Tooth and Claw.

TV I was in the pub last night celebrating my best friend's girlfriend's birthday and I was trapped in the lull of a conversation with someone I'd never met before, who everyone else seemed to know. Which is something that happens a lot, but I digress. He sensed something was wrong and turned to me and asked:

"Do you like football?"
"No." I said.
"Oh." He said.
I'd had a couple of beers by this point so I thought it was worth at least trying to have conversation about the subject.
"It wasn't until a few years ago" I continued humorously, "That I found out that teams actually play each other twice during a season. 'home' and 'away'."
"Really?" He said.
"Yes." I said.
He told me he'd only recently become a follower because of an ex-girlfriend.
"Really?" I said.
"Yes." He said.
"Well" I explained, "I can tell you that Liverpool are playing Chelsea on Saturday."
"In the FA Cup."
"Is it?"
"Yes." He confirmed.
"Oh. Well do you want to know how I know there's a match on Saturday?"
"How?" He asked.
"Well, Doctor Who's on afterwards and if the match goes into extra time or penalties, the episode will be delayed and there'll be scheduling chaos."
"Really?" He said.
"Yes." I said taking another swig of Budweiser and sitting back in my chair. There was an unhealthy pause. I could tell my attempt at self depricating humour and fulfilling a stereotype on purpose may been ill conceived.
"So you like Doctor Who, do you?" He asked.
"Yes." I said.

So there I was tonight at 7 o'clock-odd hoping that Chelsea wouldn't score against Liverpool in extra time. John Motson even mentioned the wait for the show by Doctor Who fans in his commentary. For the first time in ages I was actually scared that someone might score in a football match and actually cheered when Joe Cole missed. I said in last week's review that I might actually be more excited about this series than I was as a child. Based on my behaviour in the past twenty-four hours that may well be the case. Perhaps.

Once the episode began I cheered again. And again. And again. I cheered after the magnificent teaser. I cheered during the book scene and I cheered as the Doctor and Rose stepped into the TARDIS, only to cheer again was the origins of the Torchwood Institute played out in one thing I always love in drama. The scene you're not expecting. Tooth and Claw was the Doctor Who I know and love: funny, heartstopping, exciting and terrifying. It had heart, soul, passion and history. Credit where its due, it took that mad shopping list of elements (kung-fu monks, werewolf, Queen Victoria) and turned it into what has to be one of the best forty-five minutes in the programme's history. That sounds like mad-hyperbole but really after last week's episode I think it's deserved. This was Russell T Davies' writing at full capacity, and this time he gave it a great ending. But those opening few moments with the killer monks juxtaposed with the farm hands -- certainly more preferable to the sobbing and knob twiddling of last week's episode. You need to grip the audience and at best make them wonder what they've tuned into and this did it in spades. A Touch of Zen? I should say so.

Anyone who was worried about some of Tennant's gesticulating last week should have been silence. This week he presented a layed, perfectly metred performance with the just the right edges of creepy and loveable. Anyone who wants to argue against the idea that this Doctor might a bit too domestic now has the moment when he discovers the werewolf to fall back on. Only an millenia-old alien would be excited and impressed that he met this lupine killing machine and would stick around as everyone else left the room. But again we're introduced to another change this season -- the Doctor actually saving the day at the end and not through luck, but through thought. Granted the poor heroic traitor Sir Robert bought it in the struggle, but it was the Doctor who pieced together the clues and vanquished the beast in the flash of moonlight.

Although Rose had less to do in this episode, the great joy after last week's nervousness was seeing the chemistry between Tennant and Billie Piper. Russell T Davies says that he didn't screen test them together because he doesn't believe there's such a thing as chemistry, just great acting, well compare these two now with the Chris and Billie of last year. Here, you can tell the Doctor and Rose just really enjoy each other's company and it's flirt city. But there's a respect there too, and the facility for antagonism - Rose asking the Doctor where the hell he's been when he finally pops in to save them.

The episode was well served by an excellent guest cast too -- Pauline Collins' offered dignity and humanity, expecially in the scenes when she remembered her late husband. Those final moments of the episode in which she revealed what we kind of knew all along about Torchwood were played just right command and substance. Derek Riddell as Sir Robert (who I remember as Rab in The Book Group) demonstated yet again why he's 'one of the UK's underrated actors' (according the the IMDb). He's another guest star who understood that the best approach to the material is to underplay, underplay, underplay -- look at those moments when he's re-united with his wife. Michelle Duncan as his wife made her few scenes significant because of her presence -- as far away as anyone can be from a previous role as Lady Di in that ITV drama of a few months ago.

