Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nip/Tuck: Season Five, Part One

Nip/Tuck is the kind of show that people often refer to as a guilty pleasure. Normally, that’s a phrase that seems sort of hollow to me. After all, if you enjoy a TV show or movie, why feel guilty about it? But in the case of Nip/Tuck, and coming from someone who’s been with it every sordid step of the way, I can understand where the guilt might start creeping in. It is, after all, tasteless, vulgar, trashy, over-the-top fare that most people probably don’t care to admit they enjoy. I can count the number of people I know that watch it on one hand. And, yet, it’s FX’s biggest ratings grabber, so either I move in some strange circles, or some people are lying about what they’re doing on Tuesday nights.

Read the entire DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bullz-Eye's 2008 Year End TV Review

I'm a little late in linking to this here at the Morgue, as it's been up at Bullz-Eye for about a week now - but in case you've not yet sifted through our collective wares, the goods remain relevant.

From the intro:

Join us, if you will, as five of Bullz-Eye’s finest take a look back at what they loved and loathed throughout 2008…and if you spot anything that sounds interesting to you but you haven’t yet checked out, we recommend doing so now.

Because if you don’t watch it today, it might not be there tomorrow.

Read the entire round up by clicking here and then clicking on the individual boxes from each writer. Be sure to check out Will Harris' list, as his is the most exhaustive, and certainly the most fun.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Swingtown: The First Season

Back when Swingtown debuted this summer on CBS, there was a mild hoopla surrounding the series. Mike Galanos of Headline News devoted a segment to its supposed rampant amorality on the day of its premiere, boldly proclaiming that network TV had, once again, stepped over the line, that our children should be protected from such filth, and so forth and so on. It goes without saying the Parents Television Council got involved and raised their usual stink as well.

Funny thing is, such criticism quickly waned in the subsequent weeks, as anyone who actually tuned in saw that it was a surprisingly sweet and moral show about being true to yourself and the ones you love – even if that means inflicting the occasional heartbreak. What was most noteworthy about the hypocrisy – which mostly arose from people who hadn’t even watched Swingtown – is that its characters were refreshingly honest with one another. If you openly swing with your partner, it’s considered amoral; if you cheat without their knowledge, well, somehow that’s okay to show on television. Well, actually it’s not, as I’m sure the PTC will tell you, but we see it so often that we’ve become all but desensitized to it. And don’t me started on the amount of senseless violence you can find on the networks any given night of the week. Oh crap, I’ve just turned into the very watchdogs I despise.

My point is this: Swingtown is a remarkably nice TV show, given that most TV isn’t about being nice anymore.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Night Gallery: Season Two

Director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy films) is a massive Night Gallery fan – so much so that he not only contributes three commentary tracks to this set, but was directly instrumental in finally getting Season Two released on DVD. Indeed, he’s such a Night Gallery enthusiast that when he begins his first of three commentaries for the set, he even bemoans the fact that he only gets to do three. Accordingly, when watching these episodes, it doesn’t take long to see the series’ influence in his work, especially in something like Pan’s Labyrinth, which may as well be a movie-length episode of Night Gallery. But more on that later....

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Doctor!



On November 23rd, 1963, the Doctor made his first appearance on British TV screens.
Cut to 45 years later...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sunset Boulevard: The Centennial Collection


Surely everything poignant or insightful there is to say about Billy Wilder’s acid-tongued masterpiece Sunset Boulevard has already been said. It’s benchmark cinema - a highpoint of movie history. The film has been deservedly discussed, dissected and devoured by many an intellect more insightful than mine. No amount of words can really express what makes this movie the classic that it is; one must experience it in order to get it. Yet in the spirit of trying to reach anyone who has yet to be initiated into the cult, this review will endeavor (and likely fail) to give it a go.

Movies and TV shows about the film and TV industry are a dime a dozen these days, but Wilder paved the way for all that came after by blowing open the barn doors on an industry that routinely shuns its best and brightest – sometimes after their prime, and sometimes before they begin to shine. Boulevard tells the story of two such people – forgotten silent movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) - and how their lives intersect, and the rippling series of tidal waves that result from their accidental meeting. It isn’t a spoiler to say that the story is told from the point of view of a dead man, since the tale begins with Gillis’ body floating in a pool. From there, his acerbic narration works backwards to six months before so the audience can discover the events that led up to his early morning swim.

Please read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Doctor Who: "The Infinite Quest"

Back when Season Three of Doctor Who was first playing on the BBC, there was a children’s series playing concurrently during the week called Totally Doctor Who. It consisted of interviews and information about the series and was designed to provide kids with a Who fix in-between the weekend installments. Each week also featured three minutes of the ongoing animated adventure, “The Infinite Quest,” for which David Tennant and Freema Agyeman provided their vocal talents. This DVD edits together all the various segments of the story into one seamless 45-minute adventure, and the results are mostly positive.

