Monday, December 28, 2009

Doctor Who: The End of Time Part One

Before moving on to the actual write-up, let’s take a moment to offer some high praise to BBC America for showing this episode a day after it first screened in the U.K. A day! For the first time on American TV, we aren’t seeing the premiere of a Doctor Who Christmas special when it’s warm outside, and the Christmas-themed portions of the story don’t seem hopelessly out of place. Back when I wrote up “Journey’s End,” I pleaded with Syfy to show the various David Tennant specials in a timely manner, so that audiences wouldn’t be forced to go elsewhere to get their Who fix or, even worse, get bored and forget about the show altogether. Good thing Syfy no longer has first-run rights here in the States, because I highly doubt they would’ve made the same programming move that BBC America made. Further, BBC America is committed (at least for the time being) to showing the episodes uncut, which is just as if not more important. Keep it up BBCA, and you’ll keep building a devoted audience. Heck, even a week or two after the U.K. premieres would be more than acceptable in my book.

It’s always difficult to write about the first half of a two-part finale, and never more so than in this case. This episode is all over the place in tone, and yet hangs together quite nicely, although it took me two viewings to realize the latter. Yet whatever one might think about “The End of Time Part One,” there’s no denying that the bigger picture has yet to be seen, and what Russell T. Davies unveiled in this hour is only a setup for the real finale. About the first 15 minutes of this thing just zoom by, setting up one aspect of the story after another. In fact, there are so many elements that are set up throughout the hour that one wonders how they can all be addressed in the finale proper.

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here and visiting Premium Hollywood.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Sherlock Holmes Collection

With a brand new Sherlock Holmes movie hitting the big screen in just a matter of days, it probably goes without saying that there will be a demand for classic adventures featuring the world’s most famous detective. The folks at A&E have unearthed this collection from the bowels of the BBC and are presenting these episodes from the ‘60s series starring Peter Cushing for the first time here in the States.

The back of the box claims that “only five episodes of the BBC’s celebrated 1960s Sherlock Holmes series survive. Coincidentally, all five star the inimitable Peter Cushing…” This is somewhat true, but also a bit misleading. The series spanned two seasons in the U.K. The first batch was produced in ‘65 and starred Douglas Wilmer in the title role. As I understand it, nearly that entire run exists, only it’s never been released on DVD either here or in the U.K. For the second season, which was produced three years later, Wilmer was unwilling to return, so Cushing was hired to take his place. (Nigel Stock played Watson in both seasons.) As is often the case with old BBC TV, many episodes were scrapped and the Cushing season was hit the hardest. Actually, six episodes still exist, but two of them comprise “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” so it’s actually five stories, rather than five episodes. The six episodes are spread across three discs, and as one might expect from a color ‘60s BBC show, the majority of the program is shot on videotape, while the occasional exterior work is shot on film. The picture and audio quality is acceptable across the board, but you can tell that no real restoration work has gone into this set.

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars

When it was first announced that Doctor Who was taking a break from normal seasons in 2009, I thought, “I can handle that – not a big deal.” After all, aside from the Fox TV movie with Paul McGann in 1996, I’d lived without new televised Who for 16 years before the show came back in ’05. Each new season since then has been like a little gift. Surely one year with “only” four specials would be a breeze? As 2009 droned on, however, it seemed an interminably long wait for new outings of the series, and it didn’t help matters that the one outing we did get – “Planet of the Dead” – was a subpar piece of storytelling at best. The other three specials are all being unveiled on BBC America in the last weeks of the year (actually, the big finale will play on the second day of 2010!). Anyway, this was my roundabout way of illustrating how much I’ve come to take the new series for granted, and thankfully “The Waters of Mars” is as strong a slice of Who as just about anything the series has done up to this point. It is, in fact, everything “Planet of the Dead” wasn’t, which may very well have been the point.

The Doctor (David Tennant), still traveling alone, lands on Mars in the year 2059. He trudges across the desolate, red landscape and bumps into a robot, called Gadget, that takes him to its leader on Bowie Base One, which is a clever enough joke – although one that’s a bit old hat for anyone who’s basked in the wonder that is Life on Mars, which coincidentally (or not) starred John Simm, who we’ll be seeing more of next week. Inside the base, the Time Lord meets the crew, led by Captain Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan), and quickly realizes who they are, and is as awestruck as any fanboy we’ve ever seen. Bowie Base One holds humanity’s first group of colonists on Mars, only the Doctor knows they all mysteriously died on the 21st of November, 2059. Guess what the date is? He quickly realizes that he should go, as this is an instance where he shouldn’t meddle with time. He sees it as a fixed point in the universe, and, as he explains later in the episode, “What happens here must always happen.” But events conspire to prevent his exit, and before long the crew begins succumbing to what ends up being a virus – it transforms them into hideous, zombie-type creatures, with cracked faces and the ability to use water as a deadly weapon. Only Doctor Who can find an inventive, frightening way to use water as a killer, and its ideas such as this that make the show the unique concept it is.

Read the rest of this entry by clicking here and visiting Premium Hollywood.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Life on Mars: Series Two

Let’s get an important issue out of the way: If you haven’t seen the first season of the original U.K. version of Life on Mars, you’ve no business reading this review. Move along – there’s nothing for you to see here. But do go check out our review of the first season, buy the set, and then come back here if you liked what you saw (and chances are, you will). Life on Mars is great television, and the Brits may have a lot to teach Americans about the economy of storytelling, as Series Two is again comprised of eight episodes, which in turn wrap up the entire story; the whole thing is a mere 16 episodes, which makes its two seasons together a whole episode shorter than the one season of the ABC remake from last year.

The first season of Mars offered up a fairly even mix of procedural and out of time weirdness. We didn’t learn much more about the “whys” of Sam Tyler’s (John Simm) predicament by the end of the season than we knew at the beginning. Season Two kicks off without showing its hand immediately, and yet from the very first episode, the viewer gets the feeling the stakes have been raised. A series of nasty killings leads Sam and Gene (Philip Glenister) to casino owner Tony Crane (the criminally underrated Marc Warren), whom Sam recognizes as a nemesis from his future (or is it his present?). Gene believes Crane to be clean, but Sam knows better, and throughout the episode a hazy version of Crane threatens Sam’s life in the hospital many years away. Crane’s girlfriend, Eve (Yasmin Bannerman), may be the key to putting him away for good, if only Sam can convince her that forming a lifelong partnership with Crane will lead to her eventual death. It’s a pretty amazing (and complex) kick-start for the season, and Warren makes for an unusually effective boogeyman.

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

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation - Volume Two

Earlier this year, when the new Star Trek movie was released in theaters, Paramount trotted out two “Best of” collections from their most endurable franchise. One compiled four episodes from the original series, the other dished up four installments from The Next Generation, and both were very nice discs aimed at the casual collector who has little interest in forking over big bucks for entire seasons of either show but would like to own a few classic episodes for periodic enjoyment. Fast forward to the DVD release date of the latest Star Trek film, and Paramount has offered up another two discs from the same two series, again each featuring four episodes for your short-attention span enjoyment.

