My Favourite Film of 1987.



Film What was the last film you watched more than once? Not just more than once, on a regular basis, because you had to, because you were addicted to it? Now that the availability of material has signalled the death of cinema, I don't tend to watch much of anything more than once. The MARVEL films certainly, at an auditorium then subsequently on the home release. If I've some kind of viewing project on, like #garaiwatch last year which led me to sit through One Day for a second time.  But as a friend commented on social media, seeing something again feels like a luxury with so many other options available.

During the commentary for X-Men: Days of Future Past, composer and editor John Ottman laments that for the audience who turned up for the world premiere, their only experience of seeing all the hard work of himself and his colleagues will be at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York with its crappy acoustics and distracting airport nearby, hoping against hope that they'll get the chance to see it in a better environment.  He'll be pleased to know I've now seen his film three times, twice in the superior Rogue Cut, albeit with the commentary turned on for two thirds of those.  Yes, that would the other reason I might repeat watching a film now.

But there are films which I've seen over and over and over again and most of them are on this list:  the Star Wars films (obviously), When Harry Met Sally,  All The President's Men, The Last Starfighter, It's a Wonderful Life, the Three Colours trilogy, Starcrossed, In The Bleak Midwinter (most christmases), Love and Other Catastrophes and Citizen Kane.  There are others but these are the films which have wracked up at least ten viewings, some of them over twenty, most from the days before you could watch the latest disappointing Simon Pegg vehicle at the click of a button.  We'll cover the film you wish you hadn't even watched the once some other time.

Towering above them all is Adventures in Babysitting.  I may have seen Adventures in Babysitting over fifty times.  For a period in the early 90s, it's the only film I would watch on Saturday night and because I didn't go out much on a Saturday night I spent a lot of time watching Elizabeth Shue take little kids into the city alone.  Within a few months I knew the film backwards and forwards and could quote along with the actors, knew where all the music queues would be and eventually the actual film probably became beside the point.  Yet we carried on, every Saturday night, Chris Parker, Brad, Straydog, Sara and me.

During my Art A-Level we were encouraged to do as much homework as possible.  As we've discussed before I couldn't draw so my main form of expression was in collage and the giant home project I worked on was a paper and paste mosaic of  a woman who I knew to be Deanna Troi from Star Trek, though I don't think ever told my teacher that.  This consisted of thousands of tiny squares cut from fashion magazines, of black and red from adverts and flesh colour which across the months I painstaking pasted to a piece of card.  When I have an image of it to hand I'll add it here so you can see what I mean.

It's during these evenings that I'd watch Adventures in Babysitting too.  Now I can't even do monotonous tasks with a film on in the background.  Complain about disappointing Simon Pegg vehicles on Twitter perhaps but not tasks.  But on those nights I'd be just as absorbed with Bradley Whitford lying about being contagious as making sure all the squares were lined up properly on Deanna's nose or singing along to Babysitting Blues as matching the various reds in her blouse.  Eventually I completed the picture and I like to think it was what upped my grade to a B and enough to go to university.

Except I carried on watching.  As Hadley Freeman rightly details in her book, some of the socio-economic and racial politics in the film are borderline.  But at the age of sixteen I didn't understand any of that.  I was too busy seeing myself in Brad with his crush on Chris and indeed having my own crush on her too.  My sexual awakening had come much earlier (at around the time of the original release of the film) with Kylie Minogue as Charlene in Neighbours and those dungarees but my eyes didn't leave the 14" portable screen in my bedroom when Shue mimed to The Crystals's Then He Kissed Me, inconsolable when she utilises the bedpost as an imaginary microphone.

For all that, and this seems crucial as Hollywood goes through a process of remembering how to tell stories with female protagonists, I also identified with Chris, even wanted to be her, going on this big adventure in Chicago (not know then that it was largely filmed in Toronto), albeit with the kids in tow.  She's smart, ingenious, brave and funny.  In an ideal world, Shue would have been able to leverage this performance into a career as a leading actress.  Instead she'd spend the next couple of decades playing wives and girlfriends and even though Leaving Las Vegas reminded everyone she could act, it's not until CSI that she'd really become valued.

All of this mostly before I had a decent copy.  After renting the film one night and adoring it, I was later in in receipt of a satellite recording which turned out to be a television melon-farmer version with all of the swearing either dubbed over or removed, sometimes with characters reacting to lines which no longer existed, rather like the daytime cuts of Friends which ran on E4 for years.  This was later replaced with an ITV broadcast, but that had adverts and the British title of the film, A Night On The Town at the beginning.  It wasn't until WH Smiths on Church Street in Liverpool had a sale that I could afford to buy the sell-through release, swearing intact.

Of course the knock on effect of that was I had to learning all the lines over again.  Where Darryl had said, "Watch my mouth? You gotta be kiddin’ me" it was now "Watch my mouth? You gotta be shittin’ me" and even now, with the film available on Netflix and owning dvds in two different regions this jars.  When Chris says, "Don't fuck with the babysitter!" it sits badly, even though its a more coherent line than "Don't mess with the babysitter!" especially in the context of the train carriage stuck between two warring gangs.  But eventually, I was as profane as the characters and in any case when you're the kind of teenager I was, this was all quite liberating.

Watching it again recently on Netflix, giving myself that luxury, I can now see the influence of Scorsese's After Hours, a series of misadventures in the city at night.  If only Chris Columbus could scale its heights again, though I have a great affection for his adaptation of Rent, especially the "Light My Candle" sequence.  Yet was still impossible for me to watch it as a "film".  Even after ten years, even with the freshness of seeing it in high definition in the correct aspect ratio, I could still anticipate every scene, every music cue, every line of dialogue and talked along with it again.  Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues.

The Embed.

DLA Piper: Constellations at Tate Liverpool.



Art Sinister computers.  Although it would be misleading to say that nothing frightens me, because frankly I'm scared of everything, sinister computers and indeed computers in general would be pretty high on the list along with my own face in the wrong light, biting into biscuits and the future.  For a computer to be especially sinister it has to be running but without a particular reason for existence or at least no obvious sense of purpose, even for a limited time.  Passing a closed university teaching room filled with computers at night is terrifying, dozens of identical machines with monitor and standby lights flashing in unison.  The laptop I'm typing this on is perfect fine when it's right now because it has a working screen, a keyboard and I'm generally master of it, although given that it's a Windows 8.1 machine, "master" tends to be interchangeable with "the things I can get to work".  But there are moments, especially when I've closed the lid and my room's dark and the small blue light of the hard disk (pictured) continues flashing when I wonder, "What is it doing?  What is it thinking?"