Read this entire DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tracey Ullman's State of the Union: Season One

Given the amount of time she’s been in the business, Tracey Ullman should have stopped being funny years ago. And yet not only has she not done so, but she doesn’t even appear to be close to hanging up a going out of business sign. Her latest project, State of the Union, which she created for Showtime, isn’t perfect, but it’s far more hit than miss. The series is essentially a platform for her to present an array of characters that make up, as Sarah Palin might say, this great nation of ours. (In fact, it’s a shame the material predates Palin’s arrival on the political scene, as I suspect Ullman would’ve whipped out a parody that surpasses Tina Fey’s.)

Read this entire DVD review by clicking here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Television Punching Bags

In nature, the weaker members of a species are often ostracized so they cannot reproduce and dilute the gene pool. Lions, for example, do not keep an omega male around to be the butt of the joke for the rest of the pride, like we humans tend to do. And while that makes sense in a Darwinian way, our way is a lot more fun. It may be cruel, but imagine how boring life would be if we lived in a world without the human equivalent of a punching bag. Admit it: you all know someone who fills this role in your life, and you relish it. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.

The world of television has a near-inverse proportion of punching bags as there are in nature, and this makes sense; it is much easier – and fun – for the writing staff to designate one character as the target for random acts of misfortune and malice, though not necessarily in that order. If you ever wondered why every show features at least one character that the other characters would likely never associate with in real life, now you know.

So bring us your sad, your weak, your insecure; your clueless, your obnoxious, your desperate, your slow-witted, and we will celebrate them for their inherent loserness. Get your boxing gloves on as we present to you Bullz-Eye’s all time favorite TV punching bags.

Read the list of TV Punching Bags compiled by the Bullz-Eye staff by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sanford and Son: The Complete Series

The ‘70s produced some of the best and most groundbreaking sitcoms ever created, and writer/producer Norman Lear was at the helm of a number of them, including All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time. As much fun as something like That 70s Show is, there’s really no substitute for actually watching a series created in that time period in order to have a better understanding of the social climate of the time. One of Lear’s most irreverent efforts was Sanford and Son, which, like All in the Family before it, was a remake of a British series. Also like Family, it set out to showcase the blue-collar point of view of a guy whose outlook was so outrageous in its simplicity that you had no choice but to love him. That guy was Fred Sanford, a junk dealer operating out of his home in south Los Angeles, and he was played by comedian Redd Foxx so successfully that he never really escaped the role in the years after the show went off the air.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fifth Season

When I was a kid there was one night and television lineup that surpassed all others: CBS Fridays, which was comprised of The Incredible Hulk, The Dukes of Hazzard and Dallas. It was hardly a task to plop down in front of the tube and bask in these three entirely different slices of pop culture as they bled from one into the next every week. As an adult I remain a Ewing freak, but the Duke boys have unfortunately gone by the wayside; the adventures of Dr. David Banner reside somewhere in between. It’s not anywhere near as juvenile as Hazzard, yet it doesn’t have the expansive ongoing storyline of Dallas. The real problem with The Incredible Hulk is that it’s an incredibly repetitive series. Banner wanders the country, defending the na├»ve, weak and helpless against the sleazy, corrupt and powerful.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Doctor Who: "The Trial of a Time Lord"

The mid-‘80s were a turbulent time for Doctor Who. After the 22nd season, which ended in March of ‘85, the show was cancelled. There was a considerable uproar from the public, BBC bosses were forced to rethink the move, and its status went from cancelled to 18-month hiatus. But the reprieve came with a few conditions.

The 22nd season had been viewed by some as considerably more violent and adult in tone than such family-friendly fare ought to be, and so producer John Nathan-Turner was asked to tone down the gore and emphasize wit and humor for the 23rd season (which, all things considered, wasn’t an unreasonable request). Season 22 had also, for the first time in the show’s long history, been comprised entirely of 50-minute episodes – 13 of them, in fact. Season 23 was granted a 14-episode order! Sounds positive, right? The catch was that the show would revert back to its 25-minute format, so the seasonal running time had been effectively halved (and it retained this episode/minute count until the show finally did end in 1989.) Finally, the show needed to prove itself, and this wasn’t a guarantee of further seasons. This was no longer the ‘70s, and certain higher-ups were frankly embarrassed by Doctor Who, and thought it looked cheap compared to other film and television sci-fi (again, a valid point). In an inspired move, the art imitating life notion of putting the Doctor on trial for the entire season was born.

Read the rest of the DVD review for "The Trial of a Time Lord" by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Doctor Who: "The Brain of Morbius" & "The Invisible Enemy/K-9 & Company"

When it comes to classic Doctor Who, there can be no doubt: “The Brain of Morbius” is one of the best. It comes from the treasured and oft-praised era of the series known as “the Hinchcliffe years” (so named after producer Philip), a time when the show could seemingly do no wrong. At this point in the series, every week was a new excursion into the realms of horror and sci-fi, and perhaps no other Doctor Who tale so successfully mixes up the two genres. I’d easily place it in my Top Five were I making a list of favorite Who serials. In addition to the horror/sci-fi aspects, “Morbius” also has a wicked sense of humor which takes it right up over the top.

