Friday, August 1, 2014

Ten Statements About....DOCTOR WHO STORY ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE: TIME-FLIGHT (1982)

"And later I will go to ComicCon in this outfit and
fool everyone!"
“What's happened to the Xeraphin?” 
“Transferred to the center of the Master's Tardis.” 
“What does that mean?” 
“It means the Master has finally defeated me."

1) This story was written by long time Who director Peter Grimwade.  As a writer, Grimwade...makes an exceptional director.  This is just a sad and confusing story that has a strong whiff of Grimwade making it up as he goes along.

2) Nothing dates a story quite like having it revolve around a then ‘cutting edge’ technological wonder.  The way this serial fetishizes the Concorde makes it seem awful quaint in retrospective.

3) That being said, I’m almost willing to forgive the dated Concorde love for the inclusion of Richard Easton’s Captain Stapley.  The latest of this season’s Temporary Companions, Stapley is a lot of fun, and even has a pair of ‘companions’ of his own.  I particularly like how he unwittingly helps the Doctor plot The Master’s downfall.  And speaking of The Master...
Somehow I don't think the 'Possessed Sway'
will catch on as a dance craze....

4) ...what.  the.  Hell is the Master doing cosplaying as a fat-ass Persian sorcerer?  It’s not as if he expected The Doctor to pop up in this continuum.  He seems to wearing that uncomfortable looking fat suit solely because he can.  It’s ridiculous, and I was relieved when he rid himself of the Khalid identity at the end of the second part.

5) So are the Plasmatons a lesser version of the Xeraphin, a sort of creation pulled out of the Master’s mind by his leeching off of the Xeraphin’s psychic energy, freeform psychokinetic servants or....

Why am I ruminating on this?  They’re crap, right up there with Omega’s Jelly Bean Men from The Three Doctors in terms of silly looking.

6) Here’s one of my main problems with the Anthony Ainley version of The Master--he always seems to be doing stuff to fix things that went wrong with either a) himself or b) his TARDIS.  All this complicated bull is set up by him just so he can jump start his ionic column.
"It's not a crap matte...it's part of the story!"

7) Here’s where the benefit of having only two companions work--both Nyssa and Tegan have something to do, and for a change, Nyssa actually gets to do a little more than Tegan (which is odd, given that you would think the stewardess would have more to do in a serial where a commercial airplane has a prominent role).  Okay, granted, most of it is Sarah Sutton getting all stiff and channel-y as the Xeraphin try to communicate through her, but still...

8) So when it comes to the Xeraphin’s psychic defenses, they throw illusions up of Adric (makes sense, given that the mental pain caused by his death is still fresh), the Melkur (makes sense given the Xeaphin have tapped into Nyssa’s mind) and...a Terraleptil?  Even admitting how much I like the Terraleptils, that’s a pretty sad admission that so far, the Davison era has seriously poor monsters.  Why didn’t the Xeraphin throw the Master at them, given the pain he's caused both of the companions?  It’s not like Ainley’s appearance would blunt the ‘surprise’ of him being Khalid.

9) Not only is the Heathrow shooting way gratuitous, with long sequences taking in parts one and four, it draws too much attention to itself, as if Nathan-Turner is screaming, ‘Hey Look!  We’ve got enough of a budget to do location shooting!’  Much like the use of the Concorde having no purpose in the story, all this Heathrow love is pointless.

Well, at least they get rid of Teg--wait, what?

10) I give the serial credit for not only accepting the limitations of its low budget, but using it as an advantage when it comes to the scenes of the characters under the delusions caused by The Master.  The obvious matte shots of the background seems out of place until you realize those shots are psychic fabrications!

Overall...a terrible, terrible end to the nineteenth season of Who.  The nonsensical story, the too-long Heathrow elements, the dumb behavior of the Master....all these elements combine to provide a story that eminently missable.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ten Statements About....THE ISLAND (2005)

"Yeah...if I let it bite me now, I would have been remembered
as having a decent career..."
“I have discovered the Holy Grail of science. I give life. The agnates, they're simply tools, instruments. They have no souls. The possibilities are endless here. In two years' time, I will be able to cure children's leukemia. How many people on Earth can say that, Mr. Laurent?"
“I guess just you and God. That's the answer you're looking for, isn't it?”

1) Yep...I remember when Ewan McGregor was a thing.

2) Given that this is a rip-off--I mean unofficial remake of The Robert Fiveson film Parts: The Clonus Horror (hey, Dreamworks actually settled out of court when Fiveson’s copyright infringement case went to trial), it’s funny how this film jettisons any and all pretense of the mystery of what is going on in the first fifteen minutes of this two hour and twenty minute film.  Which doesn’t make sense given that, you know, the film is over two hours long....

