Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Doctor Who: Frontios & Time and the Rani

It’s been said by more than one person that Peter Davison didn’t “find” the Fifth Doctor until his final story, “The Caves of Androzani.” That is, of course, utter codswallop, but to those who do believe it, I point you in the direction of “Frontios,” which shows Davison giving one of the strongest performances of his tenure.

The TARDIS has drifted into the far, far future and come upon the planet Frontios, where the last remnants of the human race have taken up residence (it possibly takes place after the new series episode, “The End of the World”). They’ve been there for over 50 years, barely hanging on, and seemingly in the midst of a long-term war with invisible invaders from the stars. During a meteor bombardment of the planet’s surface, the TARDIS is forced to make a landing. Because the colony is so fresh and their situation so precipitous, the Doctor (Davison) must be careful in his interference, and he makes the point time and again that should anyone ask, “We were never here.” Exactly who’s attacking Frontios, why is Turlough (Mark Strickson) raving like a madman, and how come Tegan’s (Janet Fielding) ass never looked like that before?

Obviously, that last remark was meant to provoke a laugh, but it’s true: Fielding’s black leather ‘80s mini-skirt looks mighty tight in “Frontios.” Tegan’s a companion that never really gets her “sexy due,” but between a story like this and the recently released Mara double feature, maybe it’s time to do a little retro-salivation. Look past her bitchiness and behold the bitch. Turlough also gets some good screen time, as yet another piece of his character puzzle is put into place, and, as previously stated, Davison is in prime form taking charge and cracking wise. One of the tale’s best jokes comes from the Doctor trying to pass Tegan off as a somewhat defective android: “I got this one cheap because the walk’s not quite right.” It doesn’t hurt that he’s working from an ambitious script by Chris Bidmead, as demonstrated by the fact that, perhaps more than anything else, this is the story known as “the one where the TARDIS blows up.” (This was years before Steven Moffat blew it up again.)

Read the rest of this DVD review, as well as a few thoughts on the "Time and the Rani" DVD by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Louie: The Complete First Season

On more than one occasion I’ve seen Louie described as depressing, and if it’s said by more than two people, maybe there’s some truth to it. I like to think of it as more along the lines of uncomfortable, but any way you slice it, it probably isn’t the kind of show destined for marathon viewings. Two or three episodes in a row are plenty for one day. But therein lies some of its genius, as this is a thinking person’s comedy series, and rarely does it aim for disposable “yuk yuk” laughs.

Louis C.K. tried series television once before with Lucky Louie on HBO, a series that’s as different from this one as Full House is from Arrested Development. That show was canceled after only one season, but if C.K. keeps doing on FX what he’s doing here, this one could go on for years. Outside of the central character being a stand-up comic and a divorced father of two daughters, there is no solid premise to the show, so there isn’t really anything to wear out over the long haul. Each episode features one or two ideas that C.K. describes as “stuff that doesn’t fit into my [stage] show.” Occasionally these ideas stem from him being divorced or a comic or a single dad, but mostly they just emerge from him being a middle-aged man fraught with insecurity. The show is brutally honest and there are episodes that cross over into dramatic territory by not actually being funny at all. That’s not to imply that the jokes fall flat, just that the material goes into too dark an area to even be considered comedy in these moments.

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

Monday, June 06, 2011

A History of Ultraviolence

Ultraviolence – the word, not the idea – was invented in 1962 when Anthony Burgess published his novel, A Clockwork Orange. While the book may have raised some eyebrows, reading about the atrocities perpetrated by teen thug Alex and his droogies was one thing; seeing them committed to the big screen by master cinema stylist Stanley Kubrick was quite another. Allegations of copycat crimes followed and the controversy eventually grew so frightening that the film was withdrawn from circulation in England for 27 years, apparently at Mr. Kubrick's request. Meanwhile in the U.S., it was one of only two productions to receive both an X rating and a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Today, we have another word for "ultraviolence" – just another Saturday night at the movies.

Now that a new 40th Anniversary Blu-ray edition of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange is upon us, it seems like a good time to take a look back at what was once considered extreme film violence and what still is considered the outer limits of what you can, or should want to, show on a motion picture or television screen. Yes, graphic violence in major productions had been exploding since the moment Alfred Hitchcock blindsided audiences with the Psycho shower scene in 1960. It would take some time before the kind of extreme shocks once sought out only by the hardiest of grindhouse horror fans could be seen by anyone with a subscription to basic cable.

Stay with us now, as somewhat squeamish but ever-fascinated cinema chicken Bob Westal and hardened connoisseur of the horrific Ross Ruediger take you on a journey through movies that were once called "ultraviolent," movies that are still pretty ultraviolent, and movies that are something well past that. We'll move from a time when the death of a couple of pretty and sympathetic gangsters shocked the sensibilities of many, to the present moment when truly shocking an audience seems to require an ultra-twisted imagination. Viddy this.

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