Solon: (looking at the Doctor) What a magnificent head!
Sarah Jane: What?
Solon: Superb head.
The Doctor: (chuckling) Well, I’m glad you like it. I have had several. I used to have an old gray model before this. Some people liked it.
Sarah Jane: I did.

Read the rest of the DVD review for "The Brain of Morbius" by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

The U.K. title of this set was “K-9 Tales,” a label that was dropped for the U.S. release - probably wisely since the tin dog isn’t nearly as well known over here. It features two K-9 stories, the first being “The Invisible Enemy,” which marked the initial appearance of the Doctor’s dog-shaped computer back in ‘77. K-9 was allegedly the Doctor Who answer to the immense popularity of Star Wars. Perhaps the goal was to fuse the goofy cuteness of R2-D2 with the pompous intelligence of C-3PO - a cross that resulted in an obnoxious little peckerhead.

Read the rest of this DVD review for"The Invisible Enemy / K-9 and Company" by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Boston Legal: Season Four

Early in Season Four of Boston Legal, Alan Shore (James Spader) has a heart to heart with Shirley Schmidt (Candice Bergen) about whether or not he would make a good father, as his current relationship demands that he ponder such issues. He reveals, “I come from a long line of dreadful fathers. My great-grandfather, my grandfather…my father. With each generation they get worse. And me, well…I think a child might get a little lost with me leading the way.” It’s a quiet, insightful moment, but also one that demonstrates the uniqueness of the show. At this stage of the TV game, many a series would bestow a child on its main character and force him to grow up; it happens all too often. Saddling Alan Shore with a child would be one of the lamest things this show could ever do. It’s just not what Boston Legal is about. Besides, Alan’s already got a child to take care of: William Shatner’s Denny Crane.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Torchwood: The Complete Second Season

Season Two of Torchwood charges out of the gate, eager to seduce anyone left sitting on the fence at the close of its initial batch of episodes. If the freshman season displayed promise, then its sophomore outing delivers on that potential in a big way. Whereas Season One was an uneven mix of sci-fi and horror and sex and relationships, Season Two is a nearly ideal blend of those same components, and maybe even a few more. The show wants your viewership and is willing to go to whatever dramatic (and sometimes even comedic) lengths necessary to get it. Indeed, this season is so uniformly strong and yet diverse in its presentation, it’s tempting to recommend it to people who never even saw the first season. If this material doesn’t make you a fan, then nothing the series will ever do is likely to grab your attention.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Doctor Who: The Time Warrior & Timelash

In a recent review of Robin of Sherwood, I wrote that it was “like attending the greatest renaissance festival of your life.” If so, then watching “The Time Warrior” is akin to experiencing the cheesiest ren-fest of your life – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for those who don’t care how such material is presented, as long as it’s with conviction. “The Time Warrior” overflows with conviction, and the cheese has aged quite nicely over the past 35 years. If you’re mostly familiar with the new series, this classic entry is worth checking out for two reasons.

Find out what those two reasons are by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.


And click here to read a quicktake on "Timelash" over at Premium Hollywood.

Desperate Housewives: Season Four

Desperate Housewives is a show that remains so hopelessly square that I’m befuddled by the fact the Parents Television Council continues to keep it high on their list of shows that rampantly promote evil and should never been seen by decent folk. In one episode, Lynette (Felicity Huffman), coping with cancer, is unknowingly dosed by her mother (Polly Bergen) with some pot brownies to help her deal with the pain. She takes the plate over to a charades party where basically the entire adult cast of the show is assembled, and proceeds to get progressively stoned. Just as the other various characters are about to unwittingly partake, dramatic developments interfere with what could have been an arguably hilarious scenario: the entire cast baked and playing charades. Why not take the risk and see what happens? Because Housewives just isn’t a daring enough program to do something that wouldn’t even be all that daring. Further, the brownies are treated as if they were laced with crack cocaine. This is a tame show. In another episode, a string of characters may or may not be passing an STD between them; the STD in question is – wait for it – crabs. When was the last time anyone in TV or film got crabs? Only this show, which so timelessly exists in its weird little bubble, would dare to play the crab card.

Find out if the rest of this DVD review is just as crabby by clicking here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

House M.D.: Season Four

Four seasons into House M.D. and the ratings are as strong as ever, but is the quality still there? Truthfully, it’s hard for me to gauge, because this is the first full season of the show I’ve seen. An episode or two here or there before now, but this set was my first full-on foray into the sardonic tirades of Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House - or just plain House. I don’t think anyone ever called him Greg or Gregory at any point in these 16 episodes (come to think of it, he’s rarely called “Doctor.”) Christian names are seldom used on this show and most characters wander around barking everyone else’s surnames as a means to hail and identify. It’s really annoying. Is this just a TV contrivance, or is it how the real world works and I’ve just been blind to it all my life?

