Friday, 31 July 2009

Box Office Charts: w/e 31 July 2009

In the US: Animated guinea pigs grab the #1 spot as G-FORCE makes a decent $31m... Katherine Heigl/Gerard Butler rom-com THE UGLY TRUTH settles for third place with $27m... and horror THE ORPHAN underperforms with $12m at #4...


(-) 1. G-Force $31.7m
(1) 2. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince $29.5m
(-) 3. The Ugly Truth $27.6m
(-) 4. Orphan $12.9m
(2) 5. Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs $8.41m
(3) 6. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen $8.12m
(6) 7. The Hangover $6.46m
(5) 8. The Proposal $6.38m
(7) 9. Public Enemies $4.35m
(4) 10. Brüno $2.83m

In the UK: Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds rom-com THE PROPOSAL debuts at #2 with £3m, unable to knock Harry Potter from #1... while Lars Von Trier's controversial horror-drama ANTICHRIST takes a dismal £99,000 to edge into the chart at #10...


(1) 1. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince £5.1m
(-) 2. The Proposal £3.2m
(2) 3. Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs £2.1m
(3) 4. Brüno £1.2m
(4) 5. The Hangover £687k
(5) 6. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen £416k
(6) 7. Public Enemies £277k
(7) 8. My Sister's Keeper £224k
(8) 9. Moon £137k
(-) 10. Antichrist £99k



Bio-drama. The story of Coco Chanel's rise from obscure beginnings to the heights of the fashion world.
Director: Anne Fontaine Starring: Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain & Emmanuelle Devos
Tomatometer: 74% (Fresh; based on 34 reviews)


Drama. Every day thousands of people illegally cross our borders... only one thing stands in their way. America.
Director: Wayne Kramer Starring: Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Jim Sturgess, Cliff Curtis & Alice Braga
Tomatometer: 16% (Rotten; based on 92 reviews) "Crossing Over is flagrant and heavy-handed about a situation that deserves more deliberate treatment, and joins its characters with coincidences that strain believability."


Animated action-adventure. A specially trained squad of guinea pigs is dispatched to stop a diabolical billionaire from taking over the world.
Director: Hoyt Yeatman Voices: Billy Nighy, Wil Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Jon Favreau, Sam Rockwell, Penelope Cruz, Steve Buschemi & Nicolas Cage
Tomatometer: 25% (Rotten; based on 73 reviews) "G-Force features manic action, but fails to come up with interesting characters or an inspired plot."


Comedy adventure. On his latest expedition, Dr. Rick Marshall is sucked into a space-time vortex alongside his research assistant and a redneck survivalist. In this alternate universe, the trio make friends with a primate named Chaka, their only ally in a world full of dinosaurs and other fantastic creatures.
Director: Brad Silberling Starring: Will Ferrell, Anne Friel, Danny McBride & Jorma Taccone.
Tomatometer: 26% (Rotten; based on 162 reviews) "Only loosely based on the original TV series, Land of the Lost is decidedly less kid-friendly and feels more like a series of inconsistent sketches than a cohesive adventure comedy."


Crime thriller. Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
Director: Tony Scott Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luis Guzmán, Victor Gojcaj, John Turturro & Michael Rispoli
Tomatometer: 52% (Fresh; based on 178 reviews) "Despite a strong cast, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 suffers under the excesses of Tony Scott's frantic direction, and fails to measure up to the 1974 original."


[SPOILERS] The finale to this idiosyncratic black-comedy was a mixed bag and possibly Psychoville's unfunniest episode. It tried to pull everything together into a fitting conclusion and didn't totally succeed (it even joked about how its plots haven't gelled correctly), before unwisely leaving us with the setup for another series that, to be frank, didn't feel necessary or earned...

Three of the regular characters are reunited at Ravenhill Hospital, two years after they left the place as patients following the death of sadistic Nurse Kenchington (the frighteningly severe Eileen Atkins), when man-child David (Steve Pemberton) lost his temper -- after being cattle-prodded while fumbling the lyrics to a "Jason & His Technicolour Dreamcoat" show tune -- and accidentally brained her against a desk. David's friends -- Joy (Dawn French), Lomax (Pemberton) and Robert (Jason Tomkins) -- agreed to cover-up the deed by dousing Kenchington's body with alcohol and setting fire to the room, then feigning ignorance...

Now, Lomax is back with his new home-help Jennifer (Stacy Liu) to rescue Michael (Daniel Kaluuya) and finally get his hands on Snappy the beanie toy; Joy mistakes Jennifer for her a magically grown-up "Freddie"; Joy's anemic victim Nicola (Elizabeth Berrington) spends the episode wobbling around being mistaken as an ashen ghoul; David arrives at Ravenhill with a melon in a plastic bag (for no particular reason beyond the fact it gave us a cliffhanger "is it Mr. Jolly's head?" ending last week); Mr. Jelly (Reece Shearsmith) arrives still handcuffed to a batty old lady with diabetes (Vilma Hollingberry); and we catch-up with Jason and Kerry (Lisa Hammond) in a car travelling through some woods, which runs out of fuel and forces them to walk to an old cottage, where Jason is attacked by Kerry's witch grandmother. No, I don't know what was going on with this storyline, either! The entire panto-dwarf subplot reached a conclusion in episode 2, and everything since has been running on fumes.

Of course, the finale's raison d'etre was to reveal the identity of the mysterious blackmailer -- despite the fact only a few characters ever appeared threatened by his letter campaign. Anyway, as predicted in some circles (the choice of suspects was limited, let's be honest), it turned out to be Mr. Jolly (Adrian Scarborough) -- the son of Nurse Kenchington who channeled his grief into tracking down those responsible for killing mum. I have no idea how he knew they killed her. Or even why he's so sure she's dead because she -- surprise, surprise -- isn't! No, after David claws up Kenchington's grave in Ravenhill's grounds, he just finds a frog inside her coffin (more panto imagery), before a scarred Kenchington make her grand return. I guess the Ravenhill staff thought she'd burnt to a literal cinder?

Strangely, it turns out that Kenchington is only really interested in finding the locket she believes one of her "killers" stole from her cataleptic body -- before the final shot reveals her jewellery is hanging around Robert's neck, as he's about to be eaten by Kerry's evil gran. Yes, that'll be the macguffin for series 2, even though Mr. Jolly turns suicide bomber and detonates a waistcoast of explosives nobody could survive.

Sadly, I was disappointed by this final episode. There were undoubtedly some fun moments (David confessing to his murders at a Citizen's Advice Bureau, the blackmailer's long-awaited reveal, Nurse Kenchington's flashbacks, Oscar revealing he has "paradise syndrome" and throwing Snappy off a cliff just so he can track the toy down all over again), but there was no sense of fulfillment and the story felt wrestled into shape. Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are fantastic performers, write excellent dialogue, know the horror genre inside-out, can think up creepy ideas, and craft memorable characters... but cohesive plotting (as The League Of Gentlemen's third series also proved) just isn't their forte. And that's a big problem for a mystery series that required them to juggle multiple subplots.