3) ....but then if the film wasn’t two hours and change, we wouldn’t have a seemingly endless chase in and around Future Los Angeles with McGregor’s Lincoln Six Echo pushing what looks like oversized barbells off a truck to smash into cars and cause untold mayhem on a highway.  But then, you know...Michael Bay movie.
"And the part of the brain that dies when the
subject watches this movie is here."

4) Ahhhh, yes.  Whenever the names Kurtzman and Orci comes up in a movie’s credits, it’s time to abandon all hope that it’ll make a lick of sense.

5) Is there a solid reason other than ripping off some visuals from Blade Runner and The Fifth Element that this film takes place in the far flung future of 2050?  It adds literally nothing essential to the story, and actually hinders Djimon Hounsou’s Laurent’s backstory.

6) And speaking of Laurent, it’s a shame that Hounsou is obviously there to literally be an accent so that his face turn in act three makes sense--at least to Bay.  His character is otherwise indistinct and could be played by any one of a number of actors.
And now competing in the 'lifting useless things'
competition....

7) You know, Sean Bean’s Dr. Merrick has the potential for being a much more ambivalent villain...if he didn’t run around indiscriminately killing the ‘Agnets’ and behaving like such an asshat once Lincoln and Scarlett Johanssen’s Jordan Two Delta make their escape.  He becomes such a cardboard mustache twirler that those moments where he justifies his actions just fall flat.

8) There are some characters who are meant to be Bay’s hamfisted attempt at comic relief (Ethan Phillips’ Jones Three Echo is particularly winge-worthy), which makes Steve Buscemi’s turn as James McCord all the more remarkable.  He manages to be both comic relief and the major expository dump without losing sight of either requirement.  It’s kinda sad that he gets his pass out of the film relatively early, given he’s the one breath of life in it.

9)  It’s obvious that Bay, Kurtzman and Orci all mean the moment where Lincoln Three Echo proclaims himself as simply Lincoln is supposed to be a major pump the air moment--and it would be if they had bothered giving Lincoln and Merrick and, you know, anybody any sort of characterization.
Scarlett Johanssen is puuuurty...

10) Here’s the funny thing...Merrick is right when it comes to Lincoln and Jordan.  Since one has been killed and the other died while in a coma, they could live out their lives....and yet they choose instead to release all their friends into the middle of a desert, with no conception of how to live a real life and nowhere to go.  So the ‘inspirational’ moment of the last sequence is a crock.

Overall...a really awful, empty and soulless movie that offers nothing whatsoever, the equivalent of someone putting you in a chokehold and screaming in your ear about how much they loved Parts: The Clonus Horror.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ten Statements About....THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)

If the film was just these two...and maybe Maud Adams...
I'd have been a lot happier.
“You see, Mr Bond, like all great artists I want to create one indisputable masterpiece: the death of 007."
“You mean stuffed and mounted over your rocky mantelpiece?"
“It's an amusing idea, but I was thinking more in terms of history.”

1) This is the last of the Maibaum and Mankiewicz scripts...and it is the most nonsensical one of all.  Never has a Bond film been more a string of crazy stuff that happens than in this film.

2) It’s obvious at this early juncture why the Moore era seems so dated while the Connery films aren’t is how they seem to be constantly chasing trends--in the case of this film, there’s a lengthy and fairly out of place kung fu sequence that ends with Bond being saved by a pair of schoolgirls in plaid skirts.  I remember thinking it was cool at one point, but now it just seems gratuitous and more than a little embarrassing.

3) And speaking of gratuitous and pointless...the film seems to literally stop so that Clifton James’ Sherrif J.W. Pepper can act like the ultimate ugly American (his constant referring to the Thai people around him as ‘pointy heads’ is particularly winge-worthy)...and then somehow shoehorns him into the major action sequence so that he can ‘enliven’ the film with his southern fried hick comedy.  It’s indicative how the Moore films seem skewed more to comedy than action.  However...
When you need two schoolgirls to save your ass...well,
you're no longer an effective secret agent.

4) It’s to the credit of the script that Bond himself is not part of the comedy.  We’re still in the phase where Moore is finding his voice, and he shows glimmers of true ruthlessness, especially when he’s dealing with the arms dealer Lazar and Maud Adams’ Allison Anders.  It’s a hint of what Moore’s Bond could have been if he hadn’t decided to coast on his charm and go for broad comedy.

