Showing posts with label Gorillaz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gorillaz. Show all posts

Friday, 30 September 2011

A Space Odyssey

To borrow from the title of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film.

The twenty-first century began with the year that George W. Bush became the US President, the UK foot and mouth crisis struck, the first space tourist was launched and the attacks on New York's World Trade Center took place.

In 2001, I took my A-Levels and started University, whilst there I performed in a production of Three Sisters.

These are a few of my favourite things from 2001:

Ghost World
Not so much a place, as a state of mind. Two girls who are living proof that being cool is for losers. Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi are fantastic in this adaptation of Daniel Clowes comic. Here's the trailer.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
JRR Tolkien's 'unfilmable' novel comes to the big screen and it's an absolute triumph. Every detail feels right and the casting is excellent across the board: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean. I was working in a cinema when this film was released and it was depressing how many audience members walked out at the end completely unaware that this was only part one of a larger story. Here's the trailer.

The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion
Woody Allen returns to the screwball comedies of his earlier career and leads a great cast with some great gags, but combines it with stunning period style in this beautifully shot noir (in glorious colour). Here's the trailer.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Disney goes all Jules Verne on two mighty quests: the first to discover lost Atlantis and the second to revitalise its traditional cel animation department. The animation is great and the stark straight lines of pre-World War I technology are a refreshing sight. The story is more adult than you would expect, the evil is capitalism and reassuringly there are no songs. Here's the trailer.

Planet Of The Apes
Another film that is not as bad as its reputation. Tim Roth and Paul Giamatti give great ape in this 'reimagining', Danny Elfman's music is amazing and the ending is a great callback to the original novel by Pierre Bouille. Here's the trailer.

The Royal Tenenbaums
Wes Anderson’s family comedy-drama is fastidiously constructed and as weighty as it is whimsical. The cast are all wonderful, the soundtrack is astonishing and the humour laced with irony. Here's the trailer.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's quirky, colourful and whimsical tale has a sardonic seam of humour running through it. The French title, Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, translates as The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain which seems so fitting it's odd it was dropped for other languages. Here'a the trailer.

Spaced: Back; Change; Mettle; Help; Gone; Dissolution; Leaves
Daisy is Back from her travels in Asia and the finest sitcom of the twenty-first century returns. Change and not the small kind as Tim and Daisy both need to look for work (and Jeillo Edwards says "Phantom Menace" like no other). Daisy, Brian and Tim & Mike all have their Mettle tested in a One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest-esque restaurant, an art installation and Robot Wars respectively (Reece Shearsmith’s practically phonetic delivery of "Oh da ah hadden fort ah dat" is a particular highlight). Tyres returns in Dark Star Comics heist episode Help. Camden bar crawl (and mime gunfight) episode Gone is fantastic and Peter Serafinowicz is wonderful. Things fall apart impressively in Dissolution. The last episode is wonderful and yet it Leaves the audience begging for more. The more I write about it the less I do it justice. The scripts are replete with geeky references, but also full of heart. Edgar Wright’s shooting and editing style and fantastic performances from Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Mark Heap, Nick Frost and Julia Deakin come together to make a TV show that is more than a TV show, it's practically a way of life. They’ve done something bloody spectacular.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Triangle; Checkpoint; Blood Ties; Crush; I Was Made To Love You; The Body; Forever; Intervention; Tough Love; Spiral; The Weight Of The World; The Gift; Bargaining; After Life; Flooded; Life Serial; All The Way; Once More, With Feeling; Tabula Rasa; Smashed; Wrecked
Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan and Emma Caulfield are wonderful as the now-Rileyless Scooby Gang finds themselves subject to a love Triangle or two. The Watcher's Council arrive in Checkpoint and their interviews of the Scoobies are a great device and seeing Buffy get her way is wonderful. Dawn discovers her origins in Blood Ties and Michelle Trachtenberg does ample justice to this adoption parable and Clare Kramer's reaction to Glory's teleportation is priceless. Crush examines Spike's relationships with the women in his life and finds them all wanting. Relationship issues remain under the microscope in I Was Made To Love You, Shonda Farr is wonderful as ‘perfect girlfriend’ April, Buffy deciding she is better off boyfriendless and seeing Joyce feeling well enough to date makes the ending all the more poignant. The Body is quite simply one of the best episodes of television. Ever. The entire cast are fantastic, the lack of music and choice of shots really add to the isolation of grief and the dialogue is beautiful throughout. Dawn's attempt at resurrection in Forever owes a lot to The Monkey's Paw and features great performances from Joel Grey and Amber Benson. In Intervention, it's Sarah Michelle Gellar's turn to pull double duty and her turn as the Buffybot is pitched perfectly and the last scene is wonderful. Tough Love is an other chance for Hannigan and Benson to shine and begins the mad dash to the season finale. After years of being an unused option, run and hide is finally the order of the day in Spiral and the resulting car chase action sequences are great. With The Weight Of The World on her shoulders Buffy falls into a catatonic state and it's great to see Willow take charge in her absence. The epic season finale (and hundredth episode no less) arrives and The Gift is another great ensemble show with everyone at their best, but Gellar is fantastic as Buffy chooses between death or Glory. The last shot features the best epitaph ever.
Buffy comes back from the dead in Season Six opener Bargaining and Brendon, Hannigan and Gellar each put in another fantastic performance as the show takes yet another turn for the darker. After Life is another great ensemble piece that concerns the consequences of Buffy's resurrection and the reveal of where she thought she was in the meantime is heartbreaking. Buffy has always been about using monsters as analogies for real life problems, in Flooded the real life problems are big enough already and Gellar is great as put upon Buffy. The episode also introduces the Trio, who return in Life Serial to test Buffy in different ways, all good but it's Jonathan's time loop that is the most entertaining. The by now bi-annual Halloween episode All The Way isn't as much fun as its forebears, but it ably sets up the themes for the rest of the season. I’m no expert on musicals, but Once More, With Feeling is easily the most engaging I’ve seen. The songs are all great and retain Whedon's knack for dialogue in the lyrics and Caulfield, Benson, James Marsters, Anthony Stewart Head and Hinton Battle are all wonderful. The amnesia episode is an other TV staple and Buffy's offering, Tabula Rasa, is an other great ensemble piece with some very funny scenes of the Scoobies without their memories and then a very sad montage after they remember. After Giles leaves and Tara breaks up with Willow, the various relationships on the show all take a hit of some sort in Smashed, Elizabeth Anne Allen returns as a de-ratted Amy and Willow paint the town red and Buffy and Spike shag a house down. Willow's magic addiction and Buffy's denial reach their lowest ebb in Wrecked. The tone of the season so far is more adult and it looks like things will definitely get worse before they get better.

