Yes, yes ... I would ... I would do it!

TV Is Davros back for series three? BBC Norfolk interview Terry Malloy on the occasion of the release of the new Big Finish I, Davros series and the surprisingly knowledgeable presenter asks the burning question:

MB: Are there any whisperings from the Doctor Who office in Cardiff whether Davros might return to our screens?

TM: You might think that, I couldn't possibly comment.

MB: You could...

TM: But I won't. It was worth a try. [He laughs]

Which looks like a none-denial denial to me ...

Caught on a blog

TV New Poliakoff dramas for next year:
"The first drama, which has the working title Poliakoff 2006, explores the relationship between two central characters, a reclusive billionaire, played by Gambon and the son of a cleaner who takes care of a neighbouring house, played by recent Lamda graduate Danny Lee Wynter. Penry-Jones features as a high flying politician having a clandestine affair. This piece will be for BBC1 while the second, entitled Capturing Mary, is for BBC2 - both are made by Talkback Thames."
The channel split is interesting and suggests that the second drama might be an edgier work more akin to his earlier films. I do hope he'll make these on film rather than the HD-Video that's in widespread use now. Film still has a quality which seems to fit Poliakoff's work and I can't imagine that something like Shooting The Past would have been as evocative.

Be my BFI

Jobs I'm just printing out an application to work here. Sounds perfect. Fingers crossed etc.

It's Wicked

Film The Wicked Lady, an outrageous bodice ripper from the British Gainsborough film studio in mid-1940s stars Margaret Lockwood as socialite Barbara, a Shakespearean vamp, who having cheated her way into marrying money, becomes bored in the big house and (obviously) takes up the outlaw life of a highwaywoman to add some excitement to her existence. Lockwood is ravishing in the title role although a much of the priority in the lighting department is given to her cleavage, which in an industry untouched by the Hayes code which had stifled overt-sexuality in US films of the time, steals many scenes. Despite the studio bound production values, it's sensationally racy stuff as Lockwood shags, betrays and murders her way through all around her, with only her rival then cohort in crime, Captain Jackson (played with perfectly judged irony by a young James Mason) holding her at bay. The script's hardly literature but like Mrs Miniver (which was released at roughly the same time) its feminism is years ahead of its time. Surprising.

I am!

Blog! "DON'T you cut your eyes at me! I am PREGNANT! I am NOT moving! So F*CK YOU!" and then glancing at everyone staring at her added, "..and F*CK you all!" -- NML encounters commuter rage

Dragons, not dungeons

Film 64 reasons to (re)watch Dungeons and Dragons. I, really, really, hated this on release. What was I thinking? Some highlights:
"Quite recently I did a film, and I met this director, and he was very small and he was disgusting to look at" - Tom Baker, 2001.

"The movie is based on the Dungeons & Dragons RPG, but they didn't get the rights to use any of the Dungeons & Dragons worlds, meaning the movie is just based on the game's rules. This is presumably why one of the characters is referred to as "a low-level mage" in casual conversation."

"The DVD features an interview with Jeremy Irons, who is trying not to burst out laughing while talking about how his character plans to take over the world. "In that way, he's a character we've seen before."
New Line Cinema actually released this, and I think I'm remembering the publicity right, as a taster for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yeah, heh. [via]


Liverpool "But an opera about the Adelphi? The bloody Adelphi?" -- (?)

Brilliantly snippy review of the Capital of Culture 2008 announcement from the new website Liverpool Confidential which I received an email about this afternoon (from someone called Thanks Mr. Postman). It's a mix of restaurant reviews and commentary about the area and (obviously) a sequel to Manchester Confidential. Still early days although I'm very impressed that they've hired Angie Sammons of the late lamented North West Enquirer as editor, after her superb work in their arts pages. This could potentially be the alternative to the Liverpool Echo that the city needs.

"You think I'm nuts?"

Politics Watching President George W Bush stuttering through the press conference earlier I was somehow minded that although I don't really like him or his party or his policies, that at least Prime Minister Tony Blair has a statesman-like quality and knows how to conduct himself in front of the media. After the prepared statement, Bush found himself being harranged and unable to deflect the charge that he'd lied to three pressmen who'd visited the White House before the election about the replacement of Donald Rumsfeld. It's not that he lied, it's that he was unable to cover it up with any skill.