Most frustrating was the way this episode didn't provide enough closure, as things were hastily set-up for a second series. I mean, really, how far can you take charaters like unhinged Joy, miserly Lomax, irascible clown Jelly, retarded killer David, and besotted dwarf Robert? Will it be fun seeing them chase a locket around, like an episodic version of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World? These characters were interesting as mysterious oddballs with shadowy pasts to tease apart, but I'm not convinced they have anything to offer us now their backstories have been revealed. I'd have preferred a proper end to this storyline and for Psychoville's next series to introduce a new group of grotesques...

30 July 2009
BBC2, 10pm

written by: Reece Shearsmith & Steve Pemberton directed by: Matt Lipsey starring: Steve Pemberton (David Sowerbutts/Oscar Lomax), Reece Shearsmith (Mr. Jelly), Dawn French (Joy Aston), Eileen Atkins (Nurse Kenchington), Adrian Scarborough (Mr. Jolly), Vilma Hollingberry (Mrs. Wren), Jason Tomkins (Robert), Lisa Hammond (Kerry), Daniel Kaluuya (Michael Fry), Elizabeth Berrington (Nicola), Stacy Liu (Jennifer), James Holmes (Simon) & Sheila Reid (Old Crone)

TWIN PEAKS 1.4 - "The One-Armed Man"

[SPOILERS] Tuesday 28 February 1989. There are plenty of developments in the murder case during this episode, in a story that plays more like a typical investigation with a soupcon of quirkiness -- best exemplified by a moment where Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) comes face-to-face with a llama in a vet's waiting room. Importantly, we come to realize that Cooper shares visions with the deceased's apparently psychic mother, Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie), after he confirms that her sketch of the long-haired man crouched at the foot of her daughter's bed is the mysterious "Bob" from his own dream...

Eventually, Cooper and Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) locate one of the two prime suspects from Cooper's dream: the one-armed man, who is found staying at the Timber Falls motel. But far from being a calculating killer, he appears to be an unassuming shoe salesman who says his name is Philip Michael Gerard -- not "Mike" as the dream identified him. He's also never met a Bob, although he knows the local vet Dr. Bob Lydecker, whose office is situated near a convenience store also mentioned in Cooper’s dream.

Cineaste's may be grinning at the script referencing the film noir Laura here, which features a character called "Waldo Lydecker", and Waldo turns out to be the name of a mynah bird Cooper and Truman unearth paperwork of from the absent vet's files. Could that pet be the responsible for the marks on Laura's body, now confirmed as bird pecks? Waldo belongs to Jacques Renault, but when they arrive at Renault's apartment they find it's been abandoned. Inside, they find Leo's (Eric Da Re) bloodstained shirt, which we know was planted there by Bobby (Dana Ashbrook). Still, it's undoubtedly evidence that links Jacques and Leo to Laura's death...

A brand new storyline also gets underway, with Double R diner owner Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) awaiting the parole of her husband Hank (Chris Mulkey), who appears to have an odd fixation with a double-three domino -- a sketch of which he has posted to Josie (Joan Chen), which she opens seconds before he calls her from prison before his release. It all plays like a creepy threat, but what exactly is the relevance of that domino? And why is Josie following Catherine (Piper Laurie) and her secret lover Benjamin (Richard Beymer) at the hotel? It seems likely she's collecting evidence of their illicit affair, perhaps to help her ally Pete (Jack Nance) get a divorce? Or maybe she just suspects they're plotting against her, quite perceptively.

Benjamin Horne becomes a bigger player in this mystery than ever before, as he's unequivocally seen conspiring with Leo to burn down the Packard saw mill (and Josie along with it), so his lover Catherine can claim the insurance using the faked accounts ledger she's been keeping -- the one Josie discovered before it was re-hidden by Catherine –- and build his Ghostwood Development on the site. It's great to see some sizeable development here, as the hitherto dull saw mill storyline appears to have its fingerprints on more characters than expected. It also feels justifiable that Leo may have murdered Laura, as he's now killed Bernard Renault at Ben's behest.

Meanwhile, Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) decides to starts her own investigation into Laura's death, primarily to impress Agent Cooper (whom she has a crush on) with her Nancy Drew pretensions. To help her, she enlists the help of Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) to be her Dr. Watson, after they discuss the whole sorry affair in a restroom. Later, Audrey gets back in her father's good books, by making Benjamin realize she's the only viable heir to his fortune, and persuading him she's serious about making something of her life at last. She even agrees to take a job at his department store, where Laura and her friend Ronette once worked...

Notes from the Black Lodge:

  • Interestingly, one-armed Gerard admits that the limb he lost in an accident was tattooed with the word "Bob". Is he innocent? Is Cooper's dream of Gerard's involvement too obscure to be taken literally?

  • There's been a curious lack of information about Ronette since she was admitted to hospital, despite the fact she's likely the sole witness to Laura's murder and could identify the killer. Don't the police want to interview her family, at least?

  • James (James Marshall) meets Madeleine Ferguson (Sheryl Lee) at the Double R diner and notes her startling resemblance to her cousin Laura. Right now, it feels likely that James will perhaps find himself drawn closer to Madeleine, purely because of her likeness to the girlfriend he's lost. Later, Donna and James meet again to dig up Laura's necklace they buried in the "Pilot", but find that's it been taken by some -- just as Sarah Palmer claimed after her vision.

  • It also seems that Cooper will soon be calling at One-Eyed Jack's up river, as a colleague has reconstituted a poker chip belonging to the brothel, found in Laura's stomach. This girl's body was riddled with clues, no?

  • Co-creator/writer David Lynch is the voice of Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole, who informs Cooper of the poker chip found in Laura's stomach.

Next stop: A macabre crime scene is discovered in the woods during "Cooper's Dreams"...

written by: Robert Engels directed by: Tim Hunter starring: Kyle MacLachlan (Special Agent Dale Cooper), Michael Ontkean (Sheriff Harry S. Truman), Madchen Amick (Shelly Johnson), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Richard Beymer (Benjamin Horne), Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna Marie Hayward), Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne), Warren Frost (Doctor William Hayward), Peggy Lipton (Norma Jennings), James Marshall (James Hurley), Everett McGill (Ed Hurley), Jack Nance (Pete Martell), Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), Joan Chen (Jocelyn ‘Josie’ Packard), Piper Laurie (Catherine Martell), Eric Da Re (Leo Johnson), Harry Goaz (Deputy Andy Brennan), Michael Horse (Deputy "Hawk" Hill), Sheryl Lee (Madeleine Ferguson), Russ Tamblyn (Doctor Lawrence Jacoby), Grace Zabriskie (Sarah Palmer), Chris Mulkey (Hank Jennings), Jed Mills (Mr. Mooney), Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran), Mary Bond Davis (Female Parole Board Member # 1), Mary Chalon (Female Parole Board Member # 2), James Graven (Male Parole Board Member), Adele Gilbert (Midge Loomer), Al Strobel (One-Armed Man), Erika Anderson (Emerald), Lance Davis (Chet) & David Lynch (Voice of Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole) original airdate: 3 May 1990

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Yvonne Strahovski is... 27 today!

