Film Brett Ratner directing Beverly Hills Cop 4. As one poster on Cinematical notes:
"And pairing Eddie Murphy with Brett Ratner is like the perfect storm equivalent for bad movies."
We can only hope that the right honourable Judge Reinhold is returning.
Previously: Ratner screws up a Manhunter remake and X-Men 3.
Life I've recently realised that ione of my defence mechanisms in situations where my existence is a problem for some random stranger is to become incredibly oblivious. The other day I was in Bolton for reason's that should be guessable for regular readers and happened to be walking and reading a Tourist Information booklet for a few seconds whilst I decided what to do next. Next thing I know, there's a woman with a push chair bellowing in my ear 'If you looked where you were going it would be a big help."

I'd imagine some people would have an answer for that or might even have apologised (although given that from what I could see she'd approached from me from behind and had essentially tailgated me until I'd allegedly got in her way and I'm not exactly hard to miss I didn't see why). Instead I ignored her and just carried on my merry way towards Boots to buy my lunch (and haven't their triple chicken sandwiches become less tasty across time?). Out of the corner of my eye I could see her glaring at me as she walked backward into a British Home Stores.

Tonight, on the bus home, the woman I was sitting next to kept glancing across to me from her book and not in the way you're thinking and certainly not in the way you'd really want. She had a slightly irritated look in her eye and I'd clearly done something to irritate her. Was I sitting too close to her? Was my mp3 player on too loud? I changed my underwear this morning and had a shower so it couldn't be that. My fly was not undone.

But she kept glancing and all I could do was pretend she wasn't. I just kept looking forward, arms crossed. Then I sneezed. And she said "Bless you." I said "Thank you." And we carried on the with same routine, the glancing, the ignoring. Then I got up and I heard her sigh in that way that says "Thank goodness for that." I'm quite happy to revel in my obliviousness, but it's actually really hard work trying not look like you don't care.
Music Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth to become opera. This isn't as far fetched as it seems. I'd love to hear this direct quote from the opening monologue set to music:
"You look at that river gently flowing by. You notice the leaves rustling with the wind. You hear the birds; you hear the tree frogs. In the distance you hear a cow. You feel the grass. The mud gives a little bit on the river bank. It’s quiet; it’s peaceful. And all of a sudden, it’s a gear shift inside you. And it’s like taking a deep breath and going... 'Oh yeah, I forgot about this'."
That said, imagine the surtitles.
Music Dr. Mark Kermode writes about skiffle at The Observer and includes samples of music from his band The Dodge Brothers.
Life Of course, one of the wisest pop songs ever recorded was Hold On by Wilson Phillips, or so I thought on the bus this morning when I looked up at the sky and noticed it was the same colour as the pavement and I heard it playing on the driver's radio:
"Don't you know?
Don't you know things can change
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day
Can you hold on for one more day
Things'll go your way
Hold on for one more day."
Not quite poetry, but just what I needed, thanks.

"At the beginning there was the Word - at the end just the Cliche.” -- Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Art I’m going to use a cliché to describe the Grosvenor Museum in Chester so stand well back. Like a Tardis, it’s bigger on the inside. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, because it really is. The building does look tall and forbidding from the outside, but you sort of expect that stepping through the front door you’ll find yourself in a space not unlike a bank with a low ceiling and tiny reception area. Instead it’s a massive atrium, with a stairwell twisting around the edge like some medieval castle, the display rooms leading off from the sides. But then, just when you think you’ve seen everything, you notice a door at the back of the ground floor which leads through into the shop and then into a whole other adjoining building, 22 Castle Street, a National Trust-style recreation of a 17th century home.

The fine art collection is mainly displayed in a room on the first floor nicely decked out to look like the kind of display space you might find at one of the much larger metropolitan galleries with green wallpaper and lots of furniture. Usually with these potted reviews I like to offer some of the history, some the flavour of the place, and describe my favourite paintings as best I can, usually having taken copious amounts of notes whilst I was there, usually because you won’t be able to see most of these paintings yourself because the gallery doesn’t have the resources to offer a website with much depth.