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Robin of Sherwood: The Complete Collection

Dipping into Robin of Sherwood is like attending the greatest Renaissance festival of your life, even though it’s a TV relic of a different time – the mid ‘80s – when shows didn’t move as fast as they do now. If you’re high on the current BBC incarnation of Robin Hood, there’s no guarantee this will be your flagon of mead, as character names are about all the two shows have in common. But the show casts a potent spell, and is quite unlike any other take on the infamous thief – although many a Sherwood fanatic claim that Costner’s Prince of Thieves borrowed liberally from this series, turning gold into bullshit along the way. (And the show does have quite a rabid cult following that doesn’t seem to have waned over the years.) Indeed, if you felt the Costner movie showed potential but missed the target, then you’ll likely find that Robin of Sherwood hits the red dot squarely in the center.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors: 25th Anniversary Edition

From the review:

The best reason to buy the 25th Anniversary Edition of “The Five Doctors” is for the hidden commentary track featuring David Tennant, Phil Collinson (producer of the new series) and Helen Raynor (writer for the new series). They kick back, drink champagne, bask in nostalgia, and crack wise right and left. I’ve had big issues with “The Five Doctors” for years and so do Tennant and Collinson. Yet they admire the story for the anniversary celebration it set out to be, while lovingly pointing out its many shortcomings. Their misgivings are the same as mine, but they’re warmer and fuzzier about them than I have been over the years. It’s a great commentary because they’re watching it as fans, not as people involved in the making of it. They reminisce about the buildup to the special in 1983 and share their unique memories of seeing it for the first time.

Read this entire DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dallas: The Complete Ninth Season

There’s one major aspect of Season Nine of Dallas that must be mentioned before discussing it further: the entire season is a dream. Or, rather, the producers retconned it into a dream one of the main characters had.

It’s important to know this going in because I can’t in good conscience recommend it to viewers if they’re going to feel cheated after investing nearly 25 hours into this material. It had to be said at the start. Surprising, though, is that, despite what reputation suggests, it’s actually a really good season of Dallas. The “why” behind the dream I’ll get to later, and if you don’t want to be spoiled further on the issue, then I suggest turning back now. On the other hand, the box art for this set goes out of its way to exploit the season’s final scene. In any case, you can’t say you weren’t warned.

Find out all about the infamous dream season by clicking here and reading the rest of this DVD review at Bullz-Eye.

Doctor Who: "Black Orchid"

After bemoaning the last few Peter Davison-era releases, I was excited about the release of “Black Orchid,” a story from his first season as the Doctor. Even though it’s half the length of a typical Doctor Who story (it’s only two episodes long), it’s regarded by many a fan as a little gem. But it’s an oddball gem, and not at all what one expects from this series. It has no science fiction elements aside from the TARDIS, and seems more like something that would’ve played on Mystery! back in the 80s. It’s noteworthy in that regard, because when the series started back in 1963, the first few seasons often featured such stories, although back then they were usually set against some important historical event. “Black Orchid,” by contrast, is far more intimate, and it isn’t trying to offer up some kind of history lesson seen through the eyes of time travelers.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Doctor Who: Journey's End


At some point the Season Four finale of Doctor Who, “Journey’s End,” will stand on its own, but many involved in the zeitgeist of the series currently recall the week building up to its transmission on BBC1. The close of “The Stolen Earth” saw several cliffhangers, but none more powerful and mysterious than David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor regenerating. What the hell was going on? As Steven Cooper wrote to me in an e-mail: “… you have to admire RTD's skill in engineering the biggest Doctor Who cliffhanger ever seen, that generated an absolute avalanche of publicity in the UK. No matter how many times rationality insisted that David Tennant had already been seen filming the Christmas special and that there was just no way a new Doctor could be kept secret, for that whole week little paranoid doubts kept creeping in.” There’s no better way to put it. Was a new Doctor mere moments away?

Read the rest of this recap/commentary for the finale of Doctor Who's fourth season by clicking here to visit The House Next Door.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Class Reunion

“The Stolen Earth” is a wonderful and sometimes frustrating episode. Wonderful because it skillfully brings together not only all three of the series in the Russell T. Davies Whoniverse, but also numerous other elements from his four seasons of Doctor Who. It also truly kicks off the big finish of Season Four and ends with a big ol’ insane cliffhanger. It’s maybe frustrating for all the same reasons, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a hell of a lot of fun.

The story begins immediately where “Turn Left” ended. The TARDIS materializes on Earth and the Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) are expecting disaster. But instead, all is perfectly calm; indeed, it’s a Saturday. Regardless, the Doctor remains unnerved by Donna’s meeting Rose, which indicates to him that if she can travel from one parallel world to another, then the walls of the universe are breaking down. (If only he’d seen her earlier in the season!) They head back to the TARDIS and no sooner do the doors close then strange things begin happening on the Earth. The TARDIS interior shakes and the Doctor runs to the door, swings it open and before you can say Han Solo, the planet’s gone. The TARDIS hovers in the empty space where the Earth once was.

To read the rest of the recap for the penultimate episode of Season Four, click here to visit The House Next Door.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Teasing Watchmen

Bullz-Eye has published a teaser piece for the Watchmen set visit I attended in January. This is only a tease and I'll be writing much more about the visit later, as we get closer to the release date.

