Dr Who, Good or Bad?

Posted: November 8, 2014 in Articles, Dr Who, TV Reviews

Like him or loathe him, Peter Capaldi has made the roll of Dr Who his own. His character is irreverent, quirky, both hard and soft, pushy and at times surprising in his empathy. He sees Clara as a lost love, the woman he could have dated. A missed opportunity. Her humanity frustrates him, but at the same time endears her to him. He can only do without her company for so long. He also turns out to be a hard nosed mentor as well as her best friend.

Forget the bad stories, and there have been a few. Forget the confusing sub plot and the strange aliens as well. This series of Doctor Who has been the most challenging, the most frightening, (not least because of the direction the Doctors character has taken), and at times the most endearing. It has caused frustration, endless internet debate and has opened out eyes to the way the Doctor thinks and acts.

This regeneration is one of the most interesting since John Pertwee and Tom Bakers era. This version of the Doctor reminds us that he is very, very old, quite jaded, completely eccentric and above all – a Time Lord. A member of that race of beings that birthed the Master, the Rani and many more.

I started out hating him, and now I like him. Capaldi as the Doctor has grown on me.

It’s not because of the writing though. At times this has been worse than mine, full of quick fixes and unexplainable silliness. It has mostly been down to the way Capaldi is able to bring his acting ability into play. One moment unintentionally comedic, the other deadly serious.

There are other factors that come into play too.

BAD: Mr Pink. Good actor, great sub plot = get rid of him. Not needed. A robotic destroyer that looks like it came from the 1970’s? Come on guys, even a kid wouldn’t be frightened of that. The Moon is a space egg? Cybermen, again? Tired!

GOOD: Chatting up dinosaurs, Clara, 2D Monsters, a man wrapped in bandages killing people, Clara being The Doctor for a day, new TARDIS interior, that Robin Hood episode, (he’s just a fairy tale), and spoiler of spoilers – The Master is now a woman.

Whoever said TV wasn’t interesting?

Nightcrawler Makes You Squirm

Posted: October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s been a day since I saw the film Nightcrawler and I am still feeling slightly uneasy about it. It got to me. Not because it’s a bad film, but because it contains a character that is so disturbed and irredeemable that you find yourself turning away when he is at his worst and rooting for him when he is just plain nasty.

Jake GyllenhaalRene Russo and  Bill Paxton all have driven characters, but it is Gyllenhaals portrayal of Lou Bloom that makes you squirm. The man is driven, desperate to find a job, mostly self educated and completely ruthless in his pursuit of the next big story. He goes as far as manipulating a desperate news editor into sleeping with him, moving a body at an accident to get a better picture and even gets to crime scenes before the police. He is intelligent, without moral compass and single minded. Gyllenhaal deserves an oscar for this performance.

I could say more, but that would reduce the impact of the movie. See it, because whether you love it or hate it, it is one of those movies that offers up an acting treat.

Constantine Hits The Mark

Posted: October 29, 2014 in TV Reviews

Since the rather lacklustre film starring Keanu Reeves, I have been waiting for a deserving screen version of the DC Comics character Constantine. So it was with some excitement and nervousness that I sat down to watch the pilot for the new TV series. I shouldn’t have been worried, because even before seeing the first episode there was plenty of promise.

When making a TV series based upon a well loved fictional character you need a great writing team, good production values and a decent actor to play the lead role. The Smallville team almost got it right, the Arrow team do a damn good job of making it interesting and Flash is proving to be bloody brilliant. Constantine follows in the tradition.

Having David S. Goyer and Mark Vereiden involved in the production means that it is starting in very safe hands. Add in Matt Ryan, who plays the lead role, and life becomes very interesting.

From the start Ryan does the job of nailing the character. It’s almost as if he jumped straight out of the pages of the comic. It’s not just the way the character looks either. His voice, his mannerisms and the way they have written in a disdain for all things authoritarian all add to the overall effect. This is the Constantine I have been hearing in my head every time I have read the comic.

Bravo for creating everything the fans wanted without dumbing him down.

NBC aired the first episode on 24th October and it has already been picked up for airing in the UK. Keep watching this space for more information as it arrives.

Extending my thoughts outward from the idea of the Higgs Field Neutralising Engine, I have decided to look more at the practical applications of this technology.

Use a directed low energy anti-Higgs particle beam or field neutraliser to negate the mass of everyday objects.

A directed low energy beam would not separate the object from our universe as we know it, but could interfere with the Higgs Field, reducing the mass of an object and nullifying its mass or velocity in a single vectored direction.