5) What little life the film has lies in the hands of Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga.  Playing a dark mirror for Bond, Lee (Ian Fleming’s cousin, and the author’s choice to play Dr. No) sinks his teeth into the part enthusiastically, giving an otherwise thinly written character a dimension of quiet menace.  Giving him all the gadgets gives the film one of the few interesting edges.

6) Hmmm...a hired assassin with a perchance for carnival memorabilia who charges an exorbitant fee, lures victims into a funhouse to kill them and has an assistant named Locke...is it time to add another item on the list of Things Chris Claremont Stole Shit From?
The only reason Britt Eklund is in the film.

7) Britt Eklund’s Holly Goodnight may very well be the single stupidest character ever to appear in a Bond film--and that’s saying something.  She contributes nothing to the film except to needlessly complicate things and look good in a bikini, and even has the distinction of extending the film’s bloated running time by having her butt activate a giant solar gun.  Adam’s Anders is much more effective, which is why it’s so sad she becomes the Sacrificial Lamb.

8) Hey, and speaking of that Giant Solar Gun...it comes out of nowhere, makes no sense for Scaramanga to have it, and seems to be there solely so he can blow up an airplane.  It’s a real non-sequitur end to a villain plot.

9)   You know, there are moments where Herve Villechaize’s Nick Nack is an effective, even nightmarish presence...but then you see him in a diaper and an oni mask, or running around a yacht throwing wine bottles shouting ‘I keel you!  I keel you’ where he becomes embarrassing.
Go away, J.W Pepper...just.  Go. Away.

10) As uninteresting as I found many of the settings this time around--Thailand in particular comes off as a tawdry backwater of a country (but maybe that’s the Pepper Hate talking), I love the unique look of Scaramanga’s hideout in a series of small islands now ironically named The James Bond Islands.  They provide a bit of color and flair in a film that sorely needs it.

Overall...one of the worst Bonds from the Moore era that comes off better than it should thanks to the character of Scaramanga (and the performance of same by Lee) and some interesting minor characters.  I’m sure it thanks the Cinema Gods that it looks miles better when compared to Moonraker and A View To A Kill, as we’ll learn soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ten Statements About....DOCTOR WHO STORY ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-TWO: EARTHSHOCK (1982)

"Is he looking at me--don't look--is he?"
“Emotions have their uses.” 
“They restrict and curtail the intellect and logic of the mind.” 
“They also enhance life! When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal?"
“These things are irrelevant.” 
“For some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about!"

1) While this serial is supposedly script edited by Anthony Root, it’s actually the first script edited by Eric Saward, and it pretty much sets the tone for his tenure as a whole.  In writing this script, Saward creates a template for what he’s looking to do with the series--the shocking violence, the high body count, the way the story seems to split into two unrelated mini-stories, the obsession with the Doctor and/or companions shooting guns, the unhealthy Tegan love, the sometimes bizarre snatches of dialogue (a sample of which is quoted above), etc.

2) I think this version of the Cybermen is one of the better, if not the best version.  The use of flight suits, the strange plexiglass chin guard that reminds us that there is something human in these creatures, the hints of circuitry underneath that chest respirator...all contribute to give these Cybermen a visually engaging appeal.

3) Given that this is Adric’s swan song, it’s not surprising that Matthew Waterhouse is given the most chances to act and, you know, do something other than throw in with the enemy and eat.  And sometimes it kinda, sorta works in rare moments. Granted....
"I'm afraid one of us has to die in a needlessly
pointless way....and it won't be me."

4) ...given Adric is very front and center and Saward’s love of Tegan results in her going all Signourney-Weaver-In-Aliens cosplay, Nyssa is once again reduced to effectively sitting in the TARDIS and worrying over everyone else alongside Clare Clifford’s Professor Kyle.  And sadly, even after the TARDIS crew is reduced to two companions, this is frequently Nyssa’s only contribution.

5) Beryl Reid being cast, highly inappropriately, as the hard-nosed ship captain Briggs, is the beginning of John Nathan-Turner’s obsession with casting big name stars (for England) in Doctor Who.  And in this case it thoroughly fails, as Briggs is about as hard nosed as a kitten on a catnip overdose.

6) The efforts to create a tighter continuity from episode to episode is in overdrive here.  Not only do we get a reminder of last serial, there are direct references to the E Space trilogy as well as a montage in Episode Two that tries to put the various Cybermen appearances in some sort of historical timeline.

7) Wow....yet another serial this season with a cliffhanger where the Doctor gets threatened with execution.  Who would have guessed?
No, we're not using triple exposure to deceive you
into thinking there are hundreds of us...why?" 

