTES - 1.92%
The Crow's Eric Draven, RoboCop's Alex Murphy, Alien's Ellen Ripley, X-Men's Jean Grey & Torchwood's Owen Harper, Misfits' Nathan Young, Skulduggery Pleasant & 24's Jack Bauer (who was revived after his heart stopped beating in season 2.)

5. Herrick, Kenny & Spock – 3.85%
Quite surprised by the support for Being Human's vampire Herrick, seeing as his resurrection wasn't popular with some fans. Fun to see South Park's Kenny make the top 5, as he dies in nearly every episode and his resurrection is never actually explained. Spock is by far the best choice here, as his return to life after an iconic death scene in Star Trek II became the basis for the entire third movie.

4. Gandalf – 11.54%
Gandalf the Grey was apparently killed in a free-fall punch-up with the Balrog in The Fellowship Of The Ring, but returned as Gandalf the White for The Two Towers -- wielding such awesome magical powers as... um, the ability to reflect light into the eyes of enemies with his staff. Yeah, he's overrated.

3. Arnold J. Rimmer – 13.46%
Red Dwarf's vending machine attendant died with the rest of the mining ship's crew after a radiation leak he caused, only to be resurrected 3,000,000 years later as a sentient hologram based on the memories of his physical self. But he was still a smeg head.

2. Buffy Summers – 17.31%
I don't know the circumstances behind Buffy's death, as I never watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer that much in the '90s. But she did die. Um, temporarily. Anyone wanna fill us in, without spoiling things too much?

1. The Doctor – 30.77%
The obvious choice, certainly. Technically you can argue The Doctor never actually dies -- he just regenerates before he physically expires, to repair life-threatening injuries. But, for the purposes of this lighthearted poll, most people believe Time Lords resurrect themselves. So far, The Doctor has done this 10 times since the character was introduced 48 years ago.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

'THE KILLING' 1.5 – "Super 8"


This fifth episode avoided the emerging formula of proving the innocence of last week's prime suspect in Act I, but otherwise it was business as usual. The Killing continues to have an immersive, sodden atmosphere that's strangely alluring, but it's about time the characters started to become the main reason to stick around. And while I like Mireille Enos' measured performance more than most, it would be helpful if the writers started to give her character more dynamism. Dropping vague references about a past case Linden was involved with, that assumedly echoes this current one, isn't enough..

I want to feel swept up in the investigation and eager for Linden to find Rosie's killer, but right now the drama remains on a low simmer. This was fine to set the scene and draw us into this dingy world, but it's about time the story and characters started to grab you by the throat. I've heard amazing things about the Danish version's pace and compelling lead investigator, so it's a shame if the US remake's not measuring up to that -- especially as it's assumedly telling the same 20-episode story in half the time. If the plot's being condensed that much, shouldn't the story be rocketing along as we approach the halfway mark?

Overview:

  • Cracks appeared in the behaviour of the Larsen kids; Denny (Seth Isaac Johnson) left the house unaccompanied to buy milk to eat his sister Rosie's favourite cereal "Bits N' Pieces" (an apt allusion to the clue gathering), and Tom (Evan Bird) has started wetting the bed.
  • Holder (Joel Kinnaman) and Linden (Enos) interviewed teacher Bennet Ahmed (Brandon Jay McLaren), who claimed his letters to Rosie were just innocent correspondence ("intellectual discourse"), but couldn't corroborate his alibi that he returned home on Halloween because his wife (a former student of his) was away while he refurbished their house.
  • Richmond (Billy Campbell) was advised by aide/lover Gwen (Kristin Lehman) to reverse their campaign's fortunes by asking Rosie's parents to appear in a commercial with him. However, he decided against such a crass act and instead offered genuine condolence to Mitch (Michelle Forbes) at a supermarket, sympathizing with her situation and likening it to when he lost his wife.
  • Stan was told by his friend Belko that customers are cancelling removal dates because they're finding it difficult to face him, and later asked Belko to find out who the police have been interviewing at Rosie's school. It looks like Stan's getting antsy over the lack of progress and wants to find his own form of justice.
  • Linden and Holder watch a Super 8 video Rosie made before her death, supplied to them by Ahmed as proof she was a creative person he just wanted to inspire, and notice a reflected face in the images. Who was she filming? The secret lover/friend who killed her?
  • Jamie told Richmond that he believes Gwen is the mole in his campaign team, planted by Mayor Adams (Tom Butler.) However, after Jamie's meeting with Adams and his campaign manager Benjamin Abani (Colin Lawrence), Adams himself mentions how he caught Councilwoman Yitanes (Lee Garlington) trying to put a mole in his camp, so likely tried to same tactic successfully with Richmond. Gwen once worked for Yitanes, so becomes the prime suspect, but it turned out communications aide Nathan Patrick was the mole. Richmond exposed the deception and managed to keep Yitanes endorsement by threatening her with a prison sentence for the felony.
  • Linden and Holder interviewed Bennet Ahmed's pregnant wife Amber at their home, with Linden slinking away to a room containing plastic sheeting and a tub of ammonium hydroxide -- a floor cleaning chemical which can be used to clean bodies of incriminating evidence and was detected on Rosie's body.
Suspects:

  • Ahmed is still the prime suspect after two episodes, but it's too easy if he's the killer, as we're not even halfway through the season. It must be simple coincidence that he used ammonium hydroxide on his floors, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding him (canceling the professional floor cleaners, calling his wife from a cell-phone) are just bad luck. I won't really take any suspects seriously until around episode 9, which is a problem for this show and its long-form format.
  • Are we looking for a professional killer who knew how to scrub a dead body of forensic evidence using ammonium hydroxide, as Larsen now suspects? Was Rosie sexually assaulted after all? If this is the work of a serial killer, are there old cases that match Rosie's fate in the Washington area?
  • Gwen is off the hook as the mole, but appears to have been unfaithful to Richmond (once sleeping with the man she's just hired to shoot their campaign video.)
  • Mayor Adams, or a member of his campaign team, could still be the murderer, having killed as a means to ruin Richmond's chances. But is that too heartless?
  • Whoever accompanied Rosie while she was making her Super 8 video can also be considered a suspect, but we have no idea who that might be. It still seems more than likely her killer was someone she knew, though. The dominance of butterflies in Rosie's film, together with the giant butterfly collage on her bedroom wall, has me suspecting lepidopterist's in the Seattle area...
  • If it is a serial killer, do you think the culprit is someone Linden has investigated before? Her fiancé Rick (Callum Keith Rennie) seems very concerned that this case is stoking memories of something from Linden's past that's best forgotten, so maybe she failed to catch a killer who's now resumed his work?
Summation:

"Super 8" was the worst episode of The Killing that's aired so far, mainly because it focused so much on the political subplot which doesn't feel very relevant to the murder investigation, although it is less predictable. The fact it exists is either a clever but frustrating distraction from the murder case, or a clear sign someone on Richmond or the Mayor's payroll is the killer. It's also becoming a more noticeable chore to get through scenes where the Larsen's show their grief, which sometimes overshadows the fine work being done by Forbes and Sexton. The latter's private restroom meltdown after viewing his daughter's body, now dressed for her funeral, was excellent, but we're in danger of becoming desensitized or bored by scenes like this.

Hopefully the funeral will mark a noticeable turning point, and there's already a sign that Stan's about to take matters into his own hands rather than sit back and wait for the cops to solve the case. It's a tough one, because to be realistic the show has to show the Larsen's going through hell, but there's only so much of that an audience can take before it starts becoming too much of a downer. Unfortunately, the format of The Killing means there's unlikely to be a curative boost of positive emotion until the killer's caught, probably in the finale. Although there's some doubt The Killing's even going to end the story this season, and the case may rumble into next year, Twin Peaks-style.

Aside:

  • What's up with Holder? Celibate for six months? Taking receipt of packages of money? Delivering said money to the mailbox of a woman with two children? My guess is he's giving anonymous money to his estranged family.
written by Jeremy Doner / directed by Phil Abraham / 24 April 2011 / AMC

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

'RUBICON' 1.3 – "Keep The Ends Out"


Before I even started watching Rubicon I was aware it had pacing issues (by design or otherwise), but this third episode was the first time they became a notable problem. This was a glacial hour that tested my patience. A core problem for Rubicon is that, while the slow unveiling of a mystery is inherently intriguing, there are no real stakes to anything -- that we're aware of yet. At this stage I'm desperate for Will (James Badge Dale) to crack a code from his recently-deceased friend David that confirms there's a government conspiracy regarding such-and-such, so I have a reason to care going forward...

This episode expanded the cast slightly. We now have David's son Evan, who didn't have a good relationship with his father and is jealous that Will did, despite apparently having some kind of physical/mental condition that required special attention from his parents growing up. We also saw Will's colleague Maggie (Jessica Collins) with her husband/boyfriend and young son, putting a slightly more likeable face on her character. Maggie's question to Will about whether or not bears "go to the bathroom" during hibernation (originally a question posed by her little boy), was one of the show's few moments of levity. Rubicon's atmosphere has lightened since the dark and moody pilot, but it's still very solemn and slow. I'm hoping the show will break into a comparative sprint soon, as it really needs an injection of something.

The saving grace of the episode was seeing Will find the next big clue left behind by David: a roll of 10-digit numbers on the reverse of duct tape holding the seat of the motorcycle he was gifted for his birthday. The numbers are dates relevant to baseball games, which leads Will to the names "Jeffrey Garcia", "Alfred Bermudez" and "Randy Hobbs". This spy stuff's all great fun, but I am starting to wonder why David didn't just write those names in plain English...

It's also becoming very hard to care about Katherine Rhumor (Miranda Richardson), the wife of the man who committed suicide in the pilot's opening scene. Richardson's the biggest name involved with this show, yet her character's on the sidelines so much her role feels like a way to ensure every scene doesn't revolve around Will. Here, Katherine's seen meeting with her husband's friend James Wheeler, who says he didn't know anything about the townhouse she was bequeathed -- but, in a later scene, Wheeler is seen removing a photo of a seven boys swimming together from said townhouse.

Will also confronted the ominous man who's been tailing him, only to discover it's an FBI Agent assigned to keep tabs on him as part of his company's security measures in light of his promotion. But was the Fed the same man who's been following Will for weeks, or only recently? And we still have those two other men following Will, last seen watching him through a telescope. They're not Feds, they seem irritated that Will's "still digging" for clues, but they're not going to eliminate him?

Overall, it helps that I've been promised Rubicon comes into its own in a few weeks, as I would probably have quit now, if I was watching at the US pace last summer. It's fine to have chosen a gentle pace that's thick with atmosphere instead of mindless chases and explosions, but the whole mystery's hard to get a hook on. And while that's part of the plan (so the audience is just as confused as Will), it means Rubicon's currently a dawdling exercise in watching a quiet man crack various codes, with no idea why it matters...

written by Michael Oates Palmer / directed by Jeremy Podeswa / 21 April 2011 / BBC4

BAFTA Television Awards 2011: The Nominees


The BAFTA Television nominees have been announced for 2011, ahead of the ceremony in London on 22 May. The full list is below, together with some predictions and thoughts from yours truly:

Leading Actor
  • Jim Broadbent - Any Human Heart (Channel 4)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch - Sherlock (BBC One) – PREDICTION
  • Daniel Rigby - Eric & Ernie (BBC Two)
  • Matt Smith - Doctor Who (BBC One)
My thoughts: It's great to see Matt Smith get his first nod, but I have a suspicion BAFTA have grown bored of Doctor Who dominating awards and will instead plump for the panache of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Daniel Rigby's an outside change, with a good comic performance. I didn't see Any Human Heart, so can't comment on Jim Broadbent.