The Grovesnor Museum has a useful website for a change and I don’t see much point in simply reproducing what they say. Certainly there’s more in here than I found out on the day about the history of the museum, rooms in the adjoining house and particularly the fine art collection with very detailed pages dedicated to the most important works in their collection. The museum currently lacks for a guidebook (it’s currently being rewritten) and a print publication of the material in these pages would do the trick.

On entering the room you can’t fail to notice Diana The Huntress by Jacob Van Oost The Elder (great name). The story being illustrated reminds me of the time I stumbled into a housemates room at in my second year at university to tell her she had a phone call and finding her half naked cloaked only seconds later in a scowl. Now I suspect I was lucky because Diana turned her accidental peeper, Actaeon into a stag. If Elizabeth had magical powers they didn’t stretch to transmogrification; instead she didn’t speak to me much for the rest of the year – but judging by the times we did speak I’m not sure I was losing out on much. Meeow.

What’s stunning about Van Oost’s painting is the split perspective – the scene of Actaeon being chased by the hunt looks almost like a painting within a painting or a depth of field experiment not unlike the one employed by Orson Welles at the opening of Citizen Kane to show the audience the boy whose future the adults are discussing. There’s also his depiction of Diana – she’s not the vicious and cruel character you might expect, although psychologically you could infer that chillingly she’s psychologically disconnected from what she’s just done.

Looking through my notes I’m quite surprised to find that I’ve been most impressed by paintings that don’t appear on the website, so here goes. Pollock Sinclair Nisbet’s North African Scene (1887) offers the kind of reportage you might expect from National Geographic though as the label notes there’s also definitely an element of orientalism. Nesbet’s impressionistic style shows traders huddled in a non-descript alleyway with light peaking in from the edge – the main street. Whatever it is they’re doing they want to keep it from prying eyes and the viewer’s participating in a kind of voyerism, like a cop in a CCtv control room.

Henry Pether’s Chester Castle By Moonlight is a shimmering view of the city from just outside its borders, his alluring application of lighting picking out the edges of the buildings and ripples on the waters of the river. Recently restored it’s a shame that in its present position, close to the ceiling, its slightly obscured by light from a nearby lamp, but if you can stand at the right angle you’ll find an excellent way of seeing Chester’s past, however idealised, since most of the buildings within have subsequently been demolished or have collapsed.

Close at hand is a small statue of the Byzantine general Belisarius by Antoine-Denis Chaudet (1763-1810). Rather than offering the thumping alpha-male who aided the Roman Empire in conquering half of western Europe, Chaudet recreates a moment from the general’s later life when he was reputed to be begging on the streets of Constantinople having been wrongly accused of corruption and having his eyes plucked out by the very man, Justinian I, whom he aided in developing his power structure. It’s a useful evocation of the transience of fame, and it’s a shame that Britney Spears wasn’t aware of this story when she too decided to trust a man called Justin.

Just outside the room door back near the stairs we find Chris Fairclough’s Flyover. It’s certainly a contrast to the rest of the paintings in the collection, providing a realistic recreation of Chester’s inner ring road viewed from below, standing between St. Martin’s Gate and the fountains roundabout. The advent of photography, particular in colour has meant that scenes such as this that might have been a landscape subject in the past are largely ignored. It’s not unlike an Edward Hopper, showing the absence of humanity in a place that can only be man-made.

Just because I’m curious about everything, when I trotted back to the ground floor I looked through the windows of a lecture theatre and saw more fine art decorating the walls. Assuming you too can get permission to go inside, you’ll find the meat of the museum’s twentieth century collection of which the most striking are three paintings by Etehel Leontine Gabin of workers at Williams & Williams, a factory who made cast iron window frames and during World War II shell cases, shelters , warship sections, ammunition boxes and the Bailey bridges for the D-day landings.

