Monday, 31 August 2009

Which was your favourite summer movie?

Tomorrow marks the end of the summer blockbuster season, for all intents and purposes. I thought it would be interesting to see which movie everyone enjoyed the most, so here is a snazzy poll for you to vote in. The most notable "summer movies" released in the UK between May and August have been included, so that unfortunately doesn't include the likes of Pixar's Up (which has been pushed back to autumn here in the UK.) Anyway, get voting and check back on Sunday for the final result!

BBC One & Three: autumn/winter schedules

BBC1 and BBC3 have released their autumn/winter line-up. For BBC1 that includes: five-part drama Criminal Justice starring Maxine Peake; Doctor Who's The Waters Of Mars special; four-part Jane Austen adaptation Emma; 18th-century legal drama Garrow's Law; a six-part romcom set in the world of fashion called Material Girl, starring Dervla Kirwan; Tamzin Outhwaite-starring sci-fi cop show Paradox; WWII romantic drama Small Island; Big Top, a sitcom set in a circus starring Amanda Holden; a third series of Gavin & Stacey; John Culshaw and Debra Stephenson in Impressions Show; the return of Hole In The Wall, The Graham Norton Show, Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, QI, Live At The Apollo, and Merlin; the seventh series of Strictly Come Dancing; this year's Children In Need telethon; and Around The World In 80 Days with teams of celebs. Read full details here.

BBC3 have new shows that include: a six-part drama about the sex lives of Glaswegians called Lip Service; Russell Howard fronting satirical news shows Good News; and a six-part series consisting of interwoven monologues on modern British life called Mouth To Mouth.

TV Picks: 31 August - 6 September 2009

Pick of the Week: "The Fixer" -- ITV1, Tue @9pm

It's September tomorrow, so the television schedules are about to fill out considerably as many TV shows return. Here are my picks of the best new stuff airing in the UK this week:

Framed (BBC1, 8.30pm) Drama about the flooded National Gallery's art collection being stored in a disused Welsh mine. Stars Trevor Eve, Eve Myles & Samuel Davies
Warship (Five, 9pm) Series 2 of the documentary series set aboard the Royal Navy's HMS Bulwark.
Hardcore Profits (BBC2, 10pm) Documentary about the profiting that goes on with online pornography.

The Choir – Unsung Town (BBC2, 9pm) Three-part series about a forlorn community in London, who are corralled into becoming a choir.
The Fixer (ITV1, 9pm) Series 2 of the crime drama, about a group of ex-criminals and cops who have become state-sanctioned hitmen. Stars Andrew Buchan, Tamzin Outhwaite, Jodi Latham & Peter Mullan.
Jamie's American Road Trip (Channel 4, 9pm) The passionate TV chef travels to America to try and change the country's eating habits. Part 1 of 6.
Don't Tell The Bride (BBC3, 9pm) A groom has £12,000 to organize his wedding in three weeks to his unaware bride.
The Real Housewives Of New Jersey (Channel 4, 10.35pm) Reality show about give New Jersey housewives. Part 1 of 10.

My Boyfriend, The Suffolk Strangler (More4, 8.30pm) Documentary on Steve Wright, the man who murdered five prostitutes in Ipswich.


From Bin To Banquet (ITV1, 8pm) Jonathan Maitland and Anthony Worrall Thompson look at Britain's food waste problem.
Brighton Beach Patrol (Five, 8pm) Documentary series following the police, lifeguards and coastguards of Brighton.
The Boy Who Was Born A Girl (Channel 4, 8pm) Documentary about a 16-year-old boy called Jon who uses to be a girl called Natasha.
Grease: The School Musical (Sky1, 8pm) Duncan James hosts this reality show where students try to put on a musical.
Big Brother: Live Final (Channel 4, 8.30pm) The winner of this penultimate series of the reality show is revealed.
Friday Night With Jonathan Ross (BBC1, 10.35pm) Return of the popular chat show, with guests Ricky Gervais, Jamie Oliver and Mika.

The Beatles On The Record (BBC2, 8.35pm) A documentary looking at the history of the legendary '60s band.

Joanna Lumley: Catwoman (ITV1, 7pm) Two-part documentary where the actress investigates society's love of cats.
Agatha Christie's Marple (ITV1, 8pm) Drama based on the Agatha Christie character, with Julia McKenzie as the eponymous sleuth.
Waking The Dead (BBC1, 9pm) Series 8 of the crime thriller.
Dragons' Den: On Tour (BBC2, 9pm) Special where the dragons are reacquainted with some of the entrepreneurs who've appeared on the show, who have become successes or failures as a result.
9/11 The Calls From The Towers (Channel 4, 9pm) Documentary featuring phone-calls recorded from the people inside the World Trade Center during the infamous attack.
Harper's Island (BBC3, 9pm) US drama series where a group of wedding guests must try to survive a serial-killer who has joined them on an isolated island.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Box-Eyed: Shooting Stars & The X Factor

After a short summer break, my Box-Eyed column is back over at This week, there are capsule reviews for the return of comedy quiz Shooting Stars and talent show The X Factor.

"Time hasn't been kind. There's something a little tragic about Reeves and Mortimer peddling their brand of surreal comedy now they're both 50. It's difficult to keep a youthful, anarchic streak alive when you're middle-aged (ask Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson), so watching two crinkled men beckoning down "The Dove From Above" or singing in a "club style" wasn't funny, or even pleasantly nostalgic, it just felt tired and stale." Continue reading...

The Apprentice: Karren Brady, you're hired!

Following the departure of Margaret Mountford as one of Sir Lord Alan Sugar's "eyes and ears" in The Apprentice, it's just been announced that Karren Brady will be her replacement. Brady is already familiar to Apprentice fans as one of the business people who grill candidates during the infamous interviews task. 40-year-old Brady, the chief executive of Birmingham City Football Club, also captained the women during the 2006 Comic Relief celebrity special. She's set to make her debut, alongside her returning male counterpart Nick Hewer, in next year's sixth series.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Box Office Charts: w/e 28 August 2009

Glourious Box Office

In the US: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS shoots to #1 with $38.1m (Tarantino's best ever opening in the US)... knocking sci-fi District 9 into second place, which lost 51% of its revenue in week 2... Robert Rodriguez's kid's film SHORTS debuts at #6 with a poor $6.41m... and two new releases didn't even enter the top 10: POST GRAD at #11 and X GAMES 3D – THE MOVIE at #19 with just $837,216...


(-) 1. Inglourious Basterds $38.1m
(1) 2. District 9 $18.2m
(2) 3. G.I Joe: The Rise Of Cobra $12.2m
(3) 4. The Time Traveler's Wife $9.74m
(4) 5. Julie & Julia $8.8m
(-) 6. Shorts $6.41m
(5) 7. G-Force $4.11m
(7) 8. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince $3.48m
(8) 9. The Ugly Truth $2.77m
(6) 10. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard $2.71m

In the UK: Quentin Tarantino gets his biggest ever UK opening with INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, taking £3.5m to comfortably take the #1 spot (although it must be noted that it opened two days earlier than its competition)... the Wayans' Brothers' latest spoof movie DANCE FLICK dies a death at the box-office with a pitiful £462,000 to take #6... but there was worse news for a slew of new releases last week: comedy BANDSLAM debuted at #12 with £171,000... Robert Rodriguez's kid's movie SHORTS only took £171,000 across 342 screens (placing #13)... an ignoble defeat that looks rather good compared to I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER, which made £123,000 and entered the chart at #17!


(-) 1. Inglourious Basterds £3.5m
(1) 2. The Time Traveler's Wife £915k
(3) 3. G-Force £654k
(2) 4. Aliens In The Attic £642k
(4) 5. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince £598k
(-) 6. Dance Flick £462k
(5) 7. G.I Joe: The Rise Of Cobra £455k
(6) 8. The Ugly Truth £451k
(8) 9. Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs £336k
(9) 10. The Proposal £270k



Horror thriller. After a teen's premonition of a deadly race-car crash helps saves the lives of his peers, Death sets out to collect those who evaded their end.
Director: David R. Ellis Starring: Bobby Compo, Shantel VanSanten, Nick Zano, Haley Webb, Mykelti Williamson & Krista Allen
Tomatometer: 14% (Rotten; based on 7 reviews)


Comedy drama. When seasoned comedian George Simmons learns of his terminal, inoperable health condition, his desire to form a genuine friendship cause him to take a relatively green performer under his wing as his opening act.
Director: Judd Apatow Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill & Jason Schwartzman
Tomatometer: 65% (Fresh; based on 163 reviews) "Funny People features the requisite humor, as well as considerable emotional depth, resulting in Judd Apatow's most mature film to date."