A low energy field could help reduce mass making it easier for the force beams to slow a mass with excessive velocity to a virtual stop.

Going further, the same low energy Higgs field neutraliser device could be used to reduce the velocity and the effect of g-forces on aircraft, vehicles and spacecraft.

Imagine that you crash two cars together and at the moment that they make contact, a protective field is engaged, Their velocity would be reduced to zero, their effective combined mass would be reduced and more importantly their potential mass, a product of their inertia, would also be reduced.

So, not only would the Higgs Field Neutralising Engine be a potential source for interstellar travel, it could be used for reducing impact damage from motor vehicles, it would allow us to fly our aircraft for longer distances using less fuel and allow us to put a spacecraft into orbit with the minimum of discomfort and effort for the occupants…

I hope that someone is already working on this technology. Come on people, someone do the math..

Okay, so after some serious thought I think I may have made a mistake with the idea of the Higgs Neutraliser Engine. I still think the idea is sound, but I have some initial thoughts that I think might improve the design.

Firstly, it occurred to me that everything within the field would have zero mass. Zero mass is a problem. The slightest movement with zero mass would cause someone to accelerate to unknown speeds. Or would it? Would everything be subjective? Do objects with zero mass within a zero mass environment react the same way as objects with mass in a normal environment?

Secondly, would the objects actually have zero mass, or would they still have mass but in separation from our normal universe? Would there be a region of normal space below our own, subject to similar laws but separated? It stands to reason that there would still be a Higgs field in operation within the separation field. Mass would still exist, but separated from our own universe. So within our own universe, the standard laws of mass and gravity would have no effect on any of the objects within the field.

Put a fish in a bag of water and float it in the ocean. It would survive for a while, and would still be protected from the rest of the ocean. The fish would eventually use all the oxygen left in the bag, but would still be protected. In the same way, suppose you create a space craft that uses this Higgs Anti-field generator? I surmise that a Higgs field might still exist within the bubble created by the neutralising field, but in order to maintain and protect the occupants of the field, the generators of energy might have to be placed in a ring or on nacelles that are attached to the control structure.

All these questions can only be answered by complex investigation by brains far superior to myself.

I recently read a paper by students from the University of Leicester, which proposed that using plasma as a shield against other forms of electromagnetic radiation is not only theoretically possible, but is indeed entirely plausible using todays levels of technology.

Okay, I can buy that idea. But lets take it a step further.

Instead of bottling a plasma field in a super powerful magnetic field, why not scale down the technology. Make the field elongated and continually cycling. Use a super dense portable battery solution added to a cycling plasma field contained within a device that can be directed and held within the hand. You might even use a crystalline substance to act as a lense for the energy source. You could then have a blade like device, able to cut through anything it touched or defend against laser bolts and other similar devices.

We could call it something catchy, like a laser sword or a plasma sword. I’m sure there are catchier phrases…

I remember, one fateful night in 1996, seeing the movie “From Dusk Till Dawn” and thinking this was the best vampire movie I had ever seen. Believe me, I have seen an awful lot of bad vampire flicks. Not least of which are those based upon alternate legends. However, this one was different. It was unashamedly violent and sensuous in equal steps. I remember seeing the dance of the snake woman and thinking she must be the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

The following day I got married. It would seem that the Dusk Till Dawn story is yet another thing that has outlasted my marriage.

As a Movie to TV conversion I expected this series to be a little more tame, with less gore and violence, a little more character driven and with a more indepth story. I expected it to generally stick to the story of the original film. So far, having just watched the sixth episode in the series, I am not disappointed. Yes, the level of gore and violence is far in excess of what I expected, but it is not quite as bad as the movie and TV audiences are now finding it more acceptable to use over the top schlock gore in TV horror. At least in the states. 

In the UK things are different and I can see this program being chopped about quite a lot if it is shown too early in the evening.

The characters are stronger in this than the movie. We see more background and more about their own strengths and weaknesses. I found myself rooting for Richie Gecko, (played by Tarrantino in the original movie), even though he is easily as depraved as the creatures he is about to encounter. Why? Because his portrayal by Zane Holtz is completely dead pan psycho. He has no apparent redeeming qualities, yet somehow you know he is going to be a better fighter because of this.

D.J. Cotrona as Seth Gecko is no replacement for George Clooney, but he does somehow draw you in. Sane, but willing to protect his brother until the end, he will do what needs to be done. There is some superficial “Cloonyness” to him that adds to the mystique, and in general he does the job that needs to be done. He is a good foil to Zane Holtz.