The photography in the episode was frequently amazing. It had a look which can be achieved when you skip the bleaching-process in film (see the film Three Kings) -- which is odd because the series is shot on DV -- enhancing the blacks making the mise-en-scene all the more spooky. Even through the werewolf was revealed, director Euros Lynn understood that short sharp shots of the beast and the reaction to his gruesome appetite are more effective than to reveal the gore completely -- a knock on effect of the timeslot but ironically more frigthening. Large sections of the show looked like a film -- the monks in the distance on the moor, the sweeping crane shot as the Doctor visited the telescope room or lab and the point-of-view shots from the werewolf's persepective. There was also that amazing shot of the Doctor listening at the door as the werewolf joined him on the other side, snarling (which was actually very similar to a scene in the film Amelie towards the end (when she's listening out for the appearance of potential boyfriend Nino) but that's irrelevant so I'll move one).

Who else was amazed at the sophistication of the wolf> In Doctor Who Confidential afterwards, it was revealed that he was filmed on set Andy Serkis-style and then rendered in by The Mill as per Gollum. This is probably the best all cg character there's been on television and lifted the bar fairly high for future engagements. Having seen a fair few werewolf films in the past (and the single card carrying member of the American Werewolf in Paris Appreciation Society) I was simply amazed by the transformation -- yes it looked computerised, yes it broke the 'don't show too much rule', but I was convinced. The fur was so good you could almost reach out and touch it.

Also. The Doctor introducing himself as James McCrimmon. Nice. The Host suggesting that Rose has something of the wolf in her -- about blazing like the sun. My favourite reference was also the most obscure. That the Doctor was trained in Edinburgh by Dr Bell -- who as anyone saw the BBC's Murder Rooms series will know employed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creator of Sherlock Holmes as a clerk, which must have been a nod to The Hound of the Baskervilles to which the episode must of a slight debt. He was also Queen Victoria's personal surgeon. Although it messes up continuity all over the shop because I thought Holmes was a also character in the Who universe (see the Andy Lanes's Virgin New Adventure All Consuming Fire). I'm thinking about this too much aren't I?

If Russ and the gang can pull a romp like this off what were they doing with last week's episode? Ok. So that's last time I'll mention it. From this night on Saturday nights are still in safe hands. And I can relax.


Elsewhere Yes! Yes! Yes!

"I am The Beyonder..."

Comics Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars Re-Enactment Society. A You-Tube video that's historical in its own way. [via]

Royal Product

TV Channel Five News has just been interviewing Prince Andrew at Windsor Castle on the occasion of his Mum's 80th Birthday. The interviewer asked him what it was like at him during his childhood.

"I was a product of the original Doctor Who", he said. He pointed: "In there is a sofa, and a section behind it that was just for me to hide."


Genesis of the Sales

TV Steve 'restoring episodes' Roberts has just made an amazing announcement. We go over to the Restoration Team Technical Forum live for his statement:

"Very happy to be able to announce that 'Genesis' sold almost seventeen thousand copies in the first week of release, putting it straight into the UK national chart at no. 24. This is the best ever performance for a 'classic series' release in the first week - and it's not so long ago when we would be expecting to see sales of about five thousand in the first week!"

Good news, considering the flattening out in the sales of classic merchandise last year and should ensure the classic dvd releases for some time to come. That said it might also have had something to do with it being Genesis of the Daleks.

Elsewhere on there, someone has spotted the cover for the dvd release of Inferno at Amazon and someone else has asked for a copper bottom list of the all time best Doctor Who stories. Some wag included The Underwater Menace in their list. I'm not sure we've ever done anything like this here, so I thought I'd offer my ten, just television stories to keep things simple. Perhaps we'll all finally learn were we stand. I suspect friendships could be broken. In no particular order then...

