Lucie Miller returns!

Audio Big Finish's big announcement at Gallifrey One this year is the return of Sheridan Smith as Lucie Miller for a Short Trip reading!

There's a huge piece about it including spoilery podcast on the website already.

Good lord this is exciting, especially since by the sounds of it, writer Alice Cavender has chosen a first person approach which means Lucie lives, at least for the purposes of this "missing" adventure, past Doctor story or whatever you tend to call these things.

Of course ideally we'd have her back for some full cast audios but unlike other incarnations, Big Finish is understandably less interested in jumping around inside the Eighth Doctor's chronology preferring to move forward. Or so I thought. Take it away Nicholas:
"It’s great to have her returning to Big Finish, and, who knows, perhaps these great Short Trips readings will lead to Lucie making a full-cast return to us one day. There are, after all, many opportunities during her long story with the Eighth Doctor that give us a chance to revisit her era and insert new adventures. But I can confirm there are definitely no plans to reverse her fate in To The Death.'"
So that's already a done deal then isn't it?  I can't imagine he'd mention it otherwise.  So another boxed set coming Nick or individual releases?  Same format as before?

Timmy Mallett explains Apartheid.

Politics The concept seems like it's going to be a weapons grade WTF installation, but somewhere in here what we find is a cross between a Comic Relief campaign film and the BBC Three approach to explaining a complex issue. Really interesting piece of television.

How Time Travel Works in the Star Trek Universe.

TV More specifically what seems like an excellent survey from Ars Technica of the mechanics of the Star Trek's time travel episodes during which it becomes apparent that like all shared franchise universes there's rarely any particularly consistent decisions about such but then heads of into some real science which suggests ... oh just read the thing.  This is from earlier to shield you from spoiling the ensuing engrossing text:
"... the TNG episode “Tapestry” has both a consistent effect and a changing timeline. Q gives Picard the chance to go back to his youth and make better choices. Once Picard realizes his error (getting into the fight with the Nausicaan and getting stabbed in the heart was somehow the best outcome for him), he’s given the opportunity to restore his original choices. This time, as he’s stabbed through the heart, he laughs. Interestingly, it had been mentioned in a previous episode, “Samaritan Snare,” that he had laughed when stabbed—indicating that his experience in the past had always been a part of Picard’s history."

Amazon Prime Studio Search.

Film If you have Amazon Prime Video thingy, one of the slight annoyances is that you can't search for films via studio. Or so I thought.

Just typed StudioCanal into the search box at the top and sure enough here's everything on there from StudioCanal.

This seems to work for any studio. Here's Fox Searchlight. 20th Century Fox. Universal. Warners. Um, Film Chest. Content Film.

Why is this useful? Well, the licensing agreement with StudioCanal in particular means that there's plenty of European, notably French films which haven't had a theatrical release in the UK on the list featuring directors and stars which have had hits on our art house circuit.

But this is the more mainstream, genre fare which doesn't tend to be released here because it's less marketable than similar US material which won't be subtitled. The comedy trailered above starring Fanny Ardant for example has only otherwise been seen in France, Portugal, Greece and Hungary.

Failure to 2001.

Music Try to keep with it [via].

"We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us."

Film Now that The Hobbit films have wrapped up, last month I decided it would be a good idea to slip straight into The Lord of the Rings trilogy in their extended edition. Not having my dvd copies to hand I thought I'd buy them on blu-ray instead.

There appeared to be two options.

The boxed set, which is the extended trilogy on blu-ray, but also the special features from the dvd version on repressings of the original dvds which I already own from buying the films ten years ago and nothing new. For £120.

Or the single disc releases and now here's the rub.

Checking Amazon I saw they had Fellowship and Return of the King for £3.30 and about £5 respectively but not The Two Towers. The Two Towers is listed as unavailable on Amazon.

Undaunted I bought the other two anyway on the assumption I might able to find the other in a shop.


I could not find the other in a shop. Tried HMV. Tried That's Entertainment. Tried Fopp.

Fopp finally informed me that the disc was deleted two years ago, a fact which they seemed somewhat annoyed about because they had dozens of copies of the other two films which were practically unshiftable.

I've emailed the WB's publicity to ask them about this.  We'll see.  They tend to ignore my emails.

Meanwhile, there are second hand copies available.  Here's one at CEX which looks like it's from the boxed set.  Plus I'll be able to rent a stream if I'm really desperate.

But I think I'm going to fight for one which matches.  Precious.


