Animation Kristin Thompson's posted an amazingly detailed filmography for Aardman Animations and muses on the availability of the work.

"I never rehearsed with anybody but Mewes, really..." -- Kevin Smith

Film From Kevin Smith, a fact filled run down of the rehearsal times his various films have had: "For “Jersey Girl”, I got a week of rehearsals. We had Lopez for two days, though, since he manager wouldn’t let her rehearse until Miramax closed her deal - even though she was with us in Philly, sharing an apartment with our leading man."
About You might have noticed that I've been trying to get my Bloglines feed collection (for want of a better description) into some kind of order. It has been like the opposite of a building -- fast to create, slow to demolish. I'm really not sure what to do about the big long list of people and how to organise them. By location? Blog genre? Profession? Using the latter seems to a bit self-defeating because everyone's a journalist...

"Eighty percent of success is showing up." -- Woody Allen

Film TIME has the first proper review I've seen of Woody Allen's latest, Cassandra's Dream and echoes what I've been saying about the man's films for over a decade:
"There was a time in his career when Allen's lurches toward seriousness seemed to a lot of people unearned. He himself satirized that take on those films as early as 1980's Stardust Memories. But he's over 70 now — difficult as that is for some of us to believe — and he has fully earned the right to address us in any voice he chooses."
People seem desperate for Woody to return to the style of filmmaking he gave up on somewhere in the early nineties instead of simply enjoying what he's bringing us now. Such as that scene in Match Point ...

AHistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe.

Books There are basically two different approaches to Doctor Who’s grand narrative. On the Doctor Who Forum recently there was a rather long discussion about which order the Eighth Doctor stories should be consumed in. Everyone had their own theory, their personal canon as Paul Cornell memorably describes it, either jumping about the different media or looking at them in a fairly linear order (in my version of his life, it’s the novels, then the comics, then all the audios beginning with Shada and continuing into the latest monthly episodes). This and the old Outpost Gallifrey Canon Keeper’s Guide approach the story from the Doctor’s point of view, biographically slotting everything in from before An Unearthly Child and ending with Voyage of the Damned.

Lance Parkin’s Ahistory looks at the universe he travels in from the other perspective, placing events from within and implied by each story into chronological order writing instead a biography of the universe. Such endeavors are not unusual in science fiction television; when Star Trek was back in vogue, a chronology was produced of that timeline. The difference here is that unlike the Trek office who decreed that only the television series and the films should be considered canon (and about one novel and the flashbacks in an animated episode), the BBC have had a rather more relaxed approach (presumably because to say that nothing produced during the extend hiatus is valid would be an Amazing Spiderman-style kick in the teeth), which means that Parkin’s book attempts to rationalise everything but the silliest stories that the franchise has produced over the past forty-odd years.

This second edition (fourth if you count a fanzine and the Virgin publication) updates the material as far as a couple of months ago, as well as adding in every Doctor Who comic strip, the Dalek TV21 stories. Dimensions In Time is still ignored, as is Curse of the Fatal Death, but curiously Death Comes To Time is in there as is Scream of the Shalka. The main omission is short fiction; as Parkin points out there’s been so much of that across the annuals and Short Trips anthologies it would double the length of the book and because of some of its experimental nature create even more problems than already exist. Sadly Lance couldn’t find a ‘placement’ for one of my favourite bits of Doctor Who comics continuity, in which the Seventh Doctor met the British comics character Death’s Head on route from the Transformers timeline, shrunk him and deposited him in the Marvel Universe, thereby forcing three different franchises together in a few short pages.

What we have instead is an act of love only a fan could produce and clearly only a fan could read. It would appear to be a relatively easy prospect simply assigning each story a date and putting them all in order. But what Parkin does, with additional help from Lars Pearson, is see how the various stories all relate to one another often to the point of deepening the experience of watching/reading/listening to a particular story. That’s particularly true of Dalek history, in which countless orphaned stories suddenly become part of an ongoing campaign and their empire goes through all of the problems similar endeavours have on Earth with infighting, false profits and final destruction. As Parkin himself notes, the franchise has a roughly consistent approach to future history and actually Captain Jack was right, the twenty-first century is when it all changes (even if not necessarily during Torchwood).