Offer the picaresque detail LIFE photograph and with a genuine sense of people going about their daily lives, a fragment of which have been captured in time. In my notes I said I thought they were the best paintings in the collection, and I was probably right, particular the scene of a lunch break underlining that no matter how much we might want to imagine that our ancestors were nothing like us, they were exactly like us, desperate to retreat from work but knowing that its simply something we have to do to survive.

The house next door is worth visiting and I’d promised I’d say as much to the man in the shop who noted that people tended to forget about it when they visited. It’s a useful contrast to the typical period recreations since its an example of a fairly standard town house of the period and as such isn’t decked out in every finery available, just enough to keep up appearances should a more wealthier member of society come calling. What it does have in the Georgian Drawing Room, on the far corner wall behind one of the glass screen which are used throughout the house to keep the public away from the displays is a Gainsborough.

Gainsborough apparently preferred to landscapes to portraits and tended to take commissions for the latter so that he could spend time on the former. I’m no expert but happen to think he also enjoyed painting the ladies more than the blokes, particularly the costumes, almost pernickety in their accuracy. This (as far as you can tell from a distance) is nice – but it has the smell of one of the commissions that he was doing for the money. There’s nothing really exciting about it, other than the story.

The subject of this portrait is James Tomkinson, a Cheshire solicitor and dates from 1784 and the painting was rediscovered two years ago as the Chester Chronicle and The Times reported in February. It had apparently been hanging on the staircase of an unnamed hotel for years, totally ignored by guests until it was recognised by a Gainsborough expert, at which point it was sent off to be cleaned in Liverpool and now finds itself on display here. Like The Grovesnor Museum itself, to use another cliche, it was just waiting to be discovered.

"Oh thank god, I mean we all knew months ago, but the stress of not telling anyone..."

TV James Henry, one time Green Wing writer, has an encounter at the BBC. May be fictional.

"Look at us rallying our defences..." -- Alanis Morissette, 'Underneath'

Music When was the last time Alanis Morissette released a single to support a new album release that wasn't a compilation or remake? The ever useful Wikipedia says it was in 2004 for So-Called Chaos but it seems even longer than that. In the intervening time we got amongst other things the Acoustic Pill, the rubbish cover of Seal's Crazy and the wonderful YouTube parody of My Hump and no real indication of where Alanis would be going next musically. Personally I hoped she'd be inspired by the recording she made of Cole Porter's Let's Do It for the film De-Lovely and knock out an album of standards.

In truth, if Underneath is any indication, the new album Flavour of Entanglement's not going to be that far from what we've heard before. It's certainly lighter in sound that the first album, but the mix of ethnic samples and guiter rock are still in evidence and I'm frankly not sure if I'm disappointed or delighted. In the intervening years, I've actually warmed to those earlier hours, yes, even Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. I've also decided that the best song she ever recorded was Polyanna Flower which was the b-side to that album's Thank-U, which is insane, ethereal and angry.

If only Underneath was that powerful. The sentiments are rather deeper than usual since she's apparently talking about the rather nasty break up with actor Ryan Reynolds (what was she thinking?) but this still fits with the usual formula. It's another list and the lyrics are startling verbose managing to make a word like 'symptoms' scan within a popular song. I just feel like I've heard it before -- there's not much here which differs from her 2002 rareties album Feast On Scraps and the baseline reminded me of a cross between Snow Patrol's Open Your Eyes and Coldplay's Yellow.

I hardly expected the genre tourism of Jewel Kilcher but I did hope for something new. But there is hope. The b-side 20/20 is also from the forthcoming album and strips the backing to what sounds like the break of a gamelan and reverb and highlight's what's always been Alanis's best quality - her distinctive voice. It works like a new age bit of John Dowland (sans Sting) and has a strangeness which is very untypical. If the rest of the album's like this, than we do have a treat in store and even if I hate it now, at least based on previous experience I'll warm to it in a few years.
Elsewhere It's an analysis of an old interview with new Doctor Who Exec Steven Moffat from 1999 I've posted at Behind The Sofa. All good stuff. I especially like that he thought Paul McGann was one of the best actors in the role, and that's based on the TV movie alone -- the audio dramas wouldn't be along for another couple of years. I hope he liked those too.
Music Damn, that's post-modern. The Guardian using a photo of some 7" singles and my first computer, an Acorn Electron to illustrate a story about Last.FM.