An Unearthly Child
City of Death
The Caves of Androzani
The War Games
Marco Polo
The TV Movie
The Green Death
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Spearhead From Space

God that was hard. Forty odd years of stories to choose from and I seem to be bunching around regenerations and only a single Tom. Can anyone spot the controversial choice?

my WWW site

Science My copy of the Firefox browser has a mind of its own. Through some quirk I can only put down to installing a rogue extension, whenever I block some text to copy it, the browser performs an 'I Feel Lucky' search at Google and deposits the result under a new tab. I hessitate to call it useless because sometimes something really interesting pops up that isn't pr0n. For example:
"This of course is the heart of the matter: Is it easier to get a rational perspective or must we continue to "round off" from our irrational and transcendental XYZ perspective? I think looking at a system from the rational fuller-like perspective is very useful, but when I want to measure or build something I reach for my computer and get an answer rather quickly. Perhaps when we build our synergetic visioning systems we will see ways to calculate what hitherto had been easier to do by calculator.

The trial-by-error method does offer a rational way to calculate your height of the equilateral triangle - but it's too slow for an impatient world. And nature doesn't care about its height - she just "expands" the consequences of gravity and radiation. Also it seems possible that mathematics was developed specifically to solve arbitrary problems. Maybe synergetics is more for understanding Nature and solving anticipatory design science problems. In sum I think that mathematics may always be the better tool for arbitrary calculations (the height of some figure such as the equilateral triangle)."
That's from this archive of an online discussion from 1994 about the work of Buckminster Fuller, the man who discover a new form of carbon atom, the C60, buckminsterfullerine or 'buckyball'.

What's interesting is that it looks like a snapshot of the internet in its very early embryonic stages when the science community was first getting to grips with the medium and the technology. Some even seem to be itching to blog five years too early ...
"The other day I was wandering through Star Magic -- another one of those science toy-type stores -- when I was about to complain that I never could find anything very interesting in such a store. Just as I began to speak, however, my friend said, "Sure, you play with the useless stuff and walk right past that thing you've been looking for for months." And he pointed me at a little kit called a Vector Flexor. I don't know how many of you have run into this, but its rather neat. It's basically colored sticks and rubber tubes, and the rubber tubes can be assembled into an X shape and the sticks stuck into them to make a vector equilibrium. It's pretty cool, because it can be made to jitterbug and it comes with a pretty detailed insert explaining what it is and even refers the buyer to several of Bucky's books. I plan to put a blurb up for the company on my WWW site. I don't have the information with me now, though, but I'll post it tomorrow, I think."
'my WWW site' sounds about as far away from the user experience now as parchment. Although notice he uses the word 'post' somewhat earlier than I though that jargon was being engaged. Elsewhere, they're grappling with graphics:

Great job on the JPEG of your tensegrity image. Just a note for Mac
users: the new freeware application "UUWrench 1.21" pulls the JPEG
information right out of the e-mail and prepares the file for immediate
view with JPEGView 3.3 or whatever.

Chris, can we ask for more? ;)

Ted A. Hunt"
Further down is a survey about email use for a research project (it's too big to repost here but search for the words 'virtual friend' on the page). I wonder if they learnt anything, because looking at the questions, some things haven't changed...

Paradise still lost

Film So I'm checking the Time Out Film Blog and my eyes boggle at a headline. If I'd had rabbit ears they would have shifted up to a point.

Hollywood finds 'Paradise Lost'

Say that again!

Hollywood finds 'Paradise Lost'

When I was a school studying Milton's Paradise Lost books nine and ten, throughout my A-Levels I decided that this would be amazing source material for a film. It had fantasy, sex and violence and as Jurassic Park had just been released I knew that in a few years the technology would be available for a modern interpretation. Over the years I even imagined that a film had already been made in the silent era, perhaps by Murnau -- then I realised I was possibly remembering a late night viewing of Faust when I was very young. But the idea stuck, especially with amazingly cinematic passages such as ...

"The sun was sunk, and after him the star
Of Hesperus, whose office is to bring
Twilight upon the earth, short arbiter
"twixt day and night, and now from end to end
Night's hemisphere had veil'd the horizon round:
When satan, who late fled before the threats
Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improv'd
In meditated fraud and malice, bent
On Man's destruction, maugre what might hap
Of heavier on himself, fearless returned
From compassing the earth; cautious of day,
Since Uriel, regent of the sun, descried
His entrance, and foreworned the Cherubim
That kept their watch; thence full of anguish driven,
The space of seven continued nights he rode
With darkness; thrice the equinoctial line
He circled; four times crossed the car of night
From pole to pole, traversing each colure;
On the eighth returned; and, on the coast averse
From entrance or Cherubick watch, by stealth
Found unsuspected way. There was a place,
Now not, though sin, not time, first wrought the change,
Where Tigris, at the foot of Paradise,
Into a gulf shot under ground, till part
Rose up a fountain by the tree of life:
In with the river sunk, and with it rose
Satan, involved in rising mist; then sought
Where to lie hid; sea he had searched, and land,
From Eden over Pontus and the pool
Maeotis, up beyond the river Ob;
Downward as far antarctick; and in length,
West from Orontes to the ocean barred
At Darien ; thence to the land where flows
Ganges and Indus: Thus the orb he roamed
With narrow search; and with inspection deep
Considered every creature, which of all
Most opportune might serve his wiles; and found
The Serpent subtlest beast of all the field. "