There's a very sinister computer reposing at the new edition of the DLA Piper series Constellations exhibition at Tate Liverpool (for which I attended the press view this afternoon), a Diab DS-101 computer, the exterior for which was designed by the artist Richard Hamilton.  Constellations is the semi-permanent display show which fills the first and second floors at Tate Liverpool displaying sections of the gallery's own collection.  A particular artwork is explored through a series of pieces by other artists which may be connected either thematically or technically.  Elsewhere Louise Bourgeois's wall hanging, Mamelles, which features a three dimensional collage of female breasts in rubber, fibreglass and wood is reflected in a series of piece bringing together ideas of gender and the body including Marcel Duchamp's Female Fig Leaf (the casting of a vagina from another of his mannequins) and Rachel Whiteread's Untitled, one of her customary castings, on this occasion showing the interior of an air bed.  The Tate's own website has a better explanation.

The Richard Hamilton constellation is actually "triggered" by a different piece, Towards a definitive statement on the coming trends in menswear and accessories (a) Together let us explore the stars (which as you can see from the image on the Tate's own website) is a collage inspired by JFK's moon speech produced in 1962 at the interstitial point between when the the President said these words and was shot.  The rest of the display includes art works which evoke the space age, like Liliane Lijn's kinetic spinning cone Space Displace Koan, with its sleek white surface and lit circular lines which make it seems like the kind of artwork you'd find in the inevitable gallery on the Galaxy-class Starship Enterprise.  Artworks about the space race like Pierre Huyghe's video One Million Kingdoms in which an electronic version of Neil Armstrong's voice reads a passage from Jules Verne's Rocket To The Moon computer generating a digital lunar landscape which is explored by a wireframe girl not unlike Rod Lord's animations for the TV version of Hitchhikers.  Artworks about the Cold War such as the photographs by Don McCullin of Berlin citizens on either side of the wall.

Then sitting patiently the middle of all that is the Diab DS-101, a short pile of four metal boxes in various shades of grey, the topper most of which has a logo "Diab Data", a cassette drive, a 5.25" floppy drive and another space I can't identity but others have tried.  As the accompanying label explains, Hamilton was interested in how the boundaries between art and high end design sometimes merged and was asked by a Swedish computer manufacturer, Dataindustrier AB, in 1983 to design this (what was then) "minicomputer" with a simple three-box design (actually a version of their DS90-3, a UNIX computer with a dual Motorola 68030 processor).  So it's a potentially practical object which is also an art object.  In the Tate's own image, it looks relatively benign even when you use the little button at the bottom of the photo to rotate it and turn it upside down) and I imagine now that we live in an age when the average microwave has better processing power than this box most people would probably overlook it, or perhaps stop and marvel and how the phone they're using to take its image (since this is an exhibition when such things are allowed) would seem like magic to both the artist and the scientists who designed the innards (though they probably went on to design the phone too).

Except it's actually ghastly, clearly the scariest object the Tate has ever displayed and that includes the faceless infant mannequins in their recent Cathy Wilkes retrospective.  I noticed the Diab almost as soon as I entered the exhibition and the fact that it was turned on, the small green and red lights on the front illuminated.  There's a cliche about how the eyes on some portraits follow a visitor around the room in stately homes and haunted houses in Scooby-Doo cartoons and these two lights have just that effect, impassive, unchanging and always in my peripheral vision as I wandered the gallery and chatted with friends and even when I couldn't see them, I knew they were there.  The reason the Diab DS-101 is sinister is because although it still has utility as an art object, its primary function is obscured and so like the laptop in my room or those university computers at night I can't help wondering what it's thinking.  We can find out.  There's an array of twenty DVI sockets on the back waiting to output but instead the only form of communication it has is those two lights, one red, one green, both always on somehow, simultaneously reminding us that it exists and is working but also, in my imagination, watching like the circular eye of a HAL-9000.

Which is all, of course, entirely irrational.  For a start the processor isn't powerful enough to have artificial intelligence, let alone magically network with the desktop and tablet computer which are surely otherwise in the Tate's ancient building creating a kind of rudimentary Skynet with the potential to overthrow the curatorial direction of the gallery replacing it with some sort of mechanised brain repetitiously scheduling Futurist retrospectives (though it's worth noting - ish - that the WOPR in War Games almost brought nuclear armageddon and that was surely even less powerful than the Diab).  Plus there are admittedly far scarier objects in the exhibition, not least the Paul McCarthy video, Painter, a satire on the heroic artist, which is in places so disgustingly scattalogical children aren't allowed to watch it (and here's a shot of me from the Liverpool Echo website doing just that).  Yet I am wondering right now if it's turned off when the gallery is closed or is left to sit overnight in the solitary exhibition space plotting our downfall.  Perhaps I'd simply be happier if it wasn't turned on at all, if Pinocchio was broken, its strings cut.

DLA Piper: Constellations at Tate Liverpool is free to visit.

"the BBC make-up department in the Doctor Who studios."

TV Recently repeated and so currently in the iPlayer is George Carey's Storyville documentary about KGB agent George Blake who doubled in MI6 sending details of agents to the Soviets during the cold war.

 Eventually he was caught and jailed at Wormwood Scrubs but pretty quickly escaped, in October 1966 and was aided in the getaway by two peace activists, Dr Michael Randle and his wife Anne.

Their interview begins about an hour and ten minutes into the piece as they describe how they were contacted by journalists and assumed the police would be on to them pretty quickly. They never were.

During the conversation the following narrative bomb is dropped.  My italics for effect:
Anne Randle:
"He'd actually knocked himself out.  He had a cut about here and he'd not slept all night because of the pain.  So he did look rather gruesome."

George Carey (narration):
"His fall had broken his wrist. So, they found a sympathetic doctor and something to fix it with."

Anne Randle:
"We knew someone who knew how to get hold of plaster of Paris bandages from the BBC make-up department in the Doctor Who studios."
Well and indeed then. She doesn't say that it is someone who worked in the BBC make-up department in the Doctor Who studios just someone who has access but it's still an occasion when the last place you think you'll hear about a link to the franchise is usually the place when you hear about a link to the franchise.

Doctor Who in the Associated Press Archive.

TV Just as they updated the YouTube offering for British Movietone, AP also massed over a hundred thousand more recent clips from the past few decades. Let's have a look shall we?



Sci fi clcassic celebrates 45th anniversary - typos are a feature of this upload. The metadata on this clip says "Peter Davidson" whoever he is. Barnaby Edwards is our spokesman here in a tour of the exhibition in Cardiff in 2008.



UK Prince William meets the stars of Middle Earth at UK premiere - including Sylv.



Entertainment Weekly: The Biographer - post-TVM, pre-Big Finish Paul on the set of a film about Diana in which he plays Andrew Motion featuring Captain Henry Avery and Elder Ood. Yes really. Only ever released in the USA and Japan according the IMDb. There's a longer making of here.



Entertainment Daily: My Kingdom - released on Who's 36th anniversary, a short piece about the gangster remake of King Lear shot in Liverpool starring Richard Harris (and very good it is too).



Entertainment Daily: Invisible Circus - Chris at around the same time. With hair and oh so young. Bless.