27 years ago, the Strzechowski family welcomed a little girl called Yvonne into the world. Yvonne Strzechowski grew up in Australia, got a job as an ass-kicking super-agent on NBC's Chuck, travelled to the US of A, changed her surname to the phonetic Strahovski, and the rest is history. So -- happy birthday! As if I needed much of an excuse to upload another photo...

Caprica (2009)

On the face of it, a prequel to Battlestar Galactica (2003-09) feels like a pointless and cynical way to attract audiences to something that wouldn't survive without that association. The reason I'm prepared to cut Caprica some slack is because it's been made with the full cooperation of BSG's showrunner Ronald D. Moore (who even co-wrote this feature-length pilot), and I'd be very surprised if Moore would be involved in anything that tainted his award-winning remake...

Caprica takes place 58 years before "The Fall" that provided the catalyst for Galactica's story -- the day when the titular planet was nuked by vengeful Cylons (sentient robots once enslaved by mankind before rebelling.) Caprica intends to show us how those machines were created, why they turned against their creators, and dramatize how the first domino fell on the way to the Twelve Colonies' near-extinction.

Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) is a billionaire boffin with a luxurious lifestyle, lakeside mansion, a beautiful wife called Amanda (Paula Malcomson), and a prodigious teenage daughter called Zoe (Alessandra Toreson). He's also the creator of "cybernetic lifeform nodes" (a.k.a Cylons), humanoid automatons that aren't quite up to scratch when it comes to their intended roles as soldiers. What Daniel really needs is an artificial brain to give his machines an edge, but such a technical breakthrough is beyond his abilities.

Unbeknownst to Daniel, his daughter Zoe and her friends are hooked on illegal virtual reality trips to a hedonistic nightclub where patrons indulge sexual fantasies and satisfy violent urges -- in opening scenes where the nudity and bloodshed immediately sets Caprica apart from its esteemed predecessor. In a secret room at the club (marked with the symbol for eternity), Zoe has been working on a software avatar of herself; an exact copy of her personality and appearance, only distinguishable from her by its inability to leave this digital world.

The story properly gets underway when we realize Zoe's part of monotheist religious movement "The Soldiers Of The One". Indeed, she's a willing suicide bomber for their cause, and detonates a bomb board a monorail train during rush hour that kills herself and hundreds of passengers. The death toll includes the daughter of Tauran lawyer Joseph Adama (Esai Morales), whose life later becomes entwined with Daniel as both men grieve the loss of their kids. But when Daniel discovers his genius daughter's virtual avatar, he begins to realize it holds the key to "resurrecting" his offspring and giving his Cylons a "soul"...

Caprica is a handsome production; the aesthetic pure retro-futurism, with '50s fashions sitting alongside cutting-edge technology and sparkling cityscapes. It's a recognizable world that fuses a tapestry of styles together into a cohesive, eye-catching package. While naturally similar to the Caprica-based scenes from Galactica, everything is given far more depth and texture. I particularly liked the little touches -- like the headband method of connecting to virtual reality, foldable electronic paper you can write on to send e-mails, and a robot manservant that resembles a piece of modern sculpture gliding around the Graystone residence. Even the CGI Cylons are rendered to a higher standard than we saw on BSG, although I'm not sure if regular episodes will be able to maintain this quality. But maybe they will, as there's a distinct lack of spaceships devouring Caprica's budget elsewhere.

Indeed, Caprica reveals itself to be more down-to-earth and intimate than Galactica, which conversely tackled huge themes while crossing the galaxy in a convoy of spaceships chased by thousands of genocidal robots. Caprica is a more character-based and we never even leave terra firma, although the possibility for occasional off-world trips is clearly there. I'm guessing only the military get to regularly fly around in space and regular folk are earthbound, which feels very plausible. Capricans probably go into space about as often as we go abroad on a cheap airline flight.

The acting is worthy of considerable praise, particularly from Stoltz as the brilliant but obsessive Daniel, whose refusal to accept his daughter's death pushes him to use his talents in a controversial, questionably-unethical way. Morales is also very good as the pragmatic counterbalance to the duo at the heart of this show, and there's mild fun in noting his similarities to BSG's Edward James Olmos -- whose character of Admiral William Adama appears here as Joseph's young son. That crossover lends Caprica added interest for BSG fans, as we'll no doubt learn about Adama's childhood and views on Cylons over the course of Caprica's run.

It would have been easy to make a BSG prequel with younger versions of characters we already know and love (perhaps set during the first war between the Cylons), so Caprica earned my respect by refusing to be so predictable and lazy. It feels like a totally different show, albeit with echoes of BSG in locations, names, phrases, and cultural details. Much has been said of how Caprica intends to be a sci-fi version of '80s soap Dallas, with its emphasis on two disparate families (the moneyed Graystone's and the proletarian Adama's struggling up into the middle-classes), and I can certainly understand these comparisons... but hopefully we'll be spared melodramatics and a "Who Shot Adama?" season 1 cliffhanger.

My only real criticism of this opener was how it didn't feel like the launch of a continuing series. The premise behind Caprica feels insubstantial for an episodic sci-fi drama. Do we really need to know exactly how Cylons became mass-manufactured slaves, particularly as this opener gives us enough information to make accurate assumptions? A fundamental problem with prequels is that they exist to turn back-story into narrative, solely because the more interesting present-day story has been exhausted and someone wants to make money off the property. Is there a story here that deserves to be told? I'm not sure... yet. But I am willing to be convinced when the show begins its run on SyFy next year.

written by: Ronald D. Moore & Rene Echevarria directed by: Jeffrey Reiner starring: Eric Stoltz (Daniel Graystone), Esai Morales (Joseph Adama), Paula Malcomson (Amanda Graystone), Alessandra Torresani (Zoe Graystone), Magda Apanowicz (Lacy Rand), Avan Jogia (Ben Stark), Polly Walker (Sister Clarice Willow), Sasha Roiz (Sam Adama), Brian Markinson (Jordan Duram), William B. Davis (Minister Chambers), Sina Najafi (William Adama), Jorge Montesi (The Guatrau), Hiro Kanagawa (Cyrus Xander), Genevieve Buechner (Tamara Adama), Anna Galvin (Shannon Adama), Katie Keating (Prefect Caston), Veena Sood (Secretary of Defense Joan Leyte), Karen Austin (Ruth), Nancy Kerr (Prosecutor), Terence Kelly (Mayor), Angela Moore (Judge), Josh Byer (Defendant), Vicky Lambert (Hecate), Jim Thomson (Serge) & Jared Keeso (Rod Jenkins)

Heroes: Volume IV "Redemption" Trailer

Oh, Heroes. How many times shall we give you the benefit of the doubt? Well, the latter half of season 3 was an improvement over everything post-season 1, so let's see what they do with season 4. A three-and-a-half-minute sneak-peak has been released (see above) that suggests the series is going to place the emphasis on character and slow-burn mystery, rather than lashings of CGI and pyrotechnics.