That's just a description of Satan coming to Earth looking for a vessel so that he can temp Eve into tempting Adam and bringing the fall. The fall is exceptional too, but a tad long for here. But really can't you imagine that realised as a sweep across the land with a score by Howard Shore? So I read on...

Forget 'Kingdom of Heaven', 'Titanic' and 'Gladiator' ? Legendary Pictures have just announced plans to bring the most epic story of them all to the big screen ? 'Paradise Lost'.

Look at that hyperbole. And it's being made by a company called LEGENDARY Pictures so it has to be good. Start the 'Rachel McAdams for Eve' campaign right now...

John Milton's extraordinary 1667 poem revolves around Lucifer's failed rebellion in heaven and his part in the fall of man and Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

Good synopsis actually. This is the story. Shakespeare pottered about the subject Milton went in with his sleeves rolled up and got his hands dirty. This is going to be great, amazing and amazingly amazing. Who's the director going to be? Peter Jackson? Ridley Scott?

Scott Derrickson ('The Exorcism of Emily Rose') will develop and direct the project, although Legendary Pictures boss Thomas Tull says we shouldn't hold our breath for the film's release.


'Given the gravity of the source material, it's really important to get it right' he told Variety. 'It will be ready when it's ready.'

So you're hiring the writer of Urban Legends: Final Cut and the director of the film which made the story of an excorism boring? Really? I think this is going to be a long wait. Still it could have been worse -- it could have been Uwe Boll or Tim Story.

I'd imagine a producer at Hallmark Entertainment is already on the phone to someone about a spoiler project. Jill Hennessy will be essaying the part of Eve and Eric Roberts as Satan and before the summer is out. I hope Uli Edel has a space in his calender...

Floral display

Manchester Life Remember last week when I entirely failed to capture the floral display in Picadilly Gardens? Luckily, Wodge was there and has photos. It would have been nice if they could have been permanent -- it looks like they sorted out the buds flying off at high wind too.

An old score to settle

Film Here is an oddity. Anyone who bought the recent two-disc dvd release of King Kong might have watched the post-production diaries and noticed no mention of the Howard Shore score, but two describing the rush job of James Newton Howard trying to put together three hours of score in about two weeks. A quick look at the Kong Is King website and Shore's diary is still here. It's quite a sad affair in retrospect, but there isn't anything to indicate what the ruckus was about. Although you have to feel sorry for the New Zealand Orchestra and the concert hall which were engaged but ultimately went unused.

The number of 'world' instruments suggests that Shore's score would have been more percussive -- perhaps Peter Jackson was looking for something much more orchestral and that's were the 'creative differences' happened. Given that the man was composing apparently for over a year, I hope that his score might still be released on cd eventually, in much the same way that the composed (and replaced) work of Alex North for 2001 appeared a few years ago?

I seldom watch anything more than once

Writing "I take a similarly "zen" approach to reviewing: I approach the task without consciousness or deliberation. I know the process is different for everyone; Richard Harland Smith once told me that he watches each film he reviews at least twice, and Pauline Kael notoriously boasted that she never saw any film more than once. I suppose I fall somewhere between those two disciplines, because I seldom watch anything more than once while I am in the process of reviewing it, though I will later watch those films I like as many times as curiosity and pleasure dictate." -- Tim Lucas.

Lucas, who writes the No Zone column for Sight and Sound magazine offers a mine of useful tips for film reviewers. I don't really have a particular approach to reviewing, although it tends to follow a different format depending upon where it will ultimately be published. I tend to be a bit more sober and long winded on Off The Telly for some reason whilst I'm a bit more free wheeling here. Often if its a film which hasn't had a massive distribution or is largely unheard of I'll detect more of a championing tone and greater groundwork in terms of context. If it's a blockbuster or massive release I'll cut to the chase more quickly and give an instant opinion even answering other critics if I think they're wrong (see my opinion of Ocean's Twelve which I still maintain I'm right about).