Leading Actress
  • Anna Maxwell Martin - South Riding (BBC One)
  • Vicky McClure - This Is England '86 (Channel 4) - PREDICTION
  • Natalie Press - Five Daughters (BBC One)
  • Juliet Stevenson - Accused (BBC One)
My thoughts: It has to be Vicky McClure with her spunky performance in This Is England '86; the attempted rape scene alone should bag her the BAFTA.

Supporting Actor
  • Brendan Coyle - Downton Abbey (ITV1)
  • Martin Freeman - Sherlock (BBC One)
  • Johnny Harris - This Is England '86 (Channel 4)
  • Robert Sheehan - Misfits (E4) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: Robert Sheehan's leaving Misfits, so what better way to honour a truly breakout performance that became 50% of the reason many people watched a silly-sounding teen superhero drama. Martin Freeman also did great work on Sherlock, while Johnny Harris was marvelous in This Is England '86. I didn't see enough of Downton Abbey to comment on Brendan Coyle.

Supporting Actress
  • Gillian Anderson - Any Human Heart (Channel 4)
  • Lynda Baron - The Road To Coronation Street (BBC Four)
  • Lauren Socha - Misfits (E4)
  • Jessie Wallace - The Road To Coronation Street (BBC Four) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: I didn't see enough of these to comment, but I doubt Lauren Socha's done enough to warrant a win for Misfits. My gut says Jessie Wallace may snatch it.

Entertainment Performance
  • Rob Brydon - The Rob Brydon Show (BBC Two)
  • Stephen Fry - QI (BBC One)
  • Harry Hill - Harry Hill's TV Burp (ITV1)
  • Graham Norton - The Graham Norton Show (BBC One) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: The usual suspects, eh? I say Graham Norton's the only person who really has to stretch and adapt on his show, so deserves the win more than the rest.

Female Performance In A Comedy Programme
  • Jo Brand - Getting On (BBC Four)
  • Dawn French - Roger & Val Have Just Got In (BBC Two)
  • Miranda Hart - Miranda (BBC Two) - PREDICTION
  • Katherine Parkinson - The IT Crowd (Channel 4)
My thoughts: Miranda Hart's probably going to walk away with the prize, after her British Comedy Awards success.

Male Performance In A Comedy Programme
  • James Buckley - The Inbetweeners (E4)
  • Steve Coogan - The Trip (BBC Two)
  • Tom Hollander - Rev (BBC Two) - PREDICTION
  • David Mitchell - Peep Show (Channel 4)
My thoughts: Steve Coogan was great, but Tom Hollander's a new face in this category and really Rev into the surprise hit it was.

Single Drama
  • Eric & Ernie (BBC Two) - PREDICTION
  • I Am Slave (Channel 4)
  • The Road to Coronation Street (BBC Four)
  • The Special Relationship (BBC Two)
My thoughts: Eric & Ernie was fantastic, so I'd love to see it win. The Special Relationship didn't quite come together, and I can't see the other being crowned ahead of E&E.

Drama Series
  • Being Human (BBC Three)
  • Downton Abbey (ITV1) - PREDICTION
  • Misfits (E4)
  • Sherlock (BBC One)
My thoughts: Misfits won last year, so I doubt it'll do the double. My heart wants Sherlock to win, but Downton Abbey has a better chance.

Drama Serial
  • Any Human Heart (Channel 4)
  • Mad Dogs (Sky1)
  • The Sinking Of The Laconia (BBC Two)
  • The Promise (Channel 4) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: I didn't see enough, so can't really comment here. Mad Dogs was good, but the last two episodes soured a terrific start. I suspect The Promise will win.

Continuing Drama
  • Casualty (BBC One)
  • Coronation Street (ITV1)
  • EastEnders (BBC One) - PREDICTION
  • Waterloo Road (BBC One)
My thoughts: It's a coin toss, right? EastEnders, then.

International
  • Boardwalk Empire (Sky Atlantic/HBO)
  • Glee (E4/Twentieth Century Fox)
  • The Killing (BBC Four/DR/ZDF Enterprises) - PREDICTION
  • Mad Men (BBC Four/Lionsgate Television)
My thoughts: You'd think Boardwalk Empire, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say the surprise success of BBC4's Danish import The Killing will give it a victory. Even if the show's actually years old now.

Factual Series
  • Coppers (Channel 4)
  • One Born Every Minute (Channel 4) - PREDICTION
  • Welcome To Lagos (BBC Two)
  • The Young Ones (BBC One)
My thoughts: One Born Every Minute is the only show anyone's been talking about, so...

Specialist Factual
  • Alan Bennett & The Habit Of Art (The Making Of) (More4)
  • Flying Monsters 3D (Sky3D)
  • Human Planet (BBC One) - PREDICTION
  • Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town (BBC Two)
My thoughts: It has to be Human Planet, surely.

Single Documentary
  • Between Life and Death (BBC One)
  • The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan (More4)
  • Pink Saris (More4)
  • Scenes From A Teenage Killing (BBC Four)
My thoughts: I can't comment.

Features
  • Come Dine With Me (Channel 4)
  • Hugh's Fish Fight (Channel 4)
  • Mary Queen of Shops (BBC Two)
  • Pineapple Dance Studios (Sky1) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: Pineapple Dance Studios really exploded for Sky and unleashed Louis Spence on us. They're even reward it for that.

Current Affairs
  • Kids In Care (Panorama) (BBC One)
  • Lost Girls of South Africa (Dispatches) (Channel 4)
  • Secret Iraq (BBC Two)
  • Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children (BBC Four)
My thoughts: I can't comment.

News Coverage
  • BBC One Ten O'Clock News: Handover of Power (BBC One/BBC News 24)
  • Channel 4 News: From Chile's Ecstasy to Congo's Agony (Channel 4)
  • ITV News At Ten: The Cumbria Murders (ITV1)
  • Sky News: Egypt Crisis (Sky News)
My thoughts: I can't comment, but I tend to prefer BBC news.