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

The William Castle Film Collection

Forty-two years after his death, B-horror legend William Castle remains synonymous with cinematic gimmicks with names like “Emergo,” (a glow-in-the-dark skeleton that flew over the audience), “Percepto” (a small vibrator under some theaters seats) and “Illusion-O” (a “ghost viewer”). Though his modestly budgeted productions delighted the young, they were impossible to take seriously and never earned him the kind of respect given to less avidly commercial auteurs. Still, he was a solid movie craftsman of the old school with a buoyant attitude who worked with Orson Welles, Roman Polanski, and possibly influenced Alfred Hitchcock’s move into sensational horror with Psycho and The Birds. As a director, he was a competent craftsman whose essentially good-natured works aimed a bit low. As a showman, however, Welles, Polanski, and Hitchcock had very little on him.

Read the rest of this DVD review - which was co-written by Bob Westal - by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

For Fawkes Sake

Good Evening London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine - the security, the familiar, the tranquility, repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke.

But in the spirit of commemoration, thereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone's death or the end of some awful bloody struggle: A celebration of a nice holiday. I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat.

There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the annunciation of truth.

And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and depression. And where once you had the freedom to object, think, and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.

How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But again, truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.

Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice and freedom are more than words: They are perspectives.

So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked.

But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.

V

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Doctor Who: The War Games

It always feels like a special occasion when a serial from Patrick Troughton’s era of Doctor Who is released on DVD, since so little of his time as the central character even exists anymore. It’s of course a huge shame that any Who stories were junked, but the Troughton era was hit particularly hard, and only six of its stories exist in their complete forms (although the release of “The Invasion” a few years ago, with animation providing the visuals for Episodes One and Four, helps to bump the total up to seven). Troughton’s Doctor had a true sense of the magic of the universe about him, an attribute which trickled into his stories as well. On his watch, the series started shedding its “for kids only” formula, and began churning out some truly memorable sci-fi yarns.

This DVD release seems doubly special since “The War Games” was not only the last story of his era, but it was also the last Who story of the ‘60s, as well as the last to be shot in black and white. Clocking in at over four hours in length and spanning a whopping ten episodes, “The War Games” is truly something special – although the one aspect that makes it particularly noteworthy hasn’t even been mentioned yet. We’ll get there in due course, however, so hang tight.

The Doctor (Troughton) and his companions Jamie (Frazer Hines), the Scottish Highlander from the past, and Zoe (Wendy Padbury), the girl genius from the future, arrive smack in what appears to be the middle of World War I. “Appears” is the key word here, and over the course of several episodes of being captured, shot at, captured again, threatened, caught once more, escaping (several times), and loads of running around, they discover they aren’t on Earth at all, but rather an unnamed alien planet. A group of human-looking aliens have kidnapped groups of soldiers from numerous eras of human history and sectioned them off into separate zones, so that they believe they are still on Earth, fighting their respective wars. What is the aliens’ eventual plan? Well, despite having ten episodes in which to explore that issue, the mechanics of it remain fairly glossed over, but the idea seems to be to put together a “super army” for conquest purposes.

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

Doctor Who: The Black Guardian Trilogy


After the Doctor tussled with the Black Guardian (Valentine Dyall) back in “The Key to Time” season, the god-like entity vowed to eventually catch up with the Time Lord and destroy him. Over the course of these three stories, the Black Guardian attempts to make good on his threat, although his instrument of doom is a rather peculiar weapon: a teenage alien posing as a British schoolboy. His name is Turlough (Mark Strickson) and he makes a pact with the Guardian that he will kill the Doctor if the deity will take him away from Earth once and for all. Over the course of these three stories he’s bullied, prodded, and talked down to by the Black Guardian at every turn, and it’s a huge shame that early on he doesn’t just say to the Doctor, “Hey, this creepy guy with a dead bird on his head wants me to off you, but it looks like you’ve got some pretty awesome hardware at your disposal, so why I don’t I just hitch a ride with you instead?” Clearly, Turlough wasn’t thinking straight, and if he had managed to double-cross the Guardian so early on, these three tales wouldn’t have their linking thread, which is actually one of the more interesting propositions the series ever offered up: What if the Doctor’s companion was actively engaged in trying to kill him?

The trilogy kicks off with “Mawdryn Undead,” a truly twisty-turny tale of time and space. Indeed, for a TV series which so often uses time travel as its jumping off point, Doctor Who rarely offers up time conundrums and problems as central to the conflict of its stories. Of course, there are only so many ways you can go back in time and step on a butterfly, so this is understandable in regards to the series. And yet, when Who does pull out a story where time travel plays an important role, it’s always great fun to just kick back and let the McFlyness of it all wash over you.

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blackadder Remastered: The Ultimate Edition

In The Hall of Great British Comedy, where all manner of witty, farcical and bawdy behavior is stored for safekeeping, there are a handful of TV shows which preside over all the rest. Fare such as Fawlty Towers, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Absolutely Fabulous, The Office and Mr. Bean are all concepts that are so perfect in their conception and execution that they’ve found big audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Alas, poor Blackadder, despite airings on both A&E and PBS, has never had much more than a cult following here in the U.S – which is unfortunate, since it’s every bit the standout as the aforementioned programs and is more than deserving of being spoken of in the same breath. It details the exploits of one Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) and his exploits throughout different eras of English history. Throughout his numerous incarnations, he’s accompanied by the reliably dimwitted Baldrick (Tony Robinson) and a handful of bumbling confidants and comical nemeses.

For a series with numerous strengths, perhaps its strongest is its wordplay: the way it deftly shifts from highbrow, almost lyrical comedic prose to simplistic, monosyllabic insult humor. If by some chance you feel it’s going over your head, stick around a few minutes and a penis or fart gag will invariably pop up. It’s tempting to throw out some quotes from the series, but frankly there are far too many to choose from, and I’m not even sure how they’d come across without the delivery of the fine cast which makes up the whole of Blackadder.

Ah, yes, the cast! Leading the troupe is, of course, Atkinson, and he’s probably never been finer than he is as Blackadder. For as big as Mr. Bean made him, this is an entirely different side of the man. You may have glimpsed flashes of his Adder brilliance in some of his other roles, but I’m pretty sure he’s never been given material that’s as suited to his talents as what writers Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and Ben Elton (The Young Ones) cooked up throughout the course of this series. This is largely a suave, calculated performance, and it’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Atkinson playing the part. He’s a true leading man, and far removed from the inept supporting player he so often seems to end up playing elsewhere. Tony Robinson’s Baldrick is, on the other hand, a simpleton – he represents the common man thrust into otherwise uncommon situations. Again, Robinson’s portrayal is so ideal that it becomes very easy to assume that he’s an imbecile in real life, although as various interviews on this set prove, he’s actually an incredibly well-spoken man (and, as I understand it, heavily involved in shaping the political landscape in his country). The rest of the main cast we’ll get to in due course, but before getting there, a roll call must be made of various actors that litter the Blackadder landscape in guest shots throughout the series: Jim Broadbent, Miriam Margolyes, Peter Cook, Rik Mayall, Tom Baker, Simon Jones, Ronald Lacey, Robbie Coltrane, Nigel Planer, Chris Barrie, Adrian Edmondson, Geoffrey Palmer, Colin Firth, and even Kate Moss! Those are only the most noticeable ones, and yet that’s still a pretty hefty cross-section of U.K. talent.