I was scared and nervous

Because "A couple weeks ago I just had this feeling in my gut that something was different. My period was two days late. I took a test and saw two little lines. I was pregnant again. This wasn't planned, but it wasn't as scary to me as last time when I found out. I think with the first time around I got a lot of my fears and tears out. Of course I was scared and nervous, I mean who isn't? I told Cody and after he got over the initial shock we began to talk about it. I decided that I wasn't going to say anything until things were confirmed to be normal. The biggest fear running through my head was that I would miscarry again." -- Kiki Oshkosh.

Get well soon, Kiki.



I'm a C-list Blogebrity

Missing Words

TV Ian 'missing episode' Levine announced that something interesting would be happening on today's Blue Peter at the Restoration Team website. Wild speculation ensued that a new old episode had actually been found, with hopes pinned on The Tenth Planet Part Four (presumably because of the cyberman connection). In the event it turned out to be the announcement of a missing episode appeal, asking viewers to check their attics and friends for one of the Doctor's lost adventures with the enticement of a life-sized Dalek as a reward. Although I missed the programme it sounds like the kind of scheme that might work, although I dread to think how many hoaxes the BP office is going to field from kids who've knocked off a vhs copy of The Web Planet from their dad's dvd.

Elsewhere, if you've got a spare forty-five minutes I can definitely recommend Robert Shearman's new Radio Four play, Odd, which was broadcast this afternoon and will be available to Listen Again for the next week. It's the story of a man who loses the power of rational communication and finds himself losing his sense of identity. Similar in feel to his Unbound Big Finish play Deadline, it's also conceptualy similar to the early Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Babel, with a smidge more extistentialism and tragedy. I really hope he'll be back for series three, although lets face it, if his single contribution to television Who will be Dalek, that's pretty good going.

I need a break...

TV "I need a break... From these contestants with their constant whining. "That's not enough money, Mr. Banker". "You're so mean, Mr. Banker". Duh. Don't they get it? It's my job to get them off the show with as little money as possible. That's what I do. Seriously." -- The Banker from the US version of Deal or No Deal has a blog. [via]

it's more timeless than you'd imagine

Books After bashing out over a thousand words of my essay today and watching the Tom Hanks film Big for connected reasons (if you haven't seen the film in while go back and rewatch -- it's more timeless than you'd imagine), I decided to go out and see what the world looked like. Or as this is interpreted inside my brain visit the local Borders and surrounding retail park for some late night shopping. When I say local I mean in Speke, a half hour bus ride away. But it's open until ten o'clock and there's a Starbucks so it's as close to late late night shopping in Liverpool as you're going to get.

I managed to pick up a copy of The Book Group's first season in the WH Smith nearby for three quid, and a new coffee maker from Currys for a fiver. I'm drinking my way through a cup at the moment and I think I'm going to have to experiment with amount of coffee I need for a mug. It generates a dreadful noise which makes the vocal girations from the old Gold Blend commercials sound realistic.

My mum's retiring on Thursday after returning to work over a decade ago and looking for an apt present I've bought her a Scottish phrase book for next time she's in the highlands (it's a joke) and something called an Eggling, a small ceramic egg with a flower growing from the inside. I'm not sure which evolutionary quirk led to the development of this, but it will give her something new to nurture and I wanted to go for a present which will last longer than some daffodils or the usual bottle of wine.

Assuming I'm not boring you, elsewhere, in Borders, I picked up a copy of this purely on the basis of the cover...

... and the plot synopsis ...
"Kit Audrey Butler is the manager of the Orange, a dilapidated independent cinema. Estranged from her father, undermined by her boyfriend, and with her third screenplay recently rejected Kit finds herself badly adrift. Her favourite therapy, renting the appropriate video and scrutinizing the footage for clues on how to behave, no longer provides her with all the answers. But when new ownership threatens the Orange, Kit is forced to confront reality and discovers that help and heroes come in the unlikeliest forms..."
... although I'm sure it's chicklit (and how I hate that term) flicking through I found a reference to Vladimir Propp's structuralist theory at the start of chapter thirteen which is about as film theory inside as you can get so I'll dive in and report back. This isn't the first time I've bought a book based completely on the cover, so inspired by Keris here are a pile of others.