8) This is the second time in three serials that the villain uses androids to disguise their true intentions--and ironically these androids are way more effective than the stupid playing card android that served the Terrileptils in 'The Visitation', and fit easily into what The Doctor said about beauty in that previous tale.

9) Hope you liked the abrupt, fairly pointless and gratuitous death of Professor Kyle, because there’s more--loads more--of the same in the coming seasons.

10) While the death of Adric was shocking in its way, the silent ending of the credits running over his broken Badge For Mathematical Excellence is a tad over the top.

Overall...a portent of things to come, this is a messy and ill-conceived serial best remembered for its last few moments and not the ‘just go with it’ nature of the segments preceding it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ten Statements About....DATE NIGHT (2010)

Okay, so their knowledge of the New York Subway system
is hinky....
"They stabbed a chicken nugget with a sharpie.  These are bad people."

1) This film would not work without the sheer primal chemistry between Steve Carell and Tina Fey.  The two of them have such a chemistry that you thoroughly believe that they are a long-standing married couple with two kids wondering if they're in a rut.  The way these two interact keep this movie moving forward even when it stalls and sputters.

2) ...and it's to the credit of John Klausner's script that it lets its leads behave awkwardly and out of touch, but never does it allow them to behave stupidly.  Just something as simple as going to the cops after their first encounter with the bad guys makes perfect sense.  It's these little niggling things so many other movies would ascribe to 'just go with it' that Klausner takes care to resolve, allowing us to move forward much more quickly and not get bogged down with the implausibilities.

3) I'll admit it....the geography of this film is real hinky, given how our heroes move from Soho to Central Park to Alphabet City to the Hudson River (they say it's the East River, but it's obvious the way that sequence was filmed that it's the west side of the city) and beyond in one night at breakneck speed.  And yet, unlike other films that mangle New York geography, the script is so effective, and the narrative flow is so fast-paced and smooth, that I didn't notice these discrepencies until after the movie was over.

4) Having seen other 'action comedies' recently that are clumsily constructed, I have to admire how the 'action' and the 'comedy' parts of this film are so well-integrated.  There is none of the herky-jerky stop and start flow that so many modern action comedies have, and each set piece moves into the next smoothly and without any sudden changes in tone.
"Yeah, Mila...I just figured what the Hell, I'll be a crackhead
petty criminal in this movie...looks like fun."

5) It does seem like cameos/small roles are de riguer for comedies these days, and the ones that appear here are much better than the average, from Ray Liotta’s gangster to Mark Wahlberg’s security expert, they’re well cast and well handled.  That being said...

6) I get the impression that as long as it interests or entertains him, James Franco will appear in anything.  His turn opposite Mila Kunis as the couple (named Taste and Whippet) Carell and Fey’s Fosters are mistaken for is a true highlight of the film--and also provides a mirror to their own status as being in a long standing relationship--but all the time the scene was unspooling, all I could think of was ‘what is James Franco doing here?’

7) No wonder Tajari P. Henson left Person of Interest, as her Detective Arroyo is practically to all extent and purposes the detective she played in this series, only a lot less serious...which means she was playing the same character for four years.
Sumptin' for da laaaadies....

8) There are some songs that simply should be banned from ever appearing on movies again.  Look, I love Jackie Wilson as much as the next person, but when they used ‘Higher And Higher’ as the outro it just screwed up what is supposed to be an up moment.

9) With the exception of a running gag involving vomit, I’m pleased that this film is relatively clean of that grossess-for-the-sake-of grossness that infuses so much of modern comedy.

10) It’s funny; as much noise as this film seems to make about Fey showing up in this stripper saloon girl outfit, there’s nothing that really tops how she looks in that simple blue dress.  The elegance of it just emphasizes what needs to be emphasizes.

Overall...a very clever action comedy bouyed by the chemistry of the leads, a clever script and some great casting.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ten Statements About....DOCTOR WHO STORY ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE: BLACK ORCHID (1982)

"Doctor, don't you think your new outfit is a little...weird?"
“Why do I always let my curiosity get the better of me?"

1) This is the last of the pure historicals, which is kind of sad given that it is both very good and the last vestige of the series’ original intent as a vehicle for teaching history.

2) You know one of the major reasons I like this series?  This is the first time since the Davison era began where the companions seem to be having fun.  Even Tegan, who I usually loathe, comes off as charming...and maybe a tiny bit sexy.  Because they’re enjoying themselves instead of arguing and bitching, the serial comes off as a lot less dour than the stories before and after them.

3) This is a story that benefits from being only two episodes.  It fairly zips along.