So we’ve got a slew of great actors delivering an even greater slew of pitch-perfect dialogue. Additionally, Blackadder boasts outstanding costumes. It’s the kind of stuff you’d see in any given BBC-produced period drama, only here it dresses up the comedy. Whether a character needs to appear a part of the regal aristocracy or a grungy manservant, the seemingly effortless capture of the period dress is a big part of what makes Blackadder so special.

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

The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The Complete Fifth Season

Just about every piece of criticism I’ve ever read about The Mary Tyler Moore Show (or just plain Mary Tyler Moore, which is the title in the opening credits) goes to great lengths to talk about how it’s one of the greatest sitcoms in TV history. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s not. When you start attaching the label “greatest” to pieces of pop culture, there tend to be expectations involved, and surely that’s the case if the viewer is new to the show. I’ve got a massive amount of unconditional love for Mary Tyler Moore, but I watched this particular set with a more critical eye than I normally would, and tried to be a little bit more objective throughout my viewing.

The truth is that a fair amount of this series is horribly dated by today’s standards. What made the show so groundbreaking at the time – the idea of a career woman making it on her own without the help of a man – today seems awfully quaint and naïve. Further, there’s a great deal of sexism that pops up from time to time. Sometimes, when it’s from anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), it’s appropriately funny because Baxter is supposed to be a clueless buffoon. Other times, however, it comes from Mary’s boss, Lou Grant (Edward Asner), and it’s these instances that may very well have the power to get under people’s skin. Lou wasn’t like Ted, or even Archie Bunker for that matter: he was an intelligent, decent man, and a good boss, so it becomes all the more obnoxious when Mary is still expected to get him his coffee. In this season, when Mary is promoted to producer, she has to beg Lou to give her more responsibility; in his mind, giving her the title was plenty. Much of the series is probably an accurate reflection of what single career-minded women were going through in the ‘70s, so it’s really important to take all that into context when watching the show.

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nip/Tuck: Season Five, Part Two

The press release for this set finishes up with two sentences: “And Liz says ‘I do’ to the last person you’d imagine. Time to stretch your imagination, fans.” When even the marketing department can no longer take a show seriously, it must be Nip/Tuck. As a fan since day one, I’m past resenting the show for failing to be as good as it once was, and have moved on to embracing Nip/Tuck for the freakshow it’s become. How freaky you ask? Well, in one episode, when Dr. Troy (Julian McMahon) refuses to give a woman an unnecessary mastectomy, she performs the surgery on herself – in the lobby of McNamara/Troy – with an electric carving knife.

Never a show to be too far behind the times, another installment features a pair of lovers who’ve taken their vampiric bloodlust a bit too far. You’ve seen these folks at goth clubs, I’m sure, but have secretly hoped it was all an act. Nip/Tuck is here to show you that the freakshow never ends, and that people do indeed partake in mutual bloodsucking. Surely the most outrageous display of hedonistic debasement comes in the form of the guy who likes to fuck furniture. If I hadn’t been laughing so hard, I might have turned away. What’s most noteworthy about this block of episodes, is that there isn’t a villain in the traditional Nip/Tuck sense – no Carver, or Escobar – although Eden (AnnaLynne McCord) does show up a couple times to fan a few flames.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Premium Hollywood.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Doctor Who: Hornets' Nest - The Stuff Of Nightmares

By guest columnist Margot Layne

We read the rumors last summer: Tom Baker was returning to Doctor Who. We, the faithful, the soi-disant Whovians, the former members of DWAS (the UK organization, not the US version), we happy few, we band of scarf-wearing, K-9-loathing, Romana 1-not-2 loyalists, dismissed the story instantly. Our Tom spurns all offers to associate himself with the role. He always has, he always will[1]. After all, he was and is The Doctor.

But the unthinkable happened, the rumors were true; Tom would return in an audio play as the Fourth Doctor. For an instant, we allowed ourselves to hope. Big Finish produces scads of very good-to-excellent Doctor Who audios with high production values, audio artists, real Who Actors, and real Who writers. This could be good. Maybe Tom would be working with Louise Jameson (the savage Leela), or Mary Tamm (Romana 1) or Elisabeth Sladen (Our Sarah). None of us dared to imagine Tom and Lalla Ward together again. The smart money was on Nicholas Courtney because Nearly-Ubiquitous Nick has revived his role as the Brigadier for television, direct-to video, audio, live theater, cereal boxes, matchbook covers, and at least one email adventure. Then the press release dropped like a lump of mashed potatoes on a high school cafeteria tray-- no Big Finish, no Leela, not even the Brig. We would get Tom and Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin). Really? Captain Yates?? He left the show before Tom joined it. Oh, we had a baaad feeling about this.

"Hornets’ Nest: The Stuff of Nightmares" is the first of five audio releases. Written by Paul Magrs, it is not an audio play but is really an audio interpretation of a story. Magrs evokes a Philip Hinchcliffe mixture of horror and humor. Hinchcliffe was the definitive producer of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s tenure, achieving high ratings and fan appreciation numbers, but ultimately driven from the job for scaring the kiddies too much. Magrs story isn’t bad. The Earth is invaded by a swarm of intelligent hornets, who, like all Doctor Who invaders of Earth want to take over the planet by secret and terribly indirect and strange methods. In this case, they inhabit and animate the stuffed bodies of museum animal specimens which have been discarded by those museums as penance for their sinful centuries of shooting and preserving dead rare animals. Yes, it is literally the stuff of nightmares; evil sawdust-and-chemical-filled badgers, voles, lions, tigers, and bears animated by alien Hymenoptera hell-bent on world domination through, well...animated taxidermy. Even the best Doctor Who stories rarely stand up to careful analysis so don’t be put off by the absurdity of the plot.

Franklin does a nice job as Captain Yates, being true to his own character and not trying to be the Brigadier. Magrs wrote the part well and provided a plausible if unlikely reason for the Fourth Doctor seeking out an older Captain Yates instead of more familiar companions. Baker and Franklin take turns narrating the story events with Baker filling in the events leading up to the present situation. Basil Exposition would be a welcome presence. Susan Jameson voices the part of Mrs. Wibsey, the housekeeper for the Doctor’s house called The Nest. She’s good in a Mrs. Danvers sort of way and if The Nest is not exactly Manderley, neither is it the TARDIS[2]. Whenever Mrs. Wibsey is involved, the disc becomes a proper audio play instead of a mere reading. But where is the TARDIS? We hope, no demand, it returns in the upcoming episodes.

Later in the story Daniel Hill enters as the Hornet-possessed Percy Noggins. Percy is a taxidermy artist, broken-hearted by the removal of his beloved stuffed animals. His heartbreak made him vulnerable to the mind-control powers of the Hornets’ hive mind but the good Doctor relieves him of the evil influence through his own powers of hypnosis. Hill’s portrayal is good and his scenes with the Doctor further relieve the exposition.