From the article:

If you’ve journeyed out to the cinema and battled crowds to see The Dark Knight, chances are you got to sneak a peek at one of the most hotly anticipated comic book big screen adaptations. Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone seemingly says much the same about every comic book movie. Just as soon as Iron Man comes out -- a movie labeled “Best. Comic Book Movie. Everrrrrrr!” -- The Dark Knight comes along a few months later, and everyone is busy saying the same thing. In fact, I’d imagine there’s a segment of the movie-going public that’s really starting to tire not only of the fawning but the comic book movie trend in general. Surely there’s more to big budget filmmaking than capes, cowls, webheads and weirdos, right?

Enter Watchmen...

Read the rest of the article by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Spaced: The Complete Series

It’s difficult to write about Spaced without first mentioning the intense industry adoration that surrounds it. Here are just a handful of the many quotes in the press release from people whose names you know only too well:

“The one, the only…Spaced. Accept no substitute.” – Quentin Tarantino

Spaced is utter brilliance…a series for, well, anyone who has ever lived.” – JJ Abrams

“…like watching a Kevin Smith film if Kevin Smith had any real talent.” – Kevin Smith

“I laughed hard and I hate comedy.” – Judd Apatow

“The first TV show to combine my love of Star Wars, Evil Dead, and funny Brits. If I had grown up in England this show would be the documentary of my life.” – Eli Roth

“…the sole reason I bought an all region DVD player. Now you have no excuse! Buy this and be officially cool.” – Bill Hader

“Annoyingly good.” – Eddie Izzard

Can Spaced possibly live up to all this hype? Find out by clicking here to read the rest of this DVD review at Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monk: Season Six

Monk is one of those shows that just keeps trucking along, season after season, doing variations on the same. Its formula -- a detective/mystery series with an obsessive-compulsive central character -- is so perfect that the biggest mistake it could ever make is to mess around with the way it’s done. The mysteries themselves are rarely all that intriguing. Sometimes we know whodunnit, sometimes we don’t, and sometimes we don’t even care. What keeps the show going is Tony Shalhoub, whose performance as the personally flawed but professionally brilliant Adrian Monk is so endlessly amusing that he’s taken home the Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy three times out of five nominations.

Since writing this piece, Shalhoub has scored yet another Emmy nomination for his work on Monk. Read the rest of the piece by grabbing a wet wipe, clicking here and heading over to Bullz-Eye.

Monday, July 21, 2008

With or Without You

Since I was away from my desk this week, Steven Cooper ably filled in for me on the Doctor Who recap.

Each year the rigors of the production schedule require the Doctor Who team to film two episodes simultaneously. Previously, this resulted in both the Doctor and his companion being largely absent from one episode (“Love & Monsters” in Season Two, “Blink” in Season Three). This year, showrunner Russell T. Davies took a different approach, deciding to have separate “Donna-light” and “Doctor-light” episodes. So while David Tennant was spending a week-and-a-half confined to a single set in “Midnight,” Catherine Tate was out filming this sprawling epic, which takes its impetus from a simple question: What if Donna had never met the Doctor?

Read the rest of the piece by clicking here to "Turn Left" into The House Next Door.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The X-Files: Revelations

There was a time when I was an X-Files fanatic, but that was way back during its first season in ’93 and ’94. The series lost my viewership about halfway through its second season, and I only sporadically tuned in over the many seasons that followed. Why the falling out with Mulder and Scully? The arcing storyline about little green men and government conspiracies held zero interest for me. I’m not saying it was bad TV – clearly, Chris Carter and Co. built an engaging empire on aliens and chain-smoking suits that the public devoured – but I was always interested in the standalone tales, the monster of the week that eventually became the monster of the month. So when it was announced that a new X-Files movie was happening, and that it would be a standalone tale un-tied to its infamous arcing mythology, I got just a little bit excited.

This collection of eight episodes was chosen by creator Chris Carter and exec producer Frank Spotnitz, and it’s been deemed ideal primer for the upcoming film, The X-Files: I Want to Believe. If what’s on this set is anything to go by, then the film should certainly deliver some chills and make believers out of the uninitiated.

To read the rest of the DVD review for "The X-Files: Revelations," click here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Molto Bene

In addition to overseeing the seasonal story arcs, Russell T. Davies writes more scripts for Doctor Who than anyone else, and he does it every year. He has mostly provided crowd-pleasing tales, but he’s occasionally gone off the beaten path and given us something deeper to chew on, such as “Love & Monsters” and “Boom Town.” I once wrote that Davies could “pen an entire episode with just the Doctor and Rose sitting in the TARDIS talking to each other, and it’d be one of the highlights of a given Doctor Who season.” With “Midnight” he comes as close to that supposition as could probably be hoped for at this point. It may well be his finest Who achievement yet. “Midnight” sees Davies throwing caution to the wind and showing uncomfortable truths about the Doctor, as well as about humanity. “Midnight” isn’t necessarily a complex story, but it is a daring and disturbing one that for perhaps the first time in the new series is aimed squarely at adults, and doesn’t bother to take younger viewers into account—although maybe it acknowledges that kids are growing up along with the series and maybe they’re ready for more challenging fare.

