Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A chat with Lenora Crichlow of Being Human

The lovely Lenora Crichlow is mostly unknown to U.S. audiences, unless of course you’re a fan of the BBC America series Being Human (Saturdays at 9PM). Crichlow plays one third of a trio of roommates comprised of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost. The striking actress [dis]embodies the latter - the spirit of Annie Sawyer, doomed to an afterlife of making tea and wearing the same eternal grey outfit. And yet in Crichlow’s performance there’s hope for something better, as Annie tries to make it in a world she shouldn’t even exist in, alongside her two best friends. Lenora took time out in between shooting Season Three and heading off to Comic-Con to talk to Bullz-Eye about what sets Being Human apart from other supernatural fare, the ongoing progression of the concept, and her phantasmagorical Uggs.

Lenora Crichlow: The thing is, Being Human does just what it says on the cover. In most of these vampire shows and werewolf shows – supernatural shows in general – there’s some kind of, at the essence of the show, a real celebration of their supernatural selves. The vampires and the werewolves are really glorified (although I haven’t seen Twilight) and I think Being Human’s stance is struck so differently because it actually comes from a place where the ultimate for these characters would be to be human again. Every single supernatural issue that comes up can quickly lead back to something within the human condition. Even though it is a supernatural show, it just gives the whole thing layers. The characters of Annie, George and Mitchell were originally written without being a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire, so the characters are very fully developed. It has a huge amount of comedy in it, it has amounts of angst, mystery and drama, but at the heart of the show I think you’ve got three very well-rounded human characters, which is something that whether you’re into sci-fi or not you can tap into and relate to. I love the show and I love being in the show and I think as an actress it certainly gives me a lot more to play with when I can bring everything I play with Annie right back home and right back down to earth, and you know, sort of grounded in some sense of reality. I don’t know how good I’d be at being too much out there. As fun as it is, it really does ground the show – the fact that they’re all trying to be human. That’s the show’s selling point and uniqueness.

The above is an excerpt from a much longer interview I did with Lenora. Read the entire piece by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Rhoda: Season Three

Rhoda was an incredibly successful series during its first two seasons. It was, in fact, a top ten show, going so far as to best its parent series, Mary Tyler Moore, in the ratings. And yet, as I understand it, the writers found it difficult to write for Rhoda (Valerie Harper) as a married woman. So at the start of Season Three they made an incredibly radical move for the time – they separated Rhoda from her husband, Joe (David Groh). Audiences were appalled, I guess because in 1976 those kinds of things just didn’t happen on TV. The ratings plummeted. Presumably, producers James L. Brooks and Allan Burns didn’t care, because the couple, despite some attempts to make it work, never got back together. And you really have to admire that kind of brashness on the part of Brooks and Burns, don’t you? It was probably a first that something of this ilk was explored on primetime American TV – and if it wasn’t, it had to have been the first time something like this happened to a beloved lead character whom the audience had, between the two series, known for six years.

I’d been somewhat led to understand that the material suffered as a result; surprisingly, that’s not even remotely the case. With Season Three, “Rhoda” remains at least as strong as in its previous seasons, if not a little bit a cut above. In my previous reviews of this series, I’ve made mention of how poorly written Joe Gerard’s character is, and it’s worth repeating. It’s a shame, too, because David Groh is a fine actor, who got saddled with lame material to play, and the events of this season certainly don’t do Joe any favors. The first episode of the season is called “The Separation,” and the show doesn’t waste any time getting down to business. It begins with Joe playing passive-aggressive games involving the couple buying a house which Rhoda desperately wants.

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

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Doctor Who: The Big Bang

And so we come to yet another season finale of the greatest science fiction series ever created. This is the recap I’ve been both anticipating and dreading writing in equal parts since first seeing “The Big Bang” some weeks ago; anticipating because of how much I adored this finale, and dreading because there’s no way I can do it justice in a mere recap. It’s not even an issue of space or time (or is it?), it’s a matter of the story, as well as the 12 episodes prior to it, being too dense to dissect thoroughly. You’ll have to forgive that this doesn’t resemble a recap proper, and I instead ramble on about other issues.