And Tom? As he never fails to remind us, he still is The Doctor. His voice is a powerful instrument and, by ten minutes into the performance, is completely convincing. He reanimates the Fourth Doctor to an extent the alien Hornets can only envy. Tom’s Doctor is complete and accurate, all teeth, curls, and scarf. Best of all is the amazing laugh.

The disc is more than a novelty but less than a real Doctor Who adventure. There is enough value in it to make it worthwhile to Fourth Doctor devotees and the later episodes may be much better as the actors grow more comfortable with the story and their characters. Yet this disc shows just how good Big Finish is at producing Doctor Who and how others, even the mighty Beeb, fail to meet expectations. I can justify buying this disc on the grounds that if it is successful, Tom Baker might finally agree to do a proper turn as the Fourth Doctor for Big Finish. That would be such stuff as dreams are made on.

Here is the 2009 release schedule for the remaining episodes:

Episode 2: The Dead Shoes-- October 8
Episode 3: The Circus of Doom-- November 5
Episode 4: A Sting in the Tale-- December 3
Episode 5: Hive of Horror-- December 3

"Hornets' Nest: The Stuff of Nightmares" can be ordered from Who North America here in the U.S.

[1] Some have claimed he appeared in some sort of fan video called "The Dark Dimension" or "Dimensions in Slime" or something. Absolutely not true, Darlings.

[2] There is no madwoman in the attic, either, though it is delicious to imagine Mike Yates as a gun totin’ Jane Eyre to Tom’s Mr. Rochester.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth


If you don’t know what smeg is all about, the Urban Dictionary defines it as such: “A futuristic British all-purpose swear word. From Red Dwarf.” Battlestar Galactica has frak, Farscape has frell…and Red Dwarf has smeg. If it sounds funnier than frak or frell, that’s because Red Dwarf is really a comedy that just so happens to be set in the far future, on a spaceship called the Red Dwarf. It first started on BBC Two in 1988, racking up a total of eight seasons before finally ending in 1999, and it built up a pretty serious following in the process; although I suppose describing anything to do with Red Dwarf as serious makes me a complete and total smeghead.

Truth be told, despite being a disciple of British sci-fi and comedy, I never really got into Red Dwarf which to this day mystifies me (perhaps even more so after watching this reunion special), as it should’ve fit like a very comfortable glove. The number of episodes of Red Dwarf I’ve seen over the years could probably be counted on one hand. I’m hardly an authority on it, but given the chance to check out Back to Earth – the only new Dwarf in over a decade – I jumped at it, if for no other reason than to see how I’d react all these years later.

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

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Traffik: 20th Anniversary Edition

What struck me most about Traffik is that I was unable to decide whether or not it was more important than ever, or if it is a portrayal of a struggle that may be past its prime – or perhaps a little of both. The thing is, we live in a much different world than that of 1989, or even 2000, for that matter. There are so many more important issues that we must address on a near daily basis – the failed economy, unnecessary wars, and global warming, to name but a few – and the trafficking of heroin (or indeed any drug) quite frankly seems minor in comparison. But therein lays the beauty and importance of Traffik. Why are we spending money to combat a system that shows no signs of slowing down, and is very likely affecting the livelihoods of people in foreign countries? The drug war has failed. Not just in our country, but in any country where people have the money and desire to get fucked up. To quote Bill Maher: “You want to support poor people in Latin America? Buy more coke.”

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fear Itself: The Complete First Season

The question must be posed: why do the networks even bother to green-light and produce anthology series these days? It seems that every time such a series gets the go-ahead, it quickly suffers from lack of promotion, bad timeslots, and swift cancellation. What is the point of putting these types of shows together if the network has no intention of bothering with them? Fear Itself originally began its 13-episode run in June of ’08 on Thursday nights. 8 episodes aired before it was shelved, and then the remaining 5 episodes eventually aired in January of ’09 on Saturday nights. Clearly this show was never even given a fighting chance.

After seeing it, I can sort of see why, because most of it isn’t terribly impressive. But then again, horror is subjective in much the same way that comedy is. What scares me isn’t always going to give you the cold shivers, and vice versa. For instance, many think The Exorcist is one of, if not the most frightening film of all time. I find it to be rather inane, and all too often bordering on hysterically funny. On the other hand, Rosemary’s Baby scares the bejeezus out of me, and that’s a movie that might just put some people to sleep. So there you have it: my opinion about whether or not the stories contained within this box set have a decent fright factor should be taken with a grain of salt.

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Second Season

It’s theoretically improbable that The Big Bang Theory should be a good TV show at all. The premise of two nerdy physicists living across the hall from a cute blonde sounds as if it could barely sustain a comical Saturday Night Live sketch, let alone an entire series. The fact that it’s not only good, but actually great says more about TV writers than it does about the classic multi-camera, laugh track-laden sitcom, which is often thought of as a near-dead format. The laugh track itself is these days generally regarded as a sign of laziness. After all, if a series needs to tell its audience where to laugh, surely it can’t be terribly amusing?

As long as something is well written, it can take place almost entirely in a living room, for 22 episodes a season. As long as something is funny, a laugh track can blare all over the place, and it doesn’t seem remotely out of place, since you’re laughing right along with it. The show is both well written and funny, which is no doubt due in no small part to the combined talents of Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre, who probably each bring a different perspective to the table. The Big Bang Theory is smart without being smug or cynical, and sweet without being sappy. In an age where most comedies feel the need to be edgy, this one never really is and it’s all the better for it. How these guys have pulled this off is anyone’s guess, but the entire thing just simply works. I could happily watch it for another five seasons if they just keep doing what they’re doing.

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

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Worst Week: The Complete Series

Probably the craziest thing to come of the TV-on-DVD “revolution” (which is placed into quotation marks so as not to belittle events that are actually worthy of being referred to as revolutions) is that shows that couldn’t find a life on TV manage to take their dying gasps on the silver platter. It used to be that, when a show was canceled before the end of its first season, it all but vanished from existence. Now these shows find a minor new life on DVD, usually subtitled “The Complete Series,” which makes the package sound like such an experience! But they rarely are, and I suppose we have Family Guy and Futurama to blame for all of these sets, because they’re the only canceled shows that have ever really benefitted from their posthumous DVD releases. I mean, really, if Worst Week hadn’t just been released on DVD, would anybody be driven to write about it today? Would anyone even remember that it was on the air in the first place? There’s a reason shows like this get canceled, and it’s not because people want to buy them on DVD.

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

Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fifth Season

It may have been a bad idea to kick off the fifth season of Desperate Housewives with a nasty car accident, because in a lot of ways that’s exactly what the season ended up being. Yet, like any such mishap, it becomes near impossible to look away from. In re-watching the season on DVD, it didn’t seem quite the catastrophe it did upon broadcast, yet I couldn’t get away from the feeling that the show has seen far better days, which is a shame, because the last two seasons were of very high quality. But gone is any real sense of pathos, and the biting humor which has long since been a trademark of the show also appears to have been lost in the shuffle. The fifth season just isn’t as engaging or funny as most everything that came before it, and the characters, which are the core of the show, have ceased to be likable people. In one episode, a character demands her child to fall to the ground while riding his bike so that his father won’t be offended that he learned to ride without his dad’s help. The kid ends up going to the hospital. Yeah, I didn’t find it funny, either. In another episode, a character invades her child’s privacy by posing as a girl on a MySpace-type website and clandestinely woos the kid with poetry. It lacks taste, class, and ends up being just plain creepy.