Sport
  • 6 Nations: England v Wales (BBC One)
  • FA Cup Final: Chelsea v Portsmouth (ITV1)
  • Formula 1: The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (BBC One)
  • Wimbledon 2010 (BBC One)
My thoughts: I'm drawing a blank, but Formula 1 coverage always looks more complex and cutting-edge on TV.

New Media
  • LabUK/Brain Test Britain
  • Misfits
  • Malcolm Tucker: The Missing Phone
  • Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention - PREDICTION
My thoughts: I'm not sure, but I think Wallace & Gromit did more to bridge the media gap with kids.

Entertainment Programme
  • The Cube (ITV1) - PREDICTION
  • The Graham Norton Show (BBC One)
  • Have I Got News For You (BBC One)
  • The X Factor (ITV1)
My thoughts: The X Factor will probably win, but I'll predict The Cube because it's fresher and deserves more acknowledgment.

Comedy Programme
  • Catherine Tate's Little Cracker (Sky1)
  • Come Fly With Me (BBC One) - PREDICTION
  • Facejacker (E4)
  • Harry and Paul (BBC Two)
My thoughts: Come Fly With Me is more high profile, so it'll win.

Situation Comedy
  • Mrs Brown's Boys (BBC One)
  • Peep Show (Channel 4)
  • Rev (BBC Two)
  • The Trip (BBC Two) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: I'd say it's between Rev and The Trip, but the latter gets my vote.

'FRINGE' 3.20 – "6:02 AM EST"


There are only three episodes left this season, and "6:02 AM EST" was primarily an hour that refreshed our memory of pertinent storylines and moved the characters into positions for the big finale. There were some great character moments to savor and a few surprising moments, but overall this episode was only "good" in the sense that it focused on the nitty-gritty of season 3's concerns (the Doomsday Device in particular) and made some welcome adjustments before the real fun begins...

This week, Walternate (John Noble) finally managed to turn his Doomsday Machine on using the DNA of his newborn grandson as a substitute for Peter (Joshua Jackson) himself. The activation then caused a sympathetic reaction from our universe's machine ("quantum entanglement", see), which in turn caused a short-lived vortex that destroyed a local farmer's herd of sheep -- a minor example of the universal damage the Machine's capable of if Walternate uses it so erase his neighbouring dimension entirely (an act that would eclipse Oppenheimer's use of the atomic bomb.) Elsewhere, Nina (Blair Brown) pointed Olivia (Anna Torv) in the direction of bowling alley mystic Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan), who himself has become aware the Doomsday Machine's functioning and busily conducted some ominous outdoor experiments. Meanwhile, Peter decided that the only solution is to hope he isn't the key that can turn the machine on (as they've long assumed), but the fail-safe to turn it off, as he volunteered to enter the machine on a probable suicide machine.

There were some big events in this episode that fans have been awaiting all year for regarding the Doomsday Machine, but in many ways they were handled disappointingly. The use of Walternate's grandchild to cheat the machine was predicted weeks ago, and felt like an undramatic cheat. It remains to be seen if that entire storyline with Fauxlivia falling pregnant only existed because it's almost impossible to get Peter back to the other dimension in a logical way. But there's still lots of potential in the sci-fi soap storyline of Olivia discovering her boyfriend's fathered a child with her inter-dimensional doppelganger, and it was refreshing to see that Fauxlivia has changed her opinion on Walternate and his methodology -- perhaps because she's become a mother and understands the value of life. Maybe it was a mistake to give Fauxlivia a sudden relationship with Lincoln (Seth Gabel) however, as it's neatened the love-triangle into a less prickly square.

If I'm honest, Walter's constant blubbing about his past transgressions and fears that he'll lose his son have started to lose their impact, with Noble expected to deliver another spin on the same basic scene with co-star Jackson. However, having Walter (the epitome of a "man of science") seek some comfort from a nearby chapel, urging God to punish him for his crimes but save their world, was an effecting moment. Beautifully played by Noble, even if the quality of writing didn't quite deliver the knockout emotion that scene was promising. I note that three staff writers are credited on this episode (David Wilcox, Josh Singer, Graham Roland), so it's a shame not one of them could craft dialogue that took full advantage of Walter grappling with his spiritual side.

So where does this episode leave us? Both Doomsday Machines are activated, poised to annihilate their opposing universe (will they cancel each other out?); Peter isn't even able to touch the machine without receiving a life-threatening jolt of electricity (so much for that plan...); Fauxlivia wants to defect to the other universe to warn them about what's about to happen, but has been caught and imprisoned by Walternate (is her warning even required?); and Sam Weiss has returned to help Olivia with the machine in some way. Lots of stuff to keep your mind brewing on what the remaining two episodes have in store for us -- although knowledge Fringe has been renewed for a fourth season would suggest both universes will survive. Or will they perhaps merge? It'll be interesting to see what the writers have in store for us, as every season of Fringe has ended in a way that's rejuvenated the following season. Is there a way for Fringe to pull the same trick again, or are we going to resume the "warring dimensions" storyline without the use of these fortuitous ancient machines?

Asides

  • Fauxlivia's son is named Henry, after Henry the taxi cab driver who helped during the birth.
  • I liked the mention of Walter receiving a sign from God in the white tulip he was mailed during season 2. A moment he evidently sees as a miracle, but which audiences know was the result of a complex time-travel storyline he has no knowledge of (see: "White Tulip")
  • Still no sign of an explanation for why Peter (well, his DNA) triggers the Machine, which was built aeons before human civilization began. They do have an explanation, right?
written by David Wilcox, Josh Singer & Graham Roland / directed by Jeannot Szwarc / 22 April 2011 / Fox

'The Borgias' has a second coming


Showtime's brand new historical drama The Borgias, starring Jeremy Irons as a devious pope and patriarch of a notorious family, has been renewed for a second 10-part season in 2012.