There are also lots of clips of John Hurt.

Natural Regression (The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who)

Books Given its content, a very short story within an anthology threaded through a fact based look at the television series approach to science, Natural Regression is a nonetheless fairly momentous entry within the franchise. The first new piece of Eighth Doctor prose published by the BBC Books imprint since Fear Itself in 2005 (Spore was a Puffin eBook), it's also the opening salvo in a coincidental multi-platform reveal of what happened him between the end of the Big Finish audios and his regeneration (including a comic series and audio) refreshing the character again.  As one of the architects who helped establish the character, despite the slender pagination, Justin Richards instantly captures Eighth in his usual status quo, planets and galaxies exploding all around and just him and his small blue box trying to do their best against insurmountable odds.  The motivation for this small adventure fits within the scientific theme of the book (as well as poignantly paying homage to the educational roots of the series) and the only criticism I have is that it ends at just the moment when you want to read about him going off on further adventures with a potential new companion.  After nearly twenty years, this version of the character continues to surprise.

Soup Safari #52: Chicken and Sweetcorn at Bramley's Coffee House.







Brunch. £4.95. Bramley's Coffee House, 6 Church St, Ormskirk L39 3QS. Phone: 01695 578801. Website.

Identity Loss.

People The Guardian has a useful piece about memory loss or more specifically identity loss and how it's not uncommon:
"For some, amnesia is specific to a situation: being in car crash or witnessing a murder. In others, it is not a solitary personal experience that drifts away in time but your identity, your self. “Who am I, what have I been doing all my life?”

"Jason Bournes in the real world are usually found by police on street corners and led, in an often dishevelled and confused state, to emergency rooms. No name and no memories. Some have travelled hundreds of miles from home as part of their psychogenic fugue (fugue is Latin for flight). It is a departure from a distant physical location, but a remote place of the mind, too."

My Favourite Film of 1988.



Film Still on air now in a different form and long after I stopped listening to commercial radio on purpose, the "peaceful hour" on Liverpool's Radio City was how I went to sleep during my school years, broadcast between midnight and one.  I can't remember who the DJ was, though YouTube suggests it might have been Paul Leckie, but I do have two vivid memories.  One that every night someone would request Minnie Riperton's Loving You and there was a brief moment when my tweenie soprano voice could actually reach some of those high notes and the adverts repeated at what seemed like ten minute intervals for the latest film releases at the Video City chain of which our local was in Garston.

These adverts, which included clips of dialogue from the films and what must have been a pithy synopsis supplied by the film company were repeated so often that after a while I could quote them verbatim.  Now there's only three films which pierce the fog: The Pick-Up Artist ("Hi, I'm Jack Jericho." "Did anyone ever tell you that you have the face of a Botticelli and the body of a Degas?"), The Boy Who Could Fly ("You told your mother something about a boy who rescued you." "What are you, a shrink?") and Working Girl ("I have a head for business and a bod for sin.").  Every night these same adverts.  But for some reason I never did actually see any of these films, on rental from Video City, which was odd because we were in there all the time.

As a family we were lent our first video player in the mid-80s.  We ventured out that night to buy a blank tape from the Asda at Hunts Cross which would eventually be the permanent home for a recording of the James Spader starring Starcrossed which was broadcast as part of a sci-fi season on Channel 4 (with, if I can complete the memory, a purple sticker across the top which had been given away free with the 2000 AD spin-off "magazine" Crisis).  But that evening it allowed us to finally experience the magic of recording something from live television and then playing it back.  Pretty soon afterwards we decided to try renting some films and the nearest shop which wasn't also an off license was Video City in Garston.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this is where I first hired Star Trek: The Next Generation, but before that, one summer holiday, I remember working through the whole of the available Police Academy series, loads of Disney and oddly one Sunday afternoon Robocop, which would have been my first 18 certificate film.  Not a bad place to start.  The decor is about what you'd imagine a mid-80s video shop to be, with woodchip wallpaper and those red plastic display boxes for new released and wall shelves for the back catalogue (with its often lurid box art).  There might even have been a small, walled off section for adult selections.  The place seems huge in my memory, but was still relatively small, so it could have been about the size of an average off license.

Yet despite all of the advertising efforts I would eventually see these three films through other means.  The Pick-Up Artist, starring Robert Downey Jr in his notorious phase opposite Molly Ringwald just after she'd fallen out with John Hughes and was seeking more adult material was broadcast in the middle of the night on ITV back when they didn't simply rerun Loose Women and posh teletext, The Boy Who Could Fly was I think shown one morning on Channel 4 and I think I eventually saw Working Girl on a recording the same relative made of it from Sky for us.  Even as I type this, I still can't believe that all these archaic means of accessing film were only thirty odd years ago.  Though given that I'm forty, that is actually a very long time.  Let the river run.

BBC Genome adds links to actual programmes.

TV The BBC Genome is a massive database of everything broadcast on the BBC from 1923 to 2009 created by scanning in back copies of the Radio Times. Since it went public it's been an invaluable source of information as to what was transmitted when, providing the useful ability to remind us when memories of various shows actually happened.

Now it's even better.  Now they're going through and linking entries to actual programmes available on the BBC website across television and radio:
"When I started the work to find the programmes, we weren't sure how many published programmes, which are available outside the 30 day catch-up period for programmes available on BBC iPlayer — we would find on the BBC website. Over the years, different departments have uploaded select broadcast programmes, and they sit under different collections on bbc.co.uk – sometimes categorised and alphabetised, sometimes not. We knew about the large and well-documented collections, and estimated there would be many more obscure, single programmes too.

"Our guess when we started was that we might able to link about 3,000 videos or radio programmes – so far, we have found about 8,500 (282 television and 8,200 radio). And we're still working on more."
They're asking for user submissions, so of course ...

Are you MARVEL or DC?

Film At a certain point, I began to think of the MARVEL cinematic universe, which I favour because it's good, and the WB/DC projects a bit like political parties or at least with the sort of tribalism with which kids used to defend their favourite 8-bit computer with (a debate I was largely on the fringes of even then with my Acorn Electron during the Spectrum/C64 years and then owning a C64 while people were throwing STs and Amigas in each others faces).

Partly this is because the creatives, or actors at least, are almost choosing which of the big comic book franchises to join to the point and there's little or no crossover between them.  As far as I can see, none of the cast of the Suicide Squad or Batman vs. Superman films has previous appeared in the MCU or vis-versa so it's entirely possible for us, or at least me to think of them as either being, "MARVEL" or "DC" and be otherwise disappointed if they've chosen the latter.

Rachel McAdams is a favourite actress, so when she says she might be in the Doctor Strange film, it's a relief because it means she's MARVEL.  Finding Amy Adams in the Man of Steel was a shame because I like her too but she's hitched herself to DC (even if she was a predictably good Lois in an otherwise bad Superman film).  It should be noted that anything pre-Iron Man or pre-MoS doesn't count so I'm still in hope that Anne Hathaway might play one of the Inhumans or some such.