"Is there a place for Doctor Who on TV in the next decade?"

TV The first modern issue of Doctor Who Magazine I read was issue 279 dated 30 June 1999. I’d recently seen the (sadly now closed) exhibition in Llangollen and cheered by news from the sales clerk that there was to be a new series I decided to see what I’d been missing. On the cover was a really amusing picture of Tom Baker riding a push bike and a CD about that so-called new series – actually what turned out to be the often excellent audio dramas from Big Finish.

Inside there was what’s now considered a rather prescient round table interview (on the occasion of the release of The Phantom Menace of all things) with fans who were then working as writers or story editors in the television industry, in which they were asked what should happen in the unlikely event that a new version of the series would be launched. What’s rather exciting in hindsight are the six men that then editor Gary Gillatt chose to interview, five of whom would go on to write for the new series, four of them in its opening season. Two of the interviewees would also go on to be show runners.

The odd one out is Lance Parkin, who despite writing some of the most respected spin-off novels and audios and the chronology Ahistory has yet to write for the television series (which is frankly bizarre since his work has clearly influenced it some degree). Of the rest, Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss and Gareth Roberts have all given us episodes and in the middle of them are Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat! Predictably Davies has most to say for himself and makes a lot of sense to the point that I even quoted him from here in a college essay. Much of his opinions of what should be done did come to pass – an Earth-centric approach with more emotion-led stories and death at every corner.

With the change in regime, Moffat’s contributions have perhaps become more important since they could give an indication as to the future direction of the series. Fans have already begun speculating about the extent to which he’ll make changes come 2010 and how his approach will differ from that of Davies. I think it’ll be less major than some suspect – the format’s unlikely to differ too radically and it would be strange if Davies didn’t decide that he wanted to keep writing the odd episode. Much of what Moffat says in this interview is in tune with Davies, in fact. He sits out the first question (see the title to this post) but is the only one to offer an answer at to whether it can continue as a regular weekly series (something which was by no means certain in 1999):

“Well we have to ask the fundamental question ‘What is Doctor Who?’ What demand does it supply? What audience does it serve? Now, a few of you might not like what I’m going to say next. Grip the arms of your chair, grind your teeth and wrap your head around this … Doctor Who is a children’s programme. No ifs. No buts. Definitely!”

To Moffat it’s the best kids programme ever made but that fans have become rather loopy about having to deal with its non-adult nature by pretending it was made for an older age group and then disregarding out of hand any era that didn’t conform to that view. It’s really a children’s show which adults “happen to love”:

“But ‘Ah!’ I hear some sobbing imploring, ‘a large percentage of the Who audience were adults!’ Well therein lies Doctor Who’s special place on television. It was the handover show. It bridges the gap between the kids shows of the afternoon and the adult shows to come. Its perfectly judge of ‘safe’ horror for the kids (the monsters) and great jokes for adults (the monsters) allows the schedule to run seamlessly from afternoon to evening.”

The landscape of television’s changed somewhat since this interview. Children are watching soap operas in ever greater numbers and which are sometimes even more violent than Doctor Who ever is, even now. But that idea of it being the crossover show still stands and despite his feelings about the target audience, that’s something that is sure to continue on Moffat’s managership. He agrees that it should be broadcast in the BBC: “The truth is, if someone cracks the right was to resurrect this show, I very much doubt the BBC will allow anyone else to broadcast it.” So it won’t be heading to Sky any time soon, then.