I didn’t go into “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang” expecting a whole lot, conditioned as I am on Russell T Davies’s extravagant-yet-ultimately-lightweight season finales. Don’t get me wrong, they were most always a great deal of fun, but they most always left me somewhat wanting – excepting Season Three’s Master trilogy, although I’m not sure that’s in line with popular opinion. Oh, and “The Parting of the Ways.” Wait a minute…I loved most of his finales! But I often felt as if they didn’t go as far as they could. Part of the way through the current season the Pandoricrack, as I’ve come to call it, started to annoy me, and I began not so much resenting the thread, but rather simply dismissing it – assuming that whatever it was about wouldn’t be terribly thrilling. It turned out to be not only thrilling, but strange and deep and stimulating. This was Steven Moffat’s trademark “Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey” taken up to 11. (Maybe next year will go to 12?) This two-part finale forces viewers to go back and reexamine most of the season, and that isn’t something that can really be said for the Davies finales, which isn’t to imply they’re inferior. More on that later…

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Being Human: Season One

A TV series that in a one sentence pitch can be most easily described as “a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost all live together in the same house” must surely be a comedy, right? Well yes, and no. Being Human certainly has comedic elements, but they’re rarely of the “yuk-yuk” variety. It is in fact difficult to pigeonhole the series with a label. Is it horror? Comedy? Drama? It’s all those and probably more. And lest you think it’s schizophrenic in its presentation, that’s hardly the case. Being Human juggles all of these labels so efficiently that it probably deserves a new category all its own.

Now this isn’t to imply that Being Human is a work of pure genius, just that it’s adept in its mission. A massive stumbling block for me, that may afflict plenty a potential viewer, comes from the vampire and werewolf angles. Straight up – I am utterly sick to death of vampires and werewolves. Between True Blood and Twilight alone, you can’t turn on your TV, go to the multiplex, or even log onto Facebook without being inundated by both fang and full moon. Where were all these people when I stood proud and alone at the age of 10 in the school playground, boldly proclaiming my admiration for Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr., only to be heckled by my peers? Must these concepts be littered with ample doses of sex and romance in order to attract the masses? Apparently so. Being Human uses a bit of that as well, but not nearly as much as you’d expect from a series featuring vampires and werewolves, and its primary focus is instead on the building blocks of an unlikely kinship between its three protagonists.

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

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens

From the very first scene, “The Pandorica Opens” is an ominous piece of work. France, 1890. Vincent van Gogh (Tony Curran) writhes in mental torment, presumably in the last days of his life. It appears that he actually did paint another piece, and it’s somehow tied to the Doctor. After the Doctor and Amy left Vincent at the close of “Vincent and the Doctor,” the Time Lord asserted that “we definitely added to his pile of good things.” Maybe they did, but it appears they added to his pile of bad things, as well. The implication even seems to be that by introducing Vincent to his universe, the Doctor may have played an inadvertent role in the artist’s suicide. Dark stuff indeed. But what is the painting? Bam! All of a sudden we jump to London in 1941 and we’re with Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) and Professor Bracewell (Bill Paterson), who now have the van Gogh painting. Bracewell insists that it’s Churchill’s job to deliver the art. Bam! A containment facility in 5145. River Song (Alex Kingston) is on the receiving end a phone call from Churchill meant for the Doctor. Swiftly she makes an escape thanks to the hallucinogenic lipstick. Bam! The Royal Collection, still in 5145. Presumably we’re back onboard the Starship U.K. and the van Gogh painting waits for River, having been added to the collection by Churchill 3200 years prior. Liz Ten (Sophie Okonedo) makes a reappearance. Bam! Still in 5145, River blackmails an alien dealer into giving her a vortex manipulator. Through this series of efficient sequences, it’s as if Steven Moffat is asking, “Have I got your attention now?” He most certainly does.

In the TARDIS, Amy (Karen Gillan) ponders the wedding ring, while the Doctor (Matt Smith) hatches a plan to take her to the oldest planet in the universe to see the oldest piece of writing, which is chiseled onto a cliff face. The TARDIS doors open and the translators show that the words as “Hello Sweetie.” Bam! Britain, 102 AD. The TARDIS arrives in front of a Roman army, and Amy mentions that Roman soldiers were her favorite topic in school. A soldier, whose face is smeared with lipstick, mistakes the Doctor for Caesar and takes the pair to see Cleopatra, whom River is impersonating. Finally we get to see the painting, which shares its name with this episode, and it’s a vision of the exploding TARDIS, painted exactly as we’d imagine van Gogh would paint such a vision. (Surely poster prints of this will be available for fans to hang on their walls any day now? I know I’d buy one.) Finally, seven minutes into the episode, we get the opening credits.