Is it possible to guess if an actor will turn out to be MARVEL or DC?  Maybe, maybe.  When the cast list for Suicide Squad was released, I wasn't surprised by most of the names.  Looking at other franchises for inspiration, Emma Watson feels very MARVEL, but Rupert Grint is clearly DC.  Daniel Radcliffe could go either way.  Greta Gerwig, MARVEL.  Brad Pitt, DC.  Cary Grant, MARVEL.  Gary Cooper, DC.  No idea why.

Tongue Restraint.

History In Britain's Forgotten Slave Owners, David Olusoga describes the legacy of cruelty which underpins our wealth. In one sequence during the first episode whilst visiting Jamaica he's confronted with the instruments of torture utilised to subjugate slaves. There's a clip of this sequence here and amongst the objects is this tongue restraint utilised to subjugate slaves who challenged authority.



The apparatus looked familiar and for the rest of the sequence I asked myself where I'd seen it before. Then I remembered.



In Suffragettes Forever! The Story of Women and Power, Amanda Vickery describes the history of the women's suffrage movement. In one sequence during the first episode whilst visiting the Lancaster Castle Museum she's confronted by this tongue restraint utilised to subjugate women who challenged authority.

Doctor Who in the British Movietone Archives.



TV Associated Press have uploaded the British Movietone archive to YouTube. Find above some glorious images of Liverpool in the thick of winter 1936. Here's some text about the project:
"British Movietone is arguably the world’s greatest newsreel archive, spanning the period 1895 – 1986.

"Shot on 35mm film, this global archive contains many of the world’s enduring images and is rich in coverage of news events, celebrities, sports, music, social history, science, lifestyle and quirky happenings. It was the first newsreel to include sound, the first to use colour film, the first to break many exclusive stories, and is your first and last stop for newsreel footage.

"We hope you will enjoy exploring the British Movietone collection. Please feel free to share our content with friends and embed onto your own websites and social media forums."
Roy Greenslade has had a glance through at The Guardian.

Inevitably I've had a glance around for some Who related stores.

Working through the names of the Doctors, all I found was the charming footage of Jon's wedding day from August 1960:



The Boys and Girls Exhibition at Olympia in 1964 which was also in the Pathe cache but worth it here for the announcer attempting to immitate the voice:



The Jersey Battle of Flowers from 1965. Soundless clip which has a Hammer Dalek on a float in the middle:



Another soundless clip, this time of the British Toy Fair in February 1965 which features the Dalek costumes pictured above:



Which is about as far as I've got.  The metadata on the clips isn't as extensive as Pathe - you have to click through to the AP website for the dates of the clips - so if there is anything else, it's obscured by a lack of search terms.  Vwrop.  Vworp.

My Favourite Film of 1989.



Film Politicians are often asked, "What you're favourite [insert album/television programme/film]?" and I'm usually pretty sympathetic when on hearing their answer it clearly sounds like something which has been chosen by their advisors or even through a focus group to best position their candidate or incumbent in relation to the portion of the electorate who aren't cynical about these things.  There is in fact no worse question because even your answer, as Nick Hornby writes about in High Fidelity, will have a profound effect on how other people view you for better or worse.  Hornby suggests that in the end it's not about what you like but who you're like.   But as I think most of us know that's wrong in almost every respect.

For years when I professed to be a film fan knowing full well that the next question would indeed be "What's your favourite film?" I never did have an answer for just this reason.  It's horrible.  For one thing if you're a film fan there is no single answer because there are films we admire, films we love, films with memories connected to them, films which are technically brilliant and the last great film we've seen which is still marinating in our consciousness before we decided the way in which we love it.  And it is also that we know that if we say the wrong film to the wrong person it can change a friendship or relationship going forward.  I know, because this has happened to me.  In both directions.

One of the harshest examples of this was in the first meeting between students and lecturers during my MA film studies course, just before lectures began when we were to introduce one another.  In other words, you're sat in room with peers and lecturers, all of whom are going to judge you in one way or other and whatever you say will be used against you later in some way or other.  Having just spent the past few years catching up, I could say without hesitation I rather liked French New Wave but something in me couldn't say I liked sci-fi.  I couldn't.  So I think I said something like "But I still admire films which are visually interesting even if the storylines aren't that great or some such."  On that occasion, I could have said sci-fi since one of the modules was just about that.  Yet, I fretted.

It's because of all of this, the pressure, that in the end I decided that I needed to choose a favourite film.  By then I'd narrowed it down to the most necessary five, When Harry Met Sally, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Seventh Seal, In The Bleak Midwinter and Star Wars.  But keeping those rattling around in my head and knowing that sometimes they have a habit of swapping in and out (In The Bleak Midwinter was Citizen Kane for a while and Ferris Bueller is in for Adventures in Babysitting) and there's also the rather sticky conversational moment when you end up saying, I can't give you one but I have five, which shows you've really thought about this.  Oddly, if you can just real off one film people tend to think you haven't thought about it much at all.

Here's how I made the decision.  For official reasons related to important things (I know!) I was asked to name my favourite film and rather like the random letters out of the Scrabble bag at the end of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy it allowed me to give the answer without thinking about it and my ultimate answer was When Harry Met Sally.  Partly I wonder if it's because it was the first film on that list and with a previous shuffle it could just as easily be Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which was there for a while too and would have been on this list too if it hadn't been for Before Sunset).  Then a bit later I was asked the question again in the predicted social setting, gave When Harry Met Sally again and it stuck.  When Harry Met Sally is my favourite film ever.

Why?  That's always the next question.  I think because people are surprised.  It's a film which is admired I think but it's from a genre which generally isn't thanks to it being thoroughly devalued by one too many Katherine Heigl or Jennifer Lopez vehicles and a general sense of making them all in the "chick flick" subgenre when for decades they were actually perceived to be enjoyed by men and women thanks to a more balanced approach to the gender portrayal within.  Perhaps if they already know me a little bit, on that basis they might expect me to say either something falling out of the art house or science fiction.  But I love them both equally so what would be the point.  Which isn't to say I didn't spend about six months saying Inception.  That was hilarious.

When Harry Met Sally is very funny.  Which it is.  As Hadley Freeman notices in her book about 80s films, pretty much every line is quotable and I do still at length.  "You made a woman meow?"  "Baby Fish Mouth." "Fur zee vest ov zee dey vee jall tuk lyke ziss."  "On the side."  "Married..."  "There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance." "Sheldon?"  But some lines are simply philosophical.  "You're right, you're right, I know you're right,"  are words to live by not least because it reminds you that sometimes you might be wrong and you need someone to remind you.  "Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but they couldn't possibly all have good taste."  "No one has ever quoted me back to me before."

