Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Don't Believe Everything You See on Facebook, Issue #1

Oh, how I'd love to get behind this one, if not for the fact that the person who put it together was obviously stoned (in light of this, who knows if the facts are even correct?). Bad spelling, awful grammar, and terrible punctuation. This is an online nightmare. What's most amazing is that marijuana is spelled correctly not once, but twice! Anytime these little placards fail to get the basics right, I loathe them even if I agree with the message. Don't encourage bad writers to keep doing this stuff by passing their handiwork around! 

This one I totally agree with in sentiment, but the way it’s put together rather kills the whole point, because it’s an apples vs. oranges comparison. There’s no question that women are sold a “look” these days that’s unhealthy to attempt to reach and certainly to maintain. Necrophiliacs aside, few would find the top row attractive, which is why, on the surface, this works. But those pictures are stalkery, paparazzi-type shots.* Those women did not choose to be photographed in those positions, in those moments. They aren’t meant to be seen like this. This is seriously trying to convince me that Keira Knightly isn’t a bangable babe, yet I know better, because I’ve, like, watched her movies. With proper lighting and camera angles, they look fine, because that’s the business they’re in. The real problem is that everyone thinks they have to look like a movie star or a model these days to be considered attractive.

Conversely, the photos on the bottom row are clearly shot by professional photographers under ideal circumstances, so of course they’re more pleasing to ogle. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that they’re rubenesque or curvy or whatever term you want to use to describe them. I’m sure there was a surplus of moments in Marilyn Monroe’s life in which she looked like utter hell – it’s just that the paparazzi didn’t exist back then (at least not in the way they do today) to capture those looks. There also wasn’t much of an audience for that sort of gawking back then. People enjoyed believing the illusion of beauty more, I think, so they weren't so quick to tear it down. The top row of photos exists only because there’s now a public desire to drag our fantasy icons down to our level so we might feel better about ourselves, especially if it means making an actress like Kirsten Dunst look bad in the process. It needn’t exist if we simply recognize that we live in reality, and these people present us with illusion, and ne’er shall the two meet.   

*Or at least three of them are – who knows what that stupid bitch Heidi is up to? That girl could be photographed taking a massive dump and she’d be elated that someone was interested in what she was doing.

Folks still use the whole “let’s compare those who disagree with us to Hitler” tactic! It'd be amazing if it weren't so silly. This was huge a year or two ago with Obama, which showed how out of ideas his opponents really were. Indeed, stooping to the level of comparing the opposition to Hitler means you've lost your argument. Yeah, whoever put this doozy together is comparing the pro-choice movement to Adolph Hitler, and they have the gall to back it up with a quote from Dr. King. Because Hitler molested kitty cats and puppy dogs and King shit rose petals everywhere he went. This is a perfect quote for these people to use to try to get their point across, because it ignores all the variables in between their black and white view of the world. They’re welcome to it. It’s less offensive than it is predictable and boring, which is pretty much how I see rabid pro-lifers at this point. For those who are interested in the text these words came from (which of course had nothing to do with abortion), you can find it here, in King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

This is one of the most unnerving bits I’ve seen on Facebook. Look closely at the photo. Study it for a bit. See it? Hint: It’s almost dead center.

Most people freak out over this. I'll admit it: I did, too. But why? It's not the fucking Ring 3. So there’s a black girl hiding between two Asian girls, and she managed to get into the shot. My reaction to this photo makes me feel incredibly racist. The only reason it’s at all scary is because she’s dark. Honestly, I don’t know what else there is to say, except that this photo should maybe be used as a litmus test to figure out how far we really haven’t come in the past 100 years as a society. Does it freak out black folks, too? If it does, is it then fine?


Speaking of being freaked out by black folks, this is problematic on several levels, but mostly it's grounded in no version of reality that any thinking person will acknowledge exists. To wit, I also don’t believe anyone who dares to pass this around is thinking about what the message here is when they’re sharing it. This is the snarky, online equivalent of the ostrich burying its head in the sand. (Careful about how you laugh, lest you choke on the sand.)

What folks who insist on passing this sort of thing around don’t realize - whilst giggling amongst themselves at the “funny,” or even worse, actually believing that there’s any truth to it - is that it’s this attitude that could very probably lead to the end of their party. It lends them zero credibility and speaks to the one thing that’s going to be the undoing of the Republican party, and that’s that it no longer stands for anything. Republicans don’t appear to like anything, or even believe in anything anymore. All they know how to do is oppose, and unfortunately that just isn’t the reality of the world we live in any longer. It’s not enough to oppose; folks gotta be doers as well.