And thus begins what’s easily the most ambitious setup for a season finale the new series has yet done. “The Pandorica Opens” is positively cinematic in scope, direction, editing and, of course, writing. These setup installments were never this good in the Davies era, and it’s almost a shame it isn’t the season finale proper, as it would be an unbearable, months-long wait to see the resolution to everything this episode does. It would be the Doctor Who equivalent of Part One of “The Best of Both Worlds,” which ended the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact it’s somewhat strange that Doctor Who – a show infamous for its end of episode cliffhangers – has yet to end a season on any kind of serious hang (stuff like regenerations or Donna suddenly appearing in the TARDIS doesn’t really count). The feeling I got watching “The Pandorica Opens” is the exact same feeling I got while watching the last 20 minutes of “Utopia” from Season Three – only this thing kept up that level of intensity for nearly a whole hour.

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

Monday, July 12, 2010

Doctor Who: The Lodger

Each season of the new Doctor Who has one or two “experimental” episodes – stories that just don’t feel like anything that’s come before. Thus far, most – if not all – of these stories have been successes. “Boom Town,” “Love & Monsters,” “Blink,” “Turn Left,” and “Midnight” have arguably been highlights in each of their seasons. It’s noteworthy that all but one of those was written by Russell T. Davies (and of course the one that wasn’t, “Blink,” was written by Steven Moffat). Davies seemed to be giving himself chances to think outside the [police?] box, and do something radical and different with the series on each occasion. I’m still not sure whether “Amy’s Choice” (which, like this one, was also directed by Catherine Moreshead) should be lumped into this group, but surely “The Lodger” is oddball enough to add to the list. So how does it stack up?

Well, it’s worth pondering why the story was made in the first place. For starters, it was very likely a chance to save some money. Aside from the episode’s climax, most of this tale is just people involved in seemingly everyday situations. But I think maybe there was more to it than just saving cash. Aside from “Boom Town,” the aforementioned stories were all designed to give the lead actors breaks. Given that this was the inaugural season of a new era for the show, it probably would have been a risky move to write the Doctor and Amy out for the bulk of a story, so instead what “The Lodger” does is remove Karen Gillan for most of the episode, while allowing Matt Smith the chance to chill out and just banter with James Corden (Gavin & Stacey) for an hour. Oh, and he also gets to play football, but since Smith has a history with the game, that probably wasn’t too taxing for him – the guy looks like he had a blast in that scene. Yes, for those of you who don’t know, Matt Smith once upon a time had dreams of being footballer, but a back injury led to him taking up acting instead.

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

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Doctor Who: The Time Monster

Given that there was such a dearth of new Jon Pertwee releases over the last couple years, the classic Doctor Who DVD range has more than made up for the oversight this year. Between the outstanding “Dalek War” box set and the middling “Peladon” stories, it’s been quite the ride for fans of the Third Doctor (although there are numerous great Pertwee tales that have yet to make it to the silver platter). Somewhere in between the aforementioned concepts resides the final story of Season Nine, “The Time Monster,” which, for a series that so heavily relies on both time travel and monsters, is either a brilliant title or a stupid one.

The Master (Roger Delgado) is using the alias Professor Thascalos at the Newton Research Unit at Cambridge University. He’s experimenting with time via an ornate crystal and a machine called TOM-TIT (alright, have you got the giggles out of your system?). TOM-TIT stands for Transmission of Matter through Interstitial Time, which is more impressive than the acronym. What is Interstitial Time you ask? It’s the bit that comes between “now” and “now,” or so the story explains. Somewhere in this hazy netherworld exists creatures called Chronovores – time eaters, an idea which was years later explored by Paul Cornell in the new series episode “Father’s Day.” Apparently, the winged, starkly white Chronos is the strongest of them all, but what does any of this have to do with Atlantis? Quite a bit, or so it seems, since the last two episodes of this six-parter take place in the doomed, mythical city.