Arguably it's Nora Ephron's greatest script, though she collaborated somewhat with all the main participants, director Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.  Its key feature is that it doesn't have some high concept thing like even her later scripts and pretty much every romantic comedy since, other than that they meet each other over a number of years.  The "impediment" which stops them from entering the relationship isn't time-travel, or being geographically separated or a number of dresses, it's that they're afraid that falling in love will ruin their friendship.  We don't have enough of these kinds of films any more, at least outside of television movies and even then they tend to be beset by tragedy.

It's perfectly structured.  When Harry Met Sally follows the classic Hollywood structure to the minutes.  The set-up section which covers the stuff in the past, the opening ride to New York and them meeting on the plane is exactly the first quarter of the film, about twenty-five minutes.  The next quarter, almost exactly twenty-five minutes, is about them becoming friends but the turning point is at the New Years Eve party when they realise they have stronger feelings than that.  The next twenty five minutes are about them trying to still be friends under these circumstances and the sexual tension leading to them having sex leading to the final twenty-five when they're apart leading to them falling love.  Then at the very end Harry and Sally, talk through this structure to camera.  Wow.

It's a film which changes as you age.  When I first saw the film, on rental video in probably about 1990, perhaps at a friend's house, all of these characters seemed to much older than me and worldly wise and having lives I could only dream of.  Now that I'm forty, the characters will seem much older than me and worldly wise and having lives I could only dream of.  But the process of aging which is one of the film's many topics runs deeper with me now.  Example: When Sally says "And I'm going to be forty!" "When?" "Someday!" "In eight years!""But it's there! It's like a big dead end!" She proposes it's different for men.  She's talking about the biological clock but for all kinds of other reasons that scene rings oddly hollow.

This speech: "I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."  Which is more than enough to make up for the film resolving to type and having Harry run to the place to try and convince Sally to return to him.

Plus there's the atmosphere.  Whilst aping Woody Allen in some respects (though as I suggested in an earlier discussion without actually copying him as the film has reputationally been implied) (that would be Miami Rhapsody) the seasonal colours, the brownstones, the Manhattan streets.  When it came time to refurbish my flat, I asked for a faux-wooden floor in my bedroom as homage to carpet rolling scene in When Harry Met Sally.  It's the film which made me want to move into a city centre where everything is just accessible, all the time, when it's just as easy to go out for lunch as stay in.  Granted it's a dream-like place and like Woody Allen's films ignores most of the rest of the city, but as a school boy this was one of the films which almost acted like a portal to somewhere better.

It's another film I've owned in multiple formats.  My first copy was recorded from the BBC during its first network premiere on 26 December 1992 at 10.05pm.  Imagine my surprise a few years later when I bought a 4Front budget copy from HMV on Church Street and found that they'd snipped out a whole chunk of the wagon wheel coffee table scene for swearing.  In about 1995, The Independent gave away VHS tapes with their paper at the weekend and the first was When Harry Met Sally.  I didn't get it.  I already had a copy.  I eventually bought a dvd from Music Zone in Williamson Square in the early 00s after having established it was one of the films affected by MGM zooming and then in June 2013 finally purchased a blu-ray when it was released in this country.

Having had to reiterate all of that have a feeling that I probably would have chosen it anyway.  I can't think of a single reason why I wouldn't. For everything above but also because it's the film I most want to watch.  For various reasons I don't have my copy to hand right now and it's "killing" me.  I think I might end up buying another one too since Netflix didn't renew their license for it and having written about it again here, I'm desperate to see again.  Have you seen it?  The film, I mean, not my copy.  If you haven't, I hope this hasn't spoiled it for you too much and I recommend, no I plead with you to watch it as soon as you can.  It'll spoil the modern romantic comedy for you, but it's worth it for the pretty much the whole thing.

We Need To Talk About Hank Pym.



Film Briefly, very briefly. Having finally seen MARVEL's Ant-Man this lunchtime and in a similar style to The Avengers post because I don't have a coherent, flowing argument just a few random points of order... expect spoilers.  Don't read this if you haven't seen the film yet.

(1) It's a bodge but an entertaining bodge. Even after seen the film, I'm not dissuaded from anything I've said previously in these posts:

The Torchwood Problem.
Squirrel Girl!
Reedless to say.

Having pursued the insanity of making an Ant-Man film for years even as the MCU idea invalidated why Edgar Wright wanted to make it in the first place, there needed to be a situation creatively where the director put up and shut up in script terms with Kevin Feige simultaneously allowing him to direct it in his own style or dumping the whole thing and letting Diablo Cody produce Squirrel Girl instead or some such.

Just as the Thors are grand fantasy, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a conspiracy thriller and Spider-Man will be their teen series, Ant-Man was supposed to be the Edgar Wright comedy.  So when the competent but directorally vanilla Peyton Reed took over, his job he was on to a loser since he couldn't direct what the project is supposed to be but similarly with the lead in he was unable to dump everything and start again, and it shows.

It's a bodge, a project in which two different directors with all obviously different styles are pulling away from one another, one of whom is behind the camera, the other still around as a kind of ghost.  It's AI (Kubrick vs Spielberg) or X-Men: The Last Stand (Singer vs Ratner).  There are moments which have to have been kept from the Wright/Cornish script, the funniest bits probably, and it makes the whole thing endearingly messy.

If anything, Reed seems to adopt three different styles.  The closest to Reed himself and certainly scriptwriter Adam McKay is probably the stuff with Scott Lang and his family which resemble an "adult" comedy or Indiewood piece (underscored by the Judy Greer casting).  Whenever the MCU interpolates it's the Russii of Captain America.  Everything else from the slapstick to the "mime" montages to all the business with Rudd's friends and visual gags (including the Thomas bit in the trailer) are very Wright.

Of course as anyone who's had to work out which bit of Shakespeare's collaborations are Shakespeare or someone trying to write like Shakespeare or Shakespeare trying to write like his collaborators, the who did what isn't certain and won't be unless the Wright script is leaked (assuming it hasn't already).  The casting was apparently mostly done before Wright walked (which is interesting because parts of Rudd's dialogue sound like they were written for Simon Pegg).

But let me be clear: despite all of this, in places, Ant-Man touches on brilliance.  Parts of it are as good as anything MARVEL has been involved with.  We can argue all we want about who is responsible for that and as I've said before at some point in the future there will be a long essay by someone who has the time arguing that the MCU is franchise as auteur, in which case Ant-Man is akin to The Trouble With Harry in Hitchock's pantheon or Woody Allen's Amazon series.  But, yes, brilliance.

(2)  Apart from the themes about passing the baton and essentially retelling the same story as Iron Man, Ant-Man is also about how to do an origin story in a universe where superheroes are a "reality" in a similar way to a Doctor Who alien invasion story when they sort of thing happens weekly or the Buffy comics now that magic and vampires are out in the open and actually have their own chat shows.  This is the action comedy version of Skye's arc in Agents of SHIELD.