Add in Jason “ex-terminator / true blood” Patrick, and things start to hot up. He plays the part of the preacher and does it well. Easily as ripped apart by his own insecurities as by his loss of faith and the death of his wife – this man is born to redeem himself. His children seem to be along for the ride, but his daughter, (played by Madison Davenport), is far from a pushover and bodes well as a strong character. The same cannot yet be said of the son, Scott Fuller. Brandon Soo Ho hasn’t yet been given enough of a reason to shine in the roll, but the series is only just over half way through.

There are many more supporting characters, seen in flashback as well as in the ongoing storyline. Jesse Garcia as obsessed lawman Freddie Gonzalez seems to be another dark hero. His aim is to bring in the Gecko brothers who shot his friend and partner Earl McGraw, played by Don Johnson. Johnson’s character is seen alive in the first two episodes, but after his death he is also seen in regular flashbacks. I like Johnson and this role suits him. 

I thought I would hate this program, but I find myself drawn to each episode. It will be interesting to see what happens and whether it reaches the same conclusion as the movies.

In my opinion  the first six episodes average 7.5 / 10 at the moment. I consider that more than enough for a new television series. Can’t wait for the action to kick in…Image

I was lucky to see this at the weekend and although I was pleased with the ultimate result of the movie, I was not at all pleased with all of the content. I will be posting a full review when I have had time to further analyse the movie, but for the moment here are my initial thoughts.

SPOILERS AHEAD

First of all, this movie feels very much like a filler. A movie that has been put in place to explain what happens in more eventful Marvel movies in the future. This doesn’t make it a bad film. It gets a decent set of actors, who play their characters more like the comics than the first movie. Particularly Odin, who’s famous temper comes to the fore regularly. Chris Hemsworth seems to struggle with the dialogue at times and only really seems at home when in action. However, his scenes with Natalie Portman are great and you can see that they both enjoyed themselves. Makes me wonder how much real chemistry exists between the actors.

There are some plot points that I don’t like though:

1) the death of Thor’s mother.
2) the fact that Thor’s hammer bounces off ‘The Corrupted’ armor, when it is clearly shown that the have been defeated by Asgardian weapons in an earlier part of the film.
3) the often stilted dialogue
4) the new intern, who annoys me intensely. He wasn’t needed.
5) Selvig running around naked.. funny but completely pointless…
6) you can’t get to Greenwich on the Victoria Line…

What I do like:

1) Its set in England in the most part.
2) you see more of the science behind the myth of the Gods.
3) you learn the Gods of Asgard do have life spans – even if they are measured in millennium.
4) Loki is both a villain and a hero in this movie.
5) Selvig running around naked, it is funny even if it is pointless….
6) it is a pure Thor movie that has no distractions from Shield or the Avengers.

MAKE SURE YOU STAY FOR BOTH THE EXTRA SCENES AT THE END OF THIS MOVIE!

I have recently been watching the new vampire series called The Originals, an offshoot of the already established series, The Vampire Diaries.

First of all, this is more of the same but with bells on. Both this and The Vampire Diaries are full of angst ridden, soul searching vampires who are either trying too hard to be evil or too hard to be human. Where this differs from the original series is in the writing and the characters. This series deals with the first and most powerful vampires on the planet. 

A spin-off from The Vampire Diaries and set in New OrleansThe Originals focuses on Klaus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gillies), and Rebekah (Claire Holt). Recurring character Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) is pregnant with Klaus’ child. Klaus is none too happy about this, initially refusing to have anything to do with Hayley, who is being looked after by a group of none too trustworthy witches. Klaus is more concerned with taking down his protégé, Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), who is now in charge of New Orleans, a city that Klaus originally had a hand in building. Klaus is playing a tricky game, but succeeds in making Marcel’s life very difficult, very quickly – without Marcel catching on to his plan.

This is the basic premise, but the description is too simple. There are many behind the scenes sub plots starting to develop and so far I have only seen the first three episodes.

If anyone wants to submit reviews to this blog of The Originals then I will be happy to post them. Send a comment to me with your blog or email address and I will contact you.

Finally, here’s a factoid. Phoebe Tonkin and Clare Holt used to appear on an Australian TV show together – as Mermaids! More mythical creatures.

Imagine what would have happened if Star Trek had continued as a TV series in the 1960’s? Well that’s just what a group of talented individuals have done.