His argument seemed to be that he couldn't have lied to the men of the press about Rumsfeld staying on because he hadn't yet had a final conversation with his replacement. But why would he be even talking to replacements if Rumsfeld was staying on? When asked this question fairly directly, he squirmed slightly them spoke fairly condescendingly to the people he really should be convincing as though they were stupid because they didn't understand his logic. No, Mr. President we don't understand your logic.

I think it must have been the longest time that BBC News 24 have stayed with a US Presidential press conference so it was a change to see unexpurgated coverage of Bush inserting his foot in his mouth without interjections from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Setting aside what he was saying, he struck me as a very rude man, never looking anyone in the eye and often interrupting their questions mid-flow which seemed to be a deflection tactic. When answering, his statements seemed to either ignore the question (which is a classic trick of all politicians) or reiterate the same point in different ways.

He often denied saying something moments after he said them. In this transcript, he states: "Look, this was a close election. If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a
." (my emphasis)

Seconds later, the following exchange occured with Jim Ruttenberg:
"Q Thank you, Mr. President. You just described the election results as a "thumping."
THE PRESIDENT: I said the cumulative -- make sure -- who do you write for?
Q The New York Times, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes, that's right. (Laughter.) Let's make sure we get it -- the facts. I said that the elections were close; the cumulative effect --
Q Is a thumping.
THE PRESIDENT: -- thumping. (Laughter.)
Q But the results --
THE PRESIDENT: A polite way of saying -- anyway, go ahead. (Laughter.)
Actually, that should be (Nervous Laughter.) which is pretty much what it was all the way through. Bush basically attributes something he said to Ruttenberg summing up the essence of what he said. Did he forget he said it? Was he that nervous? Or was he actively attempting to covering up what he said?

As Wonkette suggests, these weren't great questions, Bush wasn't getting brickbats, Paxman or Humphreys aren't going to lose any sleep, and yet here was The President largely unable to navigate his way through most of them with any great clarity. At some points his answer boiled down to 'Um -- don't know -- you've looked at this in greater detail than I have...' Which just doesn't seem right to me.

And neither does answering the tail end of an answer with a question which everyone is bound to have an answer for:

"You think I'm nuts?"*

Sure I'm partisan. I'm an, ooh, liberal and a Democrat supporter if it's possible for someone in another country to take a political position in another. In the UK, I'm currently without party since our Liberal Democrats have dropped into a directionless meltdown and noth Labour and particularly the Conservatives are ideologically confused. At this rate I'll be voting Green which might seem like a wasted vote but which at least leaves me with a clean conscience.

But what I'm, well ok, criticising here is that the apparent leader of the free world is unable to spend an hour with the press, after six years of being in office, and show a performance within a crisis which does not appear to have markedly improved within that time. I'd have the same criticism of any President who gave that showing because in the end doesn't he not only embarass himself but also the workers who've supported his party? It's part of the office, I thought, showing leadership. When Bush could have been proving his critics wrong, he simply confirmed everything. Who briefs him? Does anyone brief him?

* As an aside I was watching a grand documentary the other week in which a Democrat was fight an entrenched Republican candidate. In many of his speeches he would quote the great words of former Presidents. I look at "You think I'm nuts?" and wonder if this Bush has actually said anything that's quotable that isn't a joke?


TV "For all these years, Lorelai in 'Gilmore Girls' has been painful and surprising and exciting to watch - a marvelous high-wire act. How cruel that the new writer of the show wants to rub her face in conventionality, strip her of the speed that was her reason for being and transform her into another banal television lead." -- This is a (slightly spoilery) tragedy. Thank goodness I'm still waiting for Season Three. Four more seasons of quick fire to watch on dvd before the rot sets in. Keris - what will we do?


TV Challenge Anneka returns. But will the magenta jump suit also re-appear? And Keith?

Bright light.

That Day Another fireworks photo. This looks like flowers in the sky.

Song for Ten

Elsewhere My disappointingly sober and positive review of last night's Torchwood is pretty much eclipsed by the negative reactions of everyone else on Behind the Sofa. Again we ask -- is it hurting the franchise?