Action drama. Iraq. Forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an elite Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Evangeline Lilly & Christian Camargo
Tomatometer: 98% (Fresh; based on 131 reviews) "A well-acted, intensely shot, action filled war epic, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is thus far the best of the recent dramatizations of the Iraq War."

Top 10 TV Downloads

Here's an interesting article from Broadcast, about the latest research into the most popular TV shows being file-shared online. The top 10 from this year, in ascending order is:

10. Smallville; 19,598,999
9. Gossip Girl; 19,706,870
8. Grey’s Anatomy; 19,916,775
7. Desperate Housewives; 21,378,412
6. Fringe; 21,434,755
5. House; 26,277,954
4. Prison Break; 29,283,591
3. 24; 34,119,093
2. Lost; 51,151,396
1. Heroes; 54,562,012

It was interesting to note that 47% of downloads originate from the US, and only 4% from the UK. Personally, I'm confused that Americans bother to download much TV at all, given the fact most shows with a "geek-appeal" originates from their own country...

Why would a diehard Smallville fan bother to download episodes, when TV still gets the "world premiere" in their country? It's not like in the UK where the reasoning/excuse for downloading is the waiting for a UK broadcaster to show popular US shows, is it? Are Americans downloading British shows just as voraciously to make up these numbers, or do they just prefer to download to avoid the ads? Maybe they just prefer downloading to buying a DVD box-set as a keepsake?

I also find it intriguing that shows like Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and Gossip Girl appear on this list. That appears to show there's quite a wide demographic downloading, not just the stereotypical geeks clamouring for sci-fi/fantasy.

And would Prison Break still be on-air if those downloads were Nielsen ratings?

New Comments

As you may have noticed, Disqus have updated their commenting software, resulting in a nicer, slicker design. It's definitely an improved look and the behind-the-scenes functionality is much nicer, but... for some strange reason, my computer at work doesn't agree. A quirk of the new coding means I can no longer comment from work, so don't look puzzled if I'm a lot quieter around here...

Hopefully it won't impact your enjoyment of DMD too much, as I'll be sure to comment sometime after 5pm, but don't expect lightning quick responses from me during working hours. Out of interest, is anyone else having problems using the new Disqus -- at home, or work? If it's a widespread problem, I'll be sure to raise the issue with Disqus themselves.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Sky: autumn/winter lineup

Stuart Murphy, Sky's Director of Programmes, has unveiled the autumn/winter lineup for Sky1, Sky1 HD, Sky2 and Sky3. Full details can be read here.

Of general interest to me: Duncan James hosting Grease: The School Musical; Davina McCall hosting Just Dance (which sounds like a British version of So You Think You Can Dance); the return of US drama like 24, Lost, Lie To Me, Bones, House and Fringe; the UK premieres of Stargate Universe and Caprica; Terry Pratchett adaptation Going Postal for Easter; The 12 Days Of Christmas (a dozen eight-minute silent films from the likes of Neil Gaiman); an adaptation of ex-SAS soldier Chris Ryan's novel Strike Back starring Richard Armitage; more Simpsons; US comedy Modern Family in October; Bill Bailey's Bird Watch; a daytime series called Angela & Friends (presented by actress Angela Griffiths); a daytime quiz called Sell Me The Answer hosted by Gethin Jones; Football's Next Star presented by Jamie Redknapp; Ian Wright documentary Football Behind Bars; and the return of Wayne Rooney's Street Striker.

It all sounds pretty good. Of the new stuff, I'm keen to see Stargate Universe, Caprica, Strike Back, and Going Postal. How about you?

More4 get Hung

More4 have secured the UK broadcast rights to HBO's comedy-drama Hung, starring Thomas Jane as a Detroit P.E teacher who decides to become a gigolo because of the impressive size of his manhood. The show will start in October, a month after the ten-part season ends in the US. I reviewed the pilot here.

The Fixer: ITV'll fix it?

Do you remember The Fixer? The ITV1 drama starring Andrew Buchan as a prisoner released to become a state-sponsored hitman? The first series debuted to 6.3 million viewers and remained fairly strong in the ratings, so it's a little strange another series has taken so long to reach us. Well, it's back next Tuesday (1 Sep @9pm), 16 months after the last run finished, so it'll be interesting to see if and how they've improved it.

Y'see, there was a far better show spinning around my imagination after hearing the premise last year (Dexter meets The A-Team in the world of Eastern Promises?), but The Fixer didn't get close to that. A big problem for me was how the characters all hated each other (even if they softened over the course of the 8 episodes), and how Tamzin Outhwaite's character felt utterly pointless. Hopefully, series 2 won't be as depressing and the gang will respect and even like each other, so we can get behind them when they covertly assassinate gangsters for Queen & Country.

Did you watch the first series? Are you glad it's back? Are you hoping it's made some changes? Or did you like it as it was?


Overshadowed by Avatar last week, here's the first theatrical trailer for The Wolfman remake, starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving. Worryingly, it's had a troubled production history (notably, original director Mark Romanek left and was replaced by The Rocketeer's Joe Johnston.) I don't mind Johnston, but I was more psyched for Romanek's take. It felt that the studio just wanted a safe pair of hands, so maybe Romanek's version was going to take some unusual deviations they weren't happy with?

Anyway, it's now been pushed back from Halloween to become an "alternate date movie" for Valentine's Day (a la most Hannibal Lecter movies). A gorier version of this trailer was screened at Comic-Con last year to great acclaim, and while this version is less gruesome, it hits the same storytelling beats.

I think it looks good, but not fantastic. I'm mainly interested in the cast, as Del Toro is perfect for this role (he already resembles a werewolf sans make-up and is a huge fan of the original), I always enjoy Hopkins when he's allowed to chew the scenery, rising star Blunt should make a great love-interest, and Weaving's always good value. It looks stylishly gothic and I'm a sucker for an old-school werewolf flick, so I guess I'm just hoping this is a mere appetiser and the actual film will be scary, violent and a worthwhile update.

Released: 10 February 2010 (US), 12 February 2010 (UK), 25 February 2010 (AUS)
HD Downloads: 480P (35MB) | 720P (87MB) | 1080P (122MB)

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Bye-bye, Big Brother!

Big Brother's days are numbered. Channel 4 confirmed today that their long-running reality show will come to an end after its eleventh series next summer. Celebrity Big Brother is also being axed after its next series in January. The channel stand to free up £50 million to spend in other areas, which they'll need to fill a 200-hour gap in its summer schedule...

Kevin Lygo, Channel 4's Director of Television:

"Big Brother is still commercially viable but it's at a level now where the new programmes we commission, if we're optimistic, can do as well. If we were a purely commercial station, we probably wouldn't be axing it, but beating at the heart of C4 is a desire to do new things. We ought to be able to bring a new range of shows in that get 2 to 3 million viewers. The audience is very discerning and we owe it to them to give them new stuff. The channel's always gambled commercially. The creative challenge is more interesting than a sure commercial bland bet."

"Cancelling Big Brother does not solve Channel 4's funding issues, this year we've nearly £125m less to spend on programmes than we did a couple of years ago and budgets for next year may have to be reduced further. However, assuming advertising revenues stop deteriorating at some point, we should have greater flexibility in how we spend our commissioning budget. The significant sums that have been committed to Big Brother in the past should now be available to boost budgets in genres, such as drama, that have had to be cut back sharply during the downturn."
I'm not surprised by this news. I even welcome it, speaking as a loyal Big Brother fan who's still watching the show. Fact is, BB has run its course, even if there's still much to enjoy about it. Anyway, take heart BB anoraks: Big Brother is the kind of malleable format that isn't likely to disappear forever. I wouldn't be surprised if a digital channel pick it up from Endemol for a knock-down price*, or it's revived in 10 years time.

This is all great news if you hate Big Brother, though. According to Broadcast, Channel 4 are already planning to increase their drama budget as a result of Big Brother's cancellation, from £10m to £20m in 2011.

* Update: Five, Sky1 and ITV2 have now ruled out bidding for Big Brother's format when it becomes available in 2011.