Bask in the glow of Xtonic radiation by clicking here to read the rest of this recap at The House Next Door.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Computer Crash

“Forest of the Dead” is an episode that left me so thoroughly perplexed that I had to see it several times to even begin thinking I understood it. I can honestly say that no installment of the new series (or even classic Who for that matter) confused me as much as this one and if that earns me the nickname “Thick as a Whale Omelet Ruediger,” then so be it. I asked for some help from fellow Who/Moffat enthusiasts Steven Cooper, Peet Gelderblom and Chris Hansen, three people whom I figured could help me get to the bottom of it all. They did help, were full of insights and opinions and their words are as important to recap as anything I’ve got to say. Yet another viewing helped, too, and I’m starting to believe the story is either not as complex as I’d originally thought, or it’s so obtuse that I’m never truly going to see the bigger picture.

Read the rest of this week's Doctor Who recap by using your sonic blaster to click here and visit The House Next Door.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Everything

With Sex and the City being all the rage at the moment, you’re no doubt tired of your wife or girlfriend talking about it, annoyed at having been dragged to the movie, and perhaps sick to death of handing over the remote control so she can repeatedly view the episodes on DVD. If you understand what Manolo Blahniks and Cosmopolitans are, but cannot grasp why anyone should care, then Absolutely Fabulous is the cure you can share with your significant other. AbFab, as the seasoned vets call it, was perhaps even part of the inspiration for Sex and the City, but the difference is that all the little trinkets and icons are mocked rather than hailed, and the main characters, Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), don’t realize they’re part of the joke.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Spoilers!

The name Steven Moffat has been the stamp of quality on Doctor Who scripts over the past three seasons, so it’s easy to go into “Silence in the Library,” the first of a two-part story, with high expectations. Further, since Moffat was recently named the series’ new showrunner (beginning in 2010), viewer expectations are perhaps even a bit higher for this story. He certainly doesn’t waste any time putting his dramatic flourishes on the piece. The story begins with a little girl (Eve Newton). She appears to be in therapy with a Dr. Moon (Colin Salmon) while her dad (Mark Dexter) lingers in the background. In her mind exists a fantastical library the size of a planet. She peacefully floats around the silent library, seemingly the only patron. The silence is suddenly broken by a loud banging from the other side of a pair of doors. The girl is alarmed. The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) bust through.

The Doctor: “Hello! Sorry to burst in on you like this. Is it OK if we stop here for a bit?”

To read the rest of this recap, click here to quietly talk with the librarian at The House Next Door.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season One, Ep. 1

I've started blogging the new Billie Piper series, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, for Premium Hollywood. It started on Showtime this Monday and will presumably continue on for the next seven weeks as the first season is only eight episodes long. Surprisingly, it isn't nearly as exploitative and trashy as I expected.

From the first recap:

As a Doctor Who fanatic, Secret Diary of a Call Girl was initially an easy sell. After watching Billie Piper as Rose Tyler for two seasons, I’ve since been game to watch her in just about anything. Sitting down and actually seeing Piper unveil her dual lives of Belle the prostitute and Hannah the typical London girl was a different matter entirely. There was something incredibly dirty about seeing her lube up her private parts, masturbate with a vibrator in front of a client, and ride another while he wears a saddle. It’s just so not Rose Tyler.

Read the rest of the recap by clicking here to visit Premium Hollywood.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Doctor Who: Beneath the Surface

In 1970, Doctor Who went through a period of massive change. There was a new Doctor, a new companion, a new production team, and the show was (for the first time) being broadcast in color. Perhaps most important to its texture, the title character was stranded on Earth in the late 20th century, working as a scientific advisor for the military organization UNIT. All of these changes combined to create a radically different take on an established series that had been running successfully for six seasons. Time and space travel was put on hold for a couple years, and instead of the Doctor meeting alien creatures on distant planets, they were showing up in his backyard.

Read the rest of the review for the "Beneath the Surface" DVD box set by clicking here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Standard British Birds and Bees


I’m sure I read an interview with Russell T. Davies some time ago where he referred to “The Unicorn and The Wasp” as “the first comedy we’ve done.” I put that in quotes because that’s what I recall him saying, but I’ll be damned if I can find the piece now. It probably doesn’t matter, but it does seem the aim of the episode is to be a comedy—well, a comedy and a murder mystery peppered with ample doses of sci-fantasy. The episode worked better on the second viewing, yet I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I’m beginning to tire of this brand of Doctor Who story. I’ve got plenty of respect for Agatha Christie’s body of work, but I’ve never read any of her books—pathetic, but true. I grew up reading Doctor Who novelizations written by Terrance Dicks—also pathetic, but true.