Also in the whoniverse, Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy will be contributing a couple of tracks to the upcoming Doctor Who soundtrack, basically the songs from the Christmas specials. Murray Gold's scores which often flirted with brilliance when they weren't simply rerecording the music from Firefly are also included.


TV What an odd series. After last week's weirdly structured and bizarrely directed episode I really feared that this was a duck, a bungle, a six hundred and fifty minute mistake being played out tortuously over thirteen weeks. But tonight's episode lived up to the promise of the opening episode, delivering enough shocks, surprises and thrills to just about scrub out the memory of last week's misstep. Still open to question however, is whether the series would be essential viewing were it not for the Doctor Who connection and the mystery of the hand applications.

Not that it began well, with what can best be described as a distracting homage to the teaser for the Firefly episode Bushwacked with all the basketball and the time rift pulling some really, really cheesy metal music from the 1980s to accompany the reveal of the cyberwoman. And that costume! On the one hand, it was obviously designed to look completely outrageous and disconcertingly sexy, but in the context of the episode it really, really jarred and must have been a real pain for actress Caroline Chikezie (late of As, If and Footballer's Wives) who should be congratulated for being able to produce a credible performance beneath the silliness.

This was the classic base-under-siege that the mother series has always done so well, although it also owed some debt to the works of John Carpenter and Ridley Scott. It still, understandably, continues to look like a much cheaper series than Doctor Who, and the re-use of the CG for the cyber-converter was a shame although the pterodactyl looked good. It's a risk to run a bottle episode this early in the run, but as I think I've said in earlier reviews this is not a show about original ideas and why should that matter if it's also entertaining? So what too if they're trotting out the usual debates about what 'tis to be human as though it hasn't already been looked at ad-nausea on Star Trek.

Hold on -- sorry, I think that sentence gatecrashed from the negative review the evil version of me is writing in the Bad Torchwood dimension. Where was I? Oh ...

The real key on this occasion was of course that as well as simply battling the alien presence to the death, Torchwood was fighting with itself and the implications of that death. This was a pleasingly streamlined story, free of the flab that's been dogging the series. Developing the narrative in near real time helped enormously, and although we're yet to see writer Chris Chibnall tackle Doctor Who, it's almost as though he'd seen what worked there and transferred it here.

Some might criticise that again we're supposed to be surprised by the manic secrecy of a character we've had little time to get to know, but the performances really went some way to filling in the blanks -- John Barrowman's disappointment clashing with David-Lloyd's desperation. Given this more dramatic material, the cast either toned down or keyed up their work accordingly and for the first time there was real chemistry and urgency. For some reason the lack of overall characterisation seemed less important and actually worked to the episode's advantage -- Ianto points out that Jack (and we) didn't know about this because no one's bothered to ask.

[Good lord, according to the wikipedia Gareth David-Lloyd is currently dating Sara Lloyd Gregory who played Carys in Day One, and he actually essayed the role of Yanto Jones in RTD's Mine All Mine.]

Will the pterodactyl fight another day? As an internal security system, a giant dinosaur is certainly novel and one of the key decisions in this series seems to be to run with the idea of incongruous juxtapositions. The show is unapologetically serving up B-movie material (and in this case with a manga tinge) within a serial format and there's really nothing wrong with that if it's done with these winning sensibilities. The problem last week was that the underlying sense of ludicrousness was taken far too seriously, whereas here the madness was instead being played straight and it worked very well. A balance too was struck between the larger than life dialogue of the opener and something far more realistic -- and the fall out from Suzie suicide finally bit as it wasn't clear if Jack really would shoot Ianto in the head (or vice versa).

What is becoming abundantly clear is that Torchwood, possibly because of the alien influence have a very different sense of morality considering that they're the good guys. In those closing moments, who did they kill? Even though Lisa had swapped her mind into the body of Annie the pizza girl, which is monstrous act, wasn't she fully human? Even though she still suggested upgrading wasn't that just psychological conditioning which could have been reversed? Didn't she, despite the new outward appearance, deserve a second chance? And how can anyone trust Ianto now -- is it wise not to kick him out of The Hub -- or is this a better the devil you know call?

[Incidentally, Annie actress Bethan Walker is on Twitter.]