Prison Break's Robert Knepper looks particularly good as the Oirish leader of a circus troupe that supposedly have super-powers, although I hope it's just a coincidence that Knepper appeared in HBO's Carnivale (which this idea appears to be riffing on -- well, to a degree.) There's not much here to get very excited about, but I was drawn in by the unexpected low-frills vibe. Maybe Heroes will regain some heart with a more measured, disciplined and character-based year -- where the fights and special-effects are exciting treats, instead of repetitive bores. Anyone else persuaded to give Heroes another shot after seeing this? Or has the show just lost all appeal for you now? Has returning writer-producer Bryan Fuller's quick exit deflated what little enthusiasm you could muster? Is it worth watching just to take bets on when, or how, they'll shoot themselves in the foot again? I hear that Hiro regains the ability to time-travel, and there are rumours Peter will regain his multiple-powers...

Virgin Media HD: ESPN and Channel 4

I'm not a sporty person, but news that Virgin Media have inked a deal with US-owned ESPN is a notable development for Virgin subscribers like myself. More excitingly, Virgin have also secured Channel 4 HD for their customers...

Football fans, take note: ESPN have the rights to 46 Premier League matches and 30 Scottish Premiere league fixtures this season. Next season, ESPN will show 23 Premiere League matches. ESPN's service is free to Virgin subscribers on the premium "XL" package, but £8 p/month for customers on the "L" or "M" package (who pay for Sky Sports, too), or £10 p/month otherwise. To celebrate the deal, Virgin are making ESPN free to all 3.5 million customers in August...

Even better, this deal means Virgin have landed themselves another HD channel: ESPN HD. Standard-def ESPN and ESPN Classic will also join Virgin's suite of channels from 3 August, in a deal that effectively replaces the arrangement Virgin had with defunct sports channel Setanta. ESPN also have the rights to football matches from domestic matches in Germany, Portugal, Russia and the Netherlands, as well as the US Major Soccer League.

It's all great news for sports fans, but also worthy of mention if you're considering signing up for Virgin Media now that they appear to be aggressively battling for HD content. It certainly appears to be an attractive deal for footie fans, considering the extortionate prices Sky charge for their own sports channels. Competition is vital in this marketplace, so hopefully Sky will be forced to lower their prices if people in cable-ready areas start flocking to Virgin now.

Virgin also announced yesterday that Channel 4 HD is joining their line-up, free to all subscribers. It offers a HD-quality simulcast of regular Channel 4.

Mark Schweitzer, Virgin Media Chief Commercial Officer:

"Channel 4 is home to some of the UK's most talked-about and innovative TV programmes with a great mix of fantastic home grown shows and top imports, and we're delighted to be bringing them in HD to our customers. We continue to evolve our TV service, across linear TV channels and on demand content, and our growing HD lineup offers a great choice from some of the best UK and US TV series, documentaries, comedy, sport and music."

Sarah Rose, Head of Channel Development at Channel 4:

"We want our viewers to be able to watch their favourite Channel 4 programmes in the format they want and across multiple platforms, so we're delighted to be launching Channel 4 HD on Virgin Media. Our catch-up service 4oD has been a great success on Virgin Media's TV platform and, as we continue to invest in HD production, we're bringing more Channel 4 programmes to more viewers in HD."

With Channel 4 HD and ESPN HD now part of Virgin Media's HD purchases, subscribers will be pleased to know that three of the four previously announced HD channels have gone live today. Check out FX HD (channel 158), National Geographic HD (channel 232), and MTVN HD (channel 310). Living HD and Channel 4 HD are expected to begin very soon, too, while ESPN HD will launch on 3 August, as mentioned.

On a personal note, I enquired about upgrading to Virgin+ for the HD content a few days ago, and they told me that my current £30 p/month deal (10MB internet, phone, and TV with the "M" package) can be upgraded to "XL" for just £9 extra p/month. That's just shy of £40 p/month for phone/TV/internet -- plus a £100 initial outlay for the Virgin+ digibox if I want to access their HD channels. Not too bad, actually. This is enough of a step forward for me to seriously consider making that leap, finally.

Anyone else thinking of getting Virgin now, in light of this news? Any existing customers going to upgrade to "XL" for the HD stuff? Or perhaps some of you are thinking of ditching Sky for Virgin? Or perhaps campaigning to get cable where you live? Be great to hear your thoughts on Virgin Media's sudden pursuit of HD.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

CHUCK 2.8 - "Chuck Versus The Gravitron"

[SPOILERS] After last week's unsurprising twist that Chuck's (Zachary Levi) girlfriend Jill (Jordana Brewster) was a Fulcrum secret agent (moments after they'd rekindled their university romance), it's a little disappointing that "Chuck Versus The Gravitron" dealt with the aftermath in quite a dull, formulaic way...

Chuck has his university dreamgirl all to himself at a country motel, as Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) alert General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) of the "Jill situation" and try to warn Chuck of the danger he's in with frantic phone-calls that go ignored. When you have Jordana Brewster in bed to yourself, it's no small wonder. Fortunately, Jill and her Fulcrum superiors are unaware that Chuck himself is the "Intersect" their splinter group covet, so when Chuck finally gets Casey's missed calls, he's in no immediate danger but has to pretend to Jill that everything is okay.

After Chuck is given proof that Jill's a spook, they go on a date to a fun fair together, where she shows her true colours by pointing a gun at him while aboard a Ferris Wheel. Luckily for Chuck, Jill isn't quite the callous bitch he's been led to expect, so fails to go through with the hit ordered by her boss "Leader" (Patrick Kilpatrick). A fun chase through the carnival is one of this episode's highlights, with Chuck evading Leader inside a spinning "Gravitron" ride that sticks them to the walls with its centrifugal force. Creative, silly and funny.