On the question of an ongoing storyline, all agree that if there is an arc it shouldn’t overpower the weekly stories and just be there underneath, perhaps coming to a head at the close of the season. “I don’t think we should assume too easily that change is necessary” says Moffat “The thing about Doctor Who is that it was perfectly designed to be what it was. I wouldn’t want to make grand changes to the format, because that format was really, really good. I’d just want to ensure that the approach was right and targeted on the right audience.” Story arcs were a feature of the old show, albeit in a rather more diffuse manner and often were simply a reason to try new things rather than to keep the audience on the edge of their seat as happens now. Which will Steven go for?

The subject of what should be kept in the series, Davies and Moffat are also largely in agreement, at least in relation to chucking out as much continuity as possible, particularly the existence of Gallifrey. “I don’t care where the Doctor came from or why he travels around the universe” Moffat explains, “I just want him out of those TARDIS doors and having adventures. Us kids want Narnia, not the wardrobe.” He returns to the subject of the target audience again: “Children are no respecters of reputation and are bored by tradition, so keeping faith with the past they never knew means nothing. They want, and are entitled to, their own hero and their own show.”

Cleverly, the new series was a continuation and a reimagining but what’s interesting is that some kids are exploring the past of the show and actually rather like me in 1999 discovering a whole wealth of mythology which has been introduced slowly over the past four years. One of the seismic shifts has apparently been the appearance of Peter Davison in Time Crash with the character appearing in the kid-friendly Doctor Who Adventures magazine and sales of fifth Doctor related stories increasing – which is a great turn around from what was initially apparently a depression in sales for merchandise related to the classic series. I wonder what they made of Timeflight.

Perhaps the most fascinating answer from Moffat is in regard to who the lead actor should be:

“Although I loved Peter Davison and Paul McGann – probably the two best actors in the role – I don’t think young, dashing Doctors are right at all. The Doctor should always be a but more Picard and less Kirk. He should be forty-plus and weird looking – the kind of wacky grandfather that kids know on sight to be secretly one of them. I thought Rowan (Atkinson) was perfect, if a little on the young side, because kids have always loved him…”

Given that both Davison and McGann have added some age and are both still relatively famous could either return to the role. It could be easily explained, a slip in time perhaps, and would have the advantage of giving an in-story reason for the Doctor to go beyond the well established thirteen possible incarnations. But would the BBC go for an older actor in the role these days given the impression Tennant’s made in the role?

At the end Gary asks for any final thoughts:

“The way you’d know you’d got it right would be if the 11 year-olds all jumped up and down and said it was the best show ever and all the sadder Doctor Who fans muttered that it was no longer serious adult drama like it was when they were 11.”

Which is exactly what’s happened. For those of us still delirious with excitement there are probably dozens who don’t considered it to be their show anymore which is of course their loss. As Russell T says at the very bottom of the article: “God help anyone in charge of bringing it back – what a responsibility!” Oh irony – but now that he’s moving on, it’s good to know, judging by this interview at least, the show is in safe hands.
Politics Charlie Brooker captures how I feel about most Tories -- and for that matter people in the Labour party:
"We don't gel. There's something missing in their eyes and voices; they're the same yet different; bodysnatchers running on alien software. Yet that's precisely how I must seem to them: an inherently misguided and ultimately unknowable idiot. (I'm right and they're wrong, of course - but they can be forgiven for not working that out. They can't help it. They were blighted at birth.)"
I say most, because there are still some cherishable human beings in both parties. They just tend to be drowned out by the power-snatchers and blatherers.

"Well, I woke up today..."

Doctor Who: Musical Interlude #1

Music The first really exciting non-score musical moment in the new series of Doctor Who was when the Britney Spears track Toxic played over the certain doom of the Earth in The End of the World. Popular music’s always been a feature of the show, right back to when The Beatles appeared on tape singing Ticket To Ride during The Chase, but for much of the time its tastes have been decidedly MOJO magazine with appearances on the soundtrack for Fleetwood Mac, The Seekers and King Crimson, as this page at the Wikipedia of the non-composed music shows. There’s been plenty of classical music and easy listening too, but largely the music was from men with beards selected by men with pipes.