Does the episode prove that Torchwood has legs after all? I'm still scratching my head. In a sense, this wasn't an episode that displayed all of the apparent promise of seeing a full blooded sci-fi story on the streets of Cardiff. How it scored instead was that despite being a direct sequel to a Doctor Who episode, it still managed to have its own tone and style and a sense of story that could and would not have worked at seven o'clock on a Saturday. Although the debate about whether that's a good thing still rages, and it's really difficult not to talk about the series without referring back to (and I'll say it again) the mother series, it's still quite exciting to see that material being produced without exceptions being made for the sake of the kids.

Sometimes vocabulary runs through head ...

Music All Saints were always one of my guilty pleasures for no readily apparent reason, especially considering how long I held a torch for Debbie Gibson in my teens. I can remember feeling guilty when I bought Bootie Call, probably because I was by then in my twenties and this was girl pop (I thought). I might be one of the few people in the country to have one of the very early releases from after Simone Rainford left and the Appletons joined. On reflection, this was actually some of the best, most influential pop of the late nineties. Whereas the Spice Girls begot a certain Liverpool threesome, All Saints lineage continues through the Sugababes, including the manic infighting. And I loved it.

Given that infighting, the matter of a new single from The Saints is miraculous (their enmity has apparently dissolved having had their little talks) so I'm pleased to report that although it's not brilliant, it's a grower. The problem with Rock Steady is that, although its an above average bit of pop, it lacks the innovation that was always their forte. Say what you like about Never Never but that opening monologue was distinctive and surprising, both for its length and insight. Sure they had their fair share of misjudged cover versions and film roles, but Pure Shores outlived its film soundtrack origins to underscore a time.

There's no doubt that Rock Steady is catchy. You can sing along to it, and dance probably. But it doesn't have that distinctive voice -- it does sound like both Girl's Aloud and the Sugababes yet somewhat more generic which could be seen as backwards step. All Saints were always about presenting individual voices and yet here they are in chorus, which no doubt it supposed to indicate that they're united again but simply doesn't point to their vocal strengths. Inevitably the b-sides are better, particularly Do Me which contains all the mad percussive elements and quasi-verse and choruses that digressions. But again, the vocal is hidden and there's a rather disappointing fade out at the end. The Calvin Harris remix of Rock Steady favours the vocal and works far better -- but my taste is for demos and underproduction so I'm bound to say that.

And yet. And yet.

It's still great to see the girls back together in their hoodies, leathers and chav on the cover. It's only been five years but worth noting that they still look incredible. Like Paul hovering about the zebra crossing, there's probably some reason why Melanie's eyes have been obscured by the shadow from her cap. And it's a shame that the Appletons still couldn't muster a smile -- or perhaps the photo was taken before the reconciliation. The single has already charted at 11 based on downloads which isn't bad. I'll still be buying the album out of curiosity although I can't imagine it'll be as exciting as The Bangles' comeback Doll Revolution -- now that was amazing.


That Day Boom! Bang! Pow! Kieran and Nicole have great pictures of last night's firework display in Sefton Park.

Myles Away

Blog! "Increasingly I've found it difficult to write here out of love rather than simply duty. The blog has also become far too introspective of late, as well as mutating into a generally gloomy, unhelpful read. So it's time to pull the plug." -- Alistair Myles puts down his keyboard.

I knew that Alistair's blog would only ever be temporary and in a way I envy that he knows when to call it a day (I just tend to keep hammering out this stuff hoping that something of quality sneaks through once in a while). It's been a consistently excellent read, day in and out for that whole twelve months and it will be missed. Luckily, Alistair has listed the highlights in his final post and it's a great body of work which I recommend you go look at if you have the chance and for some reason you haven't already. See also his contribution to Review 2005. Take care, Alistair.

Not Dynamite

Blog! "It's happened to all of us. Our friends have raved about Swingers or Napolean Dynamite. They wouldn't shut up with their "Gooooosh"es and "You're so Money, Baby"s. When we finally give in and rent the damn movie, expecting to laugh until our appendices burst, we sit there, silent, dumbfounded as to what our friends found so funny. Then the next day, we end up watching something like You, Me and Dupree, a movie so awful sounding you don't actually know why we rented it, and spitting coke over the coffee table at some dumb joke we have heard a million times before. Or maybe that's just me." -- You're not alone, Meredith.