David Nevins, Showtime President:

The Borgias has become Sunday night appointment viewing for a broad swath of our subscribers. Neil Jordan's cleverly crafted tale of a 15th century papal family has proven quickly addictive. It’s a tribute to his incredible skills as an auteur and to the extraordinary cast led by Jeremy Irons that this show fits so seamlessly into our line-up of quality shows.
The Borgias has been averaging 1.1m viewers since it premiered last month, ahead of The Tudors' final season. Personally, while I really liked the two-part opening, I haven't found the time to make it a part of my weekly routine. It's the Lights Out scenario all over again, but at least I know The Borgias has a guaranteed future now, so a few double-bills may be in order...

Have you been watching The Borgias? Or do you plan to when it reaches the UK this summer?

TV Ratings: 'Doctor Who' (BBC America)

Alex Kingston as River Song in DOCTOR WHO

The ratings for Doctor Who's series 6 premiere on BBC America are in! "The Impossible Astronaut" is confirmed as the cable channel's highest-rated show ever. 1.28m people tuned into the episode on Saturday evening, which was itself set in America. That's an improvement of 71,000 viewers over series 5's premiere last year.

Naturally, broadcasting the episode the same day as the UK helped matters (by curbing online piracy), but it's perhaps surprising only an extra 71,000 people were added to last year's figures. Maybe the BBC have overestimated the number of Americans willing to download the series online? I wonder if the BBC were imagining there were hundreds of thousands of American fans who wouldn't ordinarily wait for BBC America's broadcast, when in fact most probably do wait for it to be televised. Or download in addition to watching it on US television?

Any thoughts, American readers?

Monday, 25 April 2011

TV Picks: 25 April - 1 May 2011 ('Derren Brown: Miracles For Sale', 'Exile', 'In Treatment', 'My Big Fat Royal Gypsy Wedding', 'Royal Wedding', 'Secret Millionaire', 'Suspicions Of Mr Whicher', etc.)

Pick of the Week: 'IN TREATMENT' - Friday, Sky Atlantic, 10.15PM

EASTER MONDAY
Kate & William: A Royal Love Story (BBC1, 8.30pm) Documentary on how Prince William & Kate Middleton met and fell in love.
The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher (ITV1, 9pm) Drama about a sleepy village in 1860 who have to deal with a horric murder, based on the novel by Kate Summerscale.
Derren Brown: Miracles For Sale (Channel 4, 9pm) The illusionist exposes the cons at the heart of American so-called faith healers.
The Royal Wedding Crashers (Channel 4, 10.35pm) Comedy special taking a humorous look at how Prince William & Kate Middleton met and fell in love.

TUESDAY 26th
William & Kate: The Story So Far (Channel 5, 8pm) Documentary on how Prince William & Kate Middleton met and fell in love.
When Kate Met William: A Tale Of Two Lives (ITV1, 9pm) Documentary on how Prince William & Kate Middleton met and fell in love.
The Secret Millionaire (Channel 4, 9pm) Return of the series where a millionaire spends time in an underprivileged community. (1/7)
Meet The Multiples (BBC3, 9pm) Documentary on the challenges faced with parents of multiple children.
Two Pints Of Lager & A Packet Of Crisps (BBC3, 10.30pm) Series 9 of the sitcom. Double-bill. (1/6)

WEDNESDAY 27th
Giles & Sue's Royal Wedding (BBC2, 8pm) Special episode of the series, where Sue Perkins & Giles Coren attempt their own royal wedding.
William & Kate: Romance & The Royals (Channel 4, 9pm) Documentary with a historical angle on the business of Royal Weddings.
Dark Blue (5USA, 9pm) Season 2 of the US crime drama. Starring Dylan McDermott, Omari Hadwick, Logan Marshall-Green, Tricia Helfer & Nicki Aycox. (1/10)

THURSDAY 28th
Rock & Chips (BBC1, 9pm) Return of the Only Fools & Horses prequel. Also the last episode, owing to the untimely death of writer/creator John Sullivan.
Sir Bobby Charlton: Football Icon (BBC2, 9pm) Documentary on the famous footballer.
My Big Fat Royal Gypsy Wedding (Channel 4, 9pm) Special episode of the docu-drama smash-hit.
Peter Andrew: The Next Chapter (ITV2, 9pm) Return of the fly-on-the-wall reality show. (1/8)

FRIDAY 29th
Royal Wedding (BBC1, 8am) Live coverage of the Royal Wedding of Prince William & Kate Middleton. Continues at 2.10pm & 8.30pm.
The Royal Wedding (ITV1, 8.25am) Live coverage of the Royal Wedding of Prince William & Kate Middleton.
Come Dine With Me Royal Wedding Special (Channel 4, 8pm) Special episode of the series where the participants try to organize the best Royal Wedding Street Party for 40 guests.
In Treatment (Sky Atlantic, 10.15pm) Season 2 of the US drama about a psychotherapist. Stars Gabriel Byrne. Double-bill. (1/35)
Weeds (Sky Atlantic, 10.35pm) Season 5 of the US drama. Starring Mary Louise Parker, Demian Bichir, Elizabeth Perkins & Justin Kirk. (1/13)

SATURDAY 30th
New People Do The Funniest Things (ITV1, 6pm) Series 19 of the home video show. Hosted by Stephen Mulhern. (1/6)

SUNDAY 1st
Vera (ITV1, 8pm) Detective series based on the novels by Ann Cleeves. Starring Brenda Blethyn. (1/4)
Exile (BBC1, 9pm) Drama about a journalist who returns home after 18 years to uncover the truth behind an incident that caused him to leave, where he's reacquainted with his father who's suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Stars John Simm, Kate Magowan, Olivia Colman, Jim Broadbent & Daryl Fishwick. (1/3)
Perspectives: Andrew Lloyd Webber – A Passion For The Pre-Raphaelites (ITV1, 10.15pm) The composer discusses his love for the 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

TV Ratings: 'Doctor Who' (BBC1)


Saturday's series 6 premiere of Doctor Who attracted 6.5 million viewers at 6pm, the show's earliest timeslot to date. That's down 1.2m viewers from series 5's launch, but obviously there was more hoopla about Who's return with brand new actors last spring. The atypically hot Easter weekend also played a part, with many people likely to have deferred the live broadcast with the intention of catching a repeat or watching the BBC iPlayer. Doctor Who was still the second most-watched show that evening, beaten only by Britain's Got Talent on ITV1. Who's consolidated viewing figures are also likely to push the overall rating up to 8.5m or more.