As is often the case, there's about fifteen-minutes of meaningful plot with the spy stuff, and a whole heap of nonsense at the Buy More to fill out the time. It's Thanksgiving, so boss Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) puts Lester (Vik Sahay), Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) on a security detail of the store while he goes fishing. Stores don't close for US holidays? Big Mike can't afford a burglar alarm? And why is he going fishing? Doesn't he have a family to spend Thanksgiving with? Whatever, the Buy More subplots don't generally make much sense. Elsewhere, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) is preparing one of her famously delicious Thanksgiving meals for the arrival of her prospective in-laws ("the Awesomes"), displeasing Morgan when she tells him he's essentially banned from dining with them this year.

Second of Strahotness: dressed for dinner; courtesy

But back to the nub of the matter with Chuck and Jill. It's basically an episode of back-and-forth: Chuck captures Jill, she's interrogated at their underground secret base ("the Castle"), Chuck uses a lie-detector machine to privately quiz Jill on their relationship (a nice scene), then duly releases her on naïve trust while they're alone, enabling her to hold him hostage and capture Casey and Sarah when they return with the handcuffed Leader. Chuck, Casey and Sarah find themselves detained in cells as Leader forces Chuck into giving them access to the government mainframe...

It's all quite rote, truth be told. The bright sparks are seeing Chuck once again take a proactive role in saving the day (in-between doing the exact opposite!), particularly in a scene where he remotely accessed the Castle's computer system from within his cell (having read the manual), to make life difficult for the Fulcrum intruders. It's always a delight when Chuck's geekiness proves instrumental in thwarting the villains.

But, generally speaking, "Chuck Versus The Gravitron" was a disappointment given the fact it's the climax to a three-episode arc that deserved better. Jill wasn't unmasked as the merciless bitch it would have been more fun seeing Chuck grapple with (instead she flip-flopped in her loyalty too much), Fulcrum's plan wasn't threatening or logical (why did they target Chuck using his ex? How did they know about the Castle and its computer link?), and it's becoming increasingly silly how events inexorably lead to a climax at the Buy More. They have a special hatch that leads from the Castle into the A/V demo room now? While I understand the Buy More's an expensive set, so it makes financial sense to use it as often as possible, the way it becomes the backdrop for nearly every episode's climax is tiresome.

Mind you, I did enjoy how the Buy More story collided (quite literally) with the main plot, when Big Mike returned from his fishing trip, mistook Leader for a thief, and saved Casey's life by barging the villain into a pile of stock. But this was an episode of snappily fun moments (the Gravitron, the lie-detector, the manual), and not something that provided a truly satisfying close to an episodic trilogy.

28 July 2009
Virgin1, 9pm

written by: Chris Fedak directed by: Allison Liddi Brown starring: Zachary Levi (Chuck), Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah), Adam Baldwin (Casey), Joshua Gomez (Morgan), Jordana Brewster (Jill), Scott Krinsky (Jeff), Vik Sahay (Lester), Bonita Friedericy (General Beckman), Ryan McPartlin (Captain Awesome), Mark Christopher Lawrence (Big Mike), Sarah Lancaster (Ellie) & Patrick Kilpatrick (Leader)

Eliza Dushku: FHM photoshoot

You'll have to just indulge me here, but I couldn't resist sharing Eliza Dushku's FHM photoshoot with everyone. Phew-ee! There must be a Dollhouse DVD box-set that needs publicizing, right? Okay, as you were, before this place becomes an online lad's mag!

THE PRISONER 1.9 - "Checkmate"

[SPOILERS] My reviews of The Prisoner fell by the wayside last summer (for one reason or another), but talk of AMC's remake has inspired me to squeeze out another review. I'm not sure I'll have time to continue reviewing The Prisoner properly, but never say never...

"Checkmate" is one of The Prisoner's most iconic and revered episodes, originally intended to be the second episode following "The Arrival". If you especially enjoy The Prisoner's surrealism and allegorical sensibilities, this is one of its finest hours. Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) wakes up to find various Villagers participating in a life-size game of chess, assuming the roles of various pieces, to be ordered about by two players with megaphones perched on high chairs...

During the game, a rebellious Rook (Ronald Radd) is taken away to be evaluated at the Village hospital after he makes a move of his own, and the official Chess Master confides in Six about how you can tell which Villager is a "prisoner" and which is a "guardian" by noting "the moves they make". Later, Number Two (Peter Wyngarde) takes Six to observe the "rehabilitation" of Rook, who is being reprogrammed to conform to orders by being dehydrated, then given electric shocks if he reaches for water without permission. Afterwards, Six forms an alliance with the Rook and together they start amassing a resistance against Number One by recruiting insubordinate Villagers.

This episode extols the "chess = life" metaphor that's long been a cliché, but buoys it with many other interesting elements, such as issues of conformity and the power of peer pressure. "Checkmate" has parallels with famous real-world psychological experiments, too -- such as the Milgram experiment (where subjects were willing to administer fatal levels of electric shocks if they were assured someone else had responsibility for their actions), the Stanford prison experiment (where people assumed fictional roles of "prisoner" and "convict" and the expectations of those roles came to dominate their attitudes and behaviour), and the Asch conformity experiment (that showed how people will agree to a blatantly wrong statement, if only to fit in with a group that shares a different opinion -- referred to as "normative influence.") Number Six is subjected to similar techniques throughout this story, which makes it possibly the best episode for anyone who enjoys how The Prisoner cleverly reflects societal issues and demonstrates how a person's free will can be subverted from within that rigid structure.

Overall, it's easy to see why this is a favoured story of most fans; it's a story that rattles along as a thrilling "prison escape" everyone can enjoy on a basic level, but shows hidden depths of subtext and psychological trickery for people of an intellectual persuasion. "Checkmate" is everything people like about The Prisoner distilled into one neat hour-long package: Number Six finds an apparent ally (who is inevitably proven to be an instrument of Number Two), a smitten cohort in a hypnotized Number 8, and we come to appreciate why escape from this Village is so damned difficult. The prisoners may outnumber their jailors, but the Village is so rife with paranoia, suspicion and mistrust that a collaborative effort to escape is always doomed from the start.

written by: Gerald Kelsey directed by: Don Chaffey starring: Patrick McGoohan (Number Six), Peter Wyngarde (Number Two), Angelo Muscat (The Butler), Romo Gorrara (Second Tower Guard), Rosalie Crutchley (The Queen), Patricia Jessel (First Psychiatrist), Ronald Radd (Rook), George Coulouris (Man With The Stick), Bee Duffell (Second Psychiatrist), Joe Dunne (First Tower Guard), Terence Donovan (Sailor), Geoffrey Reed (Skipper), Shivaun O'Casey (Nurse), Victor Platt (Asst. Supervisor), Denis Shaw (Shopkeeper), Danvers Walker (Painter) & Basil Dignam (Supervisor) / original airdate: 3 December 1967

24: Comic-Con '09 Panel

Good quality footage of 24's Comic-Con '09 panel has surfaced (would have been nice if they'd zoomed-in a tad, but the audio's good.) The panel includes stalwarts Kiefer Sutherland and Mary-Lynn Rajskub, together with new stars Katee Sackhoff, Freddie Prinze, Anil Kapoor, and the show's producers. Together, they discuss next year's eighth season. Part 2, 3 and 4 are available after the jump:

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Prisoner: Comic-Con '09 Panel

Above is the San Diego Comic-Con '09 panel for The Prisoner remake, with writer Bill Gallagher, AMC's Vice-President of Production Vlad Wolynetz, and stars Jim Caviezel, Lenny James and Jamie Campbell Bower. A very interesting watch for everyone eager to know more about this "reinvention" of the '60s classic, particularly after seeing the excellent nine-minute promo.