Without going around in circles, the amount of MCU activity might have been why Wright walked and it feels bolted on, although I really did yelp on seeing the top of the New Avengers building wondering if anyone would cameo and very pleased with the answer.  See also the working of Spider-Man into the dialogue near the end.  For a teenager, he's already making waves in the verse and of course it'll be interesting to see how he appears in Civil War.

Far cry from Iron Man's post-credits.  To return to the Who analogy (sorry), we've now gone from Ninth not mentioning Davros by name in Dalek to Davros turning up in Journey's End and remembering who Sarah Jane is.  The trick now will be keeping things fresh, and doing away with origin stories seems to be the thing.  But shifting into radically "different" genres looks to be a useful process also, though I'd still like to see "non-superhero" material set in the MCU.

(3)  The box office.  Domestically in the US, Ant-Man's had the smallest box office of any MARVEL film since The Incredible Hulk but is doing well internationally, with a £4m weekend in the UK.  But the press have been relatively sanguine about this because the budget was much smaller and expectations were lowered due to the production history.  Plus its probably made about as much if not more as it might have done if it had still been an Edgar Wright film.

But content wise it doesn't feel like the kind of film which should be judged a flop on those terms.  If this had been an Avengers or any of the other larger films were a building, spaceship or town falls out of the sky at the end then it would have been worrying.  But much of the film takes place in and around Scott Lang's apartment, his ex-wife's house, Hank Pym's house or the laboratory which has his name.  The most compelling sequence is about a tiny reformed burglar drifting through inner space in a dayglo version of the Orphan Black title sequence.

Ant-Man represents the sort of film I'd like MARVEL to do more of.  Much as I like the larger films were a building, spaceship or town falls out of the sky at the end, I'm more often drawn to the minor characters into MARVEL comics, the non-Gods (which is also presumably why I still tolerate Agents of SHIELD).  There's a sense of that in Phase Three with something like Black Panther which doesn't look like it's going to be a giant blockbuster either.

Which is why I'd love a sequel.  There isn't one planned, but the obvious idea would be for the new Ant-Man and Wasp, mentored by Pym to enter the microverse searching for the older Wasp and with the obscuring of her face throughout, there's clearly a plan for that, leaving the door open in casting terms.  Catherine Zeta Jones?  Sandra Bullock?  Juliet Binoche?  Anne Archer?  I'm trying to think of actors who haven't already been in this space before.  It's tricky.

The problem is there's no space for it as such going forward.  The July slot is free next year but that's not enough lead time, which makes the next potential slot November 2019.  MARVEL could decide to slot another one in ala Spider-Man and push everything up again, but Ant-Man isn't Spider-Man.  Another option would be a DTV film in collaboration with Netflix but they're already tied up with The Invaders series so that seems unlikely too.  Sigh.

The Omen of Sefton Park.

Film The QuoDB is a search engine for movie quotes. Imagine my surprise when searching for somewhere local that I should find:



That's Sefton Park in Liverpool mentioned in Omen: The Final Conflict, which I will now have to watch. No there isn't an Ormsby Road in Liverpool, but there is an Ormsby Street, off Lawrence Road in L15.

A Chronological Checklist to the Eighth Doctor (a work in progress).



TV Having recently completed the decade long business of reading, reading and listening through the mainstream of the Eighth Doctor's adventures and posting reviews, I thought I'd put together something which links to all of those reviews which could also double as a chronology should anyone decide to try and repeat the exercise.  Good luck with that.  As you'll see from the linked the dates, the novels took almost as long to read as their original publication history.

As I explained in the barebones version a few years ago although there are a number of chronologies available (and I'm grateful to @girlfromblupo for pointing me to this one) many of them tend to mix the various media together.  My own version keeps things simple and has the books then the comics then the audios since they're all relatively self contained, especially since Big Finish decided to create a whole new character to explain the reference to Sam from Minuet in Hell.

In the process of completing all of this, there is still a lot of material which I've missed so for the purposes of fannish completism, I'll be enjoying my way through those too and I'll add them into the main trunk of the list once they're reviewed where I think they should be (just to add to the challenge), as well as anything new which is published.  Some of the prose is about audio and comics characters so they'll be more obvious.  We'll see about everything else.

Finally quick word about format.  Anything which isn't in italics is original publication history.  Anything in italics was produced after the fact and I've added extra information in the brackets afterwards to explain what it is.  Originally, I did have lots more gaps to delineate "seasons", but decided in the end to just separate the more obvious runs of continuous narrative (which then runs aground with Dark Eyes which is a sixteen adventures, four adventures and a single one altogether).

Television Broadcasts

The TV Movie

BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures

Doctor Who (The Novelisation)
The Eight Doctors
The Dying Days (Virgin New Adventure)
Model Train Set (BBC Short Trips)
Totem (BBC Short Trips)
Spore (Puffin E-Book)
Vampire Science
The People's Temple (BBC Short Trips)
Dead Time (BBC More Short Trips)
The Queen of Eros (BBC Short Trips and Side Steps)
The Bodysnatchers
Genocide
War of the Daleks
Alien Bodies
Kursaal
Option Lock
Longest Day
Legacy of the Daleks
Dreamstone Moon
Seeing I
Placebo Effect
Vanderdeken's Children
The Scarlet Empress
The Janus Conjunction
Beltempest
The Face-Eater
The Taint
Demontage
Revolution Man
Dominion
Unnatural History
Autumn Mist
Interference - Book One
Interference - Book Two
The Blue Angel
The Taking of Planet 5
Frontier Worlds
Parallel 59
The Shadows of Avalon
The Fall of Yquatine
Coldheart
The Space Age
The Banquo Legacy
The Ancestor Cell
The Burning
Casualties of War
Wolfsbane (BBC Past Doctor Adventure)
The Turing Test
Endgame
The Stranger (Black Lace)
Father Time
Escape Velocity
EarthWorld
Fear Itself (BBC Past Doctor Adventure)
Vanishing Point
Eater of Wasps
The Year of Intelligent Tigers
The Slow Empire
Dark Progeny
The City of the Dead
Fitz's Story (Big Finish The Company of Friends Audio)
Grimm Reality
The Adventuress of Henrietta Street
Mad Dogs and Englishmen
Hope
Anachrophobia
Trading Futures
The Book of the Still
The Crooked World
History 101
Camera Obscura
Time Zero
The Infinity Race
The Domino Effect
Reckless Engineering
The Last Resort
Timeless
Emotional Chemistry
Sometime Never...
Halflife
The Tomorrow Windows
The Sleep of Reason
The Deadstone Memorial
To the Slaughter
The Gallifrey Chronicles