But the author doesn’t simply slot everything together, at the bottom of each pages in a shaded area he includes his working out, either by simply mentioning the story that a factoid was referenced from or more often a mini-essay explaining his choice. It’s probable most readers will spend their time in this section as Parkin ruminates on who was the American president and when in the past few decades, quite why Sarah-Jane keeps forgetting that she’s met the Doctor since he dropped her off in The Hand of Fear (and if he really didn't care why did he give you K9?) and in what order the Doctor’s met Shakespeare (often enough that the bard’s as much of a companion as The Brigadier – assuming that really is him in The Shakespeare Code). To his credit, only now and then does he resort to blaming inconsistencies on the time war but as far as he’s concerned UNIT dating is still up in the air, the period in which they happen being given a discrete section with the main text, expending whole pages on the arguments left and right. If only Whatever Happened To Sarah-Jane had aired a few weeks earlier.

Perhaps of most interest to new fans will be the section about the present day, which shows how the three franchises all slot together and the events leading into the time war. oth betray many hours of thinking through as well, with Lance carefully knitting Torchwood into the gap between the mother series revealing that The Runaway Bride occurred mere weeks before a giant demon stomped all over Cardiff in End of Days (which mirroring our reality should be happening about now). Most of Blink actually happened in 2007 and we can see now on which days all the contemporary scenes in the last series happened, with the QuickRead Made of Steel occurring on the Wednesday. The time war is even more of a mind bender, as it attempts to unify the one from the Eighth Doctor novels with the one from the television series producing a rather surprising outcome in relation to who the central character of the new series actually is – his dialogue from The End of the World (“This is who I am! Right here, right now! Alright? All that counts is here and now and this is me!”) gaining a whole new meaning.

All of which is just the doorway of a dimensionally transcendental time capsule and it'd be probably quite fun showing this to someone whose only seen the new series, or else a non-fan to see what their reaction is. The fan reaction is one of utter addiction and a massive debt run up on ebay. Parkin has said that he didn’t write the book to be read from cover to cover, and that the best way to approach is to pick a favourite story and then see what was happening around it – but it’s perhaps even more exciting to simply let the book fall open at random. The only problem is of course that even the most die-hard fans will have read and seen everything so inevitably something is going to be spoiled so the book should be approached with caution. But it would be grand to think though that despite its unauthorised status, there are a couple of copies lying around in the offices of the new series so that when their version of contemporary Britain catches up with 2012 they remember that Mariah Learman is in power and a King is on the throne…

AHistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe by Lance Parkin
ISBN: 978-0975944660
RRP: $29.99 (approx. £15.00)
Release date: out now
Elsewhere It's a book review, and you're not going to believe of what. Fans, eh.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

TV I think my reaction to the first series of Torchwood was best summed up by that pensioner in the opening scene of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, ‘Bloody Torchwood’. It might have had its fans, yet in general it was ill conceived, inconsistently written, variably acted, annoyingly directed, and week in and out embarrassed the franchise in a way which creator Russell T Davies implied would be enough to have it shut down. Certainly, reviewing the thing week in and out became an act of narcissism, best summed up by sitting up until half two on a cold New Year’s Day slating the final episode, something which on reflection looks like an act of insanity. I haven’t been able to watch that first series since it was broadcast, letting it slowly disappear into the mists of my brain like one of those nightmares about being naked on the bus to work, which you try to forget but keeps nagging at you particularly when you are on the bus to work.

Yet here I am at midnight doing it all again, and you know what? It’s a pleasure. Tonight’s season premiere (as the yanks call them) was really, really good. Seemingly taking on board some of the criticisms which greeted the first thirteen, this was a far more confident affair, offering a tighter script, more coherently stylish direction and far greater chemistry within the cast and on top of that, after a few initial collywobbles, thoroughly compelling. Seriously, it’s the business. During the 1990s, the Wednesday at Nine slot was hallowed territory, usually owned by Channel 4 who dropped everything from e.r. to American Gothic in there (to be followed by reruns of the previous year's series of Friends). With the advent of Heroes last year it seemed BBC Two had noticed the beauty of the hour (middle of the week, not worth going out) and on the basis of that, following it up with Torchwood is a genius decision.

