Sunday, 5 June 2011

Well Well Well

So Dr Who series 5 part 1 is finished. Figured I'd watch them all before posting, as it was half a season really.

Essentially its four very good stories, one pretty good story and a dud. Not bad for Dr Who. At least the dud was a one-parter and was fairly painless.

The best stories were fairly obvious. The three Moffat entries and The Gaiman story.

The Moffat stories could be seen as maybe a little too fast on first viewings, beginning with the death of the Doctor and unravelling from there, into the story of the Silence and its invasion, the first moon landing, haunted houses, subliminal images, rage-filled rescues and horrible mistakes, leading up to the revelation of who River Song is, which, while not a suprise, at least is consistant and has excellent internal logic in regards to what has come before. The stories make more sense on re-watch, have a wonderful take of fantasy and humour, of odd, scary moments. They also have terrific side characters, like the Victorian era Silurian and her lesbian maid/lover, or the woman soldier who has been looking for the Doctor. The weakest parts are in the first half of "The Good Man Goes To War", which is a bit busy and could have been tightened a little but the pay-offs in this episode are terrific (even if I'm not writing what they are, as its not been shown in other countries as of yet).

The Gaiman story, of the Doctor leaving the known universe, ending up confronted by the Tardis' soul in the body of a woman, was a simple fairystory idea that worked, as these ideas resonated, were properly worked out but kept visually simple, focused the pace but allowed for breathing room to get into the ideas. The story was directed upon the scary aspects of the ideas, of leaving the universe, of a graveyards of Tardis', of the Tardis being under the control of an alien, malignant creature, and of the Doctor confornting his oldest ally. It was a terrific story that also kept the resolutions affecting.

As for the other two stories, the Matthew Graham ganger story, set in an old castle, may not have had the out of control buzz of the half-season highlights but was a genuinely solid old-school two-parter, with a strong set-up of clones becoming self-aware, had some fun moments of identity-crisis (in a b-movie way) with images of flesh against stone that was lovely, in a sick sci-fi way. It also had some good supporting character turns in Raquel Cassidy's sarcastic boss and Sarah Smart's crazy ganger, and of course had Matt Smith versus Matt Smith, as the Doctor being delighted by his clone. It's one of those stories that may be appreciated a bit better as time passes, as its pleasures were traditional.

The dud was the pirate story. I don't have that much to write about it because it was so badly directed, making it difficult to judge anything else. The writing seemed decent if unexpectional in the mystery and conclusion but it had some momentum, with the black spot curses, the crazy creature coming from the sea, the mystery of the water/mirrors. It could have been at the level of the ganger story with a little added care, with a director with a feel for atmosphere and horror/sci-fi staging, or for modulation of scenes. Alas it was hobbled by this poor choice, which left the the story weakened to a point where interest failed no matter what was thrown at the audience in imagery or twists.

On other things watched in recent weeks, there's Lost, which I'm up to Season 5 in (more on that later, once I get to the end) and a few movies of differing quality.

There's Machete, a gleeful b-movie of many great guilty pleasures, the main one seeing a Danny Trejo starring-movie. This movie also has as highlights DeNiro as a supporting snivelling villain who gets more and more pathetic the further the film goes on (one of his better recent parts) and Jeff Fahey as a truly sleazy businessman (whose daughter is Lindsay Lohan- his interests in her are unhealthy to say the least, she ends up as a crack-addict, an on-line porn star and a nun) Best of all is a one-eyed Michelle Rodriguez leading a gang of illegal immigrant Mexicans to mow down some white racists with a wide range of weaponry. Stellar cheesy stuff.

Then there's Green Hornet, which is the exact opposite of Machete. It's pretty much Michel Gondry's worst film (yep, I've seen and liked Human Nature). It's just so lazy. In the writing, in the acting, in the action, its just fairly dull. Basically no-one involved could be bothered to think up cool things for the chracters to do, have unique or unsual action, or to have a series of inter-connected plotted events that would give the film any momentum. Instead its a dull buddy movie where the buddies have no real chemistry, nor motivation, where the jokes aren't remotely funny, nor are the gadgets interesting or amusing. Gondry shoots the movie like its an 80's era TV show. You start to wonder where is David Hasselhoff and Jan-Michael Vincent. Its a Joel Schumacher Batman-era event I'm afraid. And the Green Hornet tune plays for like two seconds.

Finally there the 5-hour cut of Until The End Of The World. I'll go into it in more detail probably in a serperate post but its one of those films, like Alien 3, where the longer cut feels shorter than the theatrical version. This is because the film is allowed to breathe, to have its pace dictated by the characters and atmosphere rather than thundering through with the plot (which isn't the film's strong point anyway). The female lead is still a little weak but the final half of the film in Australia, where the world may have ended, is fantastic, and a lot of the build-up now has a relaxed charm.

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