Doctor Who Magazine Comics

Endgame
The Keep
A Life of Matter and Death
Fire and Brimstone
By Hook or By Crook
Tooth and Claw
The Final Chapter
Wormwood
Happy Deathday
The Fallen
The Road to Hell
TV Action!
The Company of Thieves
The Glorious Dead
The Autonomy Bug
Izzy's Story (Big Finish The Company of Friends Audio)
Ophidius
Beautiful Freak
The Way of All Flesh
Children of the Revolution
Uroboros
Oblivion
Where Nobody Knows Your Name
Doctor Who and the Nightmare Game
The Power of Thoueris!
The Curious Tale of Spring-Heeled Jack
The Land of Happy Endings
Bad Blood
Sins of the Fathers
The Flood

Big Finish Audios

Shada

Benny's Story (Big Finish The Company of Friends Audio)

Mary's Story (Big Finish The Company of Friends Audio)
The Silver Turk
The Witch from the Well
Army of Death

Storm Warning
Sword of Orion
The Light at the End (50th Anniversary Special)
The Stones of Venice
Minuet in Hell
Enemy Aliens (Destiny of the Doctors)
Invaders from Mars
The Chimes of Midnight
Seasons of Fear
Embrace the Darkness
Solitaire (Big Finish Companion Chronicles)
Living Legend (DWM Special)
The Time of the Daleks
Neverland
Zagreus
Scherzo
The Creed of the Kromon
The Natural History of Fear
The Twilight Kingdom
Faith Stealer
The Last
Caerdroia
The Next Life
Terror Firma
Scaredy Cat
Other Lives
Time Works
Something Inside
Memory Lane
Absolution
The Girl Who Never Was

Blood of the Daleks
Horror of Glam Rock
Immortal Beloved
Phobos
No More Lies
Human Resources
Dead London
Max Warp
Brave New Town
The Skull of Sobek
Grand Theft Cosmos
The Zygon Who Fell to Earth
Sisters of the Flame
The Vengeance of Morbius
Orbis
Hothouse
The Beast of Orlok
Wirrn Dawn
The Scapegoat
The Cannibalists
The Eight Truths
Worldwide Web
Death in Blackpool
An Earthly Child (Big Finish Subscriber Release)
Situation Vacant
Nevermore
The Book of Kells
Deimos
The Resurrection of Mars
Relative Dimensions
Prisoner of the Sun
Lucie Miller
To the Death

Dark Eyes
The Great War
Fugitives
Tangled Web
X and the Daleks

Dark Eyes 2
The Traitor
The White Room
Time's Horizon
Eyes of the Master

Dark Eyes 3
The Death of Hope
The Reviled
Masterplan
Rule of the Eminence

Dark Eyes 4
A Life in the Day
The Monster of Montmartre
Master of the Daleks
Eye of Darkness

Time War era.

Natural Regression (The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who)

The Night of the Doctor

-------------------------------------------------

Still to be reviewed:

Here's everything which will be moved above and nudged into place once I've read, read or heard them and posted the necessary paragraph.  Do let me know if you think I've missed anything.

Books

Femme Fatale (BBC More Short Trips)

Sad Professor (Perfect Timing)

Growing Higher (Short Trips: Zodiac)

Apocrypha Bipedium (Short Trips: Companions)
Notre Dame du Temps (Short Trips: Companions)

Gazing Void (Short Trips: A Universe of Terrors)

Mordieu (Short Trips: The Muses)

A Good Life (Short Trips: Steel Skies)
Reversal of Fortune (Short Trips: Steel Skies)
Greenaway (Short Trips: Steel Skies)

Far From Home (Short Trips: Past Tense)

Syntax (Short Trips: Life Science)
Jonah (Short Trips: Life Science)
The End (Short Trips: Life Science)

Repercussions... (Short Trips: Repercussions)
The Time Lord's Story (Short Trips: Repercussions)
The Juror's Story (Short Trips: Repercussions)

Best Seller (Short Trips: Monsters)

Thinking Warrior (Short Trips: 2040)
The Ethereal (Short Trips: 2040)

The Eight Doctors of Christmas (Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury)
...Be Forgot (Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury)
The Feast of Seven... Eight (and Nine) (Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury)
Evergreen (Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury)

Seven Deadly Sins (Short Trips: Seven Deadly Sins)

Round Trip: After Midnight (Short Trips: A Day in the Life)
The Heroine, The Hero and the Meglomaniac (Short Trips: A Day in the Life)
Before Midnight (Short Trips: A Day in the Life)

Venus (Short Trips: The Solar System)

Be Good For Goodness's Sake (Short Trips: The History of Christmas)
Not in My Back Yard (Short Trips: The History of Christmas)
The Long Midwinter (Short Trips: The History of Christmas)

The Wickerwork Man (Short Trips: Farewells)

Prologue (Short Trips: The Centenarian)
Dear John (Short Trips: The Centenarian)
Forgotten (Short Trips: The Centenarian)

Second Contact (Short Trips: Time Signature)
DS Al Fine (Short Trips: Time Signature)

Museum Peace (Short Trips: Dalek Empire)

War in a Time of Peace (Short Trips: Destination Prague)
Lady of the Snows (Short Trips: Destination Prague)

Remain in Light (Short Trips: Snapshots)
Osskah (Short Trips: Snapshots)
Salva Mea (Short Trips: Snapshots)
The Sorrows of Vienna (Short Trips: Snapshots)
You Had me at Verify Username and Password (Short Trips: Snapshots)

For the Man Who Has Everything (Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas)
They Fell (Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas)
Decorative Purposes (Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas)
Faithful Friends - Part 3 (Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas)

From Little Acorns (Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership)
One Fateful Knight (Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership)
Epilogue (Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership)

Doctor Who and the Adaptation of Death (Short Trips: Transmissions)
Lonely (Short Trips: Transmissions)
Nettles (Short Trips: Transmissions)
Transmission Ends (Short Trips: Transmissions)

Second Chances (Short Trips: How The Doctor Changed My Life)
Suns and Mothers (Short Trips: How The Doctor Changed My Life)

Illumination (Short Trips: Christmas Around the World)

Phoenix (Short Trips: Indefinable Magic)

Natural Regression (The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who anthology)

Fallen Gods (Telos Doctor Who novella)
The Eye of the Tyger (Telos Doctor Who novella)
Rip Tide (Telos Doctor Who novella)

Comics

Dreadnought (Radio Times Comic Strip)
Descendance (Radio Times Comic Strip)
Ascendance (Radio Times Comic Strip)
Perceptions (Radio Times Comic Strip)
Coda (Radio Times Comic Strip)

Prisoners of Time (IDW Comic #8)
The Forgotten (IDW Comic #5)
Dead Man's Hand (IDW Comic)

Audios

Klein's Story (Seventh Doctor audio)

Running Out of Time (Big Finish Audio Short Trips 1)
Letting Go (Big Finish Short Trips Audio 2)
All the Fun of the Fair (Big Finish Audio Short Trips 3)
Quantum Heresy (Big Finish Audio Short Trips 4)
Foreshadowing (Big Finish Audio Short Trips 5)

Museum Piece (Big Finish Audio Short Trips Subscriber Special)
Late Night Shopping (Big Finish Audio Short Trips Subscriber Special)
The Young Lions (Big Finish Audio Short Trips Subscriber Special)

Bounty (Earth & Beyond Audiobook)

The Elixir of Doom (Companion Chronicle)

The Four Doctors

--------------------------------

Updated 25/07/2015  I've added "Time War era" in at the bottom because it looks like it's going to be its own multi-format thing.  It'll be interesting to see how co-ordinated Big Finish, Titan and whoever else will be.  I believe one of the IDW comics already contradicts Day of the Doctor in relation to the nature of the "moment".  No more, no more, no more ...