Star Trek Continues is just that, a continuation of the original series, with full replica sets, in the same style and even with some of the same “ham” acting. All of the actors are new and although none of the original bridge crew are still involved, their spirit exists in those that are playing the roles.

I can’t believe that I missed this in May when it was launched…

Effects exceed those of the original and the story of the first episode – Pilgrim of Eternity – follows on from one in the original series in an effective and interesting manner. I found myself grinning an uncontrollably while watching it.

Pilgrim of Eternity, although set a few years later in time, is a direct sequel to the original series episode Who Mourns for Adonais, and stars Michael Forrest who reprises his original role as Apollo. It deals with the now aging Apollo, who has been trapped in an energy draining construct called the Realm, and how he and the crew of the Enterprise come to terms with his new mortality. It is well written and truly in the spirit of the original series. To tell you more would spoil it, but it is a worthy sequel.

Now, to some of the points that Trek fans will like.

The Cast

    Vic Mignogna

This guy is a great voice actor and brings that skill directly into the role of Captain Kirk. Although he will never quite match the acting style of William Shatner, his mannerisms and vocal style are close enough to make him a good match for the original captain. In other words, he comes damn close.

    Todd Haberkorn

Todd as Mr Spock is strange choice but one I can live with. He is nowhere near the same as Leonard Nimoy and doesn’t have the same screen presence, but his severe countenance is definitely Vulcan and he is in keeping with the role. I like the way he fits into the rest of the crew.

    Chris Doohan

Casting another Doohan as Mr Scott is both an interesting choice and a great homage to James Doohan, his father. His Scottish accent slips at times but he fills the role extremely well. In fact it is spooky to watch because even his facial mannerisms match those of his fathers. Struggling to keep his accent sometimes conflicts with his acting skill, as it seems like he is rushing his lines, but its nothing that time won’t make easier.

    Larry Nemecek

Mr Nemecek is both an actor and a well-respected authority on Star Trek so it is great to see him playing the role of McCoy. Physically he is nothing like the original “Bones”, but he fills the role well and it appears he is a good actor too. I miss the southern drawl, but you can’t have everything. Whether he continues in the role is not known, as his image isn’t on the main production shot of the website, but I hope he will.

    Grant Imahara

Grant is a special effects wizard with a great pedigree and one of the hosts of Discovery Channels Mythbusters series. He isn’t a great actor when he has to show emotion, but this could be because he is trying too hard to emulate the voice of Sulu from the original series. I would suggest he should just use his own voice and make the role his own.

    Kim Stinger

Although she is not quite as mysterious and sensual as the original Uhura, Kim is a great actress, (and singer too), as it turns out. She also does her own stunts. She is inspired in the role as Uhura and her style is somewhat a mix of Nichelle Nicholls and Zoe Saldana. I like her take on the character.

    Wyatt Lenhart

Wyatt is not used much in the first episode, but listening to him is like listening to the original Checkov, with a slightly clearer accent. I hope his talents are used more in future episodes.

    Michelle Specht

Michelle as Dr McKenna is a great addition to the original crew. The ships first counselor, (and possibly Starfleets too), she mixes comedic style, emotion and empathy all into one leggy red-headed package. Sorry, couldn’t help myself there. Love this character!

Finally, Marina Sirtis as the voice of the computer is inspired. She is just recognizable enough to make me smile. I waited until the end credits to confirm her involvement as I couldn’t quite believe it at first. Nice choice.

The Writing & Sound

As I said previously, the writing is at least as good as the original series. At times better. The dialogue is sometimes stilted, but never boring. Add in great sets and good incidental music and you might as well be watching one of the original series episodes. The music is exactly like the original series, and adds drama when needed.

Incidental sounds, like the background noises on the bridge and the swishing of the doors are all as authentic as they can be. It really is like stepping back in time. I love it that so much time has been spent getting these little details correct.

Conclusions

It’s impossible to believe that this series has been produced by fans of the original. The production quality is amazing and the acting talent varied and very well-rounded. I love the attention to detail and as a very critical fan of the original series, it makes me smile and want more. Just when the next episode will be released is very much dependent upon funding, but I can’t wait to see it.

Check out http://www.startrekcontinues.com to view the episode and have a look at some of the vignettes. If you want to contribute to the ongoing series then checkout their kickstarter page

Many thanks to CBS / Paramount for allowing these fan episodes to be created. It only serves to promote the genre and keep Star Trek in the minds of those of us who are eagerly awaiting a new series. In fact, here’s a hint CBS – these guys already have the sets and the skill both in front of, and behind, the camera – fund them!