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

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin

Before moving on to more substantial matters, let’s address the elephant in the room: “The Deadly Assassin” may be the goofiest title ever given to a Doctor Who story, and it’s been pointed out by many before me (including, I believe, incoming showrunner Steven Moffat). After all, if an assassin isn’t deadly, he’s not much of an assassin, is he? The working title for the story was “The Dangerous Assassin,” which is even sillier. But the title is the worst thing about this story, so don’t let it dissuade you from imbibing in one of the most important Who stories ever created.

This is Who 101, and for anyone who cares to have a deeper understanding of how the mythology of the Time Lords was established, this is basic, must-see material. Noteworthy, possibly, is that it took the series 13 years to get to the point where someone (writer/script editor Robert Holmes) felt it was a good idea to delve this deeply into the society from where the Doctor originated. Prior to this, the workings of Gallifrey had only been glimpsed, shrouded in nebulous secrecy. But “The Deadly Assassin” came along and blew the whistle on the Doctor’s home planet, took away much of the mystery, and changed the underlying backbone of the series in ways that affect the core of Who to this day. Had it been a weak script, the mechanics of it may have ultimately been ignored, but instead it struck a chord and went on to become a benchmark tale in Who history. In an era when the show was routinely finding inspiration in classic horror and sci-fi films, it stood apart from the pack by unabashedly stealing elements from a political thriller: The Manchurian Candidate.

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

Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl

Before moving on to work for the other seminal British sci-fi series of the seventies, Blake’s 7, Chris Boucher wrote three stories for Doctor Who: “The Robots of Death,” a story that’s such a classic it was one of the very first Who DVDs released here in the States; “The Face of Evil,” which is a hugely underrated entry, and has yet to make it onto DVD; and his final contribution, “Image of the Fendahl,” a tale that must qualify as one of the most adult the show ever produced. Here’s a story that’s quite simply a refreshing change of pace for Doctor Who, and it has such a different feel than most of what was produced back in the day – a feel which both works for and against the story.

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

Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen

The 24th season of Doctor Who is pretty much agreed upon by most fans as the worst in the show’s history. Even those who defend the remainder of Sylvester McCoy’s era will be hard-pressed to come up with an argument that rationalizes otherwise. This was his freshman season, and not only did the production team seem to lack a grasp of what they wanted to do with the central character, but they weren’t doing much better in the story department. Further, the series was producing only four stories a season at this point, so a weak entry stood out far more than ever before, and Season 24 had more than one such offering. (It is, in fact, debatable that any of its stories even fall under the banner of “good.”) “Delta and the Bannermen” might be one of the season’s better entries, but only in an “it’s not quite as dreadful as some of the others” sort of way. I tried, I really tried – having not seen it in probably 20 years – to find the beauty in it this time around, but alas, it largely escaped me once again.

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

thirtysomething: The Complete First Season

In September of 1987, I was a couple months away from my 16th birthday, and you can be damned sure that there was no series on television that looked less interesting to me than thirtysomething. The title, which wasn’t exactly reaching out to my age group, was only part of the problem. The ads seemingly showcased a series about a group of yuppie scum of whom I had no interest whatsoever in following the adventures. So not only did I not watch the show in its first season, but I never even caught a single episode of it during its entire four-year run. But now I am thirtysomething – 37, in fact, which I believe makes me even a few years older than the show’s characters – and with this brand new DVD set and a gig as a reviewer of such material, it seemed like the time was right to give this show that earned my teenage scorn all those years ago a real chance.

What do you know? thirtysomething is actually pretty good stuff, and not at all comprised of the yuppie scum I’d always assumed – or, at least, not the yuppie scum I’d envisioned in my youth. I’m not sure that I even knew what a yuppie was when I was a teenager, only that they were not what I was supposed to turn into. It’s noteworthy that one of the show’s writers says in this set’s rather substantial extras section that the intention was never to make a show about yuppies; indeed, if someone had ever accused him of working on a show about yuppies, he probably would’ve punched them in the face.

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

Californication: The Second Season


If you pay any attention at all to celebrity gossip, then you know that David Duchovny checked himself into a facility to be treated for sex addiction last year. This happened right before the second season of Californication premiered on Showtime. Normally I wouldn’t mention such trivia in a DVD review, but given the promiscuous manner in which his character, Hank Moody, behaves in this series, it’s the obvious elephant in the room. Further, his most famous character, Fox Mulder (of The X-Files), had a fascination with pornography. Given these character stats, it’s now become impossible to entirely separate the dancer from the dance.

It’s not that one should judge any of the work that’s come before Duchovny’s real life problems, but what are we to expect from Hank in Season Three? If the character continues to go down the roads he’s previously traveled, it’s difficult to understand Duchovny as an actor, and any declarations he might make akin to “He’s just a guy I play on a TV show” are unlikely to alleviate the conundrum. Since he must have shot most – if not all of – Season Two before his problems were made public, the issue has less bearing on what’s presented here, but there’s no denying that the further you get sucked into the universe of Californication, you can’t help but wonder what the future will bring, what the whole thing’s really about, and whether or not Duchovny chose the role as an excuse to work through/explore personal issues.

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

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Last House on the Left

It used to be said that there were only two things you could count on in this life: death and taxes. We should probably go ahead and add remakes to the list. They’ve become a fact of life – something we cannot escape, no matter how hard we try and how much we complain. They just simply are. Great. Now that we’ve accepted that remakes are going to be a big part of moviegoing culture for the foreseeable future, we can get down to the business of figuring out which ones are good and which ones are not. Surprisingly, The Last House on the Left, a remake of Wes Craven’s 1972 debut, is actually one of the good ones. Not great, mind you, but good – especially when one considers the source material was flawed to begin with. The new movie, on which Craven has a producer credit, manages to actually outclass the original on numerous levels, although there are still a couple areas of the old movie (which was produced on a shoestring budget) that are more interesting than what’s presented here.

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

And click here to read a short review of Wes Craven's 1972 version of The Last House on the Left at Premium Hollywood.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Co-Starred in a Short Film with David Tennant







The title of this post is meant to grab your attention - and it also happens to have a grain of truth to it. The video above was taken at the BBC America party at TCA a couple weeks ago, and has now surfaced online. I was at the party, and you can see me in the background, to the left of Tennant's head, throughout the video. Jeanne is with me, as well. To the right of Tennant's head - and with far more prominent roles - is my Bullz-Eye editor Will Harris and his wife, Jennifer. See if you can also spot TV Guide's Matt Roush, BBC America head honcho Garth Ancier and Russell T Davies. Oh, I realize it isn't up there with even a below average episode of Doctor Who, but since nobody's been ringing my phone off the hook, offering me roles on the show, I'll have to settle for this very minor minute in the background of the spotlight.