[my opinion of which you can read here in a four paragraph review which forgets to mention the fact that it took me three months to read the thing. Along with her confessionals I spent most of 2003 with Elizabeth and although it was a rocky relationship I don't regret it.]

I also reviewed that last book soberly here. Looking back at those, I think my interest was engaged more by the titles and the blurbs of those than the cover graphics. Funny. There's also a whole wopping great pile of these things still to get through but I'm taking a sabatical whilst I do things which have made me a busy person, like finishing my degree.

at the centre

Film "Film criticism lies at the centre of nearly all intellectual discourse about the cinema, and if we take criticism to be an effort to know particular movies more intimately, it probably deserves its prime place. But contemporary film criticism is failing. In academic venues, it mostly grinds Movie X through Theory Y, in the hope that somehow the exercise will yield political emancipation. Meanwhile, film magazines and free city weeklies promote that self-assured nonconformity which prizes jaunty wordplay and throwaway judgments." -- David Bordwell

Bordwell appears to by writing against the Mark Kermode approach to film criticism and even the sort of thing that turns up in Empire magazine. In the grip of a Film Studies degree I can absolutely understand his thesis -- applying Freudian psychology to films (for example) is a tricky business and can often lead to misunderstandings. I'm actually quoting Bordwell in an essay I'm currently writing about Frank Capra's narratives and his writing has a crisp, clean, ledgible and understandable style. That it was all like that. [via]

Namesake #2

Namesake "This award represents more than just validation of our business model," says Stuart Burns, president of Speedpro Systems Inc. in Canada. "It is a testament to the hard work of all our franchises and to the value that we are bringing to the marketplace." -- Yahoo

So far: Demon character on Buffy (in Hell's Bells from Season Seven).



Originally uploaded by Cantare.

Marie Curie Field Of Hope, Sefton Park, Liverpool

Digital downtown

Blog! "There's no greater feeling in Azeroth than picking up your first mount. Well, maybe the first successful MC raid, or making 60, or getting your epic mount...Well. I did feel special there for just a second." -- Azeroth is Metroblogging's first fictional city.

It's getting really sad when a fictional city there can get more viable posters (ten are needed) than Liverpool (or Manchester). [via]

"I've still got it..."

TV Whilst we're all still in denial about New Earth, at least we have the overnight ratings to look at. The raw data has been posted at Outpost Gallifrey:

Time ………. BBC1 ……………… ITV ……………… BBC2 ……………… CH4 ……………… CH5
19:15 ….. 7.8 (38.5%) ….. 4.8 (23.6%) ….. 1.9 ( 9.4%) ….. 0.9 ( 4.5%) ….. 1.0 ( 4.8%)
19:30 ….. 7.9 (38.4%) ….. 4.9 (23.6%) ….. 1.9 ( 9.2%) ….. 0.9 ( 4.3%) ….. 1.0 ( 4.9%)
19:45 ….. 8.3 (39.0%) ….. 4.9 (23.2%) ….. 2.0 ( 9.4%) ….. 0.9 ( 4.2%) ….. 1.2 ( 5.5%)

Which my C-grade GCSE Maths translates into ...

BBC One .... Doctor Who .......... 8 million (38.6% share)
BBC Two ..... Snooker .................. 1.9 million (9.3% share)
ITV1 .......... Harry Potter ........ 4.8 million (23.4% share)
Channel 4... The Passion (doc).......0.9 million (4.3% share)
Five ........... The Cowboys (film)... 1 million (5% share)

So a good result and something to build on. You know, I think last night's episode might have worked better with a family audience than the hardcore, in a similar way to Aliens of London, which I hated then but people seemed to respond to.

ITV1 have a new episode of Midsummer Murders scheduled opposite next week -- good family viewing (?)

Speaking of The Unquiet Dead, remember last year when BBC Four ran The Mystery of Charles Dickens later on that evening? They're doing something similar next week after Tooth and Claw with a showing of the film Mrs Brown at 8:30 once Doctor Who Confidential has finished. I wonder how much of the audience will work their way across the channels...

Redressing the balance

FilmHappy Easter. Between my Dalek and Tardis easter eggs and Roses chocolates, I found a welcome copy of Wes Craven's Red Eye which I raved about upon its cinema release and I'm happy to say still doesn't disappoint on the smaller screen. On this occasion I was able to see how meticulously the routine of taking the flight is explained in those opening twenty minutes, the details of moving from booking to bar to departure gate to seat explained in greater detail than might be expected and lulling the audience into a false sense of security.