TRUE BLOOD 2.6 - "Hard-Hearted Hannah"

[SPOILERS] The title is that of a song crooned by Bill (Stephen Moyer) during a flashback sequence to Chicago, 1926. In True Blood's universe, "Hard-Hearted Hannah (The Vampire Of Savanah)" refers to Bill's "maker" Lorena (Mariana Klaveno), who has arrived at the Hotel Carmilla at the behest of Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) to put a wedge between her old flame and Sookie (Anna Paquin)...

As the Chicago flashbacks attest, there was a time when Bill and Lorena were infatuated killers. Here they're seen propositioning a sophisticated couple with the promise of a foursome in a plush hotel room, then proceed to slaughter them in front of each other. The scene in question is perhaps True Blood's most vicious and sadistic; a coldhearted double murder that makes you reassess Bill somewhat. Has the leopard really changed its spots these days, now the existence of vampires is known? And if so, will the reappearance of Lorena reawaken old habits in him?

Sookie herself has agreed to infiltrate the Fellowship Of The Sun to search for missing ubervampire Godric, and finds herself partnered with the human lover of vampire Isabel (Valerie Cruz) -- a kindly man called Hugo (Christopher Gartin), who poses as Sookie's fiancé and gives her some advice as the human half of a mixed-species relationship. Sookie and Hugo travel to the church on the pretense of searching for the perfect wedding venue, where they meet the effervescent Sarah (Anna Camp) and Reverend Newlin (Michael McMillian). However, there's an unexpected twist when Sookie's mindreads the Newlin's and realizes they're aware of their undercover mission and plan to imprison them beneath the church.

A ray of hope burns in Sarah, who is beginning to have second thoughts over her husband's spiritual mission and confides in Jason (Ryan Kwanten) that the "Soldiers Of The Sun" are being groomed for offensive, not defensive purposes. A war is brewing between humans and vampires, with Steve Newlin willing to break the uneasy co-existence that currently exists. Jason, who has spent the day building a platform intended to sacrifice a vampire (assumedly Godric), has his eyes opened by Sarah's confession, and seems likely to be the one helping Sarah rescue his sister. As demonstrated in last week's bath tub scene, the chemistry between Camp and Kwanten is palpable and their scenes together really sizzle. Camp herself is superb as the smiley, conflicted subordinate of her hubbie's anti-fang cult.

Back at Bon Temps, a broken water heater at the Stackhouse residence means Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Eggs (Mehcad Brooks) are sent into town for a spare part, only for Eggs to develop a curious sense of déjà vu on the road. Ordering Tara to pull over at a diner he recognises, they trek through the forest for a few miles until Eggs discovers an abandoned campsite that was evidently the scene of a struggle and bloodshed. It seems likely Eggs was abducted by Maryann as a backpacker and has been given false memories to keep him loyal?

The relationship between Sam (Sam Trammell) and Daphne (Ashley Jones) grows stronger, leading to the pair ditching work to shape-shift and frolic outside in the woods together in the guise of a pig and a dog (yes, my prediction that Daphne will be Maryann's mysterious hog is proven correct). That in turn leads us to the episode's big climax. Tara and Eggs return home to find Maryann (Michelle Forbes) presiding over a mass orgy outside of black-eyed "victims", her body quivering in the midst of the ritual, as dreams keep a beat and a follower places a bull-shaped mask over her head. Tara and Eggs are unable to resist joining the debauchery, as Daphne and some followers grab hold of Sam and drag him towards Maryann, assumedly as the shape-shifting victim Maryann's always coveted. Indeed, perhaps the ritual sacrifice of a "shifter" will endow Maryann will transformative powers herself, enabling her to become the bull-headed God her people worship? We've seen her hands morph into hooves already, but maybe she needs the blood of a shifter for a full body change? But if so, why not just kill shifter Daphne? Does she need a male?

Some smaller subplots round out this brilliant episode: Hoyt (Jim Parrack) goes against his mother's orders to travel all the way to Dallas to surprise Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) in her hotel room, in a brief scene that once again evokes a surprising level of affection for these characters and their puppy love; Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) has developed a form of post-traumatic stress over his captivity in Fangtasia's dungeon, so isn't best pleased when he's ordered by Eric's minion Pam (Kristin Bauer) to start dealing in "V" again; and, finally, Lorena pounces on Bill on his hotel bed, overpowering him and preventing him from rushing to Sookie's rescue when he senses her distress.

"Hard-Hearted Hannah" is the halfway point of the season and Brian Buckner's script felt like we'd reached the apex of a hill in preparation for a high-speed roll down the other side. The really great thing about True Blood right now is how all of its subplots are entertaining and even the weaker ones feel like they’ll develop into something interesting (like why Lafayette's being asked to push "V" again.) It's also notable how much the supporting characters are beginning to overshadow the ostensible leads of Sookie and Bill, but in a way that doesn't feel unfortunate or unfair. I actually welcome it. It surprises me just how invested I feel in fairly minor storylines like Jessica and Hoyt's sweet romance, mainly because those actors really sell the emotions.

My only concern right now is that the season appears to have shown its cards, as this episode finally expanded on the mysteries that have informed the year so far (Maryann, Daphne), or has taken away some ambiguity (the Newlin's). There are still questions that need answers and details to learn, but this episode definitely existed to spin the show into a new direction. Hopefully that means we'll get six episodes of pay-off to these six episodes of careful build-up. Is Godric in that basement with Sookie and Hugo? Will Bill escape Lorena? Will Jason rescue his sister with the help of Sarah? Will Sam be sacrificed by Maryann's clan? What happened to Eggs in the past? Where is Jessica and Hoyt's relationship headed? What is Eric up to?

All are questions I'm eager to see answered, as True Blood stakes itself in my heart as the show I'm most looking forward to every week...