This was a successful return, dampened by the weather and a timeslot that arguably clashed with some barbecues and outdoor pursuits. It'll be interesting to see what next weekend's ratings are, seeing as it's the second of a two-part premiere (the first for nu-Who.) Hopefully those who missed its return will have caught up by 30 April, so the next episode makes sense to them.

What are your thoughts on the ratings and timeslot? Did you watch live, or wait for a repeat on BBC3? Maybe you chose to iPlayer the episode the next day? Have you yet to see it, owing to the weather? Maybe you took an Easter break, so that's why you haven't got around to it yet? Or were you sat comfortably on your sofa come 6pm, eager to watch the latest adventure?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Review: 'DOCTOR WHO' 6.1 - "The Impossible Astronaut"


Time travel to Obsessed With Film, where I've reviewed the series 6 premiere of DOCTOR WHO, "The Impossible Astronaut". Spaceman! Aliens! Stetson!

Steven Moffat's greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. The episodes he wrote during Russell T. Davies' era of Doctor Who's revival buzzed with a complex playfulness that was mostly absent at that time in its history. As the incumbent showrunner he can indulge himself with similar takes on almost a weekly basis, and there were times during "The Impossible Astronaut" when you missed the show's simplicity and, to be honest, the narrative somersaults were too dominant. This is a show that, while still fundamentally simple and beautifully accessible (eccentric alien travels through Time and Space saving the universe with human companions), now revels in in-jokes, Cat's Cradle plotting, and geeky references. The good news is that most people watching can keep up, or want to try, but this was still a dizzying, hectic storyline -- and one that likely confused Americans the BBC so clearly want to convert into Whovians...

An unspecified time after series 5's finale, newly-married companions Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill), together with time-travelling enigma River Song (Alex Kingston) are summoned to the epic vistas of Monument Valley in Utah by cryptic TARDIS-blue letters supposedly sent by their mutual friend The Doctor (Matt Smith.) From there, things get complicated, as they're apt to with a script from Steven Moffat: involving the apparently irreversible death of one of their party by a creepy "astronaut" emerging from a lake, which necessitates a trip to the White House of 1969 to help President Nixon (Stuart Milligan) solve the riddle of a crank caller. Oh, and there are bizarre aliens at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue known as "The Silents", resembling alien Grey's that have had their mouths dunked in toxic waste before being sent to Saville Row for a tailored suit. Continue reading...

Jump the Blast #15 - 'Breakout Kings'


This week we have a Jump the Blast submission from reader Bhavin Mandora, taken from A&E's new series BREAKOUT KINGS. This screengrab shows the week's escapee "successfully blowing up a symbol of the oppressive American Government's communications in honor of his hero Carl Hunts." It doesn't make much sense to me, but it's a tough-looking guy walking away from a fiery spectacle, which is what we want. And it's got me thinking: why aren't there more women "jumping the blast"? If you have a good example to share, follow the instructions below:

Have you noticed a shot in a film, trailer, advert, or TV show that features someone jumping/walking away from an explosion of some kind? If so, why not email me a screengrab and you can be credited in the next installment of "Jump the Blast".

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Review: 'JUSTIFIED' 2.1 - "The Moonshine War"


Mosey on over to Obsessed With Film, where I've reviewed the season 2 premiere of FX's JUSTIFIED, which finally made its UK debut on 5USA last night. Marijuana! Man-trap! Gasoline!

The first season of FX's Justified was consistently entertaining, but only really found its voice when it started focusing less on crime-of-the-week plots and more on the ongoing story of violent bank robber Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and his reprobate daddy. It wasn't the first show to change tact this way, as TV shows increasingly discover that audiences (especially cable audiences) enjoy watching one big story unfold over multiple episodes, rather than be fed a constant run of disparate stories that are resolved in an hour. A healthy balance is key, and Justified found equilibrium in the latter-half of its inaugural year. So it's a relief that the season 2 premiere, "The Moonshine War", spends most of its time setting up another ne'er-do-well family for US Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) to grapple with for 13 weeks, in a confident and assured opener to what promises to be another engrossing trip to Harlan, Kentucky...

A reprise of the season 1 finale's dying moments opens the premiere, with Raylan fending off Miami drug cartel bad guys with the help of frenemy Boyd, during a small-scale shootout in a remote hut, before dovetailing into a coda that wraps up loose ends from last year. Primarily, the Miami gangster who's been out to avenge the death of one of his men (whom Raylan shot in the pilot, resulting in his transfer to hometown Harlan), is dissuaded from continuing his vendetta, in scenes that felt like showrunner Graham Yost washing his hands of last year's ideas. It's a palette cleanser, before the new season's allowed to move on. Continue reading...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

State of the Blog: Easter break


I'm off on another jaunt from today until Easter Monday (which includes seeing Derren Brown live -- woohoo!), so blog updates will be less frequent. This week's reviews of Rubicon, Fringe and Camelot will be delayed, but I'll do my best to ensure Doctor Who gets reviewed for Sunday (but no promises.) My review of Justified's season 2 premiere will go up tomorrow. You know the drill by now: there won't be a total blackout, but don't expect "normal service" until next Tuesday.