Film With a couple of X-Men related films in release this year I've decided to rewatch the previous releases in the only potentially sane way which is Wolverine consciousness order as explained in this earlier post.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men 2
X-Men 3 (or whatever it's called in your end of the world)
The Wolverine
X-Men: Days of Future Past

As I said at the time, this leaves out X-Men: First Class and which I'd decided to tuck in after Origins.

Having entirely forgotten about the Xavier cameo and the business with Emma Frost in Origins and that it's set in the 70s, I really should have begun with First Class.

Except of course that this means that the cliffhangers from the end of that film don't get resolved until Days of Future Past. Except that you can't watch that before X-Men because it's both prequel, sequel and wipes out that continuity anyway and also reconfigures some of the continuity from the earlier X-Men films itself anyway.

So the ideal place for First Class is probably between The Wolverine and DoFP.

Except, when exactly are the younger Wolverine sections supposed to be set in relation to the continuity in Origins?

This does offer a decent chronological attempt to deal with the timelines, although its deliberately short on detail.  Essentially its meant to suggest that the Wolverine in DoFP has just left Stryker's team and is presumably on the run.  Except Stryker's now being played by a much younger actor which is probably why in the character's biog the two events are switched around.

In other words, even though the Singer prequels have wiped the slate clean in terms of building the universe, thanks to Origins the whole business of watching the damn things in any kind of sensible order is still fucked.

Oh yes, I know, you could watch them in release order but with Origins released between X3 and The Wolverine, you're on a hiding to nothing.

In the end I've decided to watch First Class before DofP because ... shrugs.

"this Faustian pact"

TV As the fog clears, I'm catching up with this and that and some of the that is this excellent piece from James Cooray Smith in the New Statesman about how Sky has to some extent ruined UK tv, hiding the best shows in the world in what amounts to the televisual equivalent of the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying beware of the leopard.
When Sky’s deal for American Movie Classics' Mad Men kicked in between series, the programme lost three quarters of its UK audience as it switched from BBC Four to Sky Atlantic. By season six, Mad Men was pulling in 58,000 viewers. Those are the numbers you’d expect for a channel rotating listlessly through music videos in the afternoon.

It was later estimated that, given the high cost of acquiring Mad Men versus the number of people watching it, each viewer was costing Sky around £5 an episode.
He'll be unpleased to know that I recently succumbed and joined NowTV so I could finally catch up with some of these shows (Elementary) and watch others during broadcast (Agent Carter, Supergirl) having had to deal for years with the wait for a blu-ray release and then Lovefilm-By-Post to send them to me.

But you can imagine the moral quandary inherent what with my anti-Murdoch boycott.  My key rationalisations for this Faustian pact is that I'm only spending birthday and Christmas money and buying NowTV boxes when they're discounted and utilising the vouchers which takes the cost of the service down to half price.  Yes, I know.  He gets you in the end.

Production Design In Formation.

Music Architecture and interior design blog Curbed has an investigation into the production design on the Beyonce video. Look away now if you don't want to have your illusions shattered:
"According to Tobman, who has worked with Beyoncé before, the challenge was to find a building in Los Angeles with a porch that resembled those found in New Orleans. Nothing like that appeared to exist, so the crew used the Fenyes Mansion, which houses the Pasadena Museum of History, and converted it into a Southern Gothic plantation. The property was an early site of film production in the region, first used by D.W. Griffith in 1912 for a film called When Kings Were the Law, later retitled The Necklace."

My Favourite Film of 1960.

Film As we discussed recently, having access to three different streaming services and my own collection means I can't justify also receiving dvds from Lovefilm-by-post and so once they increase the monthly subscription price I'll be dropping it.

This is a big moment for me.

As this blog reminds me, I originally signed up for ScreenSelect on 29th February 2002.

My first, first, rental by post was a freebie of Le Regle Du Jour from The Guardian's dvd rental service.  Then, I'm now reminded by the voluminous blog post from the time, you paid for each rental separately, £3.75 and it took three days to arrive in a plastic snap case which had to be posted back to them afterwards.  The idea was to offer an alternative to the more mainstream fare at Blockbuster but now looks unsustainably expensive.  The old landing page indicates a subscription service was also offered, two at a time for £13.95.

Anyway, it was enough to indicate the benefits of not having to get a bus to the video shop and back and having access to a massive catalogue and I've used a dvd-by-post service continuously since, watching at least two to four dvds sent to me every week, a lifeline before broadband to a vast range of cinema.