Tennant was ridiculously in demand that night, and I only got to speak with him briefly toward the end of the party, and he actually remembered me from four years ago when we met, at which time he'd only been the Doctor for 30 seconds. I had longer conversations with Davies and Julie Gardner, and I spoke to Euros Lyn for a long time about the Torchwood mini, "Children of Earth." All in all, a fun night, and one I'll remember for years to come.

Coming soon: Russell T Davies stole my Patio Furniture!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth


Back when I wrote the review for Season Two of Torchwood, I threw out bold proclamations like “If this material doesn’t make you a fan, then nothing the series will ever do is likely to grab your attention,” and “it’s unlikely to ever reach such perfection again.” Before even the first hour of the miniseries “Children of Earth” was over, all those words felt hastily chosen. Here’s a show that has consistently gotten better and better with each passing block of episodes, and now, looking back at the antics of Season One (which I dearly loved at the time), the material presented three years ago seems rather silly in comparison to this masterpiece. This really is the must-see TV event of the year, and what a treat it is to be able to own it on DVD or Blu-ray so soon after its broadcast on BBC America. The even better news is that it’s fairly self-contained, so if you’ve never seen Torchwood before this, here’s an excellent jumping-off point, sure to leave you wanting more as the end credits roll.

The action turns on, as the title suggests, the children of the Earth, who one day begin speaking in unison: “We are coming. We are coming.” It lasts mere moments, and when it’s over, the children remember nothing. Needless to say, the planet shifts into full-on panic mode, and behind closed doors, the British government knows more than anyone else. Aliens known simply as the 456 are behind this, and they’ve visited once before in 1965, at which time they took 12 British children. Now they’re back, and they want more – a lot more.

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

Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead

There will probably be a time when “Planet of the Dead” doesn’t feel like such a colossal disappointment. When it can be grouped together and viewed alongside the three specials that follow it, it’ll likely be easier to appreciate what it amounts to, which is, as Russell T Davies has stated, “the last chance for the Tenth Doctor to have a good time.” The Doctor (David Tennant) does indeed have a splendid time in this outing, despite once again being thrust into a hopeless situation, but unfortunately, the viewer doesn’t fare so well. It’s not that “Planet of the Dead” is bad as much as it is total whiz-bang, balls-to-the-wall, non-stop eye-candy and action – which, for some people, will amount to bad. Thing is, it’s not actually any worse than any number of the other various action romps the new series has presented, but it doesn’t have the cushion of better stories surrounding it to fall back on. As the sole Who outing for a ten month period in 2009, one quite reasonably expected it to be something special, which it just simply isn’t.

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series


Humans create Cylons.

Cylons destroy most of humanity in a nuclear holocaust.

The survivors run from the Cylons in a creaky old spaceship, looking for the fabled planet Earth.

It’s funny, but for as complex a show as it often is, Battlestar Galactica can still be boiled down to the bare bones with those three sentences. Probably the greatest triumph of the series, though, is that it’s built around the two topics which are considered taboo for cocktail parties and dinner conversation: religion and politics. It’s entirely possible that such a series could only be successful under the banner of science fiction, and yet Galactica only uses the sci-fi label as a ruse to tell the kind of stories it wants to tell. Read between the lines: the show really isn’t like any other TV science fiction that’s come before it.

Of course, devotees of the original 1978 incarnation would be all too happy to explain how, without the groundwork Glen Larson laid, Ron Moore’s new version never could have existed. They may be right, but none of that would change the fact that, even as a Star Wars lovin’ kid, I always hated the ‘70s version. Even though it only lasted one season, it felt like it was on forever, a perception likely exacerbated by the Gods-awful Galactica 1980 series which followed it for a half a season. Somewhere out there, no doubt, there’s a kid who had the exact same reaction to the new version of the series, but that’s not because it’s bad. It’s because this isn’t a show for kids. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone under the age of 12 finding much of anything to enjoy about it. The stench of the original series stuck with me so thoroughly in my adult life, however, that it wasn’t until the second season was well under way that I broke down and gave the remake/reimagining/rehash a chance on DVD – mostly because it had been recommended to me over and over, and I figured I ought to give it a chance. Obviously, this anecdote has a predictable outcome: the show was actually good. No, it was better than good: it felt transcendent. Much of my reaction was due to watching it on DVD, and now that the entire thing is available in one massive package, you too can experience it on DVD or Blu-ray, which is by far the best way to imbibe in this show’s wares.

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

Life on Mars: Series One

There are police dramas that deliver far more engaging procedurals than Life on Mars. There are also time travel shows that offer up far more stimulating scenarios than Life on Mars. But there’s something about combining the two genres into one that makes you forget about all those other concepts, and leaves you convinced that you’re watching one of the most badass TV series you’ve seen in a good long while. Sam Tyler (John Simm) is a Detective Constable Inspector in 2006, until he’s randomly hit by a car. He’s then suddenly, inexplicably taken back in time to 1973, and the Bowie tune that was playing on his iPod at the time of the accident now plays on an 8-Track deck. His manner of dress has also changed to reflect the times. But most importantly, he’s gone down in rank – he’s now just a lowly Detective Inspector. Is Sam crazy? Has he actually travelled back in time? Or is he in a coma, and this is all some kind of elaborate dream? Most of the evidence suggests the latter.

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grey Gardens

When Grey Gardens premiered on HBO earlier this year, I was telling a friend how good it was and how he really needed to watch it. He refused on two counts, the first being a slavish devotion to the original documentary upon which it’s based, and the second being Drew Barrymore, whom he hyperbolically declared to be “everything that’s wrong with cinema today.” I spoke with him earlier this evening, before sitting down to write this review. Seems his girlfriend rented it over the weekend and he caved. Good thing, too, because he really enjoyed it and appears to have a newfound respect for Miss Barrymore, offering her the highest praise with the simplest of critiques: “She was Little Edie!”

While it helps from a contextual standpoint to have seen the 1975 doc of the same name, it isn’t necessary for an appreciation of Grey Gardens. Albert and David Maysles’ original piece was the 100-minute culmination of various interviews given to the brothers by Edith “Big Edie” Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale, who lived together in a decaying mansion in the East Hamptons. The name Bouvier is the key here: they are the aunt and cousin of one Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. The pair lived in squalor for decades, surrounded by cats and raccoons. When the National Enquirer exposed the situation in the early ‘70s, Jackie O. felt the need to help her relatives by fixing up the house and (presumably) providing them with some financial support. This is all dramatically reenacted in the film (Jeanne Tripplehorn cameos as Jackie O.), and it’s the real reason for making it in the first place: to give viewers a taste of the years and events that led up to the Beales as presented by the Maysles.