As for the future; I've decided to review Doctor Who, Torchwood, Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad, True Blood, Camelot, The Killing and Psychoville every week this spring/summer. The Borgias didn't appear popular enough to justify investing time writing reviews, although I'll keep watching it. Mildred Pierce will probably only get a premiere review at OWF, if that, owing to low enthusiasm and weak reviews from the US. Falling Skies is more likely to find a place on my weekly schedule, if it's good.

So that's 8 or 9 shows being covered over the next few months, with the possibility of a few more being added to the mix. As always, comments, links, and page-hits will help me determine the long-term prospects of some reviews. Right now, I'm unconvinced the audience who voted for Camelot are fully engaged with the show, so it's on the wobble here already. The Killing has also elicited far less feedback than I expected, but we'll see how it goes... for now.

Remember: if you appreciate a review here, please leave the occasional comment. It's the only way I know if something's truly popular and worth persevering with.

My problem accessing Blogger at work appears to have cleared (maybe it wasn't an incompatibility with IE6 after all), but the situation with Disqus has worsened. I wasn't able to leave comments, but now I can't even read comments! It looks like my workplace have blocked access to Disqus itself. Great. Consequently, I'm in the dark about what comments are being left on DMD until I get home. Please continue to leave them, but just know won't be reading/replying until later -- sorry!

On a related note, for anyone wanting to create a Disqus profile and upload an avatar, here is the process to follow:

If you're NOT already registered with Disqus, click "subscribe by e-mail" or "subscribe by RSS" under the 'Add New Comment' box. A pop-up window will appear, where you must then enter your email or RSS option in it. It's THAT easy! Once done, visit www.disqus.com, enter your details to access your profile, and upload an avatar. Et voila!
Sounds like hard work? Okay, fine, let's disagree. But it's worth it because many sites/blogs use Disqus now. Once you're signed up, you may be surprised by how many places you visit online that now has your avatar preloaded into the comments area. And if you're a regular commenter here, why not seal the deal by signing up properly?

Finally, by popular demand, I've created a TV pilot/premiere calendar. The calendar is readily accessible on the main page's sidebar, just underneath the "In Review" widget (formerly "On The Box".) I hope you'll bookmark it and, if you can, help maintain it by e-mailing me about amendments. Its design may change, as I try to find the best, easiest way to make the information clear.

Let me know your thoughts, if you have any!

'CHUCK' 4.21 – "Chuck Versus The Wedding Planner"


I've said many times that Chuck's at its best when it's having lighthearted fun, ideally with a streak of family-tinged emotion running through it, and "Chuck Versus The Wedding Planner" proved that once again. After so many episodes spent trying to convince us the Mary/Volkoff storylines are emotional and compelling this season (they're neither), it was so refreshing to get an episode that spoke to the main characters, especially the undernourished Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), with a few scraps thrown to Casey (Adam Baldwin) in a subplot...

This week, Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Sarah were cheated out of $26,000 they'd saved for their nuptials, by grifter Daphne Peralta (Lisa LoCicero) pretending to be a wedding planner. Infuriated at the deception and their gullibility, Sarah sought advice from her conman father Jack Burton (Gary Cole) living in Miami, before convincing Chuck to pretend Daphne's a terrorist so General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) will give them access to the CIA's database to find her. Unfortunately, their lie got out of hand, leading to a huge manhunt for Daphne that quickly exposed their dishonesty. Meanwhile, Jack arrived in Burbank following his daughter's surprise visit and, after Chuck and Sarah were suspended for lying, became the only person who could help them catch a gang of real terrorists Daphne had arranged to plan a wedding reception for. Elsewhere, Casey's ex-girlfriend Kathleen (Clare Carey) got closer to discovering that he isn't dead, and has been in touch with their daughter Alex (Melvin Mekenna) for months...

I'm a huge Gary Cole fan, so it was a particular delight to see him return to Chuck, even if this episode wasn't quite as focused on him than his previous appearances have been. In fact, there was a chunk of time where it was hard to see why he was even involved, and the show kept him on the sidelines with Devon (Ryan McPartlin), but thankfully the wedding hustle got him directly involved, and the flashbacks to 1989 (when Sarah was a little girl saving pennies in a piggy bank for an adventure with her dad) were quite sweet. I'm so fed up with Chuck's family that it's just nice to see a different relationship on the show (Cole and Strahovski work very well as father/daughter), and a pity Chuck's never really found other familial relationships of equal strength for the supporting cast. Casey's come closest with his once-estranged daughter, but even that's not quite as interesting as it promised to be, and this episode seemed to rush the long-awaited moment when Kathleen realized Casey isn't dead. A problem here was how that's a far bigger emotional situation than anything happening with Sarah/Jack, but shoved into a subplot. Crazy. And it didn't help that Kathleen's reaction to seeing her dead lover, alive and working at a Buy More, was unrealistically sedate. She barely raised an eyebrow!

Second of Strahotness: specs appeal

"... Versus The Wedding Planner" was also the first episode in a very long time to make me laugh out loud, in the moment where Sarah described Chuck's "flash-face" and attempted to pull the same gormless expression herself. Chuck's exaggerated "fake-flash" for the benefit of Beckman was also very amusing, and the story had a certain snap to it that's been missing this year. It was as silly and coincidental as usual, but I really don't mind when Chuck's just finding excuses for ways to get Sarah doing a funny voice in spectacles, or Casey shooting someone with a spring-loaded net. Plus, there were a few avenues that felt quite fresh here -- like Sarah/Chuck actually lying to their boss and getting in a mess over their personal lives, Chuck becoming "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" when Beckman didn't believe his genuine flash, and seeing the team have to operate along without the usual CIA backup. These were only minor things, but taken together they helped give the episode a feeling of freshness.

And as I said, the heart of the episode was evident throughout, even if I still struggle to see why Sarah and Jack have such a fraught relationship. They always seem to get on just fine, really. And while Jack may be unreliable it seems silly he'd refuse to be there for his daughter's wedding day just because he might let her down. I suspect the writers don't want Jack to come across as too unlikable, but still want us to accept he's a "bad father". It's just hard to see it, because everything about his present-day interaction with Sarah (the dance at the wedding), and the '89 flashbacks (him tucking sleepy Sarah into bed) says their relationship's just fine, really. And it was a lovely moment to see Jack had returned Sarah's childhood piggy bank after 22 years, now loaded with money to pay for her own forthcoming adventure with Chuck.