There was something rather shocking about seeing something as fashionable as Britney in the second episode of the new series of our favourite franchise, a franchise which by the end of its opening salvo was quite happy to invite Courtney Pine along for a blow and be excited about that. Some fans hated it, and it’ll certainly date the show in the future, but it was a wonderful indication that the series was attempting to speak to as broad a church as possible and wanting to talk to kids in their own language rather than talking down to them with a burst of Bela Bartok.

True, it also suggested that the work of the ‘troubled pop star’ (© every tabloid) would still be knocking around in five billion years time but that would later become part of an overall view of the far future as being culturally intruded upon by our contemporary zeitgeist, the explanation for which might make a good story at some point. But it began litany of popular music within the latest few series which would also encompass Rick Astley, Scissor Sisters, The Streets, Ian Dury and Gary Glitter (nice). The apogee has probably been ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky in Love & Monsters, which was almost an extra character, accentuating the melancholy of what some us still think is Russell T Davies’s finest story.

But surprisingly the most complex emotions have resonated from a pop mantra created especially for the programme itself. After Tennant’s best ever twenty minutes – in the final third of The Christmas Invasion -- it would have been quite easy to have tacked on some kind of derisory closing scene, with the Doctor simply appearing at the Tyler’s door and Rose disappearing off with him. But Murray and Russell understood that the audience still needed a moment to really fall for this new incarnation of the Doctor and perhaps more importantly for us to spend some time alone with him. What better way to underscore all that than with a song, and why not a Song For Ten?

The lyrics of the song (“Well I woke up today / And the world was a restless place / It could have been that way for me”) and are an excellent evocation of this renewal of the character putting to side the survivor guilt which had made him so impotent in action in the first series. Playing over the wardrobe scene in which the Doctor selects a new image to go with his new chin, we’re literally seeing a change in outlook which continues into his appearance at the door of the Tyler house. His grin and cracker pulling are a total contrast with the dower Eccleston, demonstrating that this version does do domestic – after all he could have been off in the Tardis, back into the universe but instead he wanted her and their company on the holiest of holies.

Some thought it unfair that the tv version with Tim Philips’s vocal didn’t later appear on the soundtrack album, superseded by the tones of The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon. Sacrilegiously that’s the version I prefer, not only because of the passion with which Hannon attacks the words (to the point that in the right mood I’ll actually blub) and impressive big band sound but also because cleverly the second half of Murray’s lyrics, perhaps written later, extends the resonance of the song beyond The Christmas Invasion into the last episode of that season. It’s almost, in fact, saying everything the Doctor couldn’t to Rose on that beach in Doomsday: “ 'Cause I followed my star / And that's what you are / I've had a merry time with you […] So have a good life / Do it for me / Make me so proud / Like you want me to be / Where ever you are / I'm thinking of you / oceans apart / I want you to know.”

But my admiration for the song’s sky-rocketed recently after hearing the final verse and realising that it could well have been an oh-so subtle hint that Rose was not gone for good: “Well I woke up today and you're on the other side / Our time will never come again / But if you can still dream / Close your eyes it will seem / That you can see me now and then.” If Rose is to be the subject of this year’s Doctor-less episode, then I wonder if it’ll tell the story of the fourth series from her point of view, showing her attempts to communicate with the Doctor across the void, seeing him (and Donna) now and then. Whatever happens, I can’t think of a better song about finding and losing love, about saying goodbye but never forgetting. Who needs The Beatles, when you've got Murray Gold?
Elsewhere Your bank holiday "treat" is at Behind The Sofa were I pick my favourite ever musical moment in Doctor Who.

"Right, now we're in trouble..."

TV  The mid-season trail is a bit of a treat.

Not many surprises and as with last year the actual truth of what happens in the finale is bound to be totally unlike what our imaginations expect...