Admittedly storywise, the reappearance of someone from a character’s past to break up the existing equilibrium is an old tv cliché (even the new series has done it at least twice); but here it was a perfectly valid way of relaunching the series, providing new viewers with a way into whatever the premise of the series is. Crucially the portentous opening voiceover which confused the issue in the first series (brilliantly made fun of in a deleted scene from The Last of the Timelords) has been removed (replaced on this occasion by the exposition blowfish’s labelling of the crew). Torchwood’s mission is now more clearly defined as being covert defenders of the Cardiff area, chasing after, yes, whatever intergalactic flotsum and jetsum drops in from the sky or through the rift. That seems like a fairly noble cause and distinct enough from what UNIT tends to do (are they C-19 though?).

The big double-cross is also the usual outcome of these things, but again this was done earlier enough into the episode that it wasn’t all about that – plus given the characterisation it wasn’t too much of a surprise. A less assured script would have attempted to make this returning figure entirely sympathetic so that their betrayal would be a shock. Captain John throwing a mugger from a building hardly did that and at no point where we led to believe that he was a reformed character. Part of the fun was in simply waiting to see exactly when he’d hit poison, punch or shoot someone. Sight unseen I would never have labeled this a Chris Chibnall script so he’s clearly upped his game on last year’s closing farrago and realised that the key to the series is acknowledging its ludicrousness instead of trying to portray events as totally earth shattering and very, very important. Indeed. It’s also not afraid to drop in a few references for the genre crowd (‘drink-now’ and ‘Help me Obi-Wan Kinobi’ indeed).

At the epicentre of the bubble bursting was guest star James Marsters, reprising many of his charismatic tricks and accent from the pre-souled Spike who’d steal whole episodes of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Even his initial meeting with past-Boe Captain Jack mirrored William The Bloody’s reunion with Angel in that series’ episode School Hard. This is a distinct character however, a glorious creation, genuinely scary in places because he simply doesn’t care but also curiously likeable in ways with John Simm’s Master never could quite manage – more of the Delgado Master actually. But with a youthful vigour and the adolescent capacity to be dumbfounded – his reaction to see Jack alive and well was, as Julie Gardener would put it, amazing. Isn’t it a pity that none of the team are fans of the old PC game Worms; surely on the basis of evidence, the exploding poodle will do the trick?

More importantly his appearance reminds us that despite his Utopian revelations, we really don’t know that much about Captain Jack’s past – he’s still as much of a mystery to us as to the Torchwood team. Some would see that as the re-engaging of one of the less useful elements of the first series, except here it was much better handled, especially since Jack hasn’t reverted back to type – he’s the fun-loving version who bounced out of the last series of Doctor Who – it really is more fun when he’s around. Who is he bereft of then? A wife? Husband? Child? Something else? And what has the Captain doing between leaving the Doctor and Martha, during the day, and turning up that in the nick of time at that house? John Barrowman did seem to up his game throughout though, clearly enjoying this new sparing partner
But all of the actors are far more comfortable with one another and their characters - although PC Andy was always great (yet is still underused). Steps have been taken between series to make the team a far more likeable prospect and some of the group scenes, particularly the one in the back of the taxi suggest that someone’s been taking notes from the likes of Firefly and even Star Trek, that viewers like to spend time with friends rather than enemies pretending to be a team, especially when they're getting an equal share of the action. Eve Myles is still the most versatile and authoritative of the four, but Naoko Mori given the chance proves she can be a bit amusing and Gareth David-Lloyd has also been given a funny bone transplant – look he’s even underplaying the humour! Burn Gorman still has that slightly annoying walk though.

Some elements still came a bit unstuck. The constant wip-pans also have potential to seem awfully dated and the music was desperately annoying in places oscillating between the kind of musak that’s the stock in trade during old school Neighbours and a kind of techno which graced the disastrous recreation of Ibiza featured in Big Finish’s The Rapture. Blur’s Song 2 has been ruined by overuse in car commercials and movie fight sequences (even Charlie’s Angels for goodness sake) so it seemed like a bit of a cliché playing over the lover’s tiff in the bar (perhaps inspired by a similar scene of destruction in the underrated assassin film Mr & Mrs Smith which cleverly borrowed Charles Wright’s Express Yourself instead). Plus, just how secret is Torchwood anyway, given that a pensioner knows who the hell they are?