So if this photoshopped bit of nonsense really means anything at all, the rubble Obama is surveying is the wreckage of the Republican party itself. And that’s sad, because this country needs them. We need differing points of view – debate! - to keep the U.S. moving forward. But a debate cannot merely consist of, in the immortal words of Messrs. M. Python, “the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.” For it to work, it must be “a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.” It isn’t just saying “no it isn’t.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Godzilla: The Criterion Blu-ray

My history with Godzilla (1954) is all but non-existent. The last time I saw the film – the American version known as Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, starring Raymond Burr – I was probably nine and it was on TV on a Saturday afternoon. So far back was this, and so ignorant was I, that upon receiving this Blu-ray, I was mildly shocked to learn that the movie was in black and white, and not in color as I’d (for whatever dubious reasons) remembered it! Obviously I’d never seen the original Japanese version of the film - how few Americans have? – nor, up until this disc was announced, did I even know it existed. So yeah, that’s heaping loads of in the dark, isn’t it? Especially for a movie guy like me. What can I say? I’ve always been more of a King Kong kinda guy.

However, I have numerous friends for whom all this Godzilla and Toho stuff is a fucking religion (Toho’s the studio that produces all the Japanese giant monster movies), and out of respect for their tastes I wanted to find out more via this disc. One of my friends once said to me, “The way you are about Doctor Who is the way I am about Toho movies.” In my head, I probably said something along the lines of “How dare you compare that nonsense with the holy grail of sci-fi television?!?!” Well, Lee, I get it now…but we’ll come to that shortly.

The other, perhaps more immediate reason this disc was a draw, is that it’s Criterion. Criterion means something – actually, it can mean a number of things, but in this case it means that loads of people like me, who’ve dismissed the Godzilla concept as little more than “man in suit” over the years, will be experiencing this movie for real, for the first time. Criterion is the mark of quality for film aficionados, and this exact same set, with the very same content, could be released on another label, and it wouldn’t get a tenth the attention it’s going to get by being a Criterion disc.

So if I once was blind, but now I can see…what is there to see? A surprisingly well-crafted parable for Japanese nuclear paranoia following the wartime bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only barely disguised as a monster movie. Disguised? Parable?? Godzilla is probably neither. It hangs these themes out in plain sight, and even builds its storyline around them. The original 1933 King Kong is narratively, by comparison, kid stuff. This is serious science fiction, even if the science is pretty bad (Oxygen Destroyer?!).

Takashi Shimura as Dr. Yamane
What isn’t at all bad, however, is the drama of Godzilla, which is given able support by its four lead actors. Takashi Shimura, who in the same year starred in Seven Samurai for Akira Kurosawa (learn more about the numerous Toho/Kurosawa overlaps on the commentary tracks), plays Dr. Yamane, the man the country turns to when Godzilla first attacks. He theorizes that the creature is some long dormant prehistoric relic, awoken and mutated by nuclear testing and fallout. Despite the creature’s destructive capabilities, Yamane believes the creature should be studied, not destroyed. Shimura plays Yamane with an ashen face throughout the picture, as though he’s well aware of the conundrum he purports to believe in. It’s a powerful performance, from a guy who was one of the great actors of the day in Japan, yet he may not give the movie’s most interesting performance.

(L-R) Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata
No, that honor must be bestowed upon the movie’s other “mad” scientist, Dr. Serizawa, played by Akihiko Hirata, who is one third of the film’s love triangle. This eye-patch wearing genius concocts a doomsday weapon of sorts that could be used against Godzilla, but like many such scientists, his creation has driven him over the edge. To use or not to use, that is, well, it’s one of the dilemmas Serizawa must face. He’s also engaged to Yamane’s daughter, Emiko (Momoko Kochi), who’s drifting away from him and into the arms of the film’s “hero,” Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada). Hero is placed in quotation marks, because Ogata is the hero in concept only. He’s very much the stock good guy that amounts more to an ideal than a solid idea, and yet he serves his purpose in the grand scheme of the triangle. Kochi and Takarada both do fine work, but the filmmakers are more interested in exploring the ramifications of Godzilla’s existence through the two scientists, which, again, emphasizes this movie’s place in the world of sci-fi.

After watching this movie, it’s easy to understand how an empire was built on the concept. This is a moody, sometimes unnerving think piece, as much as it is popcorn entertainment – a perfect fusion of two very different types of films, thanks to the vision of director and co-screenwriter Ishiro Honda. To think of it as merely “man in suit” does it a huge disservice. One scene continues to haunt me every time I think back on it. It’s during Godzilla’s rampage through Tokyo, in which he seems hell bent on destroying everyone and everything to do with the city. A mother trembles on the street, cradling her young children, as the city falls apart around them. She comforts them the only way she knows how: “Don’t worry, we’ll be with daddy soon” - a reference to an apparently deceased husband and father. It’s a chilling moment that would be perfectly at home in a movie about nuclear annihilation (or any number of other types of disasters), but instead it’s in this movie about a giant, radiation-breathing lizard, and it’s morbidly serious, and speaks of how deeply this movie can be felt, and how seriously it can be taken.

However, let’s not forget the undeniable sense of fun the movie also has. Just the sheer joy one can get out of the filmmaking, and the knowledge that this movie was the first of its kind, is exhilarating. By and large, the Godzilla creature is convincing, as men in suits go, but what do I know? My religion is old Doctor Who, so my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. I did [re]learn a little something profound from this disc, and that’s the value of creating a heightened sense of reality, versus just trying to make something look as real as possible. The Godzilla movies seem to largely succeed because of this philosophy, and film must surely be a better art form for it. I believed in this creature and this scenario far more so than I did in the ones that Roland Emmerich unveiled in his ‘90s big budget Hollywood version of Godzilla, a movie that was so forgettable I had to head to Google image search just to find out what its monster looked like, so unmemorable a creature it was they created. Everybody knows what the classic Godzilla looks like.

All this space taken up and I’ve barely mentioned Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956), which also appears on this disc. Director Terry Morse took Honda’s version and reworked it for American audiences, by removing scenes, dubbing the principal actors, and most importantly, by shooting new footage with Raymond Burr (and several other actors) as reporter Steve Martin, a new character inserted into the action as an observer. There’s no question it was a valiant effort, and it quite rightly has its apologists, for myriad reasons, but after watching Honda’s original film, it can’t help but come up short, probably because we know so much about filmmaking today that all of the little nips and tucks are painfully obvious to even the untrained eye. In any case, Criterion has put it alongside the original version, and given it its proper due, which is as it should be, because, from the U.S. standpoint, it’s a huge part of the history of this story, and it would be unthinkable to not include it for American audiences.

Do be warned: These movies look far from perfect, so if you’re expecting crystal clear imagery, you won’t find it here. They’re loaded with scratches, although it appears Criterion did the very best they could with what they had to work with. Apparently these movies looked like this back in theatres in the ‘50s. Personally I found it all rather charming, and perfectly at home here, but I do feel the need to warn first-time Godzilla viewers to keep their expectations in check. (Note: The images in this article are not screengrabs from the Blu-ray.)

Blu-ray Extras: By a long shot, the star extras here are the two commentary tracks (one on each version of the movie) from film historian (i.e. “Godzilla nerd”) David Kalat. This guy is smart, well-spoken, and occasionally even funny, and takes listeners/viewers on an informative ride over about a three-hour period. If you’re into discovering more about this fictitious universe, as well as the real world making of it, Kalat’s tales and insights will keep you thoroughly entertained and enlightened for the duration of not one, but two movies.

Beyond the commentaries, there are new interviews with actors Akira Takarada and Haruo Nakajima (the guy in the rubber suit), which each run about 10 or 15 minutes, as well as special effects techs Yoshiro Irie and Eizo Kaimai, which runs about a half hour. Also present is a 50-minute, undated interview with composer Akira Ifukube. There’s also a new interview with Japanese film critic Tadao Soto, in which he discusses the film’s cinematic place in history. A short featurette details the photographic effects of Godzilla, while “The Unluckiest Dragon” is a video essay detailing the history of the fishing boat Lucky Dragon #5, which was part of the inspiration for the start of the film. Finally, there are trailers for each version of the movie, and a booklet featuring an essay by J. Hoberman.    

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Doctor Who: The Android Invasion

If you’ve followed my classic Doctor Who ramblings over the years, you’ll know that I make no secret of my intense feelings for the Philip Hinchcliffe-produced and Robert Holmes-script edited era, particularly the latter two seasons, which more or less amount to the greatest straight run of stories the series ever produced. But the time has finally come to address the “more or less” part, which basically adds up to the “The Android Invasion” – a fly in the Hinchcliffe/Holmes ointment.

The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) arrive in a quiet English village, which Sarah recognizes as Devesham, as she’d been there for a story a couple years earlier, involving the nearby Space Defence Station and missing astronaut Guy Crayford (Milton Johns). But Devesham is too quiet. The town seems deserted, and when the time travelling duo finally spies a person – a UNIT soldier – he’s freaking out and committing suicide by jumping over the side of a cliff. Upon inspecting the body, they find his pockets full of freshly minted coins all from the same year, and clearly all is not what it seems. A race known as the Kraals has a devious, if not entirely original plan for an invasion of Earth.

For the uninitiated I won’t delve into story details much further, because the mid-story twist might sort of work for some people, even if I find it to be largely unengaging. No points will be awarded for guessing that the Kraal invasion involves androids, and the title of the serial is somewhat emblematic of its bigger problems: the whole thing just seems rather ordinary, or it descends into a sort of tedium as it moves along, anyway. Episode One is actually rather nice, being an exploration of the oft-talked about “spooky English village” concept, but things start quickly falling apart in the second episode, and it’s as if the more you find out, the less you care to know.

The Kraals
Part of the problem stems from the villains, the Kraals, who don’t look all that bad until they have to move around and/or talk, at which time it becomes a little too apparent that they are men in rubber masks. Perhaps that wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t feel like such generic aliens otherwise – these guys are about as middle of the road as Doctor Who gets, leaving the viewer filled with neither wonder nor disgust. Much the same can be said for Milton Johns’ Crayford, the wayward astronaut - a character in dire need of character.

Perhaps most lackluster of all is the whole android doppelganger thing (“Who’s the real Doctor?” or “Who’s the real Sarah?”), which is a thoroughly played out and well worn sci-fi trope, even if it was used as recently as the latest series in the Ganger two-parter. I guess for some people this gimmick still works, but I can go the rest of my pop culture-imbibing life without seeing any more of these types of stories. It’s also the final story for both Sgt. Benton (John Levene) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) and neither character ever gets to even remotely shine. Granted, nobody really knew these guys wouldn’t be back, but it’s something of a shame that they didn’t have better moments to exit on.     

“The Android Invasion” was written by Terry Nation and directed by Barry Letts, and it’s difficult to not point fingers in their directions, although if we’re being honest, Hinchcliffe and Holmes surely deserve some scolding as well. Nation wrote some great Doctor Who stories over the years – all of which featured the Daleks. He could write the hell out of the Daleks, but I’m not sure he was necessarily a great Doctor Who writer, and there is a difference. He only ever wrote two non-Dalek stories for the show – this one, and “The Keys of Marinus” way back in the first season. The end result of both would seem to back up that notion. Barry Letts probably deserves the least amount of criticism, as he seems to do a fair job given the script he was working with, but there’s no denying the series had moved forward considerably since he left his post as producer, and the new vision of the show was considerably different from his era. This story, in fact, would have been very much at home in a later Pertwee season, and it probably would’ve come off feeling less intrusive and more of a success.

Tom Baker signs autographs on location
I’ve probably been too hard on “The Android Invasion.” It feels a little bit like kicking a puppy around. It is by no means bad Doctor Who, as much as it is very average for this series. It’s a story bookended by excellent fare like “Pyramids of Mars” and “The Brain of Morbius,” so it’s difficult to not take it to task for its failures when so much of what surrounds it was breaking down barriers and challenging and redefining what the show could be. There’s no question that regardless of these criticisms, the story still has that same great chemistry between Baker and Sladen – apparently nothing can dim that light – and if a story has that, it most definitely has something worth checking out.

DVD Extras: The commentary features Milton Johns, Martin Friend (Styggron, the lead Kraal), Hinchcliffe, and Marion McDougal, who was a production assistant on this story. There’s a somewhat apologetic making of doc entitled “The Village That Came to Life” that runs for 30 minutes. The piece goes back to the village that the story was shot in, and interviews some folks who were there back in the 70s, which is pretty cool. “Life After Who – Philip Hinchcliffe,” hosted by his daughter, is another 30-minute piece that’s title is pretty self-explanatory. There’s a Weetabix commercial, which may be the coolest extra on here. Also, there’s the usual photo gallery, production notes subtitle option, and Radio Times listings in PDF form, as well as bunches of Weetabix promo stuff that’s more loads of fun. Finally, there’s a coming soon trailer for “The Sensorites,” which comes out next month.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs DVD review

In recent times, there seems to be a vague movement of sorts to reappraise “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” by not judging it on its technical merits, but rather on everything else. Fair enough, and this should be the case with many a classic Doctor Who story. But there’s also something about having the word “dinosaurs” in the title of anything that leads to preconceived notions of what you’re in for, and the dinosaurs is this story are quite possibly some of, if not the worst prehistoric beasties ever barely created for television. Never mind adults of today, it is in fact difficult to imagine the British children of ’74, weaned on a steady diet of bad CSO and maggots made from condoms, being at all convinced that what they were viewing on their screens was anything other than shoddy puppetry.

While there are loads of other aspects of this serial to admire, it’s tough to watch it without frequently feeling let down. A different title might’ve helped; “Operation Golden Age”? Or maybe just “Timescoop,” which was its original title. Either of those might have alleviated the heavy expectation that comes along with the title as is. Obviously, CGI didn’t exist in 1974, so it’s not a matter of the effects not looking as good as they would today, but it is a matter of them paling in comparison to something like Land of the Lost, which just so happened to have kicked off its freshman season the same year this Doctor Who serial was unveiled.

The Rubber T-Rex
So the dinosaurs suck, and unlike numerous other classic Who DVDs, this edition has not been afforded an alternate CGI upgrade, so we must make do with what we’re given. What else is there? Well, the apologists aren’t just whistling Dixie. “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” is – tiny giant lizards notwithstanding – a tight, imaginative sci-fi pseudo mystery/sociopolitical commentary that unfolds wonderfully from one episode to the next. It had been well over 20 years since I’d last viewed it, so my memories going in were fuzzy to say the least. It almost felt like I was viewing it for the first time, and in the case of Episode One, I was. More on that later...

The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) have returned from the Middle Ages only to find London deserted, save for the occasional looter, the military, and all manner of prehistoric creatures. It’s surmised by the Doctor that the dinosaurs are merely an excuse to force people to flee London (which, appropriately, is sort of what has happened over the years with viewers and this story) so that a greater evil can be carried out. It’s a bold, whacked plan called Operation Golden Age, rooted in some of the worst current sensibilities of both the Republican and Democratic parties here in the States, and perpetrated by scientists, politicians and the military.

One of these things is not like the others
Only the Doctor and his trusty colleagues at UNIT can save the day…wait a minute! Not so fast. Maybe his friends at UNIT aren’t so trustworthy after all? Yes, it’s true – one of our heroes has turned, and there’s a traitor in the midst, as is revealed in Part Two. (I won’t name the character, but anyone who checked out “Planet of the Spiders” last year will go, “Ahhhhh…now I see!”) If I had any major criticism of the story itself, it’d be that the reveal should’ve been held for later on in the tale, making the betrayal all the more heinous.

Another interesting tidbit: the final solution to the story’s predicament is some serious Russell T Davies 101. The bad guy shenanigans are halted due to some weird Time Lord power the Doctor possesses, which goes completely unexplained. Pertwee stops just short of saying “I’ll explain later.” Now if this was in a Davies or a Moffat script, I’d admittedly be all up in arms and crying foul, yet it’s just such a thoroughly unusual moment for this period that it must be given some due. Though it wasn’t the first time the series used a bit of Time Lord hocus pocus, it was certainly one of the most obvious instances up to this point.

The mysterious Malcolm Hulke turns in another fine script, mired in his strong political feelings, as he’d done numerous times before (i.e. “The Silurians,” “Frontier in Space,” and “Colony in Space”). I say mysterious because I think I’ve only ever seen that one photo of him, and since he passed away so long ago, all we really have to judge the man on is his work and the words of Terrance Dicks, who often seems to have an amusing “Mac” anecdote handy. Here, Dicks talks about some of the dissatisfaction Hulke felt over titling the first episode simply “Invasion,” which was decided upon at rather the last minute, in order to preserve the surprise of the dinosaurs, even though the Radio Times spoiled it anyway. This was not only Hulke’s final contribution to Doctor Who, it was very nearly the last thing he wrote for television, ever (IMDB gives him a co-writing credit on one episode of Crossroads later on in the same year).

The direction from Paddy Russell is a step or two above efficient (it’s not her fault the dinos look ridiculous; those effects were farmed out), and most impressive are the performances she pulls from the guest cast, which are of a higher standard than the norm. Most noteworthy are: John Bennett as General Finch, who would return to the series a few seasons later in a role for which he’d end up far more notoriously known, Li H’Sen Chang in “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”; Noel Johnson as Charles Grover, who apparently played some famous radio character in the UK decades ago, but I know him best as the mad pub landlord of the Crow and Crown in Withnail and I; and Peter Miles, who would in the next season play Nyder, the majordomo for Davros in “Genesis of the Daleks.”

Returning to the matter of the aforementioned Episode One, which up until this DVD, has been available to the public only in black and white for the last 30 some odd years, and that’s assuming it was available at all. (When I saw “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” back in the ‘80s on PBS, it was in the movie-length omnibus edition that omitted the first episode entirely!) Like all those missing Hartnell and Troughton episodes, “Invasion” (as the episode is simply titled) was wiped. For years the reason given for the wiping was that it was thought to be an episode of the Troughton story “The Invasion,” but here the extras reveal that wasn’t the case, and in fact orders were inexplicably given to wipe all six episodes of “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” (maybe after viewing the puppets, it was thought to be an issue of quality control?), but for some unexplained reason only the first episode suffered this fate. However, like most of the wiped Pertwee episodes, a black and white 16mm film print existed.

Screen Grab from the "color" Episode One
A couple years ago the process of color recovery was unveiled to the world of Doctor Who DVD with outstanding results via “Planet of the Daleks” Episode Three. This process was attempted once again on “Invasion,” however the results were decidedly lacking, and so both the attempted version (with what I guess is some extra colorization) and the black and white episode are presented here, with the disc defaulting to the black and white version. And that last point is unfortunate, too, because I really didn’t find the color version to be all that offensive. It’s by no means as good as the Dalek entry, but to me it looks like a colorized film, from back when the process was unveiled in the ‘80s - splotchy and imperfect, but not unwatchable. Oh, it would be if this material was shot to be presented in black and white, but that isn’t the case. That said, having viewed both black and white and imperfect color, I'll be watching the color version on future viewings. Given that much of the episode features empty London exteriors, it just comes off looking like a drab English afternoon. So it’s a minor shame that the viewer must activate the color episode from the Special Features menu, given that it comes much closer to giving a rounded viewing experience than the black and white version can ever hope to.

Useless Trivia: “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” features the debut of the Whomobile in Episode Four.

DVD Extras: In addition to the option to watch the first episode in color, Disc One features a lively rotating commentary track, moderated by Toby Hadoke, who in turns (and different combinations) gabs with Richard Franklin (Capt. Mike Yates), Peter Miles, Terence Wilton (Mark), designer Richard Morris, Terrance Dicks and Paddy Russell. Also on the first disc is a trailer for “The Sensorites,” which will be released next month, as well as the usual Production Notes Subtitle option, which has gotten quite a bit of press, as via this feature on this disc, it’s for the first time been revealed the name of the actress originally cast as Sarah Jane Smith.

Disc Two features a great half hour making of entitled “People, Power, and Puppetry,” a “Now and Then” featurette on the locations, a vintage clip of Jon Pertwee in the Whomobile on something called Billy Smart’s Circus, four minutes of deleted/extended scenes, and a featurette entitled “Doctor Who Stories: Elisabeth Sladen Part One,” in which Lis talks about each of her five stories from the Pertwee era. (I’m guessing that Part Two will appear on the eventual “Terror of the Zygons” DVD, since it’s the only Sarah Jane story from the Baker era that hasn’t been released…but that’s mere supposition.) Also present is an extra 10 minutes of John Levene (Sgt. Benton) commentary over Episode Five, and the usual photo gallery and Radio Times listings in PDF form.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: Series One

Everyone’s told the occasional white lie in the interest of impressing someone, be it a love interest, a boss or a friend. The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret is a sitcom built around the premise, and one man’s inability to just, for once, tell the fucking truth. David Cross plays that man, whose name, as you may have guessed, is Todd Margaret, and the title of the show is as descriptively accurate as any I’ve seen in a while.

Todd’s story begins in America, where he works as a bumbling temp (are temps ever portrayed in a fair light?). A miscommunication on the part of foul-mouthed head honcho Brent Wilts (Will Arnett) leads him to believe that Todd would be the ideal man to spearhead a London office, out of which a new energy drink called Thunder Muscle will be peddled. And so Todd is off to Great Britain, a land he knows nothing about, except that once upon a time The Who recorded a live album in Leeds. Todd isn’t even smart enough to exchange dollars for pounds, and exchange rates turn out to be a baffling concept to him.

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