There’s an awful lot going on in “The Time Monster” (probably too much) and the entire Atlantean subplot should’ve been scrapped altogether, but then there wouldn’t have been enough story to fill all six installments. Regardless, take the mythical stuff out of the equation, and you end up with one of the series’ more complex meditations on time. Each episode offers up some new zinger or angle through which the ideas are explored. Granted, some of it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and the ride isn’t altogether cohesive, but it’s a ride nonetheless. The team of regulars seems to be having quite a bit of fun at this stage of the Pertwee game – sometimes maybe even too much, as this story has a few unnecessary comedic flourishes, and yet there’s nothing that ever really damages the overall integrity (such as it is) of the goings-on.

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

Doctor Who: The Horns of Nimon & Underworld

Following producer Philip Hinchcliffe’s nearly perfect era of Doctor Who was never going to be an easy task for anyone, but it fell upon Graham Williams to take the job. His three years on the series are pretty uneven, but that’s not to say that he didn’t occasionally produce a gem here and there. Here are two stories from his era that together are a pretty good representation of its highs and lows. Both were released in the U.K., along with “The Time Monster,” in a box set called “Myths and Legends.” The set was named as such because the three stories have ties to classic myths, but really it was just a mildly clever way of boxing up three stories that consumers would have little interest in buying individually. Here in the States, the box has been nixed, so we’re allowed to pick and choose as we like.

In “The Horns of Nimon,” the TARDIS crashes into a space freighter carrying some precious cargo to the planet Skonnos. Apparently, the Skonnon Empire has seen better days, and so one of its leaders, Soldeed (Graham Crowden), has struck a deal with a strange, horned creature called the Nimon, who resides in a labyrinthine power complex within the planet. In exchange for teenagers from the nearby planet Aneth, the Nimon has promised Soldeed that it will help him restore Skonnos to its former glory. And what self-aggrandizing despot wouldn’t go for a deal like that? The Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward) and K-9 (voiced by David Brierly for Season 17 only) discover the Nimon isn’t being entirely up front with Soldeed, and intends to take over the whole of the planet when the time is right. Naturally, the two Time Lords can’t allow that to happen.

Read the rest of the DVD review for "Nimon" along with the review for "Underworld" by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Doctor Who: The Space Museum & The Chase

Before moving on to the stories themselves, let’s go ahead and get the ugliness out of the way, because there’s no point in dancing around the septic tank with a bouquet of flowers. For perhaps the first time on DVD, a Doctor Who story is being presented in an edited form, and it’s got nothing to do with anything other than copyright issues. The edit occurs in the first episode of “The Chase.” The Doctor (William Hartnell) has acquired a device called the Time Space Visualizer, and as its name suggests, it’s basically a TV that can tune into any event in time and space. First the TARDIS crew checks out Abraham Lincoln, then Queen Elizabeth chatting up William Shakespeare, and finally they watch the Beatles perform “Ticket to Ride.” Or rather they used to, because the Beatles segment has been edited completely from this disc. This isn’t the first time the Fab Four have caused problems for the Who DVD range, but the last time, in “Remembrance of the Daleks,” it was only their sounds that had to be edited out, or replaced as it were. No such luck here – two minutes of story is just plain gone.

Now admittedly, if you’ve never seen the episode before, it’s highly unlikely that you’d even notice something was missing. But for those of us who have seen it? The pain! “The Chase” isn’t all that great of a story to begin with, and now it’s got one less item to add to the list of positives. For years, I’ve always thought of this story as “the one with the Beatles.” Now it’ll be known as “the one that they edited.” It’s hardly an important scene, and it doesn’t affect the story, but it was rather charming and had a couple nice lines of dialogue, particularly when Vicki (Maureen O’Brien), the girl from the future says, “They’re marvelous, but I didn’t know they played classical music.” To add insult to injury, as I understand it, it’s entirely possible this could’ve been avoided altogether if certain fans hadn’t gotten into a tizz when this disc was announced and made a stink that pretty much amounted to “Are they going to cut the Beatles scene?” According to a post Steve Roberts of the Restoration Team made some time ago on a message board, if they’d simply kept their mouths shut, it probably would’ve slipped through the cracks and nobody would’ve been any the wiser. Sometimes it actually pays to keep quiet. On to the stories…

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