Somewhere along the line the production team have remembered the vital ingredient which makes Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures work so well usually – if nothing else, you have to be entertaining. It was witty, exciting, touching without being maudlin and mostly giving off the appearance of being effortless (even though pre-show interviews demonstrated that this wasn’t the case) and enough to make me want to go back and rewatch the first series just to see if it actually was as awful as it appeared. A very high benchmark then, but the throw-forward that concluded the episode only increased my excitement – Captain John’s not gone yet, there are giant insects, marauding Weevil, Richard Briers, Jim Robinson and the return of Martha Jones (both of whom it seems will have the accompanying soundtrack they deserve). On the basis of this, I’m wondering if a return appearance from Abaddon wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Then again, perhaps not.

“Right lads, let’s fire up the Quattro” -- Gene Hunt, 'Ashes to Ashes'

TV Everyone who was lucky enough to see the Life on Mars sequel the other night had to sign an embargo, including Paul at TV Scoop. Except he's the one who decided to review it anyway. Sounds amazing.

“I’m big here.” -- Anna Netrebko

Music What I love about this interview with opera diva Anna Netrebko is that she comes across as being exactly how you would expect: “I love to eat. If you let me, I’ll never stop. This is almost my biggest passion. And here it’s big, and it’s getting bigger because of the singing.” She presses the heels of her palms into the lats under her armpits. “Because of the breaths. All my dresses are getting small for me. I have to give them to my girlfriends – my pretty designer clothes. Before, I didn’t have any problem. After thirtysomething, I started to put on weight. I like it. Men like it. My boyfriend says, ‘Never lose it!’ But we’ll see. I don’t want to be fat, because I want to fit the beautiful clothes. This is most important.” [via]

Previously: “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?”

"Bloody Torchwood" -- Pensioner, 'Torchwood: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'

Elsewhere My review of last night's Torchwood has been posted here. I won't spoil the surprise ...

"So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip." -- Charles Dickens, 'Great Expectations'

Liverpool Life And just when you think you've seen everything, you pass through the university precinct and see someone giving away free money. Two girl shaped students standing around outside the bank were handing out the above flyers this afternoon which as you can see had a pound coin taped to the front. 'Check out the website' they said cheerfully.

Curiously instead of some new student finance company, it's actually a YouTube inspired video sharing community which offers payment for videos. Its about page provides a bit of a mystery:
"Cashtomato was founded by a wealthy mystery benefactor, who is described by all who know him as "eccentric". He made his fortune in real estate, and is now having more fun giving it away, than he ever did making it. For now, he will remain anonymous, although his identity will probably be revealed sooner or later.

Our mission is to be the biggest, or at least the funnest, video sharing community on the web. We want to give cash to our members, to have fun, and also to donate a lot of money. Cashtomato is about being both generous and selfish, naughty and nice, yin and yang, sugar and spice. We just want to have fun, make money, and give a lot away. Help us do it!
I suspect this is some kind of viral marketing campaign for something else entirely, especially since whoever is giving away their money is only seeming withholding their identity temporarily. It seems very curious that a philanthropist would pay students for uploading home videos rather than giving it to Oxfam. Eccentric indeed.

On reflection though what seems like a reckless act -- handing out coinage -- turns out to be quite clever since I did look at the website and here I am writing about it on my blog. Job done then, with me looking a bit foolish -- except for gratefully being a pound up. Although surely there were less secluded places with more foot traffic than where these two were hidden?

See also: I tried to avoid a Hare Krishna follower today.

"Tale as old as time" -- 'Beauty and the Beast'

Film Disney are returning to traditional animation and on the back of Enchanted it's a return to a story about a princess. Empire magazine has the first image from Princess And The Frog (which sounds oh so very much like Beauty and the Beast).
Science Possible cure for Alzheimer's and wine tastes better when the drinker it told it's more expensive than it actually is. I wonder which one will get the most coverage in the UK ...