CHUCK 2.12 - "Chuck Versus The Third Dimension"

[SPOILERS] Originally shown as part of a 3D promotion in the US, "Chuck Versus The Third Dimension" suffers from the distracting nature of anaglyphic 3D, which doesn't give a satisfying experience because it requires a bit of effort to accept its slightly warped views.

The gimmick-y nature of the 3D made this episode harder to be swept along by, which was a shame. Chuck foils a terrorist plot to kill British rocker Tyler Martin (Dominic Monaghan), so Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Casey (Adam Baldwin) are forced to kidnap the superstar so they can work out who wants him dead, and why. Unfortunately, Chuck is left alone with Tyler and easily convinced to accompany him for a night out on the town, getting to live the rockstar lifestyle with a celebrity as his "wingman".

At the Buy More, Morgan (Joshua Gomez) finds a golden ticket that gives him backstage access to Tyler's upcoming Burbank gig, so he holds an impromptu competition to determine which of his friends can be his "plus one". This leads to the usual tomfoolery, with Lester (Vic Sahay) humiliated when it's revealed he wears women's knickers, Jeff (Scott Krinsky) eating a urinal cake, and a competitive eating challenge with Jimmy Butterman (Jerome Bettis). Again, I'm impervious when it comes to finding the Buy More the hilarious hotbed of quirky, geeky humour everyone seems to lap up, but I did appreciate its huge array of injokes this week (from Sixteen Candles to The Shawshank Redemption.) It may be a somewhat easy way to earn a giggle, but the targets were fairly obscure -- like the aria that played while Jimmy was at the vending machine being the same one Tim Robbins' character played to his fellow inmates.

It's also worth mentioning that this episode was the first to air in the US after a winter hiatus, so American fans had a few months to chew on the climax to "Chuck Versus Santa Claus" where Chuck saw Sarah kill a Fulcrum agent in cold blood to maintain his cover. Sadly, because the creators knew more people would be watching this episode than usual (because of a Super Bowl tie-in and 3D promotional push), the plot was made more accessible to newbies, to the detriment of the show in some ways. Chuck's knowledge that lovely Sarah can be so heartless is something that could have lurked in the subtext of their scenes for many weeks, slowly poisoning their relationship, but it was instead tackled head-on and forgiven here. A missed opportunity.

Second of Strahotness: morning glory? courtesy

Guest star Dominic Monaghan was good fun as the intentionally clichéd, young rocker -- even if all British accents, even ones embellished for comic value by English actors, seem awfully strange to my own British ears. I'm not sure why. I can't blame the fact it was an American was playing the role and channeling Dick Van Dyke, so maybe it's just an accent you don't expect to hear on the show, so it stuck out? Or Monaghan was told to lay it on thicker than he would do otherwise, and the script didn't always sit right (British men don't call other British men "slappers", for e.g.) Still, I loved Monaghan's chemistry with Levi in their scenes together, and Monaghan's reactions were very funny everytime he was hit by one of Casey's tranq darts.

There's not much else to add about this blithe episode, really. It was light, it was silly, a bit boring in places, and I definitely felt the 3D subverted my ability to just enjoy the story. I was too busy trying to be drawn into the 3D, which occasionally worked nicely (mainly when scenes were composed with greater depth of field, or there was an obvious moment where something popped out at youl.) It wasn't too bad, and would probably be even better with the sharpness of HD (sadly not available to Virgin1 viewers), but it was a reminder why 3D in this cheap form never took off in the '50s and '80s.

Overall, "Chuck Versus The Third Dimension" was lukewarm filler, but the 3D kept me entertained (if a little frustrated and underwhelmed at times), there were some nice touches, and Monaghan was a decent guest-star. It just wasn't particularly funny or dramatic compared to earlier episodes this season, and the Buy More story failed to merge with the Tyler storyline as neatly as it could have done. But yes, a bonus point for writer Chris Fedak's decision to give us a three-dimensional Yvonne Strahvoski crawling on a bed in black lingerie. That's how you promote 3D to the masses, forget James Cameron and Pixar movies.

25 August 2009
Virgin1, 9pm

written by: Chris Fedak directed by: Robert Duncan McNeill starring: Zachary Levi (Chuck), Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah), Adam Baldwin (Casey), Joshua Gomez (Morgan), Scott Krinsky (Jeff), Vik Sahay (Lester), Bonita Friedericy (General Beckman), Ryan McPartlin (Captain Awesome), Sarah Lancaster (Ellie), Tony Hale (Emmett Milbarge), Mark Christopher Lawrence (Big Mike), Dominic Monaghan (Tyler Martin), Jerome Bettis (Jimmy Butterman), Nicholas Guilak (Achmed Gambir), Luisa Moraes (Vixen #1), Treisa Grey (Elevator Woman), Nina Fehren (Vixen #2), James Kiriyama-Lem (Ambassador Mei Sheng) & Arune Kiral (Wing Girl)

TWIN PEAKS 1.6 - "Realization Time"

[SPOILERS] Thursday 2 March 1989. Currently, there are three separate investigations attempting to find Laura Palmer's killer: Agent Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan) and Sheriff Truman's (Michael Ontkean) official murder investigation; Audrey Horne's (Sherilyn Fenn) plucky attempt to solve the mystery; and the trio of James (James Marshall), Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) and Madeleine (Sheryl Lee), who here probe into Dr. Jacoby's (Russ Tamblyn) relationship with their murdered friend. What's interesting about this penultimate episode is how this triptych of sleuthing all result in undercover missions...

After declining Audrey's invitation of sex after finding her naked in his hotel bed, the next day Cooper meets with Doc Hayward (Warren Frost) and Truman to "interrogate" Waldo -- the mynah bird they found in Jacques Renault's cabin who likely witnessed Laura's death there. As the species is a renowned mimicker of speech, Cooper decides to leave his voice-activated cassette-recorded next to Waldo's cage to pick up any vocals the bird may repeat. It's something you'd expect to see as a plot-point in a Scooby Doo episode, but that's part of the kooky charm to the series.

As the lawmen leave Waldo alone to talk, Cooper decides to investigate the source of the broken chip they discovered in Laura's stomach: One-Eyed Jack's. But, seeing as it's across the Canadian border and out of his jurisdiction, Cooper enlists the help of "The Bookhouse Boys" -- Truman and Big Ed (Everett McGill) -- to go undercover with him at the bordello (in silly disguises and $10,000 of Bureau cash to gamble) to search for their prime suspect: Jacques Renault.

It's a plan Audrey also comes to herself, after sneaking into the office of her department store boss Mr. Battis (Don Amendolia) to eavesdrop on a conversation he has with a fellow shop girl. Indeed, Audrey appears to have quite a compulsion to snoop on people from behind walls and inside cupboards! She overhears how Battis is supplying One-Eyed Jack's with naïve female members of his staff to work as prostitutes (or "hospitality girls"), so Audrey assumes a new recruit's identity and arrives at the brothel for an interview with its madame "Blackie" (Victoria Catlin). Unfortunately, her deception is quickly exposed when she's asked a trick question to test her credentials, but Audrey still earns herself a place at the establishment by demonstrating her oral skills by knotting a cherry's stalk using only her tongue. A party trick that became one of Twin Peaks' most memorable and oft-copied moments.

The third prong of the town-wide investigation concerned the discover by Maddy of a stack of audio-tapes Laura made for her psychiatrist Dr. Jacoby, the content of which appears to show her cousin was having some kind of illicit romance with her shrink. Maddy shares this discovery with comrades Donna and James, who notice that a tape made on the night of her death is missing from the collection. So, the trio concoct a plan to draw Jacoby out of his apartment so they can search it for the missing cassette. Their plan involves utilizing Maddy's striking similarity to Laura, by dressing her in a blonde wig and sending Jacoby a video of "Laura" holding the day's newspaper and demanding a rendezvous. After calling him on the phone to arrange the meeting, they succeed in getting Jacoby out of his apartment, but are unaware he's recognized where the video was filmed (a gazebo at Easter Park) and hotfoots it there to find Laura/Madeleine.

