Sunday, 31 July 2011

Laurel & Hardy Double Bill: Them Thar Hills & Tit For Tat (1934 & 1935)

In Them Thar Hills, Oliver is suffering from a very bad case of gout, when the doctor tells Ollie it stems from "too much high living" Stan suggests that they should move down into the basement!

On the doctor's advice they hire a caravan and head up into the mountains to get away from it all. They set up camp next to a well, which unknown to them has been filled with moonshine by a bunch of bootleggers trying to evade the police.

They put the taste of the "water" down to the iron in mountain spring water, and they drink it with gusto!

Enter Mr & Mrs Hall (Charlie Hall & Mae Busch) who are stuck in the mountains as their car has run out of gas, the boys helpfully offer to let Mr Hall have some gas, and Mrs Hall stays with the boys while he goes back to the car, and is so thirsty she happily accepts the offer of some mountain water, with a knowing look to camera, she thinks the boys are secret boozers.

Mr Hall returns to find all of them as drunk as skunks, and so ensues one of the greatest slapstick fights committed to celluloid! The movie ends in an explosive way, when, Ollie, with his pants on fire, dives into the well to put out the flames.

One year later, Oliver & Stanley are about to open their new business, an electrical store. Oliver chatting to a passing policeman tells him they would have opened the previous day, but his partner had just had a mental breakdown!

Oliver tells Stan that they should go over to the shop next door to introduce themselves to their new neighbours, when they enter the shop next door they soon realise that it's run by Mr & Mrs Hall, who they ran into in the mountains last year (Pom Pom!).

Ollie offers to let bygones be bygones, but Mr Hall is still upset about what happened last year and tells them to mind their own business.

While endeavouring to fit light bulbs to their shop sign, Oliver gets knocked off his ladder and ends up trapped on Mr & Mrs Hall's window ledge, Mrs Hall takes pity on him and lets him come back down by walking through their store. Mr Hall, the very definition of jealousy, gets the wrong impression, probably not helped by Oliver saying "Well I've never been in that position before!".

Predictably he accuses Oliver of philandering with his wife, Oliver is enraged, Stan puts in his two penn'orth "you're right, Ollie; he who filters your good name steals trash".

And so begins a humdinger of a showdown as the boys and Mr Hall trade blows in spectacular style.

Every time the boys leave Mr Hall's store they help themselves to a marshmallow, this is finally paid off when Mr Hall laces the marshmallows with alum to humorous effect.

While the boys are so intent on their feud, leaving their store unattended, they give little heed to a chap who keeps wandering out of their store with goods that he hasn't paid for. By the end of the film their store is completely empty (a truck drives away loaded with the last of their stock).

There are some people out there who look down on slapstick humour as low brow entertainment, but I defy anyone to watch Them Thar Hills & Tit For Tat and not enjoy with childish glee the moment, for instance, when Stan cuts off Mr Hall's fringe and glues it on to his chin using molasses, the comedy timing by all involved is superlative.  

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Doctor Who: Paradise Towers

This might be described as Sylvester McCoy's first proper story, as Time And The Rani was written for Colin Baker.

The Doctor and Mel arrive at Paradise Towers after Mel decides, having seen a promotional video, that she would like to make use of their rooftop swimming pool, as the Doctor had jettisoned the TARDIS's pool as it was leaking!

© 2|Entertain
It's instantly apparent that things have gone very wrong in the tower block, the gleaming decor of the promotional video has been replaced with graffiti covered walls, and rubbish strewn floors.

The tower block represents a microcosm of a dystopian society, there are fractured groups of humans; the Kangs, girl gangs that clash with each other based on the colours they wear (red, blue & yellow), the Caretakers, jobsworths, who oversee the running of Paradise Towers cleaning the graffiti and acting as police, and the Rezzies, the older residents who rarely leave their apartments.

Not long after they arrive, the Doctor and Mel are taken prisoner by the red Kangs, who are planning to take out the remaining blue Kangs, having learnt that the last yellow Kang has been killed.

As is usually the case (if you watch enough Doctor Who) the Doctor and Mel get separated, and Mel winds up being invited into an apartment by Tilda and Tabby (Elizabeth Spriggs & Brenda Bruce), two (seemingly) harmless old dears who invite her in for tea and cakes.

It transpires that all of the able bodied men have gone off to fight in a war, leaving these disperate groups to look out for themselves, there is, it would seem, one heroic man left behind called Pex who appoints himself Mel's guardian and protector.

Something is lurking in the shadows in the basement, and one by one, the rezzies, kangs and caretakers are being picked of by the cleaners, a bunch of maintenance robots, who are being controlled by something or someone.

The chief caretaker (Richard Briers), is beginning to realise that he is no longer in complete control of what goes on in the tower block, and the Doctor soon realises that he has been allowing the cleaners to kill off people, in order to feed his "pet" in the basement, but that they are now killing in greater numbers, and the creature seems to be taking control, and it seems that it won't be satisfied until all the humans in Paradise Towers are dead.

This is an entertaining story, the writer, Stephen Wyatt, was inspired by J G Ballard's novel High Rise. The ideas are very good, but I'm not sure the execution of them always works. The cleaners aren't particularly scary, and they seem to struggle in their murderous duties!

And the robot that attacks Mel in the swimming pool is far from being sinister, and is rather cute!

The DVD has a reasonable number of extras including a documentary hosted by Mark Ayres on the making of Paradise Towers, Girls! Girls! Girls! The 1980s, a chat with Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Sophie Aldred about being in Doctor Who in the '80s, deleted and extended scenes, and the opportunity to watch the programme with the original score which was subsequently changed to a score by Keff McCulloch at a very late stage.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Laurel & Hardy in Laughing Gravy (1931)

This is one of my favourite shorts.

I decided to go with the three reel version, as I prefer the ending.

Stan & Ollie are renting an apartment from a nasty landlord (Charlie Hall) who has a strict no pets policy, unknown to him Stan has a (very cute) pet dog called Laughing Gravy.

Keeping the dog secret proves to be difficult. The movie opens with Stan & Ollie in bed, Stan has a bad case of the hiccups, his efforts to stop them cause their bed to collapse sending debris on to the landlord in the room below.

When he storms into their room to find  out what on Earth is going on, Ollie tells him that Stan had the hiccups, Stan helpfully demonstrates, making a "hic" noise, which makes the dog start barking.

The landlord insists on throwing Laughing Gravy out into the snow covered streets, he tells them that it's only because he's so kind that they aren't joining the dog.

From this point on Stan and Ollie try to rescue the pooch, with disastrous results.

There are some great moments in this short, the scene where the boys are trying to wash the dog after being covered in soot from falling down the chimney, Stan, hearing a knock at the door throws the dog out of the tin bath and shoves Ollie's head into it to try and hide him!

The two reeler ends with the landlord topping himself when his property is quarantined and he realises that he can't evict the boys.

The three reel version has Stanley get a letter informing him that his wealthy uncle has died and left him an inheritance of $1000, but only if he severs all ties with Oliver, whom he feels is holding Stan back.

Stan decides not to share the details of the letter so as to spare Ollie's feelings, Oliver, desperate to know what was in the letter, gives Stan a really hard time and makes him feel bad.

When Stan finally shows Oliver the letter, Ollie wishes Stan well, and tells him to leave, Stan goes to take Laughing Gravy, and Ollie begs him not to strip him of everything and takes the dog back.

Stan looks really upset, and after a moment he takes out the letter and cheque and tears them up, Ollie is overjoyed that his pal Stan chose him over a personal fortune, then Stan declares that he didn't want to give up Laughing Gravy, cue Ollie going crazy and throwing stuff at his pal Stan!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Doctor Who: Image Of The Fendahl

At Fetch Priory, in the English countryside, Doctor Fendelman (Dennis Lill) and a group of fellow scientists are conducting experiments on a skull that was discovered in Kenya, which they believe is 12 million years old.

Fendelman is intent on making a picture of the person the skull belonged to, he uses a sonic time scan, which sets off a series of events.

Onboard the TARDIS, the Doctor and Leela are struggling to control the time machine, they trace back the source of the problem to Fendelman's sonic scan, and set the co-ordinates for Earth to try and shut it down.

Meanwhile back at the priory, the scan is causing the skull to glow and pulse, it locks on to Thea (Wanda Ventham), one of the scientists, and creates a psychic link with her. Outside the priory grounds, something otherworldly has manifested into being, and it attacks and kills a passing hiker.

Upon their arrival on Earth, the Doctor and Leela are soon separated. Leela ends up at the cottage of old Ma Tyler (Daphne Heard), an eccentric westcountry witch, while the Doctor has a near miss with the alien creature in the woods, which ends with one of Fendelman's hired security guards getting killed by the monster.

Ma Tyler comes across the monster, and manages to escape with her life, as a result of the shock of her experience she goes into a catatonic state, thankfully the Doctor arrives on the scene just in time and helps to bring her back from the brink.

When they get to the priory, the Doctor soon identifies a creature, known in Timelord mythology, as a Fendahleen, he finds the skull, and nearly gets taken over by it, but is saved by Leela.

Realising that the entire planet is at risk from the Fendahl, the Doctor and Leela set off in the TARDIS to find planet 5, the home world of the Fendahl, only to discover that it has been sealed off by the Timelords in a time loop.

Thea is being taken over by the Fendahl, add to this a spooky black magic coven, whose leader mistakenly believes that he can control the Fendahl, and you're in for a doozy of a story!

This could be considered the last of the stories from the gothic period in the late 1970s. Graham Williams had just taken over from Phillip Hinchcliffe as series producer, and this story was commissioned by outgoing script editor and Doctor Who luminary Robert Holmes, before the move initiated by the BBC hierarchy to give the programme a more light hearted style.

Tom and Louise are on good form, and, according to one of the interviews on the DVD they were getting along much better after a rather frosty start. The guest cast are very good, and the whole atmosphere of the story is really foreboding and spooky.

There is a cast commentary, a making of documentary, production subtitles, and an amusing easter egg.

And for a bit of added value, I can strongly suggest downloading "Pedantangle" episode #206 of Radio Free Skaro for a very entertaining fan commentary, you can download it here

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Doctor Who Experience Review

Last week, when spending a few days in the capital city, I dragged my poor long suffering wife to the Doctor Who Experience at Olympia 2.

Arriving at the centre, we spent a little while in the little shop (I love a little shop) checking out the masses of merchandise on offer, including action figures, character building micro figures (wannabe Lego), mugs, T shirts, umbrellas, DVDs and much, much more.

After going through the entrance to the experience, there were a number of props and costumes on show for you to admire as you queue to get into the exhibit proper.

I will avoid going in to too much detail about the interactive experience, as I believe that it would be much more fun to go into it completely spoiler free. I will though say that I loved the way that it unfolded, and they've obviously gone to a lot of effort to structure the experience to make it feel as though you are walking through your own adventure with the Doctor.

Once you have walked through the experience itself there are still plenty of interesting things to look at; there is an interactive mock up of the radiophonic workshop complete with headphones and giant slider switches allowing you to listen to Delia Derbyshire's wonderful interpretation of Ron Grainer's theme tune, you can watch a BBC documentary about Delia's career, and the chance to add sound effects to the spitfire dogfight from Victory Of The Daleks.

There is a chance for you to have your photo taken sitting in the Pandorica, thanks to the miracle of green screen technology (I'm sure Barry Letts would have approved!).

There is a neat assembly line of Daleks, showing how they have changed and developed over the years. The Cybermen get similar treatment, albeit, through a series of disembodied heads.

Probably the most startlingly obvious change through development is that of the Sontarans, the versions from The Time Warrior and The Two Doctors positively tower over the little chap featured in the most recent series!

Also on show are Ice Warriors, Silents, Timelords, Sycorax, Davros, Silurians, Strawjacks, Pig Slaves, The Face Of Boe etc.

You get to have a close look at the costumes worn by the eleven incarnations of the Doctor, I would post a picture of the sixth Doctor's costume, but I fear that it might cause your monitor to explode!

But for me, after the initial experience part of the exhibition, the best part was the section dedicated to the Doctor's most faithful companion, the TARDIS.

There are information points chronicling how the design of the TARDIS has changed over the years since the original design back in 1963.

There are also full size replicas of the console room used in the series from 2005 to 2010 and the console used from The Five Doctors in 1983 through to the end of the original run of programmes in 1989. And to keep right up to date with series six, there is the junkyard TARDIS seen in The Doctor's Wife. There are also two police box props to see, the one used on Matt Smith's debut series and one of the props used in the original run.

Also on display were some smaller items such as the sonic screwdrivers used by the 9th and 10th Doctors and the one used by the 11th.

There was the machine used in Vincent And The Doctor used to track down the invisible alien, and a variety of TARDIS keys.

If you book your tickets online you can save money, or if you're not on a budget there are a few different packages available including souvenirs in the overall price.

If you are in London and you are a fan of the show, then there really is no excuse, if you don't go you will really regret it.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

AFI 100 Movies #28 Apocalypse Now (1979)

One of several movies in the AFI 100 that focuses on the Vietnam war.

Rather than your bog standard war movie, director Francis Ford Coppola brings us a story (based on the novel Heart Of Darkness) about a messed up captain, Benjamin L Willard (Martin Sheen) who is grappling with his inner demons, when he is asked to take on a classified special ops mission to hunt down a maverick colonel, Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) and eliminate him with extreme prejudice.

Kurtz was a very promising soldier, real General material. He has gone AWOL while serving in Vietnam and is thought to have gone native, and is holed up in a former temple in Cambodia, he has been able to take control of a local tribe who act as his militia.

Willard accepts the mission, he is taken to a boat which will take him up the river to Kurtz's compound. Onboard are; George Phillips (Albert Hall), Lance Johnson (Sam Bottoms), Jay Hicks (Frederic Forrest) and Tyrone "Mr Clean" Miller (14 year old Laurence Fishburne).

Willard and the crew of the boat are asked to rendezvous with Kilgore (Robert Duvall), an officer in charge of a squadron of attack helicopters, he is at first reluctant to take them into an enemy stronghold, which would give them access to the river that leads to Kurtz's compound. However he is convinced to go ahead when he is informed of the good surfing to be had off the beach on the edge of the enemy stronghold. And cut to probably the most famous scene from the film, as the attack helicopters launch a raid, using the combined weapons of napalm "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" and Wagner's "Ride Of The Valkyries" being blasted from loudspeakers as the action unfolds.

En route to the compound, the crew stop off at a U.S. army encampment and enjoy a visit from the Playboy bunnies.

Back on the river again, the boat is attacked by persons unknown, and Mr Clean is killed, Phillips holds Willard personally responsible. When the crew is attacked again, Phillips is impaled by a spear thrown by one of Kurtz's militia, as Willard tries to help him, Phillips in a last desperate act, tries to pull Willard onto the spear head protruding from his chest, Willard manages to fight him off after a struggle.

Willard is greeted upon his arrival at the compound by an American photo-journalist (Dennis Hopper), who has fallen under Kurtz's spell. Willard is at first imprisoned, but Kurtz has him freed. Captain Willard is invited to speak with Kurtz, and seems to have a great deal of respect for him, but he knows what he must do.

As the tribesmen carry out a very graphic sacrifice of a water buffalo, Willard stealthily enters Kurtz's lair and dispatches him.

This is a good film, it manages to have an art house aesthetic, but still have a more mainstream appeal, Martin Sheen is very good (I've yet to see him in anything I didn't rate him highly in), Brando, restricted to speaking from the shadows, as he felt uneasy about appearing on screen after gaining a lot of weight, still puts in a decent turn as the psychotic colonel Kurtz.

Francis Ford Coppola faced all manner of trials and tribulations to get this movie finished, Harvey Keitel was originally cast in the lead role but Coppola soon came to realise that he wasn't right for the part and duly fired him. He then hired Martin Sheen, who by his own admission felt out of shape and subsequently suffered a heart attack during the filming period, a typhoon destroyed valuable sets, and to cap it all off, when he asked Marlon Brando, who was hired at one million dollars a week for three weeks work if he could start a little later as he wanted to rewrite the ending, he flatly refused, threatening to pull out and keep his one million dollar advance!

The film went on to win 2 academy awards and took $150 million dollars at the box office, so all the hard work was not in vain.

So, a good movie, and a landmark in cinema, but is it the best Vietnam film?

Laurel & Hardy in Sons Of The Desert (1933)

This feature is held up as one of Stan & Oliver's finest films, and it's not hard to see why.

Stan & Oliver are members of a lodge called the sons of the desert (think the shriners or in the UK the masons), they pledge an oath of allegiance, and swear to attend the annual convention in Chicago. Stan is worried about making a promise to go as his wife (Dorothy Christie) might say he can't go. Oliver tells him to put his foot down and show her who's boss, however it transpires Oliver's wife (Mae Busch) tells him in no uncertain terms he is not to go to the convention.

The boys come up with a cunning plan, Oliver pretends to be ill, and Stanley pays off a quack to show up and pronounce that Oliver is very ill, and needs to go on an ocean voyage to Honolulu to recuperate, Stan helpfully mentions that the doctor (really a vet) should give Oliver some medicine, so he promptly pulls out a horse pill from his bag and administers it to Ollie in true veterinary style!

With their plan working perfectly, the boys have a whale of a time at the convention, they meet up with a fellow lodge member, Charley (Charley Chase) who, when he finds out they're from Los Angeles, decides to let them in on a practical joke when he makes a prank phone call to his sister, who he hasn't seen since he was at school, who lives in L.A., after a while Oliver realises that she is Mrs Hardy, and hastily ends the phone call.

Stan and Ollie return home in Hawaiian garb, complete with a ukelele, only to find their houses deserted, it transpires that the passenger ship from Hawaii has been sunk after being hit by a typhoon, or a typhoid as Stanley calls it!.

The boys discover the news just as their spouses return home, needing to hide in a hurry they dash up into the loft. Realising they are going to be up there for a while they decide to make the best of the situation and create a make shift bedroom, impressed with their efforts they settle down in bed, as cosy as two peas in a pod(duh).

The girls meanwhile, are so distraught with worry, as they wait for confirmation from the shipping company, that they decide to go to the cinema to try and ease their nerves. As they wait for the main feature, a movie showing highlights of the sons of the desert convention appears on the screen, wracked with grief, the girls agree that they should have let the boys go to the convention, and just at that point the boys appear on the movie screen, dancing, enjoying a parade and looking very pleased with themselves!

The spouses, before being reunited with their errant husbands, have an argument. Mrs Hardy claims that they are both to blame, whereas Mrs Laurel says that Stan is honest, if easily lead. So when they do eventually catch up with them, they ask them both to tell the truth, Oliver tells his version of events, with Stan helpfully telling how they "Ship-hiked" their way home! Once Ollie has finished, Betty turns to Stan and asks him if this is the truth and he instantly buckles.

Stanley is rewarded for being honest by being pampered by his wife, meanwhile next door Oliver is facing the full force of Mrs Hardy's wrath, sitting on the floor with a black eye surrounded by broken crockery and defending himself with a saucepan on his head.

I love this movie, it's definitely one of my favourites by the boys. There are some beautiful moments here, Stan eating the wax fruit, the business with the tin bath, the "two peas in a pod-duh" lines, climbing down the drainpipe into the water butt, "I wouldn't let my wife wear any pants, I've never heard of such goings off!".

If you wanted to introduce someone to Laurel and Hardy, this would certainly be a good choice.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

AFI 100 Movies #64 Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

This was one of the entries that I have seen before, however, I must have been 10 or so when I watched it last, so my memory was a little hazy in places.

Steven Spielberg's movie still delights all these years later.

The movie begins in a desert in Mexico, where Claude Lacombe, played by Francois Truffaut, leads a team, who have discovered a squadron of planes that went missing during World War II, the planes are intact and even have reserves of fuel left, but there is no sign of the missing pilots.

Back in the U.S.A. Barry Guiller, a three year old boy, is stirred from his sleep in his room by his toys springing to life, and working of their own accord. His mother, hearing a noise investigates and sees Barry running off on his own, she follows him and rescues him just in time to stop him being run over by a truck driven by Roy Neary.

Neary, played by Richard Dreyfuss, is a worker for the local electricity company. He ends up being called out late at night, due to power outages.

While still recovering from the shock of the near miss they witness a close encounter with a group of U.F.O.s.

Roy has a hard time convincing his wife of his experience, and his increasingly erratic behaviour drives her to distraction, leaving her with no choice but to leave in a hurry with their children as meanwhile Barry and his mother get a visit from the U.F.O.s which results in Barry going missing.

All the various plot threads come together as the main characters are all drawn toward the eerie Devil's Tower national monument.

Watching this in crystal clear quality, thanks to the Blu-Ray transfer, the special effects still stand up remarkably well. In this time of computer generated effects, there is a lot to be said in favour of the quality of the models and camera techniques used in bringing the U.F.O.s and their alien pilots to life.

The score by John Williams is very impressive, and there are decent performances from the cast, particularly Richard Dreyfuss, who carries the film, even though he was not the director's first choice for the main role.

I think it is deserving of it's inclusion in the AFI's list, even though it came out in a year which boasted an even greater sci-fi smash hit.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pecorama 2011

On Sunday the 10th of July, some friends and I attended a mini convention at Pecorama in Beer, Devon.

Pecorama offers some beautiful gardens and a selection of model railways, but for me, a confirmed Doctor Who nerd, the appeal in going on that particular Sunday was the opportunity to meet sixth Doctor Colin Baker, former companion Sarah Sutton, and visual effects expert Matt Irvine.

Q&A Session with Sarah and Colin

Colin and Sarah offered the assembled fans the opportunity to ask them questions, they were both very charming and eloquent. Colin, when asked "where does the TARDIS go?" instantly came up with a perfectly plausible answer involving particle physics and multiple universes, which earned a round of applause.

In a rather touching moment, Colin spoke of his most enjoyable experience while working on Doctor Who, which was the chance to work with Patrick Troughton in The Two Doctors, he was very complimentary about his predecessor, whom he described as a very generous actor.

He also revealed that Patrick along with current Doctor Matt Smith were the two best actors in his opinion to take on the role.

On the day there were U.N.I.T. firing ranges, a dealer room, full of essential Doctor Who memorabilia, and for the many who arrived in costume, there were competitions to decide who had the best outfit, the winner of the children's section was a child dressed as the TARDIS, complete with the lamp on their head!

Chipper Colin gets signing

After the Q&A session we were given the chance to get autographs, and credit to Colin and Sarah, who must have spent ages signing for everyone, they remained cheerful and friendly throughout.

To round off the experience, we went into a room featuring ephemera from the classic series archives.

The Cyber Controller

Amongst the items on display were an Ice Warrior costume, the sixth Doctor's blue cloak from Revelation Of The Daleks, a mask from The Robots Of Death, original designs for Mr Sin from The Talons Of Weng Chiang, the Cyber Controller's head from The Tomb Of The Cybermen, some spiders from Jon Pertwee's final story Planet Of The Spiders, and the original K9 prop.

On hand to discuss all matters about models and special effects was Matt Irvine, who was very chatty and friendly, and has a great deal of knowledge about the series.

The Doctor's faithful friend

After all the Who related japery was over there was still plenty of time to wander around the gardens, and check out the many model railways on display, yes, I know what you're thinking, nerd heaven!

I never had a train set as a child, but I have to admit, the hard work and level of detail that goes into the sets on display is of a very high standard, and you can understand why someone might want to take it up as a hobby.

I really enjoyed my day out, and if another similar event was organised by the Exe-Wing charity fund raisers, I would certainly go along, and if you like Doctor Who too, I would recommend it.

Friday, 8 July 2011

AFI 100 Movies #8 On The Waterfront (1954)

Marlon Brando gives an amazing performance, in what is regarded by many, as his finest screen portrayal.

Brando Plays Terry Malloy (no Doctor Who fans that's Terry Molloy), a dockworker in Hoboken, New Jersey. He lives out a humble existence, unlike his wealthy brother Charlie (Rod Steiger), who is the lawyer to local union leader "Johnny Friendly", a man who has more than a passing acquaintance with the local organised mob.

At the start of the movie, Terry is unwittingly used by Friendly to flush out Joey Doyle, who is preparing to testify against Friendly in court. Doyle as a result is murdered, and Terry under duress from Friendly's henchmen has to agree to keep quiet, or to quote the phrase used in the movie to remain D&D (Deaf & Dumb).

Terry later meets Doyle's sister Edie and there is an instant attraction between them. Edie encourages local priest Father Barry to lead a campaign to bring down the mob.

The film plays out with Terry wrestling with his conscience, being urged on by Father Barry and Edie to do the right thing.

When Johnny Friendly arranges an "accident" for a fellow dockworker planning on testifying against him the pressure on Terry really starts to tell.

As Terry finally comes to terms with what he has to do, Johnny makes a last ditch effort to silence him. He sends Terry's brother Charlie to try and convince him to stay silent, during their conversation Terry recalls his youth when he dreamt of being a championship boxer and, we discover, Friendly had Charlie talk him into taking a dive as he had a lot of money riding on the un-fancied opponent. The emotion in this scene is incredible and a real testament to the acting abilities of Brando and Steiger. This scene is probably the most famous one from the whole film.

With Terry determined to do the right thing and testify, this leaves Charlie in a tricky situation, and events take a downward spiral until the climax at the end.

I loved this film, I had only seen Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, and was keen to see him in a more "everyman" role. I can understand why people raved about his performances, he was brought through the actor's studio system and schooled in the method style of acting. He comes across as tough but reveals an inner tenderness. His acting style captures the reality of the moment, and is naturalistic.

The supporting cast are good, especially Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint as Edie, and Karl Malden as Father Barry.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

First Few DMCG3 Test Shots

As a follow up to my review of the Panasonic DMCG3, I thought I would post some early efforts.

ISO 160, F7.1, 1/500

This first shot was taken using the Creative Control feature, in the Expressive setting, which offers a pop art style colour effect.

I chose to get in close to the bark to capture the detail, and push the background into soft focus.

ISO 160, F5.6, 1/250
The next shot was taken using Intelligent Auto mode.

I nearly squished this little dude, as I rushed to get home as it had started to rain. But I couldn't resist having a go at capturing a shot.

The camera selected all the settings for me.

ISO 160, F8.0, 1/400
This was also taken in Intelligent Auto mode, and I thought I would put the camera in to monochrome mode to ad a touch of atmosphere.

Grumpy Old Man
This last shot was taken in Grumpy Bugger mode :)

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Doctor Who: Revelation Of The Daleks

This one certainly divides opinion in our household.

I rather like it, but my wife absolutely detests it. The cat, as ever, remains neutral.

The story takes place on the planet Necros, The Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) are there to visit a funeral home run by the mysterious "Great Healer" called Tranquil Repose, in order to pay their respects to the recently deceased Arthur Stengos, a friend of The Doctor.

Things, however, are not as they seem. It takes practically the whole of the first part of this story for our heroes to actually get into Tranquil Repose, and while they are wandering around outside there are several other story elements taking shape.

Mr Jobel (Clive Swift) is the man in charge of the funeral home, he is a very vain man (with no real reason to be) who is assisted by an impressionable junior called Tasembeker (Jenny Tomasin) she is devoted to him and is desperate for his affection, but he is not the least bit interested, and he treats her terribly.

Two intruders have broken into the catacombs, one of them is Stengos' daughter. They have been led to believe that he is being kept in suspended animation, upon opening his cryo-chamber they discover his body is missing. When they finally find him, he has been the subject of a gruesome experiment to turn him into a human/Dalek hybrid.

Meanwhile, Kara (Eleanor Bron) is a high flying business woman, who, trying to run her food business, is getting increasingly frustrated by her business partner, The Great Healer, who is revealed to be Davros the creator of the Daleks. She has had enough of Davros' interfering and hires a pair of assassins to put him out of the picture.

The assassins are Orcini (William Gaunt) a knight of the grand order of oberon and his loyal squire Bostock (John Ogwen) they take the job on not for the financial reward on offer, but for the honour of despatching Davros.

By the time The Doctor and Peri finally get inside the facility (after encountering a decidedly naff statue of The Doctor), everything is really kicking off.

The intruders, having destroyed what was left of Stengos, have been captured by security guards. The Doctor lets Jobel escort Peri around the complex, while he seeks out whoever commissioned the staue. Peri ends up with Tranquil Repose's very own resident DJ (Alexei Sayle), who is on hand to keep those in suspended animation in touch with what is going on in the world of the living.

Orcini and Bostock encounter a Dalek and destroy it alerting Davros, who is sure that Kara is out to get him. Davros, growing tired of Jobel, lets Tasembeker watch him flirt with the younger, prettier female members of staff via closed circuit television, making her incredibly jealous, he orders her to kill Jobel and offers her immortality by promising that she will be selected to become a Dalek.

This is a very dark story for what was a teatime kids show on BBC1. The themes covered are rather gruesome. The director of this story, Graeme Harper, deserves a lot of credit as do, by Doctor Who standards, a rather stellar cast. Certainly one of Colin Baker's best TV adventures.

William Gaunt is the stand out guest actor for me, he plays Orcini in a very understated way, and avoids going into the sort of hammy acting that others have done in the past (yes I'm talking about you Graham Crowden!).

If you are familiar with classic series who and you feel like a dark, creepy horror tale, then this is for you.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Laurel & Hardy in Going Bye Bye (1934)

In this short Stan and Ollie are the star witnesses in a big court case, they provide the damning evidence that will see Butch Long sent to prison for the rest of his life. Butch is understandably rather annoyed about their willingness to come forward and seal his fate, this isn't helped by Stan asking the judge "aren't you going to hang him?"!

In the ensuing court room chaos, Butch resolves that if he ever gets out of jail, he will track them down, break their legs and tie them around their necks!

The boys fear the worst and desperately try to get together enough money to make their escape, they come up with a genius plan which involves advertising in the local newspaper for a traveling companion who will pay for the expenses of traveling out east.

Their prayers are answered when they get a response to their ad from Mae (played by L&H regular Mae Busch), who by sheer coincidence happens to be Butch's girl. Things get even more out of control when Butch turns up, having just broken out of jail, he needs to leave town as soon as possible and the unknowing boys agree to let Mae's mystery friend along for the ride "the more the merrier!".

Through a fairly unbelievable twist, Butch ends up locked in Mae's trunk, Mae tells Stan and Ollie that her friend is trapped inside "he fell in whilst packing" the boys mull this over for a moment and agree that it sounds like something that could realistically happen!

Cue an amusing set piece involving Stan & Ollie trying various means to try and open the trunk.

At the film's climax all hell breaks loose, and the cops turn up a little too late to save our two heroes, who in the final shot are in a reflective mood about the turn of events with Oliver exclaiming "Well, that's another nice mess you've gotten me into!".

Although I get the impression that this isn't held up as a classic Laurel & Hardy short, there are some great scenes. The business when Stan arrives at Ollie's home and proceeds to send him flying so that his head gets stuck in the bed frame, and the business played out when Stan is looking for his glasses when attempting to read the newspaper ad are great.

The scene with them using the drill, blow torch and hose to try and get the trunk open is a hoot.

I think this goes to prove that even some of the lesser Hal Roach made films stand up well to the test of time.

Could you give a loving home to a cat?

With the demands of modern life meaning that in many cases the average household has both partners working full time, those in search of a pet are increasingly considering owning a cat because they are relatively self sufficient and don't tend to suffer anxiety as much when their owners go out to work for the day compared to other popular pets such as dogs.

A sad reality is that some owners don't consider their responsibilities when taking on a cat, particularly the need to get their pet neutered in order to stop unwanted kittens from being born. This leads to some of them being abandoned to fend for themselves, or being taken to an animal shelter where they can be re-homed.

We recently adopted an 18 month old cat from our local Cats Protection centre at Axhayes near Exeter. She had been there for six months, the staff at the centre deserve great commendation for the important work they do, it's obvious to see that they love the animals in their care and do everything they can to make sure the cats are given the very best treatment.

When we adopted our cat, the Cats Protection centre had already ensured that she had been spayed, having already had two litters of kittens at the tender age of 12 months, she was barely a kitten herself.

Our cat also had a month of free pet insurance courtesy of Cats Protection, which I must stress is very important, as vet bills can be very expensive, so it is vital that any potential owner should continue to pay for this important service which would stop any potential suffering of your new pet.

If you are interested in giving a loving home to a cat that has had a bad run of luck, get in contact with your local Cats Protection centre, they will arrange for a home visit, and once the formalities have been attended to, you can call in and find a cat to take home and become a part of your family.

The biggest problem you are likely to encounter, is which cat to choose. It was really difficult to do, there were lots of lovely friendly cats all vying for our attention. The one we chose was a very pretty black and white cat, who was initially very timid, and didn't come blustering out of her pen when we opened the door, as many of the others did.

There was something about this dear little creature (now named Pyewacket) that endeared us to her, it seemed obvious that she was affectionate but she was very nervous and shy at first. When we first got her home we followed the advice given to us by the staff at the centre, we kept her in our spare room initially so that she didn't get stressed, having gone from a pen enclosure to a big house would have been a big shock for her.

For the first few days she would hide behind some boxes in the room, but after some gentle coaxing she graduated to sitting in the bedroom window surveying the world outside. After what seems like no time at all, she now wanders around the house as though she owns the place! She loves to jump up on the sofa and snuggle up to us, where she can get lots of attention and love.

When we first had her we were advised to block off our cat flap incase she was to get out and run away, we have more recently been leaving the cat flap open on a more regular basis and she will now disappear for sometimes up to a few hours, which I must admit had us worrying the first time whether she would  find her way back, but she seems to know where she is loved :)

If you think you could give a loving home to a deserving cat follow these links: Cats Protection UK
                                                                                                                   Axhayes Centre