It's also not clear in this opening section which genre the film is going to fall into -- there's a pervading sense of the sinister and that there's a wrongness to Cillian Murphy's character but there's a charm to him which means that it could equally turn out to be a bus film like Frank Capra's It Happened One Night set on a plane. When the 'surprise' happens it's portrayed in a slightly offhand manner -- as through the audience too is under the influence of Rachel McAdam's alcoholically fogged brain and only just about understanding that Murphy's character isn't joking.

But I think most impressive is how the film manages to run its plot through in eighty minutes without too much flabby chat or characterisation. Only the important information is revealed to the audience, who isn't quite clear why the greater events are happening because any exposition in that regard is unnecessary. There's a threat, some good people could be hurt by some bad people and McAdams is the heroine who stands in their way -- its actually about her own personal battle against herself and her ability to lift herself out of the doldrums that have afflicted her for two years.

Also on the dvd is a trailer for Just Like Heaven, the romantic comedy with Reese Witherspoon as a ghost. Whilst there wasn't much in there that would make me want to see the thing, there was one oddity. At the end the man with the gravelly voice read out the actor's names: "Reese Witherspoon ... Mark Ruffalo ... and Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder." This struck has a tad harsh -- is Jon Heder going to spend the rest of his career with the name of his breakout movie read out before his name, typecast as the man who asks about talons and poultry, because I'm wondering, under those conditions, who the hell's Mark Ruffalo ?!? I appreciate they're marketing a film and it's good that Heder's being highlighted but really.

Ruffalo's a perfectly engaging actor but since when was he a household name who didn't need an audience reminder? Which film would he have read out before his name? Is he You Can Count on Me's Mark Ruffalo or In the Cut's Mark Ruffalo? I'm only singling out Ruffalo because the billing suggested he was a more recognisable participant than Heder, when I would guess 8 out of 10 viewers it would be much the other way around. Just to level the playing field, here is the rest of the cast (according to the imdb) of Just Like Heaven rendered in much the same way ...

Overnight Delivery's Reese Witherspoon
e.r.'s Donal Logue
Big Night's Dina Spybey
Pi's Ben Shenkman
Jerry Maguire's Ivana Milicevic
Crimes and Misdemeanors's Caroline Aaron
Star Trek:Deep Space Nine's Rosalind Chao
Adventures in Babysitting's Ron Canada
Groundhog Day's Willie Garson
Freaky Friday's William Caploe
Hellcab's Shulie Cowen
Bachelor Party's Billy Beck
Soul Plane's Cristian Cruz
The First to Go's Catherine Taber
Coffee and Language's Chris Pflueger
Walk The Line's Kerris Dorsey
Fat Albert's Alyssa Shafer
Picture Perfect's Paul Cassell
The Right Stuff's Drew Letchworth
My Giant's Raymond O'Connor
The Joy Luck Club's Lucille Soong
Forever Young's Joel McKinnon Miller
Men in Black II's Victor Yerrid
Happy Is Not Hard to Be's Robert Benjamin
Forces of Nature's Kara Hamilton
Safe's Lorna Scott
Endless Love's Jeff Marcus
Snow Falling on Cedars's Ken Takemoto
Waterworld's Chaim Girafi
Enemy of the State's Jacob Chambers
Thank You for Smoking's Karen Harrison
London's Ingrid Coree
Freaky Friday's Lee Burns
Serendipity's Amita Balla
Alias's Tim Connolly
Rollerball's Tony Brubaker
Ready to Rumble's Tim Sitarz
Freejack's Jimmy Ortega
Rent's Ken Clark
Bee Season's Aida Bernardino
Rent's Michael F Grant
Bee Season's David Hodges
The Darwin Award's Steve Irish
That Game of Chess's Rick Margaritov
The Assassination of Richard Nixon's Janean Christine Mariani
Yang guang di yu zhi ren rou shi chang's Danton Mew
Freaky Friday's Zoe Waters
Bee Season's Kristina Wegscheider
Bee Season's James D. Weston II

And introducing ... Gabrielle Made, Diego Sebastian, Benjamin Hughes, Cara Vivien Rosenberg, Ron Hacker, David Niles, Nicole Wilder, Doug Krizner, Claire Johnston, Marilee Lesley & Harry Siitonen

That should do it. Although what's with all the Bee Season extras turning up here?