Elsewhere, having been shot by Shelly (Mädchen Amick), Leo (Eric Da Re) is nursing a flesh wound to his left shoulder and notices Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) visiting his distraught girlfriend while he's out of the house. But, before he can do anything about his lover's duplicity, he overhears chatter on his police radio that the cops have Waldo in their custody, and leaves with a rifle. Having spent most of the season as the viewer's prime suspect, Leo implicates himself further by shooting Waldo dead inside his cage (the bird's blood dripping on some leftover donuts), although Cooper is pleased to discover that Waldo's last words were captured on his micro-cassette: "Laura, don't go there... hurting me... Leo, no!" (the bird assumedly mimicking eye-witness Ronette Pulanski.)

Away from the murder-orientated plots, there's more pressing matters with a crime about to be committed at the saw mill. Josie (Joan Chen) confides in her lover Truman that she knows Ben (Richard Reymer) and Catherine (Piper Laurie) are plotting to raze her business to the ground. Meanwhile, Catherine grows suspicious when she's handed a life insurance policy arranged by Josie -- who we know is actually in cahoots with her lover Ben and attempting to ensure Catherine is killed in the blaze. Confused yet? Anyway, Catherine refuses to sign the policy, citing absent amendments she wants to double-check with her lawyer, but perhaps she realizes there are plans to profit from her death along with the mill's destruction -- which will clear the ground for Ben's Ghostwood development for the Icelandic businessmen. As if things aren't complicated enough, we later see the recently-paroled Hank (Chris Mulkey) is with Josie -- so what's his part in all this?

Overall, this was something of a focusing episode, but it felt like real progress was being made in cracking the mystery. It's now clear that Jacoby and Leo are guilty of something regarding Laura's death (both their names were divined via Cooper's stone-throwing technique, remember), and Cooper finds Jacques Renault working as a croupier at One-Eyed Jack's. While no major new pieces of information were disseminated here, "Realization Time" was juicy plot gum to chew on that set things up for the big finale very nicely.

Notes from The Black Lodge:

  • Why is Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) refusing to talk to Deputy Andy (Harry Goaz) after her day off?

  • Whatever happened to Cooper's rude colleague Albert? Did he go back to the Bureau after Laura's funeral? And it's been awhile since we saw Laura's mother, Sarah, too.

  • The patent attorney has rejected Nadine's (Wendy Robie) silent drape runner design, leaving her distraught. It's still difficult to see the point to this character, though, beyond the fact she adds another layer of general quirkiness to the community.

  • Leland (Ray Wise) was glimpsed briefly as Maddy left the house, sitting alone in his unlit living room. Is that just a reminder he's still grieving and up till the early hours, or something more?
written by: Haley Peyton directed by: Caleb Deschanel starring: Kyle MacLachlan (Special Agent Dale Cooper), Michael Ontkean (Sheriff Harry S. Truman), Mädchen Amick (Shelly Johnson), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Richard Beymer (Benjamin Horne), Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna Marie Hayward), Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne), Warren Frost (Dr. 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 (Dr. Lawrence Jacoby), Chris Mulkey (Hank Jennings), David Patrick Kelly (Jerry Horne), Walter Olkewicz (Jacques Renault), Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran), Wendy Robie (Nadine Hurley), Don Amendolia (Emory Battis), Victoria Catlin ("Blackie" O'Reilly), Mark Lowenthal (Mr. Neff), Eve Brent (Theodora Ridgely), Lisa Ann Cabasa (Jenny), Mary Stavin (Heba), Brian Straub (Einar Thorson), Erika Anderson ("Jade"), Lance Davis ("Chet") & Rick Giolito ("Montana") / original airdate: 17 May 1990

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Strictly Come Dancing 7: Meet The Stars

The 16 celebrities participating in the seventh series of Strictly Come Dancing were revealed at today's press launch. Click below for details:

The celebrity women and their dance partners are:

  • Ali Bastian (actress, Hollyoaks) with Brian Fortuna
  • Lynda Bellingham (actress, Loose Women) with Darren Bennett
  • Natalie Cassidy (actress, EastEnders) with Vincent Simone
  • Martina Hingis (ex-tennis player) with Matthew Cutler
  • Jade Johnson (Olympic athlete) with Ian Waite
  • Zoë Lucker (actress, The Bill) with James Jordan
  • Laila Rouass (actress, Primeval) with Anton du Beke
  • Jo Wood (model, ex-wife of Ronnie Wood) with Brendan Cole
Thoughts: Vincent goes from sultry Rachel Stevens last year to Sonia from EastEnders! Anton finally gets a partner he stands a chance of winning with! Hotties: Ali, Jade, Zoe and Laila should all look great in their cossies. Winner? As a premature guess, I'll go for Jade Johnson.

The celebrity men and their dance partners are:

  • Joe Calzaghe (ex-boxer) with Kristina Rihanoff
  • Richard Dunwoody (ex-jockey) with Lilia Kopylova
  • Ricky Groves (actor, EastEnders) with Erin Boag
  • Chris Hollins (sports presenter) with Ola Jordan
  • Craig Kelly (actor, Queer As Folk) with Flavia Cacace
  • Phil Tufnell (ex-cricketer) with Katya Virshilas
  • Ricky Whittle (actor, Hollyoaks) with Natalie Lowe
  • Ray Wilding (TV presenter) with Aliona Vilani
Thoughts: Kristina will be relieved, after putting up with John Sergeant last year! Why has lovely Lilia never had a decent partner for years? Given the furor over Sergeant, is it coincidence there are no celebs of obvious ineptitude? Hotties: I'm sure the girls will lap up Joe and Ricky, but I'll be tuning in for Lilia and Ola again -- although there are three hot newcomers to keep an eye on, particularly Katya. Fingers crossed for some cat-suits. Winner? I always favour the sportsmen because of their fitness and work ethic, so I have my early money on Joe.

As I'm sure you're aware, Alesha Dixon will replace Arlene Philips on the judging panel alongside Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revell-Horwood. There are rumours that Arlene will now become the show's choreographer, have a recurring role on sister show It Takes Two, and be The One Show's resident expert. Ballet star Darcey Bussell will also join the show as a guest-judge for the final three weeks in December.

In a change to the format, SCD will start on a Friday with a "Ballroom Night" and continue with a Saturday "Latin Night" for the first two weekends, before settling on Saturdays. This means every couple will have to learn two dances for their debut. Sunday's results show has been dropped, meaning dances and decisions will be made on Saturday by combining the judge's scores and letting viewers vote for the couple they want to stay. The least-popular pair will face each other in a dance-off, after which the judges will vote on who to save.

Strictly Come Dancing returns on 18 September.

TRUE BLOOD 2.10 - "New World In My View"

[SPOILERS] I'm not sure what to make of "New World In My View". It was enjoyable, but it felt like we'd leapfrogged a few episodes of credible escalation, and it contained many dumb moments. The Dallas-set storyline is apparently over, despite the fact the Newlin's still pose a threat to vampire-kind, as Sookie (Anna Paquin), Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Jason (Ryan Kwanten) return to Bon Temps and find it's become a den of iniquity...

Maryann (Michelle Forbes) has suddenly decided to brainwash the entire town, turning them into raving lunatics with a lust for sinful behaviour. As a result, Bon Temps has been vandalized and people are running riot, most compelled to find and capture Sam (Sam Trammell) so he can be Maryann's sacrifice to her God. She's even built her own version of a "wicker man" using rotting vegetables and raw meat, the resulting sculpture stood on the drive of the Stackhouse residence.

Sam is holed up in a hotel room with Andy (Chris Bauer), the only man who'll believe his story that Maryann has infected the townsfolk, but they're drawn out to Merlotte's after receiving a fake S.O.S call from Arlene (Carrie Preston). At the bar, Sam and Andy are forced to take refuge from the baying crowd of zombified customers inside his cold storage room. Luckily, Jason has decided to put his Soldier Of The Sun training to good use, suiting up like a hick version of Rambo to spring his friends from danger, armed with a nail-gun. The escape plan doesn't go to plan, meaning Sam has no option but to give himself up for sacrifice -- but, as he'd being tethered to the roof of a car for transportation back to Maryann's, Jason decides to pose as the crowd's "God" by wearing a gas-mask and clutching lit flares from atop another vehicle. It proves to be an effective disguise as seen through the distorted view of the enchanted acolytes, and Sam stages an effective "smiting" by transforming into a fly to fool his captors that he'd been successfully destroyed.