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

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Doctor Who: The Rescue / The Romans

As a Doctor Who fanatic, it always seems treacherous to admit that the William Hartnell era of the series is something I can take or leave. He is, after all, the first Doctor, and without the groundwork he laid through his portrayal, the show may not have lasted a season, never mind 46 years (and counting). Nevertheless, you’ll rarely find me waxing rhapsodic about the early years, because they were so very clearly aimed at children, and the pacing and production values reflect a series that was typically doing little more than entertaining the young ‘uns every Saturday afternoon. This was how Doctor Who started, and I understand that, but the truth is much of the Hartnell era is not particularly engaging TV by today’s standards. (Of course, I also understand that some would argue nothing within the first 26 years of the series is engaging by today’s standards, but they are, of course, wrong.)

Why all the qualifiers? Because “The Romans” reaches for something greater than most of the era in which it was produced.

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

Kath & Kim: Season One

If there was a network series more lambasted, loathed and condemned at the start of the Fall 2008 TV Season than Kath & Kim, I sure as hell can’t remember what it was. It seemed like this show earned the ire of nearly every TV critic out there. Thing is, I can’t figure out exactly why it was universally despised. Was it a general dislike of Molly Shannon? Admittedly, she’s hardly a draw for me. Do critics gather together and find at least one series that they can all agree is just plain awful? Surely it wasn’t a conspiracy. Or had the majority of them actually viewed the Australian series upon which it was based? That’s the only logical answer. I have not seen the Aussie version of Kath & Kim, but after viewing this set, the original must be a fantastic series. This American version is not fantastic, but it dances with greatness often enough that the material upon which it’s based has to be classic. I’ve seen enough American translations of foreign TV shows (usually British) to recognize great TV when I see it, even when it’s filtered through the watered-down lens of an American network remake.

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

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season Two

At the close of the first season of Secret Diary, the show looked as if it was set to deliver a far superior second season. While Season Two is an improvement on the first, the bad news is that the upgrade in no way rocks the foundations of the series. Season Two’s dramatic arc is nearly identical to what it’s already given us. It does lead to a considerably different outcome, yet one can’t shake the feeling that this is mostly a case of “been there, done that.” If the show can’t scale some risky heights in its sophomore outing, it probably never will. The good news is that it is much funnier when it needs to be, and much more dramatic when it’s required. Clearly this is never going to be a “great” show, yet it remains, at the very least, an entertaining one – as long you embrace the seedy, duplicitous adventures of a London whore.

Season One saw the unveiling of Belle the call girl/Hannah the person (Billie Piper), and explored the relationship with her best friend/ex-boyfriend Ben (Iddo Goldberg), and what happened when she let him into her world. Season Two sees Belle/Hannah falling for a new guy, Dr. Alex (Callum Blue, cue obscure “Orb” joke here). Of course, the hook is that she hides her profession from him for the first half of the season. (Sound familiar to you Diary vets?) Alex discovers Hannah’s secret life in Episode Five, and the series must be given kudos for finding an engaging, melodramatic way for this to unfold. Yet it does it in such a way that you’re forced to side with Hannah. Manipulative or smart? You’ll have to decide, as I’m on the fence.

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

Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen

I imagine the same can be said of many genre shows, but when you’re a fan of Doctor Who, there are always a few stories that you enjoy but the rest of fandom shuns. For me, “Attack of the Cybermen” is such an installment, and a big part of my appreciation for it comes from having viewed it repeatedly at a time in my life when I only had about five different Who stories on VHS. I know every beat of it as well as I know The Rocky Horror Picture Show. During those precious teenage years, criticism was much harder to come by than it is today, so I was blissfully unaware that “Attack” was unpopular with the fans. Having read plenty of critical pieces on it since then, I can sort of see where the distaste comes from, and yet it hasn’t really changed my feelings about the story. Sure, it’s far from a sterling example of the show, but it’s an immense amount of fun regardless.

Probably the most controversial aspect of the story – the one that folks rant about incessantly – is its over-reliance on continuity. It is true, “Attack of the Cybermen” is quite the fan-wankfest, and in order to get the most out of it, it helps to know some Cyber-history. For starters, it’s something of a sequel to 1968’s “Tomb of the Cybermen,” and along the way it also pays homage to the ‘60s serials “The Invasion” and “The Tenth Planet.” Further, there’s a major reference to the very first Who story ever, “An Unearthly Child,” and it brings back the character of Lytton (Maurice Colbourne), the intergalactic mercenary who’d worked for the Daleks in the previous season’s “Resurrection of the Daleks.” And just to make sure you’ve been paying attention all these years, it features the singular instance of the Doctor actually fixing the TARDIS’ chameleon circuit, so that for this story only, the exterior of the time/space machine changes to fit in with its surroundings (or not, as it turns out, but those are gags better left seen than talked about here).

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

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Doctor Who: The Next Doctor

Writing about the fourth Doctor Who Christmas Special is, admittedly, about as much fun as sitting down to eat a bowl of shredded wheat. I feel as though I’ve said everything there is to say about how these one-offs operate, and am not sure I can bring a whole lot that’s new to the table.

It’s unfortunate that I’m coming at this material from such a blasé angle, too, because “The Next Doctor” may actually be the best Christmas special Russell T Davies has yet unveiled. Then again, it may not – such is the luxury of using the word “may.” It’s certainly a vast improvement on 2007’s “Voyage of the Damned,” although it wouldn’t be tough to improve upon that story. Watching David Tennant decorate a fucking tree for an hour would be more entertaining than another bombastic adventure set to the same tune as “Damned.” Luckily, “The Next Doctor” is a sweetly inspired piece of entertainment that goes to show that maybe, just maybe, there’s actually some life left in this yearly offering that aims to do nothing more than provide a little something for families to gather around the tube and enjoy together after they’ve feasted on a fine meal of turkey or ham or whatever it is people in Britain eat for Christmas dinner.

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here and visiting The House Next Door.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For the record...

...I would like for it to be known that on 6/25/09, Ross Ruediger came up with the following quote:

"In the future, a celebrity will die every fifteen minutes."

This is going to be used over and over in the coming years, and I feel the need to stake my claim on it while it's still fresh.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wallander

There are two bold strokes with which Wallander, a BBC produced crime series, is painted that set it apart from most other TV fare. The first is its intoxicating, borderline hallucinatory photography, which will grab your attention in the opening frames. A girl pushes her way through a golden field of crops carrying a plastic container of liquid. A car, driven by Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh), speeds down the highway toward a farm. He pulls up and the farmer points to the field. “She’s out there.” He hands Wallander a pair of binoculars. “You see her?” Wallander makes his way through the dense field of yellow. The closer he gets, the more frightened the girl becomes. When he’s but a few feet from her, she opens the container and douses herself with gasoline, sets herself on fire, and explodes in a ball of flame. Wallander’s jaw hits the ground. He cannot believe what he’s just witnessed. Later on, when one of his fellow detectives suggests moving on from the suicide, since there’s no real crime involved, Wallander himself explodes, “A 15-year-old girl sets herself on fire and you don’t think it’s a crime!?” It’s something of an uncharacteristic moment for the normally subdued man, who keeps his emotions bottled up inside. Indeed, the only time his feathers ever seem to ruffle is in matters of pursuing justice.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Hunger: The Complete First Season

Sex and death have a long, rich history of being cinematically intertwined. Sometimes, such as in Tony Scott’s 1983 movie The Hunger, it’s presented in a deep, artistic manner. Other times, such as in any given Friday the 13th movie, it’s as simple as “you get laid and you die.” This anthology series, produced by Tony and his brother Ridley, has nothing to do with the film from ’83, which is infinitely superior to anything presented here. It’s probably not fair to compare half-hour TV episodes to a feature film – and yet, before sitting down to write this review, I had my umpteenth viewing of Hellraiser, a movie that should have its own chapter in the book of sex and death. After watching the Clive Barker masterpiece, I realized how lackluster this series really was, having spent the last week slowly wading through it and making mental apologies for the material along the way.