26 July 2009
HBO, 10pm

written by: Brian Buckner directed by: Michael Lehmann starring: Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse), Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton), Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte), Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse), Rutina Wesley (Tara Thornton), Anna Camp (Sarah Newlin), Michelle Forbes (Maryann), Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica Hamby), Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette), Carrie Preston (Arlene Fowler), Alexander Skarsgård (Eric Northman), Mehcad Brooks (Eggs), Ashley Jones (Daphne), Jim Parrack (Hoyt Fortenberry), Michael McMillian (Rev. Steve Newlin), Valerie Cruz (Isabel), Dale Raoul (Maxine Fortenberry), Chris Bauer (Andy Bellefleur), Mariana Klaveno (Lorena), Kristin Bauer (Pam), Patricia Bethune (Jane Bodehouse), Skoti Collins (Orgy Vampire), Christopher Gartin (Hugo), Camille Langfield (Blood Hooker), Todd Lowe (Terry Bellefleur), Kim McKean (Flapper) & Mary Portser (Bonita Lou)

TRAILER PARK: Tron Legacy & Stargate Universe

The original Tron wasn't a movie I particularly enjoyed as a child, so it's far from being a cherished classic for me. That said, I've always appreciated the film's frankly stunning and ambitious effects for something made in 1982. They really pushed the envelope back then and it's definitely a benchmark for movie visuals. Above is the "concept trailer" for its long-awaited sequel Tron Legacy (ahem, I prefer the working title TR2N) that basically reenacts the film's iconic "light bikes" and throws in a fanpleasing appearance from original star Jeff Bridges. Modern technology appears to have caught up with Tron's imagination in the intervening quarter-century, as it looks like a gorgeous update of Tron's famous aesthetic. Love the '80s synth score towards the end, too. This teaser was actually premiered at last year's Comic-Con, so this is just an opportunity to see the footage in decent quality.

HD Downloads: 480P (92MB) | 720P (173MB) | 1080P (244MB)

Well, I wasn't expecting that! The trailer for Stargate Universe (the second spin-off from a TV series that was itself adapted from a 1994 movie) actually looks very promising. Stylistically, it's a lot slicker and grittier than the previous Stargate TV shows, with some beautiful special-effects to its credit. The storyline is Star Trek Voyager-like, in that it's about a lost spaceship trying to find its way home (they can even "beam up" people now?), but I'm surprised by how polished and fun this looks. I dropped out of watching SG-1 halfway through its ten-season lifespan, but I'll make a mental note to catch SG-U when it premieres on SyFy. Job done, trailer! Oh, and wise move letting Robert Carlyle keep a British accent. Anyone else surprised this looks good?

BBC HD: new for summer

BBC HD have some new high-def shows arriving on their schedule very soon: a selection of Friday night films at 10:30pm, the first season of Heroes (double-bill catch-ups every weekend from 1 August), a Music Festival season (every Thursday at 10:30pm), and the twelfth IAAF World Athletics Championships from the Berlin Olympic Stadium (15-23 August).

In addition, Danielle Nagler (the head of BBC HD) apologized for the channel's failure to broadcast the British Open Golf this year, saying:

"I keep asking the question and getting the same answer from the various parties involved, so it is safe to confirm to you that [The Open] will be in HD starting from next year."

Monday, 27 July 2009

Doctor Who: Comic-Con '09 Panel (Q&A)

I really think Comic-Con need to film their own event and post the videos online in a timely manner. The Dexter and Lost panels were fantastic for everyone catching up on YouTube later (great quality, on a tripod), but the vast majority of panels only exist as wobbly cameraphone uploads. That's why I've only been posting the best-quality Comic-Con vids, and fortunately the Doctor Who panel's Q&A segment (with Russell T. Davies, David Tennant, Julie Gardner and Euros Lyn) has been recorded by someone with a steady hand. Well done, that person! Click below for the next three videos:

Doctor Who: "The Waters Of Mars" & "The End Of Time" (Comic-Con Trailers)

I really like the look of this "Waters Of Mars" special. It feels like the perfect antidote to the knockabout fun of "Planet Of The Dead"; sinister, creepy, with genuinely frightening make-up. Hopefully this will be as exciting and claustrophobic as Russell T. Davies promises. And who is that knocking..?

Sadly, the teaser for David Tennant's final adventure, "The End Of Time", hasn't been released in good quality (yet) -- so you'll have to make-do with this version someone recorded on their camera-phone. But it's easy to get the gist of what's going down, and what you lose in audio/visual quality you gain in the audience's deafening reaction to a certain someone's return...

DOLLHOUSE 1.13 - "Epitaph One"

[SPOILERS] The fabled thirteenth episode of Dollhouse aired at San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend and is part of the season 1 box-set released this summer. In the UK, the Sci-Fi Channel will show the episode as part of its regular broadcast in August. Consequently, there are major spoilers here for most viewers...

"Epitaph One" is one of the most fascinating, unusual, yet worrying pieces of television I've seen in awhile. It's a successful demonstration that Team Whedon can create high-quality episodes on a low budget, and feels like a contingency plan to film a cheap, effective series finale if the show hadn't been surprisingly renewed amidst dismal ratings.

It's 2019 A.D and we're presented with a post-apocalyptic world dealing with an extreme case of identity crisis, now that the Dollhouse's technology has been used for nefarious purposes on the unwitting worldwide population, in what later appears to have been a terrorist attack based on Stephen King's Cell, which has transformed half the population into psychotic "Butchers".

"Epitaph One" is a story from the viewpoint of a gang of L.A survivors -- Mag (Felicia Day), Zone (Zack Ward), Lynn (Janina Gavankar), a little girl called Iris (Adair Tishler) and her mind-wiped father Mr. Miller (Warren Sweeney). These five friends accidentally discover the mothballed Dollhouse deep underground and realize this self-sufficient spa paradise represents the early use of the mind-swap technology responsible for ending civilization.

As the fivesome decide to fortify their new abode against intruders, they quickly realize they're sharing the place with a killer (later revealed to be abandoned "active" Whiskey (Amy Acker)), while intermittent flashbacks give us a sense of what happened to arrive at this point. The flashbacks leap around in time very erratically, but we see Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) now working alongside Echo (Eliza Dushku), who is now able to fake the success of her mind imprints; the arrival of genius Topher (Fran Kranz) to the Dollhouse facility, where he immediately increases productivity and makes an enemy of Mr. Dominic (Reed Diamond); DeWitt (Olivia Williams) receiving controversial orders from her bosses (to allow real people the chance to transfer their minds into "actives"); Boyd (Harry Lennix) deciding to leave the establishment; and Topher later realizing he's responsible for the downfall of society by pioneering technology to make it possible to brainwash people on a mass scale with a humble phone call...