Meanwhile, Lettie Mae (Adina Porter) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) try to snap Tara (Rutina Wesley) out of her malady, but Maryann's spell is seemingly impossible to break. At the Stackhouse residence, Sookie is shocked to find her family home has become the stronghold of the nefarious Maryann, and Bill soon realizes she'll be difficult to beat when he bites her neck and ingests her nocuous blood as a result. The situation prompts instinctual defense from Sookie, who manages to fend Maryann off when her palms coruscate with white energy...

In last week's comments, I mentioned how the writers appear to have forgotten Sookie exhibiting powers beyond mind-reading in the "Pilot" (incredible strength), so it's nice to see they haven't forgotten that Sookie's a powerful creature herself. Indeed, given the fact even the ancient Maryann looked puzzled and amused by Sookie's nature and abilities, she's clearly not something Maryann's ever encountered through the eons.

In the end, Tara's mental state is reversed thanks to Bill "glamouring" her and Sookie delving deep into her psyche, before Bill concludes that the only person who might know how to deal with Maryann is the vampire Queen -- whom he goes to visit in her grandiloquent pad for help...

"New World In My View" marks the writing debut of Kate Barnow and Elisabeth Finch, and it's a little strange they were given such an expansive episode to make their mark. Sadly, their inexperience showed and it became an episode of jumbled moments -- good, bad, absurd. I don't blame them entirely, as US drama is storylined by committee, so the writing staff must take responsibility for the rather awkward way this episode dropped the Dallas storyline and jumped into the deep end with Maryann and the Bon Temps debauchery.

I was just a little confused and disappointed that the Newlin's storyline appears to have ended (although I'm sure they'll be back to resume their grudge match one day) and this episode revealed how poorly the season's two storylines have been woven together. It just felt ridiculous how Sookie, Bill and Jason fell straight into another crazy situation the moment they arrived home. Hopefully the characters who were entrenched in Maryann's storyline (Tara, Sam, Eggs, Andy) will have a stronger role in her defeat, and not suffer the indignity of having Sookie and her gang to swoop in and save the day.

Overall, I guess you just had to either embrace this episode's screwy direction, or not. I fell somewhere in the middle. I appreciated the return of Sookie's additional powers, its smattering of crowd-pleasing moments, and the idea that a Bible belt town has become infected by sin (a shame Lettie Mae's reading of scripture offered no salvation, actually), but there was also a lot of stupidity taking the sheen off everything. It was like the scriptwriters had been infected by Maryann and wrote an episode that felt half-improvised and reckless in its attitude and pacing. If there was ever an episode that carried a whiff of fan-fiction, this was it. So, while "New World In My View" entertained through pure force of will, it left me feeling unsure the last two episodes will pull everything together in a reasonable and organized way.

As two final thoughts: are we to believe that Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) has killed Hoyt's (Jim Parrack) mother, when she snapped over Maxine's (Dale Raoul) bigoted outbursts and bit her neck? And how complex can the vampire subculture get? They have their own system of government (area sheriffs, a magister) and now some form of royal family?!

23 August 2009
HBO, 10pm

written by: Kate Barnow & Elisabeth Finch directed by: Adam Davidson starring: Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse), Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton), Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte), Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse), Rutina Wesley (Tara Thornton), Michelle Forbes (Maryann), Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica Hamby), Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette), Carrie Preston (Arlene Fowler), Alexander Skarsgård (Eric Northman), Mehcad Brooks (Eggs), Jim Parrack (Hoyt Fortenberry), Chris Bauer (Andy Bellefleur), Adina Porter (Lettie Mae Thornton), Todd Lowe (Terry Bellefleur), Patricia Bethune (Jane Bodehouse) & Dale Raoul (Maxine Fortenberry)

Fringe: Season 2 Poster

It took awhile to settle in, but Fringe became one of the best new shows last year, shortly after it started concentrating on its own mythology (ironic, given the fact Fringe was designed to be more standalone than other J.J Abrams-created shows.) Fox have just released a new poster to promote season 2 (see above), which includes lots of tiny clues if you look closely. Click the image for a bigger version, then be sure to check out for the "answers".

Fringe returns to Fox on 17 September.

Doctor Who: David Tennant & Russell T. Davies interviewed

I know there are perhaps too many interviews with David Tennant and Russell T. Davies online right now, with the pair saying much the same thing as they travel around America on their "victory tour" to celebrate/commisserate their final year working on Doctor Who... but, this one from Boing Boing is worth watching. Mainly because it's a substantial 20-minutes long and in glorious HD. So jump in.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Richard Armitage strikes back; Skins USA

Richard Armitage was undoubtedly one of the best things about the BBC's fun-but-flawed Robin Hood, and now the actor has agreed to star in Sky1's Strike Back, a six-part drama adapted from the novel by ex-SAS soldier Chris Ryan. The series will co-star Andrew Lincoln, Jodhi May, Orla Brady, Laura Greenwood and Nicola Stephenson.

Strike Back will follow the lives of two former soldiers, Major Hugh Collinson (Lincoln) and discharged veteran John Porter (Armitage), who meet for the first time during a Middle East hostage crisis.

Elaine Pyke, Sky1's Comissioning Editor of Drama:

"As with all Sky1 dramas, not only will it feature a gifted cast with a large popular following, but working with Andy Harries and Left Bank Pictures means an already crackling script will jump out of the screen. Shot in South Africa with stunning locations and high octane HD action sequences on a grand scale, Chris Ryan's bestselling novel will be a truly uncompromising, compelling, action drama."
The series is scheduled to premiere next spring on Sky1 and Sky1 HD.

In other news, MTV are planning to create a US version of E4's award-winning teen drama Skins. The channel will apparently honour the British model of hiring tenagers to help write the scripts and cast unknowns in the lead roles. Skins creator Brian Elsey will executive-produce the US remake, which is likely to be set in Baltimore, Maryland.

Liz Gateley, executive-producer:

"Skins is one of those rare shows that cuts through to its core audience with unusually authentic stories due to the unique writing and casting process that Bryan [Esley] pioneered. Having personally pursued the UK project for almost two years, I am beyond thrilled to bring it to MTV in the US. We intend to preserve the authenticity of the British version and are excited to collaborate with the original team to develop stories that will speak to American youth."

Are reports of Kröd Mändoon's death premature?

It was reported last week that Kröd Mändoon & The Flaming Sword Of Fire had been axed by the BBC, after Comedy Central dropped out of co-funding the series. However, it now appears that the show's future isn't so bleak, as long as Hat Trick Productions manage to find another partner to share the financial burden.

Jimmy Mulville, Hat Trick's boss, speaking to Broadcast:

"There is a bit of misinformation going on. Not for a moment would I say the BBC has problems with communication, [but] as far as the writers and the controller of BBC comedy, and the controller of BBC2, and Matt Lucas are concerned, we are developing a second series."
Mulville also suggested that Kröd Mändoon's budget could be slashed to help make another run viable, and that the BBC are behind its return "because it did well, it is a very unusual piece, and it’s got ambition -– and it’s got Matt Lucas in it."

TV Picks: 24-30 August 2009

Pick of the Week: "Shooting Stars" -- BBC2, Wed @9pm

My personal pick of the most notable TV shows debuting in the UK this week:

Saving Britain's Past (BBC2, 7.30pm) Architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff visits Bath to explore Britain's shifting post-war attitudes to the past.
Can You Bank On Me? (ITV, 9pm) Documentary following two ex-bankers who, until recently, enjoyed earning huge salaries until the credit crunch hit.
Mario & Nini: A Childhood Under Threat (Sky1, 10pm) Documentary about two disruptive London boys who are later drawn to knives and guns as teenagers.

Rich Man, Poor Man: A Knight's Tale (BBC4, 9pm) Documentary on John Madejski, a multi-millionaire from Reading who is facing tought times because of the recession.

Megastructures: Built From Disaster (Five, 8pm) Documentary series exploring how disasters throughout the world have influenced the evolution of modern structural engineering.
Shooting Stars (BBC2, 9pm) The surreal comedy panel quiz returns, following a succesful 15th-anniversary special at Christmas. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are back with Ulrika Jonsson and Jack Dee as team captains. Matt Lucas also reprises his role as drumming baby score-keeper George Dawes.

The Frankincense Trail (BBC2, 8pm) Kate Humble journeys along the trade routes of the Middle East.
Justin Lee Collins: High Diver (Sky1, 10pm) The presenter tries to conquer a fear of heights to become a high diver.