To read the rest of this very brief recap, click here and head over to The House Next Door.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Daughter Cloned

As a title, “The Doctor’s Daughter” conjures up exciting possibilities, but as an episode it leaves the viewer wanting more. Is it surprising that the daughter in question is in no way “long lost” or any other sort of melodrama? Not really. Anything more concrete would be a massive intrusion on the overall narrative, and taking both fact and rumor into account, this season probably doesn't need another such element. Instead she’s an instant genetic descendant of the Time Lord—created in the first minutes of the tale. It’s a disorienting moment, too, because it’s so unbelievable, even by Doctor Who standards. The Doctor (David Tennant), Donna (Catherine Tate), and Martha (Freema Agyeman) arrive in some sort of underground bunker. Within moments of stepping out of the TARDIS, a group of young soldiers appear out of nowhere, grab the Doctor, and thrust his hand into some sort of machine. The Doctor deduces it’s taking a tissue sample. Seconds later, two doors slide apart and out steps a beautiful blond girl, dressed like Farscape’s Aeryn Sun.

Martha: “Where did she come from?”

The Doctor: “From me.”

Donna: “From you? How? Who is she??”

The Doctor: “She’s…well…she’s my daughter.”

The Girl: (smiling) “Hello Dad!”

Adopt your cloned child by clicking here to read the rest of this piece at The House Next Door.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Grand: Complete Collection

It would be easy to assume The Grand is some kind of stuffy, British period drama, if not for one thing: It’s created and (mostly) written by Russell T Davies of Doctor Who fame, a sign that it might not be what it seems. The Grand is certainly a period piece, though it can hardly be described as stuffy. What it is, more than anything else, is a soap opera -- but it’s a classy, addictive soap offering up bold, surprising storylines and at least a dozen complex characters over the course of its 18-episode, two-season run.

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here to head over to Bullz-Eye.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I don't want to set the world on fire...

In the comments section for “The Sontaran Stratagem,” Joan wondered why at the close of the episode “…no one thought to break the window of the car while Gramps was asphyxiating.” And so “The Poison Sky” begins with Donna’s mother, Sylvia, doing just that. It’s a huge anticlimax for the cliffhanger, but I would argue that the whole point of a cliffhanger is in the hang, not in the resolution in the next episode. Cliffhanger resolutions almost by their very nature are destined to suck, because if our heroes succumbed to the disastrous situations they’re left in, there would be no more show. We always want the resolve to be as thrilling as the minutes that preceded it in the narrative, but there’s a big difference in the first couple minutes of an episode, and the final moments of another. And there’s no point in delivering the best you’ve got at the start, right?

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here to visit The House Next Door.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Doctor Who at the 2008 Film & History Conference


2008 Film & History Conference
"Film & Science: Fictions, Documentaries, and Beyond"
October 30-November 2, 2008
Chicago, Illinois
www.uwosh.edu/filmandhistory
Third-Round Deadline: August 1, 2008
AREA: Doctor Who

Doctor Who first entered the public consciousness on November 23, 1963, as a new science fiction serial on the BBC. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Running Science Fiction Television Show, the serial is a national institution in its home country - the subject of countless pop-culture references -and a popular export to American public television stations. As a televised serial, Doctor Who has exhibited features dared by few others, from its controversial content, to its public ranking in the 1970s as the most violent programming produced by the BBC, to the serial's constant re-casting of the leading man, the adventurous Doctor, whose alien biology conveniently allows for regeneration.

These controversies and innovations, along with the evolution of a complex "Whoniverse" of audio stories, novels, and entries in various other media(the "canonicity" of most of which is still in question), not only have turned the enigmatic Doctor Who into a cult figure but have interwoven time and history through grand adventures that address issues of human existence and the meaning of civilization. The newest edition of the series, which continues the storyline/timeline from the original, often features the Doctor interacting with historical figures (and making wry commentary on current events in the process) and explores more deeply the dilemma of the Doctor as a lonely traveler who will generally outlive any human companion who joins him or who falls in love with him.

The Doctor is clearly a man of science, yet his function on the show is often God like, with occasional explicit references to him as a Christ-figure. How does the Doctor's dual role comment on the role of science in society? In its peregrinations through human events, what does the show say about the construction of history? What does it say about national/British identity in the new millennium or about the uneasy relationship between Western empiricism and theological mysticism?

Papers and panels are invited on the topic of the Doctor Who series. Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:

Cultural commentary and trans-historical morality tales
Issues of and intertextuality and metafiction
Historical figures and the depiction of historical events (and the Doctor's role in them)
The role of technological innovation and special effects
Fan cultures
Gender and sexuality
Psychological models
Canonicity of other media
Use of guest stars/actors
Religious imagery and allegory
The role of visual technology (including film and television) in the show's content

Please submit all proposals by August 1, 2008, to the area chair:

Professor Christopher Hansen
Baylor University
Department of Communication Studies
One Bear Place #97368
Waco, TX 76798
254-710-4464
christopher_hansen@baylor.edu

Submissions by email are encouraged.

Panel proposals for up to four presenters are also welcome, but each presenter must submit his or her own paper proposal. Deadline: August 1, 2008.