Ayesha Dharker on Queen Jamillia.

TV The Guardian has an interview with Ayesha Dharker, who was Solana Mercurio, the morally ambiguous PA in Planet of the Ood and one of the few actors who has appeared in both Doctor Who and Star Wars:
"Dharker was visually memorable as Queen Jamillia despite having only five lines. But she has said that the costume – layered black-and-gold capes topped off with a fan of gold blades like petals on a flower – did most of the acting. Could she call it a performance? “I didn’t have enough to do to answer that question.” Still, she got to meet George Lucas, even if she never saw the proposed doll of her character. “I don’t think they made one. I know the girl characters don’t sell as well as the boy ones. I feel sorry for any child who got given one of me – this small, Indian penguin.”"
No they did not. But there was this gaming card.

Alexander Siddig on everything.

Film Alexander Siddig is the subject of the latest random roles at the AV Club and he's entirely unguarded and generally personally uncensored. He says of DS9, "I had the stigma of Star Trek over me at that point" which makes him the Eccleston of that series and he has this to say on the subject of apocalyptic dragon film without many dragons, Reign of Fire:
"Wow, we’re covering the whole thing, aren’t we? [Laughs.] The only thing I remember about that was the first day. The first A.D. came into the trailer where we were all having our makeup and shit done, and he was, like, “Guys, I need your attention, please.” And we were, like, “Yeah?” And he said, “Um, Mr. McConaughey’s gonna arrive on set in about 15 minutes, and I have to give you a directive—which comes from the producers—that you are not to call him ‘Matthew’ or ‘Mr. McConaughey’ or anything to do with his real life. You must call him Van Zan.” Van Zan was his character name. “And even if you meet him outside in the road, even if you meet him out in town in Dublin,” where we were shooting this movie, “you must call him Van Zan.” And that is exactly what I remember about that movie, because as that first A.D. left the building, I shouted—rather lamely—“And he’s got to call me Elvis!” But he didn’t call me Elvis. In fact, he didn’t call me anything!"

Dark Eyes 4.

Audio Done. It's just over ten years since I posted a review of Gary Russell's novelisation of the TV movie with the Pertwee logo to Behind The Sofa (also now hosted on this blog) and now I'm finally caught up with the continuing adventures of the Eighth Doctor.  Admittedly, as I said the other day, there's still a smattering of short stories, some comics and the odd audio (so I'll still be posting reviews for completists sake), but in terms of the main trunk of publications I'll now be listening at the same rate as everyone else.  Before you start talking about Night of the Doctor, I don't think it's really relevant unless Big Finish decide they're going to work towards it and that doesn't look like it's happening soon, instead favouring an approach of populating the Eighth Doctor's Time War period as a kind of separate era.  Despite the Doom Coalition, it has to be at the back of their minds to do a box at some point set in that period.  But then I still hold out hope for a resolution to the way he left it with Charley Pollard ...

A Life in the Day

One of the greatest hours Big Finish has ever recorded.  If there's something I've missed in the Dark Eyes mission approach to narrative, it is the rather more classical form stories in which the Doctor and his companion land and have to deal with whatever's thrown at them (desperate as I am for the return of Eighth to the main releases), so it's rather nice to have a version of that, albeit linked to his search for Molly O.  Writer John Dorney also intelligently writes to character, so while the Doctor's investigating, we have Liv discovering her deep past in a rather sweet romance with Kitty's brother.  She's a weary figure, still shell shocked by her run in with the Daleks and then the Master so what seems like her first genuine laugh, at a Buster Keaton film of course, is genuinely poignant, instinctively captured by Nicola Walker.  It's only later that I discovered she was married to Barnaby Kay who plays, Martin her date and the centre of the drama.

The Monster of Montmartre

Moulin Rouge! meets the Daleks is a killer premise and writer Matt Fritton makes the most of it, although I'll admit there's a moment when I was slightly disappointed when I was reminded that the story wouldn't resolve itself here and would lead into the rest of the story arc.  You could well imagine a version which is about the Doctor trying to convince the spouse that their domestic arrangement will ultimately lead to death and destruction which of course it does.  Rachel Stirling makes a welcome return to the audios after The Crimson Horror on television and arguably even more brilliant (and sonically unrecognisable) as the brilliantly named Demesne Furze in the Fourth Doctor story Trail of the White Worm which features the Geoffrey Beavers version of the Master.  Why couldn't we have had that incarnation of the Master?  Nope, still not a fan of the MacQueen version which makes ...

Master of the Daleks


... a difficult listen in places.  The Eighth Doctor has amnesia again for part of this story and doesn't do much other than blunder about only partially being able to recognise the Daleks before sleeping.  But my fiscal discussion in regards to The Death of Hope is less relevant here because John Dorney's script is so much fun with its embrace of the alternative history genre and the mighty Dan Starkey playing every Sontaran and somehow managing to make them all sound distinctive and often very funny.  Just as Nick Briggs is an expert in Dalek voices, Starkey knows his Sontarans, and I remember seeing a clip of him during the anniversary year perfectly mimicking the voices of the various television versions from across the years.  Clearly the best part of this hour's when they're called upon to battle each other, notably when Starkey allows a newly birthed Sontaran go full Strax entirely unphased by the killing machine that's about exterminate him.

Eye of Darkness

Like I said, done.  In the unusual position of having to carry not just the completion of this boxed set but the whole of Dark Eyes, there's a lot of business to attend to and on those terms I'm not sure it succeeds.  Sorry.  If the series was supposed to be about anything, it was about giving the Eighth Doctor back some of his hope after the death of Lucie and although I enjoy nihilistic storytelling as much as the next film studies graduate, to essentially end the next run of stories with a similar dilemma and in a similar way is really quite disappointing.  Whilst I appreciate the need to move on and reinvent characters, do they always have to (sorry) embrace the darkness?  Dark Eyes has had its moments, sometimes episodes in length, but I probably would have prefered it to have ended with the original box, the notion of that being its own era and then moved on, having never really enjoyed the overall story or some of the characters.  But as we saw with the Lucie run appearing out of the wreckage of the Divergent Universe, this is a franchise that keeps bouncing back.  The Doctor is nearly smiling on the cover of Doom Coalition.  So anything's possible.