Florence And The Machine @Reading (BBC3, 8.05pm) Coverage of this year's Reading/Leeds festival, fronted by Edith Bowman and Reggie Yates.


A Night At The Office (BBC2, 9pm) A retrospective on award-winning sitcom The Office, which dominated the comedy landscape in the '00s with countless international versions, and has made a global superstar of creator Ricky Gervais. This special includes interviews with everyone involved and unseen footage from the 14 episodes produced.
What Katie Did Next (ITV2, 9pm) Katie Price lands a solo reality series in the wake of her split from husband Peter Andre.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Cube

ITV1's new Saturday night gameshow is an excellent and effortlessly entertaining hour that goes to prove how the best ideas are often the simplest. Essentially, contestants must perform seven deceptively simple challenges inside a giant transparent Cube, each success rewarded by an increasing cash prize. The tasks may appear trivial and silly on the surface, but with a live studio audience gawping at every angle, and host Philip Schofield reminding you of the monetary stakes every ten seconds, these trifling games become tense nailbiters...

The Cube owes a debt to ITV's own Beat The Star (which features similar "pub games" in a few rounds), but spliced with a live-action video-game*. Challenges include: throwing a ball into a container while standing on a rotating platform, dropping a ball into a tube at arm's length, crossing the cube floor between two red lines while blindfolded, picking up balls from the cube floor and putting them into a tube in 15 seconds, rolling a ball down a long diagonal tube and catching it at the other end with the same hand, flick a ball into a container, and many others. Yes, The Cube could quite easily be called "The Balls given how often those particular prop comes into play!

Players have nine lives in which to complete as many games as they can, and one opportunity to "bank" the cash they've accumulated. If they use up all their lives, they walk away with the amount they banked, or nothing. They also have two life-lines to help them through the seven rounds: "Trial Run" (where they can play a game without risking anything) and "Simplify" (where a game's rules are altered to make it easier.) The genius of the format is how much tension it squeezed from each game -- helped by camera tricks like slowing down the action to see exact moments of failure, balanced with the euphoric release of a "bullet-time" spin around the Cube as the player celebrates a win.

It's fast-paced, easy to understand, the rules are simple**, the games are fun, the cash on offer has a steep trajectory to a hefty £250,000 jackpot, and host Philip Schofield is someone who naturally engages with the players. And like all good gameshows, it has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek –- what with "The Body", a sort of female Stig who demonstrates each game beforehand. And no, I'm pretty sure it wasn't Elle Macpherson behind the mask...

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this pub-version of The Crystal Maze was, and I'm looking forward to more. I can already imagine lots of kids creating their own Cube-like games at home, involving daddy's office chair, ping pong balls, and the contents of mummy's purse. My only cause for concern is that the rotation of the games could become an issue, as they might start repeating themselves too soon. That was one reason the assault course-based Total Wipeout turned instantly dull in only its second week, so hopefully the makers of The Cube have an abundance of devilish tasks to maintain viewer interest and limit repetition.

22 August 2009
ITV1, 8.30pm

* In fact, I predict a Wii tie-in game to The Cube will be on shelves within a year.

** Complicated rules always turn me off with gameshows (see: Goldenballs – does anyone understand how you play that?)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Dollhouse: Season 2 Poster

Fox have released a poster to publicize the return of Dollhouse (above), and there's also a new promotional photo of the main cast (below). Joss Whedon's sci-fi drama returns for its second season on 25 September (US) and 20 October (UK).

Friday, 21 August 2009

Box Office Charts: w/e 21 August 2009

The Time Traveler's District

In the US: There's an impressive debut for Neill Blomkamp's independently-spirited sci-fi feature-length debut DISTRICT 9, as its viral hype and great word-of-mouth propels it to #1 with $37m... time-travel romance THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE does decent but unremarkable business to debut at #3 with $18m... there's bad news for comedy THE GOODS: LIVE HARD, SELL HARD, which only attracts $5m worth of business to flop at #6... and the latest Hayao Miyazaki anime, GAKE NO UE NO PONYO, arrives at #9 with $3m, which isn't so bad considering it's a foreign animation without much marketing clout...


(-) 1. District 9 $37.4m
(1) 2. G.I Joe: The Rise Of Cobra $22.3m
(-) 3. The Time Traveler's Wife $18.6m
(2) 4. Julie & Julia $12.1m
(3) 5. G-Force $6.92m
(-) 6. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard $5.64m
(4) 7. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince $5.14m
(6) 8. The Ugly Truth $4.45m
(-) 9. Gake no ue no Ponyo $3.59m
(5) 10. Funny People $3.01m

In the UK: We're more receptive to THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE in the UK, as it goes straight in at #1 with just over £1m (admittedly the worst-performing #1 all year)... narrowly edging kid's film ALIENS IN THE ATTIC into #2... while musical-comedy BANDSLAM disappoints with a mere £628k to take #6... there's abysmal news for David Twohy's B-movie A PERFECT GETAWAY, which only just scrapes into the chart with £418k at #10... but even that flop can't compare to Eddie Murphy's Imagine That, which only made £109k and came in off-chart at #16... yikes!


(-) 1. The Time Traveler's Wife £1.4m
(-) 2. Aliens In The Attic £1.3m
(4) 3. G-Force £941k
(3) 4. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince £932k
(2) 5. G.I Joe: The Rise Of Cobra £827k
(1) 6. The Ugly Truth £809k
(-) 7. Bandslam £628k
(7) 8. Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs £508k
(5) 9. The Proposal £445k
(-) 10. A Perfect Getaway £418k


Dance Flick

Spoof comedy. Street dancer Thomas Uncles is from the wrong side of the tracks, but his bond with the beautiful Megan White might help the duo realize their dreams as the enter in the mother of all dance battles.
Director: Damien Dante Wayans Starring: Shoshana Bush, Damond Wayans Jr., Essence Atkins, Affion Crockett, Luis Dalmasy Jr., Chris Elliot & Christina Murphy
Tomatometer: 22% (Rotten; based on 69 reviews) "Dance Flick scores a few laughs thanks to the Wayans brothers' exuberance, but it’s ultimately a scattershot collection of gags without much direction."

I Love You, Beth Cooper

Comedy. A nerdy valedictorian proclaims his love for the hottest and most popular girl in school – Beth Cooper – during his graduation speech. Much to his surprise, Beth shows up at his door that very night and decides to show him the best night of his life.
Director: Chris Columbus Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Jack Carpenter, Lauren London, Lauren Storm & Shawn Roberts
Tomatometer: 15% (Rotten; based on 96 reviews) "Heavily reliant on stereotypes and shallow teen comedy clichés, I Love You Beth Cooper is a humorless affair that fails to capture the charm of its source novel."

Inglourious Basterds

Action drama. In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish teenage girl who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers.
Director: Quentin Tarantino Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Diane Kriher, B.J Novak, Melanie Laurent & Daniel Brühl
Tomatometer: 89% (Fresh; based on 154 reviews) " A classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, Inglourious Basterds is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining."


Family. A young boy's discovery of a colorful, wish-granting rock causes chaos in the suburban town of Black Falls when jealous kids and scheming adults alike set out to get their hands on it.
Director: Robert Rodriguez Starring: William H. Macy, John Cryer, Jimmy Bennett, Jake Short, Kat Dennings, Trevor Gagnon, Devon Gearheart & Jolie Vanier
Tomatometer: 35% (Rotten; based on 46 reviews) "Shorts has imagination and energy, but most viewers beyond elementary school will likely tire of the kiddie humor and sensory overload."

The Jay Leno Show - Cinema Ad

How do you advertise a new NBC chat show these days? If you're Jay Leno, you make a bizarre, darkly funny advert and run it in cinemas. Is this thing indicative of what Leno has planned for his 10pm show? In moving from late-night to primetime, is Leno going to surprise everyone with something really fresh and exciting? Lord knows US chat shows need a shot of something in their arm. Oh, who am I kidding, it'll be Jay Leno sat behind a desk interviewing celebs after reading an autocute'd monologue. He'll just be on earlier. Yawn. I hear he's blatantly ripped off Top Gear's "Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car" feature, too, as he's planning to have a spot where celebs race in electrically-powered vehicles.