Overall, "... Versus The Wedding Planner" was fun and emotional at all the right moments, only really letdown by a very hurried subplot for Casey (that deserved its own episode to do it justice), and a final scam that wasn't all that impressive. In many ways this felt like an old-school episode of Chuck, which always seem to be the best ones these days. The show can still be fun and very lovable when it wants to be, if it just remembers to give the characters something rewarding to play with, and a story that doesn't conform to the usual boring templates. This was something a little more satisfying than usual, with heartfelt and humorous moments holding it all together. I'm sure we'll be back to the overblown Volkoff storyline before you know it, but for now this was a welcome reminder of why I started to enjoy Chuck in the first place.

written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc / directed by Anton Cropper / 18 April 2011 / NBC

RIP: Elisabeth Sladen (1948-2011)


Actress Elisabeth Sladen, who played faithful companion Sarah-Jane Smith on Doctor Who for 38 years, has died of complications arising from a battle with cancer she kept quiet for several years. She was 63.

Sladen made her Doctor Who debut as feisty reporter Sarah-Jane Smith in 1973, when Jon Pertwee was playing The Doctor, and throughout Tom Baker's tenure until 1981. Upon leaving the show she appeared in several Who specials and radio plays (including ill-fated TV pilot K-9 & Company), before a guest appearance in Doctor Who's 2006 episode "School Reunion" led to Sladen being given her own TV series the following year, entitled The Sarah-Jane Adventures

Sladen's career was dominated and defined by her work on Doctor Who over almost four decades, as she appeared in only a few other TV shows and plays in her lifetime.

Russell T. Davies, Sarah-Jane Adventures' creator:

I absolutely loved Lis. She was funny and cheeky and clever and just simply wonderful. The universe was lucky to have Sarah-Jane Smith, the world was lucky to have Lis.
Steven Moffat, incumbent Doctor Who showrunner:

"Never meet your heroes" wise people say. They weren't thinking of Lis Sladen. Sarah-Jane Smith was everybody's hero when I was younger, and as brave and funny and brilliant as people only ever are in stories. But many years later, when I met the real Sarah-Jane -- Lis Sladen herself -- she was exactly as any child ever have wanted her to be. Kind and gentle and clever; and a ferociously talented actress, of course, but in that perfectly English unassuming way. There are a blessed few who can carry a whole television show on their talent and charisma -- but I can't think of one other who's done it quite so politely.
Elisabeth Sladen is survived by her husband Brian Miller and daughter Sadie Miller.

DoctorWhoNews.net have a comprehensive write-up of Elisabeth Sladen's passing.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Video: HBO Moments – Spring 2011


HBO have released a nice trailer for their spring output, which includes Game Of Thrones, Bored To Death season 2, Treme season 2, True Blood season 4, Inception, Boardwalk Empire season 2, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Town, and many more. Some of the footage (particularly of True Blood) is brand new, so may be of particular interest to fans thereof. Incidentally, I found it quite amusing how the clips of The Town linger on Jon Hamm, star of their rival AMC's Mad Men...

TV Ratings: 'Game Of Thrones' (HBO & Sky Atlantic)


After years in development and months of hype, HBO's long-awaited medieval fantasy drama Game Of Thrones made its premiere on Sunday night in the US, attracting 2.2m viewers. Considering the show's expense and lavish marketing drive, that's disappointing but not disastrous. It's double what Mildred Pierce managed recently, but 54% lower than Boardwalk Empire's premiere (4.8m) and worse than any Empire episode from last year. Its performance is comparable to what True Blood averaged over season 1, so it'll potentially grow in popularity like that vampire drama did. Plus, if you factor in Thrones' second repeat (1.2m) and third repeat (800k), that's a very healthy 4.2m people watching the first episode within 48-hours... but will they be back for episode 2 next Sunday?

Here in the UK, Thrones did much better for Sky Atlantic. The show's Monday night premiere drew an impressive average of 743,000 viewers (compared to Empire's debut of 438,000), and that peaked at 823,000. This makes Thrones the fledgling channel's biggest hit to date, and the figure will probably rise by 50% when Sky+ viewing is taken into account.

In the US, people are saying Boardwalk performed better because of Martin Scorsese and Steve Buscemi's involvement, whereas Thrones had nothing similar to lean on. That sounds ridiculous to me, and certainly wasn't the case in the UK -- where Thrones comfortably wiped the floor with Empire's debut.

Personally, I think two things went haywire with Game Of Thrones in the US. Firstly, it's a tough show to encapsulate in a sentence. If anyone asks you what Thrones is about, or why they should watch it, can you give them a satisfying, simple answer? Secondly, the US hype-machine went into overdrive and, frankly, got up people's noses. As a keen Twitterer, even I was exhausted and bored by the number of US critics who were posting Thrones interviews, previews, handy guides, advanced reviews, pre-air reviews, and now post-air reviews with ratings analysis.

Critics certainly have a role to play in championing TV shows, but maybe they should exercise restraint with a huge show like Thrones that's already got the might of HBO behind it? The sheer onslaught of Thrones-related blogs over the past few months has been actively annoying, and even I felt myself getting tired and bored with Thrones before it had even aired!

It possibly didn't help that Thrones is debuting in the spring, now the weather's improved and people are less inclined to be watching TV on a warm evening. I'm pretty sure it would have done better if it debuted in the autumn/winter; a season that would also compliment the show's aesthetic and atmosphere.

What do you think? Any theories on why Thrones wasn't the colossal success HBO wanted, and why it did much better in the UK? Do you think it'll rise to 4m+ viewers over time, or will there be a sharp drop-off next weekend?