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Laugh? I Thought I'd Die" - 15 Funny(?) Vampire Films

Vampires are often painted as dark, sinister characters with a penchant for gothic fashion and a taste for blood that can never be fully quenched. Granted, their nature doesn't necessarily lend itself to being a laugh riot, but once in a while, we're gifted with bloodsuckers who can see the funny side of their affliction…or if they can't, then at least the viewers can. (For instance, True Blood sure as hell isn't a comedy, but if you caught the Season 2 premiere, you saw a truly hilarious scene where a new vampire took a blood taste test to determine which type she prefers.) Bullz-Eye decided to take a trip back through the mists of time to reinvestigate some of the more comedic explorations into the curse of vampirism, skipping over a couple of ostensible classics – neither The Lost Boys nor From Dusk 'Til Dawn are here – in favor of some interesting obscurities that may not have crossed your radar.

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

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vanilla Sky

When Cameron Crowe unleashed Vanilla Sky on unsuspecting audiences back in 2001, few were prepared for it, especially considering that it bore little resemblance to anything else in his ongoing tapestry of work. No doubt the phrase “From the director of Jerry Maguire” was bandied about at the time, but anyone expecting to be shown the money, instead showed up and saw heartbreak, pain and a jagged, dreamlike storyline. Is it possible that Vanilla Sky is director Crowe’s masterpiece? It’s probably unfair to say that it is, given that it's a remake of the Spanish film Abre Los Ojos. But does that make Vanilla Sky any less of a movie, especially to someone who’s never seen the original? If nothing else, Crowe must be commended for cramming his pop culture stamp into every available crevice of the story. In doing so, he made it his own, while still being entirely true to the original concept, which is no mean feat in the world of Hollywood remakes.

Tom Cruise plays 33-year old David Aames, the heir to a powerful publishing empire. Here’s a guy who’s pretty much had everything handed to him his entire life; work must be pried out of him. He’s got looks, money, people waiting on him hand and foot, and he even manages to keep Cameron Diaz around as nothing more than a fuck buddy. When you can keep Cameron Diaz on that dubious a leash, you can probably have anything you want, on whatever terms you want. It’s difficult to like the grinning golden boy David for the first 45 minutes of the movie. He’s smug, successful, self-assured, good-looking - in a lot of ways, Aames is Tom Cruise, although it’s a stretch to say the actor and the character have much more in common than the obvious superficial similarities. (If nothing else, one can never say Cruise hasn't worked hard for his achievements.)

But then an ugly tragedy befalls David, and he emerges a changed man on nearly every level. His face is physically disfigured and his self worth is eroded. It’s at this point in the movie that you realize just how smart the entire concept really is, because what can be a braver move on the part of a filmmaker working with Cruise than to remove the actor’s famous smile? No matter what you may think of Aames for the first part of Vanilla Sky, you can’t help but feel for him at this point. Just as the tale looks to have become so dark that you simply want to look away, the clouds part and the sun begins shining again, due in no small part to Penélope Cruz’s Sofia, a character who provides the film with numerous bits of perfect dialogue, but perhaps none as profound as “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.” Vanilla Sky is a movie in constant states of turnaround, and there are even more shocking reveals further down the line. Who is the mysterious Ellie? What are the flash-forward scenes of Aames, covered in a strange mask, and talking to a prison psychiatrist (Kurt Russell), all about? What does a ubiquitous dog - who was frozen for three months and then brought back to life - have to do with everything?

Over the years, the movie hasn’t been given its proper due, and it’s easy to see why. It’s an often times uncomfortable viewing experience, but ultimately it reveals itself to be a life-affirming thing of beauty. The science fiction elements that crop up in the last 20 minutes are perhaps a little more convoluted than they need to be, and if one dissects the mechanics of the plot too thoroughly, it can be a frustrating experience. But to do so is the wrong way to watch this movie that’s all about emotion and ideas. I stopped trying to make perfect sense of it around the third viewing and accepted it on the terms on which it was reaching out to me. And it can and will work for you, too, provided you go in with an open mind and heart. Oh, and then there’s the soundtrack, which is most certainly the best of Crowe’s career: the perfect melding of movie and music, and a collection of tunes that I still frequently listen to nearly eight years after first picking up the CD. Finally there’s Cruise. This take-no-prisoners, emotionally-draining performance is easily one of his boldest, and it’s been the only one that’s required him to check his vanity at the door. That alone may mean that Crowe performed a minor miracle.

Watch this movie online at iReel.com.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Land of the Lost - Season Three: Enik the Dick


The third and final season of Land of the Lost is often considered the ugly, misshapen, redheaded bastard stepchild of the series. Indeed, if the 13 episodes of which it consists were the only Land of the Lost ever created, the show would have been long since forgotten. But it’s worth mentioning that the initial impetus for doing this three part retrospective came from the desire to come to the defense of Season Three, and try to give a little bit of respect to the episodes that are routinely shunned even by the people who display their love of this show as a badge of honor.

Season Three again saw shifts in the production team, and even more noticeably, in front of the camera. As I understand it, Spencer Milligan couldn’t reach an amicable contract agreement and so he abruptly left the show. With his departure came new lyrics for the opening credits:


Will and Holly Marshall
As the earth beneath them trembled
Lost their father through the door of time
Uncle Jack went searching
And found those kids at last
Looking for a way to escape
From the Land of the Lost

Uncle Jack replaced Ranger Rick, and he was played by Ron Harper, best known to genre fans as astronaut Alan Virdon in the TV series incarnation of Planet of the Apes. He was a true uncle, rather than a father – instead of being preachy and bestowing wisdom, he was more often than not a man of action; a guy trying to get things done. I like Ron Harper, and if there’s a reason I’ve got some love for Season Three, much of it’s due to his presence. Would Spencer Milligan’s Rick have been as believable in many of these situations? Likely not. He’d accrued too much info during his time in the Land for these stories to work. In contrast, Uncle Jack was experiencing this madness through fresh eyes, and so he was more accepting.

Behind the scenes, Jon Kubichan and Sam Roeca took over as producer and story editor respectively, and between the two of them, they scripted the majority of the season. Their vision of the series was quite the departure from the two seasons that came before. Nearly everything - including the iconic elements such as the Sleestak, the Pakuni and the ubiquitous dinosaurs - got a major overhaul.

Find out how Land of the Lost ends by clicking here to read the rest of this piece at Premium Hollywood.