BBC axe Kröd Mändoon

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but the BBC have decided against commissioning a second series of Kröd Mändoon & The Flaming Sword Of Fire. Comedy Central apparently pulled out of co-funding another series with British partners Hat Trick Productions, effectively ending the financial viability of more episodes.

The comedy, starring Sean Maguire and Matt Lucas, garnered terrible reviews and low ratings on both sides of the pond over its seven episodes. Here in the UK, the series debuted with 1.8 million viewers, which fell to an average of 1.3 million. Really, the only thing I'm disappointed about is that we won't see India de Beafort give an encore performance of her Pagan pole-dance.


Avatar is undoubtedly one of 2009's most eagerly awaited movies, because it marks the comeback of James Cameron 12 years after Titanic swept the Oscars. The fact it's a sci-fi epic that uses revolutionary 3D filming techniques is the icing on the cake for every SF geek out there. But should we lower our expectations? That was the advice from San Diego Comic-Con a few weeks ago, where thousands of fans got to see over 20-minutes of footage and came away feeling a little deflated. The buzz wasn't BAD per se, but everyone had been led to believe Avatar will be a visual-effects landmark akin to Jurassic Park... and the footage didn't live up to that hype.

Anyway, the official trailer was released yesterday ahead of today's promotional "Avatar Day"... so, what was it like? Oh, you know by now. I bet you've seen it and have read all the negative reaction to it online. I thought it was pretty decent, but I understand people's frustrations. If you're disappointed, I suggest you watch it again. Go on, do that now. Watched it? Okay. See? It looked better that second time, didn't it. It's just nothing that'll have you counting the days till its release.

Of primary disappointment is the fact it looks SO much like a (very highly-rendered) video-game interlude -- which says a lot about the state of gaming these days. The last movie I thought that about was the Star Wars prequels, but will Avatar appear more false because it features sequences where aliens and vehicles are the only thing moving through the digital vistas? Might we soon be commending George Lucas for at least inserting HUMANS into his own CGI playground?

I think it's still too early to say if Avatar will underperform at the box-office. To be positive, it may look more artificial than many expected, but it still looks undeniably imaginative, lush, epic and exciting. I also liked the style of the trailer itself, which only had one line of dialogue and no tangible explanation of what you're seeing. I bet it will leave the mainstream audience scratching their heads, but aware that a big deal is about to hit multiplexes -- if only because it looks expensive and comes from the director of Titanic.

And if you're disappointed by the FX, I suggest you think again. Once you get past the initial thought that the human/Na'vi crossbreed "avatars" look cat-like and "goofy", you warm to their design. The last beats of the trailer (a montage of action in the jungles of the planet Pandora) look gorgeous, too. I'm sure we'll be transported to another world while watching this movie at Christmas, particularly if you're watching a 3D presentation -- which is the intention behind the marketing and the director's preference.

We've had plenty of 3D movies released over the past few years, but Avatar is supposedly going the most immersive and indicative of where 3D cinema is headed. A 2D trailer can't take you into this world the same way a gigantic IMAX 3D screen can, obviously. But will Joe Public be compelled to travelled great distances to their nearest IMAX? Er, no. Thankfully most cinema chains have at least one 3D screen these days (albeit of regular size), but there will still be a huge proportion of people settling for a traditional screening. So, the movie has to work without relying on people getting the full-on 3D spectacle.

Hopefully, HOW you see Avatar won't matter if the characters and story are strong. There wasn't much of that in his trailer, but I suspect the next one will be more explanatory. I read Cameron's fabled scriptment in the '90s and it certainly had potential to be quite emotional (yes, there's a typical Cameron love-story as a throughline) with a clear environmental message, but it was ultimately a sprawling, imaginative, epic and expensive-sounding wet dream for SF/action lovers. I'm sure that's what we'll get in the end, but maybe this won't be the game-changer it's been hyped as...

But ask yourself this: dare you prematurely snub a sci-fi epic from the director of The Terminator, Aliens, Terminator 2, True Lies and Titanic, that isn't a sequel, isn't based on some toys, isn't relying on any celebs, and isn't inspired by a theme park ride? I think James Cameron has earned the benefit of the doubt from his audience, don't you?

Released: 17 December 2009 (AUS), 18 December (US/UK)
HD Downloads: 480P (20MB) 720P (100MB) 1080P (166MB)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

BBC Four: autumn/winter schedule

BBC Four have released details of their autumn/winter schedule. Highlights for me are: a drama starring Helena Bonham-Carter as children's author Enid Blyton; Micro Men, a comedy-drama about the rise of home computing in the '80s (starring Alexander Armstrong as Sir Clive Sinclair and Martin Freeman as his former colleague Chris Curry); a second series of Charlie Brooker's Newswipe; the return of madcap quiz We Need Answers (it might improve?); and a new comedy panel show with Reginald D. Hunter and Andy Hamilton called It's Only A Theory.

Out of interest, how many people here watch BBC Four regularly? I've tuned in for the occasisonal documentary, but it only ever becomes a weekly destination if Mad Men, Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe/Newswipe or Flight Of The Conchords is on. Is everyone else the same, or do you often stop by for some intellectual stimulation?

Channel 4 go 3-D

According to Broadcast, Channel 4 are planning a week of 3D programming that will include two documentaries on the Queen's coronation, a Derren Brown magic special, The Greatest Ever 3D Moments (including Jaws 3D and the 1993 Doctor Who Children In Need special*), and a selection of old movies. The content will require the use of ColorCode 3D glasses, which Channel 4 aim to give away via Sainsbury's in the week before transmission.

Incidentally, it's worth remembering that Virgin1 are showing the 3D episode of Chuck next Tuesday (25 Aug, 9pm) and free glasses are being distributed inside TV & Satellite Week magazine. As a nice surprise earlier this week, I was one of the lucky 1,000 people sent a pair via Virgin's website!

* It's only a matter of time before the BBC do a 3-D Doctor Who, surely.

DOCTOR WHO: The Complete First Series (2005)

Four years after a successful restoration, Doctor Who is bigger than at any time in its 43-year history. Even during the heyday of its classic run (Tom Baker, mid-'70s), it was never as mainstream and globally-successful as its modern incarnation has become. As showrunner Russell T. Davies' final credits appear on the horizon, I thought it might be interesting to look back at that trailblazing first series...

What strikes you about 2005's reintroduction to this enduring TV institution is how much the show feels like an affectionate parody. It's also pitched so squarely at children that most episodes make The Sarah Jane Adventures look like The Wire -- although there are a handful of exceptions that feel like almost incongruous in their ambition. I enjoyed series 1 when it first aired, but didn't love it, and hindsight has magnified its teething problems...

At the time, I think Who dilettantes attached themselves to the buoyant leads (appealing Christopher Eccleston as the Time Lord, likeable ex-popstar Billie Piper as his chav consort), its visual richness, and fell in step with the massive hype; while older fans daren't judge it harshly because they were just pleased Who was back on TV.

But we've come a long way in three years. The show is now so beloved that it's impervious to any criticism, lest the outspoken be branded killjoys. Fortunately, Who evolves and improves its formula every series, all within the parameters of what Russell T. Davies established in this all-important comeback year. That said, series 1 feels quite trivial most of the time -- what with its flatulent aliens and burping wheelie-bins...