In that original post, I listed the first fifty films I added to the service

A Bout De Souffle, Bande A Part, Le Mepris, Jules Et Jim, 400 Blows, Punch-Drunk Love, Down With Love, Great Expectations, Seabiscuit, Les Enfants Du Paradis, Three Colours Blue, Three Colours White, Three Colours Red, Whalerider, Dirty Pretty Things, La Jetee / Sans Soleil, Cinema 16, Norah Jones: New Orleans, The Hours, American Pie: The Wedding, Chain Reaction, The Mummy Returns, City Of God, Hulk, Malena, Irreversible, The Conversation, Arsenic And Old Lace, The Third Man, Blue Crush, Phone Booth, The China Syndrome, Wrong Turn, Two Weeks Notice, Sheryl Crow... The Videos, Welcome To Collinwood, The Thin Red Line, Perfect Crimes, Buena Vista Social Club, Wild Strawberries, Last Party 2000, 8 Women, U-Turn, Serpico, The Gingerbread Man, McCabe And Mrs Miller and Barry Lyndon

It's quite a mixture and indeed there's a couple I'd forgotten I'd watched this early despite having carried out a boring diary project that year in which I kept a check on when and how I watched everything, a diligent process which often took hours of wracking my brain, information which is now recorded by streaming services as a matter of course.

My guess is I glanced through that month's Empire Magazine or some such. It's certainly the case that this will be the first time I've seen all of these films, yes, even The Third Man and the Three Colours Trilogy even at the age of thirty. Many of them went on to become favourite films, especially amongst the French New Wave.

In subsequent weeks I kept a record of my interaction with the service.

Here's my excitement at receiving the first three discs, The Gingerbread Man, Chain Reaction and Perfect Crimes (which was an anthology series which included a half hour short directed by Stephen Soderbergh).

My initial review indicated that watched thirteen films in the first sixteen days, probably due to them sending three discs at a time and being capable of sitting through three things in the evening. I've also already noticed their old methodology of waiting a day before sending the next dispatch. But I seem very happy with spending £14.99 per month.

After a month, I began to notice the way the algorithm which selected the discs seemed to do so thematically, at that time sending all the Gwyneth Paltrow films. With the inventory now at its third company, this has still been the case. Have a hundred films in the list and it will still send you all French films together.

In May I was moaning about the post which had reduced to one delivery a day and was skipping the weekend altogether. Apparently I'd been getting through six films a week, which is huge.  I suspect it's because ScreenSelect worked on a Saturday and would send a new disc out which would arrive at home on Monday and also the post office would do Sunday morning pick-ups at postboxes.  Now if I post a disc on Friday it won't be turned around until Monday.  Post it on Sunday and it won't get back to them until Tuesday.  Sigh.

By July I'd stopped watching television.  That's pretty much still the case and now I don't even know when or where anything is broadcast.  I completely missed the start of the new series of SHIELD.

Then in November we cancelled Sky.  Ironically, it's now the very fact of receiving Sky through an app on my Roku 3 box which has led to the decision to cancel Lovefilm.

Am I concerned?  Yes.  If enough of us do cancel in March when the price increases, Amazon might decide to cut their losses and close dvds by post which means it won't still be there should I decided to sign back up.

But free time is limited.  The combined catalogues of Lovefilm, Amazon Prime and NowTV amounts to over six thousand items and even taking into account the dross and Disney repetition, that should be more than enough films and television installments to keep me busy especially with their rolling catalogues.  Yes, I'll have to wait three to six months or longer after the shiny disc release to see some films, but at this point I barely pay attention to release dates anyway.

Bye then, ScreenSelect and Lovefilm and err, Lovefilm-by-post.  It's been educational.

Unfollow (update!)

Social Media Here is a brief update about my experiment to only follow humans rather than institutions on Twitter. I'll use some bullet points for speed.

(1) As I said last time, this has led to Twitter feeling more like it used right at the beginning with wave upon wave of humanity chattering away about all the subjects under the sun apart from football and whatever else I have muted on Tweetdeck.

(ii) BUT having decided to follow all the people who work for an institution rather than the institution doesn't mean it's always possible to keep up with that institution's activities. Unsurprisingly people don't tend to talk about work outside of work and also aren't great at publicising their own writing and/or using social media in general. They assume, quite rightly, that an institution's official feed will do the job for them.

(c) The upshot of which is I've started following some institutional feeds again.

  • BUT the trick is to only follow those feeds you genuinely find useful rather than the scattershot approach of before. Just because you can follow the V&A feed, doesn't mean that you should if you don't live with a few hundred miles.

So the upshot of this experiment is that I just need to carry on experimenting.