“The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenements halls and whispered in the sounds of silence” -- Paul Simon

Liverpool Life Another great Liverpool landmark is closed. The pedestrian subway next to Lime Street Station which runs under the dual carriageway appearing again under St George's Hall is partially being filled in for reasons related to it being not particularly safe at night and possibly the building work which is soon to begin in the general area (demolition of the shops included). There's a perfectly adequate crossing in place across the road so functionally its become a bit redundant, but I do have a few memories of using the tunnel. Along with Liverpool Cathedral it always seemed to be one of the few places in the city with a perfect echo, but unlike the big church, with the traffic running overhead, people chatter in the distance and the distant underground trains this was a place filled with alien sounds and reverberations. I don't know how this effects access to the underground station but I do hope there will still be the place for a hopeful busker, knocking out Beatles tunes to the city's visitors.

I'm also going to embarrass Peter Carr by linking again to him for the second day running to congratulate him his thousandth posted photo. Another spectacular picture from last Friday night, of the fireworks this time. The Artfinder blog posts Ringo's lyrics. Even though I missed it, the general impression I've been hearing is that the crowd would have been happier if he'd followed it up with something they could sing along to.

Intentional Comedy (potential spoilers)

TV Missed at Christmastime: The NOT BBC website voted something called Dr Who as having the Best Intentional Comedy In A Non-Comedy Show, behind Life on Mars and Top Gear. Which seems fair considering the winner had some of the most quotable dialogue this decade ("You're surrounded by armed bastards..." etc.)

Elsewhere, Off The Telly has a 'rare' interview with John Barrowman on the occasion of the new series of Torchwood. There may be a spoiler or two for people who are trying to stay completely clean ready for Wednesday night. Most of these things are starting to blend into one another, but he seems particular frank in this, especially when talking about the working conditions:

"But, honestly, this last series was a bit of a nightmare at times. [...] Because of bad scheduling. Because of production things going wrong, and people not being organised. It was hard on all of us - us as a team. Myself and other artistes. The production crew and everyone had to give free time back. Can you imagine going into a grocery store, paying for half of your groceries and coming out and asking for the rest free? Only in this business would that happen. That's what I mean - we love the show so much, the crew love it, we're all passionate about it. We're willing to do that."

Well done to Graham for the honesty of this exchange, and actually increases the overall impression that this is going to be a good new series. Some of an artist's best work can come out of the pressure to perform (so to speak).


TV The preliminary ballot for the 2007 Nebula Awards is out and Steven Moffat's script for Blink is in there against some quite stiff competition, including one of those Star Trek: New Voyages fan films (which is quite a coup for them).

"Its taken a place I love and made it even more photogenic." -- Pete Carr

Liverpool Life Pete Carr's amazing image of the People's Opening taken from the top of the Radio City Tower, which formed the centre piece of souvenir sections in both of the local newspapers today.

Their names fit their jobs #2

Food Conde Naste food critic Tucker Shaw reviews fast food: "Wendy’s new go-big offering, the seductively named Baconator, slaps six strips of bacon, two patties, and two American-cheese slices onto a bun. Wendy's beef is coarsely ground, and its gimmicky square patties meaty but crumbly and sometimes underseasoned. The bacon was limp and the cheese unmelted—two deal-breakers."

“I thought it would get easier, but it seems to get harder the more you get ahead” -- Chad L. Coleman

TV Chad L. Coleman, star of The Wire still works a monthly shift at his local food co-op in New York and in this interview comes across as a very humble bloke: "“We all eat, sleep, breathe, and we all have lives to take care of, regardless of the celebrity or notoriety or whatnot,” he said the other day at Tea Lounge, across the street from the co-op, after dropping his 8-year-old daughter off at school. “ ‘What are you doing in the co-op?’ Well, my family’s in the co-op. My wife would kill me if she couldn’t get her organic food.”"

"For mature readers..." -- 'Behind The Sofa'

Elsewhere The new version of one of my other haunts, Behind The Sofa has gone live! For now it can be found at the subdomain, but the proper address should be working in the next couple of hours. Thanks and congratulations to Neil, Damon and John for all their hard work.

As part of the switch over we reviewers had to post a new biography, and you can read mine here: "The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m easily pleased. Waive something colourful and shiny or even your hand in front in my face and you’re sure to get a giggle."

"People say God watches over the innocent." -- Farmer Daimon, 'In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale'

Film With a title like In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale it could only be directed by Uwe Boll. But look at that cast and some of the billings. 'Burt Reynolds ... King Konreid' But you were the Bandit, man.