1.1 - "Rose" A naïve shop girl called Rose (Piper) is rescued from her dead-end job and council estate mundanity to accompany a lonely, eccentric, time-travelling alien known as The Doctor (Eccleston) through the Space/Time continuum inside his rickety phone-box TARDIS. In this debut adventure of the revived classic, old foes The Autons (mannequins brought to life), are the boogiemen for Russell T. Davies' brisk but facile premiere. As a launch-pad, this is uninspired and leaden frivolity that leans on cultural familiarity and gratitude that Who is back after 16 years in the BBC wilderness. Whovians put up with cheapo charity sketches in the '90s, so a full episode that takes itself half-seriously felt like nirvana, but compared to episodes produced very soon after, "Rose" is trivial and weightless. That it contains one of the show's most embarrassing images (someone being "eaten" by a burping wheelie-bin) makes Who's ultimate success all the more startling. An inauspicious start, to put it mildly. w: Russell T. Davies / d: Keith Boak

1.2 - "The End Of The World" The Doctor takes Rose five billion years into Earth's future, to witness the destruction of planet Earth from a nearby space station populated by alien voyeurs that include "last human" Cassandra (now just facial skin stretched across a frame.) A saboteur provides a mystery to solve, in an episode pitched at a child's sense of wonder at dress-up and CGI. There are hints of a darker underbelly to the series -- like when The Doctor refuses to prevent an alien's gooey death ("everything has its time") -- but they're outweighed by clichés like a treacherous gantry to cross (did nobody see Galaxy Quest?), and creative headslaps like Britney Spears' "Toxic" sounding out the Apocalypse. w: Russell T. Davies / d: Euros Lyn

1.3 - "The Unquiet Dead" Things perk up for Mark Gatiss' Victorian ghost story, possibly because Who's on firmer footing when its stories are sutured to history. Charles Dickens (Simon Callow) himself assists The Doctor and Rose in defeating gaseous aliens that want to inhabit human corpses, in a well-constructed story with a wintry ambience, some literary in-jokes, and sparkling dialogue. It also includes the first mention of mytharc lynchpin "The Time War", and co-stars Eve Myles (presumably playing a descendant of the character she'd eventually play in the spin-off Torchwood.) w: Mark Gatiss / d: Euros Lyn

1.4 & 1.5 - "Aliens Of London" & "World War Three" Our first two-part episode finds baby-faced, farting aliens called Slitheen posing as humans inside zippable flesh-suits, to smuggle themselves into Downing Street for reasons of global destruction. There's a memorable UFO crash into Big Ben (arguably the first time The Mill's FX work loosened jaws), and the first wholly agreeable performance from Piper, but this is ultimately another script that aims to entertain kiddywinks and cause anyone over voting age to squirm at its ridiculous, awkward and campy tone. And the least said about that "pig in a space-suit" sequence, the better. w: Russell T. Davies / d: Keith Boak

1.6 - "Dalek" The long-awaited return of The Doctor's famous enemy, "Dalek" owes something to Star Trek The Next Generation's "I, Borg" in its attempt to humanize a genocidal automaton. Chained up underground as part of an American billionaire's collection of extra-terrestrial artifacts (spot the Cyberman head!), the titular Dalek soon escapes and demonstrates to a new generation of kids why they should be afraid of irascible pepperpots (They dissolve bullets! They fly! They suck your face with plungers!) While a lot of the peripheral material is goofy nonsense (bastardized from Shearman's own audio-play "Jubilee"), Eccleston and the Dalek are magnificent as the lonely survivors of a temporal war that annihilated their respective species. The script remains one of Who's best efforts in putting a fresh slant on these beloved menaces, too. It's just a shame the sense of threat re-established with the Daleks never fed into the rest of the series, as they quickly devolved back into screeching hordes of incompetent tin cans. w: Robert Shearman / d: Joe Ahearne

1.7 - "The Long Game" Another unimaginably distant future, another depressingly low-rent space station. Yawn. The TARDIS touches down aboard "Satellite 5", a celestial hub broadcasting news across the galaxy. Simon Pegg guest-stars as The Editor (a frostbitten baddie taking orders from a razor-toothed ceiling turd) in a story where his minions are being killed after they're promoted to work on the infamous Floor 500. A statement on the class system? Well, vaguely. This plays like reheated '80s-era Who; so while there's fun to be had from Pegg's curt performance, it all feels inconsequential and dull. w: Russell T. Davies / d: Bryan Grant

1.8 - "Father's Day" An all too rare investigation of time paradoxes, as Rose changes the course of history by preventing her dad's death in a car accident. Winged beasties duly descend to repair damage to the timeline (don't ask...), meaning The Doctor, Rose and her parents who don't recognize their unborn daughter, are forced to take refuge in a church and find a way to set things right. Cornell's script is heartfelt and touching (albeit illogical – why doesn't Rose's mum remember these events?), but it's just nice to follow a story with actual human drama behind it. Of all this season's episodes, this is the one where a box of Kleenex would be handy... w: Paul Cornell / d: Joe Ahearne

1.9 & 1.10 - "The Empty Child" & "The Doctor Dances" The first episode to find equilibrium between daft whimsy and creepy sci-fi, future-showrunner Steven Moffat makes his Who debut to pen an atmospheric and intelligent horror story set during WWII. A gas-masked street urchin stalks the streets of London during the Blitz ("are you my mummy?") scaring homeless kids, while The Doctor searches for a mysterious cylinder lost in time, and Rose encounters a dandy time-traveler from the 51st-century called Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman, later rewarded his own spin-off.) It's disquieting, inventive, has a story grown-ups can sink their teeth into, and totally justifies its two-part format. Bravo! w: Stephen Moffat / d: James Hawes

1.11 - "Boom Town" An unwelcome quasi-sequel to the earlier Slitheen two-parter, The Doctor makes a pit-stop at Cardiff Bay to refuel the TARDIS using the "time-rift" he sealed in "The Unquiet Dead". While there, it becomes clear that a surviving Slitheen (Annette Badland) has become Mayor, intending to leave the planet by harnessing a nuclear power plant's energy. More of a character piece than usual (there's a great scene between Eccleston and Badland's villain in a restaurant), it's just a shame it's all hung on another asinine plot. w: Russell T. Davies / d: Joe Ahearne

1.12 - "Bad Wolf" Has there ever been a more dreadful teaser than seeing The Doctor slump down in Big Brother's Diary Room chair? No doubt inspired by Davies' love of reality TV, we're back aboard another budget-saving space station and asked to believe The Weakest Link will still be on on-air (hosted by "Anne Droid", geddit?) thousands of years into the future. It's all silly nonsense that reeked of mothballs the day it aired, and only the final reveal of a Dalek threat rescues it from total failure. w: Russell T. Davies / d: Joe Ahearne

1.13 - "The Parting Of The Ways" A huge leap forward in ambition and scale, the finale of Who's faltering return is the first of many en masse encounters with the Daleks. The Doctor, Rose and Jack must protect the people of the "Game Station" from, ironically, a flying CGI assault of thousands of Daleks, led by a baritone Emperor version. Some enjoyable moments and ratcheting tension pulls you through clunking moments, while the story even manages to make hazy sense of the "Bad Wolf" motif secreted in many of this year's episodes. The real highlight is, of course, the last-minute regeneration of Eccleston into a grinning David Tennant -- hindsight proving that Eccleston's tenure was something of an expensive dry-run. w: Russell T. Davies / d: Joe Ahearne

It was a pity Eccleston's premature departure was spoiled by the tabloids (BBC Wales would learn to keep its secrets in future), as his regeneration would have sent everyone into frantic meltdown. Regardless, it was still a brave decision to replace Eccleston with an unknown Scot just when the show had pulled off a triumphant comeback year, but history shows that giving David Tennant the keys to the TARDIS was Davies' greatest masterstroke. For, as much as I appreciated elements of Eccleston's interpretation (his brooding intellect, say), he never looked entirely comfortable doing Cheshire Cat grins. His partnership with Piper was tinged with an odd vibe, too. The age-gap between the actors gave their "romance" a mildly creepy air sometimes, which is perhaps one reason why is wasn't attempted during the classic run. The age-gaps were far bigger back then, but the parental role of The Doctor was duly increased.

Armchair shrinks will perhaps wonder if The Doctor was everything the other men in Rose's life weren't (a father-figure she never had, but also an exotic boyfriend with brains.) I also wonder if Davies cast Piper because her own life contained parallels with Rose's -- both naïve youngsters whose heads were turned by mature men (Chris Evans in Piper's case) who took them on a horizon-broadening adventure (marriage and pub crawls with Evans, battling Daleks with Eccleston.) I don't know which is more frightening...

A part of me remains disappointed Eccleston never got the chance to sink his teeth into the riper material his successor was given, though. Imagine the naturally intense Eccleston facing off against John Simm's impish Master or Julian Bleach's pithy Davros -- those scenes would have been a whole different kettle of fish. As it was, series 1 threw Eccleston into fantasy vaudeville masquerading as "proper" sci-fi too often, which he had to literally grin and bear until his contract expired and he vanished in an eruption of golden light...

Overall, the renegerated Doctor Who's first series is a mixed bag that managed to overcome uneven scripts, and its pandering to the very young, through the strength of its lead actors and a general vibe that could charm the coldest of hearts. There are moments and episodes that still rank amongst nu-Who's best, but it definitely contains more dead-weight than the later, leaner series. But in looking back, it's still a great example of how to relaunch a series for a new generation without alienating an existing fanbase.