This area, comprising multiple panels, is a part of the 2008 biennial Film & History Conference, sponsored by The Center for the Study of Film and History. Speakers will include founder John O'Connor and editor Peter C. Rollins (in a ceremony to celebrate the transfer to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh); Wheeler Winston Dixon, author of Visions of the Apocalypse, Disaster and Memory, and Lost in the Fifties: Recovering Phantom Hollywood; Sidney Perkowitz, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Physics at Emory University and author of Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, & the End of the World; and special-effects legend Stan Winston, our Keynote Speaker.

For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Muppet Show: Season Three

Cracking open a new season of The Muppet Show on DVD means two things: loads of Muppet madness and an eclectic cross-section of guest stars. The former can always be counted on to just be what it is, while the latter are the wild cards of each episode. I remember as a kid being generally unaware of who most of these people were, but, then again, kids were probably not really taken into the equation when the show was booking star acts. The guest stars provided a framework for the Muppet chaos and, more importantly, gave the adults in the viewing audience something to hook into; otherwise, it’s doubtful the show would’ve lasted for five years in syndication. Since I’m now an adult, the guests are usually the most interesting part of revisiting the series, because it’s such a kick to see how each guest’s talents are used…well, and also because “Pigs in Space” tends to get repetitive.

If you don't have a hand up your ass, then click here to read the rest of this review at Bullz-Eye.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Only One Cook in the Kitchen

It was worth sitting through months of American Idol this season just to watch this guy win tonight.
His journey wasn't too shabby either. Nice seeing a cool Missouri boy take the big prize.

Mr. Potato Head

"Sontarans are great… I think that's partly because they come from a very specific world. That back story gives them a great context. Robert Holmes didn’t just create a race, back in the 1970s: he created a world that they came from. Even if you never saw that planet, you understood why they did what they did." — David Tennant, Doctor Who Magazine #395

I hate to contradict our Time Lord and Savior, but he’s ever so slightly off in his close. It’s not that we ever understood why the Sontarans did what they did, but rather that Holmes’ vision of the race was so clear that we accepted what they did without question—and that was make war (not love). The “why” could make for a good story someday, but at present their reintroduction is plenty.

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here to clone yourself at The House Next Door.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection

Surely the only movies that would be more pointless to recap than the Indiana Jones trilogy are the original Star Wars trilogy. Everyone’s seen the Indy films time and again, and countless consumers already own the first DVD box set. But that hasn’t stopped Paramount from reissuing them in preparation for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Unlike Episodes IV through VI, the Indy flicks can more or less work on their own and this time around Paramount gives buyers the option of purchasing the entries individually, or together in this set. The box packages the three discs in slimline cases, and it’s weird to have such a noteworthy chunk of movie history reduced to the size of a VHS tape (you remember those, don’t you?).

Best way to pimp the "other" trilogy is by offering up my thoughts on the DVD re-release. Click here and head over to Bullz-Eye to read them.

And by all means set two hours of your time aside between May 22nd and the 25th to go check out Indy's latest adventure...but show your kids the trilogy first.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Ood Abides

“Planet of the Ood” is a really strange episode (and yes—I had to restrain myself from describing it as odd). I don’t know if anyone was exactly crying out for more Ood, but since they played second fiddle to the Beast in “The Impossible Planet” two-parter, they’re a logical choice to revisit, as we didn’t get to know all that much about them. What we did learn about them is explored in greater detail here and it’s nice to see that they remain benign creatures so long as outside parties don’t abuse them through ulterior motives.

A Booming Commercial Voiceover: “The Ood! They came from a distant world. They voyaged across the stars. All with one purpose…”

The picture zooms into an Ood holding a cup of tea.

Ood: “Do you take milk and sugar?”

Reclaim your secondary brain by reading the rest of this piece at The House Next Door.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Backwoods

Comparing The Backwoods to either Deliverance or Straw Dogs probably does it a disservice, even though it’s clearly inspired by both. It’s unfortunate, too, because without those early 70s classics lurking in the background, it would seem far more shocking. (In fact, it will probably play much better to those who’ve seen neither of those films.) As if to pay further homage, it’s even set in 1978 -- although that could simply be a means of avoiding cell phones. Cell phones are such a given these days that when movie characters in peril don’t have one, we immediately wonder, “Where’s his cell phone?” The idea of cell phone technology even being available to the characters in The Backwoods would bring the entire affair crumbling down.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Everybody Must Get Stoned

“The Fires of Pompeii” tinkers with a spot in the season where similar installments have been little more than clever dives into pseudohistory. Don’t get me wrong, “Fires” is by no means an accurate account of what went down when Mount Vesuvius erupted, but since the populace of Pompeii went along for the tragic ride, the episode manages to cover its ass. It features no historic figure (i.e. Dickens, Queen Victoria or Shakespeare); instead, the event itself is the figure. It also hints at events to come, further develops the new Doctor/companion relationship, and features effects work that’s outta this world.

Read the rest of this article by clicking here to get stoned at The House Next Door.