4) And this is another, very rare episode where Sarah Sutton gets to prove that yes, she can act.  By playing dual roles, Sutton may not get to show she can play two distinct characters (but then, the similarities between Nyssa and Anne are part of the plot), but that she can do more than lecture Adric and be the teacher’s pet.
Hope you like cricket!

5) I appreciate how, when all is said and done, the entropic element is treated with sympathy.  Even its demise is borne of tragedy rather than vengeance.

6) Okay, I get that everybody in this time period is familiar with time travel thanks to H.G. Wells...but did all the police officers have to be all blase’ about the nature of the TARDIS?

7) Once more we continue with the speculation that the production staff had made the decision early in the season that Adric was Not Long For This World.  After all, Nyssa has a main plot purpose, Tegan is providing color commentary, and Adric...Adric eats.
"Mainly the just make me sit around, Other/Me."

8) I sometimes think that John Nathan Turner and company overcompensates when it came to making this Doctor vulnerable.  There’s a major part of this serial that’s devoted to Davison accidently stumbling into a secret passage and feeling his way around ala’ Scooby Doo.  I don’t mind making a Doctor who isn’t all-knowing, but this is ridiculous.

9) Do we really need to see an extended sequence of The Doctor playing cricket, one of the most incomprehensible and boring sports in the world?

10) I understand why we have our entropic element being cared for by an Amazonian Indian...but is the lip thing absolutely necessary?

Overall...a surprisingly charming and fun episode that serves as a breather between much darker stories.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Ten Statements About....POINT BREAK (1991)

"I know what you're thinking...in about a decade, some guy
named Diesel and another guy named Walker will have
the same confrontation back in LA."
"It’s not tragic if you die doing what you love."

1) Why do people get the idea that Keanu Reeves should play former quarterbacks?  The man’s Canadian; he played hockey, not football.  There are other sports he can be retired from.  Stop it.

2) You can easily see why Kathryn Bigelow was attracted to this script.  The movie is chock-a-block with surfing, skydiving and other activities that freely allows her to indulge in her perchance for painterly images.  Which is fortunate....

3) ...because seen without the sheen of early 90‘s nostalgia, this script by Rick King and W. Peter Iliff is rock stupid.  Shorn of its visual style, the story hits every cliche, the dialogue is exposition-tastic and the characterization struggles to be two-dimensional.  It’s always one step away from being a laughably bad movie.

4) If you want to see how handheld cameras can be used effectively for an exciting, clearly shot action scene, take a look at Bigelow’s shooting of the footchase between Patrick Swayze’s Reagan-masked Bodhi and Reeves’ Johnny Utah.  This is how you do it, Paul Greengrass.
"So, umm, in a second I should shoot away from my
suspect...right?  RIGHT?"

5) I do find it intriguing how the film sets up Bodhi and Gary Busey’s Angelo as two extremes of father figures for Johnny--and yet the expected roles of who Good Dad and Bad Dad is are inverted.  It does help that Reeves exhibits chemistry with both Swayze and Busey.

6) I am not surprised that Lori Petty is cast as romantic lead Taylor; she certainly has the same angular looks as previous Bigelow female leads as Jenny Wright and Jamie Lee Curtis.  She still provides a rather interesting contrast to Reeves as far as her acting style.  Her rather brassy presentation (which ironically makes her come off more ‘city boy’ than the laid back Reeves) stands out against all the characters around her.

7) Boy, has John C. McGinley’s Harp stepped straight out of Cliche Casting.  The script doesn’t even bother giving Harp a second emotion; he’s just Antagonistic Superior Guy whose purpose is to yell at and belittle Johnny.  Even in the first act where McGinley acts as Exposition Drop Machine, he seems ready to start spraying spittle at a moment’s notice.
"huh...that don't look like a hockey helmet."

8) I defy anyone to explain what the sky diving scene at the beginning of Act Three is doing where it is.  The one narrative beat that’s essential to the plot is handled at the end of the sequence that could be presented sans several minutes of elevated atmosphere porn.

9)  Boy, does The Fast and The Furious need to send this movie a present every Father’s Day....right down to the bad guy being allowed to do the thing he loves by our hero instead of being dragged in cuffs back to face the music.

10) You know, Anthony Kiedis may not have much to do in this film, but as an actor he makes....well, a pretty decent musician,  Maybe he should ask Flea for some acting advice.

Overall...a cliched, stupid action movie elevated (highly elevated) by the keen visual style of Bigelow.  If you can turn off your brain and ignore all the narrative silliness, you can enjoy this immensely.