Ultimately, it's difficult to know what to make of this episode. It's supposedly canonical, despite the fact it won't be broadcast in the US and the majority of viewers will never see it. Joss Whedon apparently intends to drip-feed the information presented in "Epitaph One" into season 2, but that doesn't seem feasible without just remaking this episode. If we are to believe "Epitaph One" gives us a glimpse of a future that can't be avoided, then Dollhouse itself suddenly has a Lost-style flashforward to aim towards reaching. Essentially, it feels like we've seen a preview of season finale years from now, so how is the regular show going to keep surprising us now we've had a peek at the last chapter of its story? Thus, while undoubtedly fascinating and game-changing in its own right, "Epitaph One" left me feeling very unsure about where Dollhouse can go from here, now that it appears to be straight-jacketed into just fleshing out the circumstances leading to this ending. Still, Joss Whedon's no fool, so I'm sure he has a plan.

Focusing on the episode itself, there was much to enjoy. Some nice twists, intriguing backstory, and the pleasure of soaking up information about this hellish vision of the imprinting process gone awry (e.g: survivors have their names, referred to as "birthmarks", scarred into their flesh to prove their true identities.) The vast majority of the episode focused on a brand new batch of characters (perhaps unwisely) with the Dollhouse regulars reduced to brief appearances in flashbacks, apart from Amy Acker's ethereal doll. Of the new faces, I was particularly impressed by child star Adair Tishler (best-known for playing Molly in Heroes), who was remarkable in her ability to pull off different adult personalities. She's definitely a Dakota Fanning-style talent to watch.

Overall, "Epitaph One" is quite the conundrum; imaginative, creative and thought-provoking, but quite possibly a mantrap Whedon's allowed himself to step into. It remains to be seen if he can escape its clutches (and if he'll have to saw his leg off to do so), but I'm admittedly keen to see what his next move is. Or should we just write this off as a non-canonical, speculative flashforward DVD extra?

written by: Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen (story by Joss Whedon) directed by: David Solomon starring: Eliza Dushku (Echo/Caroline), Harry Lenniz (Boyd), Fran Kranz (Topher), Tahmoh Penikett (Ballard), Enver Gjokaj (Victor), Dichen Lachman (Sierra), Olivia Williams (DeWitt), Amy Acker (Dr. Saunders), Felicia Day (Mag), Reed Diamond (Mr. Dominic), Janina Gavankar (Lynn), Adair Tishler (Iris), Zack Ward (Zone), Josh Kelly (Male), Shelley Mack (Female) & Warren Sweeney (Mr. Miller)

TV Picks: 27 July - 2 August 2009

Pick of the Week: "The Kevin Bishop Show" -- Channel 4, Fri @10.30pm

Once again, here are my personal picks of the best, new television the UK has to offer its viewers for the week:

Golden Balls (ITV1, 5pm) Return of the gameshow hosted by Jasper Carrott
Knowitalls (BBC2, 6.30pm) Quiz show hosted by Gyles Brandreth
Bang Goes The Theory (BBC1, 7.30pm) Science magazine series presented by Liz Bonnin, Jem Stansfield, Dallas Campbell & Dr. Yan Wong
The Scandalous Adventures Of Lord Byron (Channel 4, 9pm) Rupert Everett investigates the famous poet's life. Part 1 of 2.

Big, Bigger, Biggest (Five, 8pm) Series looking at large-scale engineering projects.

Breaking The Mould: The Story Of Penicillin (BBC4, 9pm) Drama about Australian scientist Prof. Florey, one of the unsung pioneers behind penicillin. Stars Dominic West, Denis Lawson, Joe Armstrong & John Sessions.

How The Other Half Live (Channel 4, 9pm) Wealthy families help those living below the povert line. Part 1 of 3.
We Are Klang (BBC3, 10.30pm) Comedy from the comedy trio, here playing council office employees.

The Kevin Bishop Show (Channel 4, 10pm) Series 2 of the fast-paced sketch show, with spoofs of pop-culture.

BBC Proms 2009: A Celebration of Classic MGM Film Musicals (BBC1, 7.30pm) Live from the Royal Albert Hall, Clive Anderson introduces a Prom celebrating 75 years of classic MGM film musicals. Includes The Wizard of Oz, Gigi & Singin' In The Rain.

Single-Handed (ITV1, 9pm) Irish police drama. Sergeant Jack Driscoll arrives to take up his post in the area where he was born and raised, but being familiar with the place does not mean that his job will be any easier - as he's taking over from his father Gerry, whose reputation still casts a long shadow.

True Blood: Season 2 (Comic-Con Trailer)

Whoa. The True Blood panel at Comic-Con '09 unveiled a fantastic trailer to promote the rest of season 2, and it looks absolutely amazing. The only downside is that it answers a few mysteries that are still in play (the identity of the "minotaur" beast, Maryann's motivation), so it's not ideal viewing if you prefer to be totally unspoiled. But, seriously, wow. It looks like the rest of season 2 is headed into big, dramatic, action-packed territory as vampires make a stand against The Fellowship Of The Sun's followers. I'm now very excited about a series that, on the evidence of this sneak peak, is about to ditch its slow-burn and break into a ferocious sprint.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Box-Eyed: True Blood, You Have Been Watching & Big Brother 10

In this week's Box-Eyed column over at, I take a quick look at True Blood on FX, Charlie Brooker's You Have Been Watching and Big Brother 10.

"You can be forgiven for forgetting that BIG BROTHER is on this summer, as the tenth series is being ignored by a media that's decided everyone's bored with the decade-old reality show, has lost its live-feed on E4, and has also been unfortunately overshadowed by news events like the politician's expenses scandal, swine flu and the death of Michael Jackson." Continue reading...

Dollhouse: Comic-Con '09 Panel

Here's Joss Whedon at the San Diego Comic-Con panel for Dollhouse, with stars Eliza Dushku, Fran Kranz and Dichen Lachman. Incidentally, I'll have a review up for Dollhouse's thirteenth episode "Epitaph One" either tomorrow or Tuesday. The panel has been recorded in seven parts, viewable below:

Lost: Comic-Con '09 Panel

The cast/crew of Lost make their last Comic-Con appearance to publicize the final season of their award-winning series. Below are four HD videos of the event for the millions not able to attend SDCC:

... and, as a bonus, the Hurley commercial for Mr. Clucks:

Dexter: Comic-Con '09 Panel

Here are nine videoclips of the Dexter cast/crew panel at San Diego Comic-Con '09, talking about the upcoming fourth season:

Michael C. Hall & Julie Benz on Dexter's baby's name:

John Lithgow on arriving on set:

Michael C. Hall on the international success of the show:

Julie Benz & Jennifer Carpenter on working in the horror/sci-fi genre:

John Lithgow on working with the cast and secrets:

Clyde Philips on Keith Carradine's return as Agent Frank Lundy:

Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter on the most challenging scenes:

Jennifer Carpenter & Julie Benz on their character's perception of Dex:

The actors on which other character they'd like to play: