Monday, 26 March 2012

First Trailer For Doctor Who Series 7 Unveiled

The BBC have released the first trailer for series seven of Doctor Who, which will again feature Matt Smith returning as the eleventh Doctor, and will see the departure of Amy and Rory.

Doctor Who will return to BBC One and BBC One HD in the autumn.


Saturday, 10 March 2012

AFI 100 Movies #26 Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Peter Sellers stars in director Stanley Kubrick's black comedy about nuclear war.

U.S. airforce General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) goes a bit loopy and decides to launch a nuclear assault on the Soviet Union. Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers in one of many roles) is on an exchange programme from the Royal Air Force, and is convinced that the air strike has not been authorised, and sets about trying to halt it.

The aircraft given the mission, goes into attack protocols and blocks off all communication with the outside world, in case the soviets should try to intercept them and try to dissuade them from their mission. There is, however, a secret three digit code which would allow the bomber to receive radio transmissions, a code only known to General Ripper.

What follows is a classic farce with a cold war twist. Sellers also gets to play the president of the United States and the eponymous Doctor Strangelove, a former Nazi scientist, and now scientific advisor to the U.S., with a right arm which involuntarily does a Nazi salute!

Much of the movie is spent showing how completely blinkered and idiotic both sides are. A scene where Mandrake is desperately trying to make a phone call to the president of the United States from a pay phone, but is twenty cents short, and his American colleague, even with the fate of the world at stake, baulks at having to break into a Coca Cola vending machine to get some change, is a perfect example.

There are some movie greats amongst the assembled cast, apart from Mr Sellers, there's George C Scott as General Buck Turgidson, James Earl Jones (yes, the voice of Darth Vader) as the Bombardier on board the B52 bomber and a memorable performance from Slim Pickens as Major T. J. (King) Kong.

One tends to think of Stanley Kubrick as a very serious film maker, and of course the subject matter of this film is deadly serious, the humour is handled very deftly, here below, is probably my favourite scene in the film:

As for the finale, it is probably one of the most iconic images of 20th century cinema.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Woman In Black (2012)

I'm not going to go into too much detail about the plot of this movie as I think it deserves to be seen without knowing too much before hand.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a widower with a young child, who is struggling to come to terms with his bereavement and jeopardising his career as a consequence.

He is given one last chance by his employer, and if he messes up, he's fired. He is sent to a remote village in the north of England to clear up the paperwork pertaining to the estate of the recently deceased Alice Drablow, whose former home is situated on an island off the coast, which is only accessible at low tide.

The locals aren't exactly friendly, and young Mr Kipps ends up spending a lot of time alone in a very creepy deserted house.......

So, how does Daniel Radcliffe fare in his first film since the end of the Harry Potter franchise?

I have to say, I really liked it. As horror films go, it sits in the "Boo! made you jump" category, which makes a pleasant change from the recent trend for "torture porn" flicks. Radcliffe puts in a good performance, my only minor criticism is that he seems a fraction too young to play a widower, although as my wife pointed out, in that period people didn't live as long as they do now, and a great many women died in childbirth that may have survived had modern medical technology been available.

The supporting cast are weird and wonderful, Ciaran Hinds as Sam and Janet McTeer as his unstable wife Elizabeth are very entertaining, I loved the scene at dinner, with the twins. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Jessica Raine, who plays Jenny in the BBC's Call The Midwife, in the role of Joseph Kipps' nanny.

The eponymous woman in black is used sparingly, and used well, by director James Watkins, in the first high profile release from the newly resurrected Hammer films, after the fairly low profile releases of Let Me In (eloquently reviewed by Andrew Lewin over at Taking The Short View), The Resident and Wake Wood. The visual style harks back to the classic Hammer films, given a modern twist by today's special effects. Hammer is back, and in some style!

If you are after chills and thrills, this could be just the thing you're looking for.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Doctor Who: U.N.I.T. Files Box Set

This box set has a slightly less tenuous connection when compared to, say, the Earth Story box set from 2011.

The set consists of two classic series stories: Invasion Of The Dinosaurs from 1974 with Jon Pertwee and Lis Sladen, and The Android Invasion from 1975 with Tom Baker as the Doctor with Lis Sladen again.

Invasion Of The Dinosaurs is quite a fun story, the effects are a little bit wobbly in places, but the plot has some neat twists.

This is Elisabeth Sladen's second story, and she seems very assured in the role of Sarah Jane Smith.

It also features our first glimpse of the third Doctor's new car, the Whomobile. He has obviously decided that Bessie was a little incongruous while driving around the streets of London, and therefore decided to drive something a little more low key!

Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton get their opportunity to be a little more centre stage in this story compared to most U.N.I.T. episodes, this being Richard Franklin's almost swan song, before returning one last time in Jon Pertwee's final adventure Planet Of The Spiders.

This DVD release features a version of episode 1 with the option to view it with colour restoration, this however, isn't quite up to the very high standards set by the restoration team on Planet Of The Daleks, but if you really can't stand black and white programmes this option is for you.

In terms of extras, it's pretty well served: There is a commentary with Richard Franklin, Peter Miles, Richard Morris, Terrance Dicks and Paddy Russell, moderated by Toby Hadoke. And John Levene does a 10 minute mini commentary on his own.

There is a very entertaining making of documentary, an interview with Elisabeth Sladen, a clip from Billy Smart's Circus featuring Jon Pertwee and the Whomobile, deleted scenes, Now And Then revisiting the locations used during filming, Radio Times listings, info text, a photo gallery and an Easter egg.

Although I much prefer Tom Baker's take on the role of the Doctor, The Android Invasion is, in my opinion, the weaker of the two stories, that's not to say there is nothing to enjoy about it.

There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing, for me what lets it down a little, are the Kraals, who I don't think were particularly well realised, coupled with one or two notable plot holes. But Tom and Lis are on good form which helps to bring the viewer back on side.

In terms of VAM (value added material) this DVD has a commentary featuring Milton Johns, Martin Friend, Marion McDougal and Philip Hinchcliffe, again moderated by the erstwhile Toby Hadoke.

The Village That Came To Life is a very interesting making of documentary presented by the voice of the Daleks from the new series, Nicholas Briggs. Life After Who is a look back at the career of producer Philip Hinchcliffe, featuring clips from many classic British television programmes.

There is a TV advert for Weetabix breakfast cereal, featuring collectable Doctor Who games, which I have vague childhood memories of. There are Radio Times listings, info text, a photo gallery and an Easter egg.

Both stories have their issues, but dedicated Doctor Who fans will be able to see past them and enjoy these two memorable tales from the U.N.I.T. Files.