Angel: Redefinition; Blood Money; Happy Anniversary; The Thin Dead Line; Reprise; Epiphany; Disharmony; Dead End; Belonging; Over The Rainbow; Through The Looking Glass; There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb; Heartthrob; That Vision Thing; That Old Gang Of Mine; Carpe Noctem; Fredless; Billy; Offspring; Quickening; Lullaby; Dad
With both Angel Investigations and Wolfram & Hart in crisis, Redefinition moves the goalposts again and Angel turns mute and broody. Julia Lee and Sam Anderson in Blood Money and it’s great to see Lindsay and Lilah running back and forth, back and forth. Happy Anniversary brings The Host centre stage and really starts you thinking Andy Hallett should be a regular. The events of The Thin Dead Line bring the Angel-less Angel Investigations closer together than ever before and a chilling last scene between Cordy and her ex-boss. Angel finally hits rock bottom in Reprise and Sam Anderson puts in another wonderful appearance. After a great opening sequence wrong footing long-term Buffy fans, Epiphany is a definite turning point as rock bottom hits back and Angel swallows his pride and gets the gang back together. It takes comedy episode Disharmony to cement the new dynamic, with great scenes of misunderstanding between Cordelia and Harmony and then again when Cordy phones Willow, and the Vampire pyramid scheme stuff is really well handled. The aptly-named-in-more-ways-than-one Dead End is a great send off for Christian Kane and really marks the end of an era. The rest of season two takes a very different turn as Los Angeles receives unexpected guests from Pylea, The Host's home dimension in Belonging and it's great to see him (now-named Lorne) fitting in so well as a part of Team Angel and absolutely certain he's never going home again. Until he's forced to, with Cordelia Over The Rainbow and the rest of the gang attempting to mount a rescue, Charisma Carpenter is hilarious on her journey from ‘Cowslave’ to 'cursed one' to ruling monarch. The Pylean quartet continues with Through The Looking Glass which features great performances from Amy Acker and Mark Lutz, but the highlight is easily the dances of Lorne's brother Numfar. There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb rounds off both the season and the jaunt to Pylea with another ensemble episode that gives every one enough to do and back in LA ends with a surprise Sunnydale visitor.
Angel returns for a third season with Heartthrob, an episode about love and grief, but the A story takes a back seat to the cameos: Fred is now part of the team, but is only coaxed out of her room long enough to be sent back during a fight, Vampire hunter Holtz who we've heard mention of before and pregnant Darla. Carpenter is wonderful in That Vision Thing, but David Denman's deadpan Skip steals the show. That Old Gang Of Mine concerns the shades of grey that the show inhabits and Steve Niel's Huge & Horrible demon couldn't look more helpless if it tried. Carpe Noctem is a great twist on a bodyswapping story, throws up some very funny scenes and really gives Boreanaz something to enjoy. The aptly-named Fredless sees Fred attempting to avoid her parents, the scenes of Angel Investigations being suspicious of the Burkles and vice versa are great, and Trish's "Did I get it?" is adorable. The misogyny-is-bad message of Billy may not be subtle, but Cordy's reaction to it is great. Darla returns to LA in Offspring and sets up the rest of the season (and arguably rest of the series as well) with great scenes of Wes and Gunn's scroll heist, Fred's politeness to Darla and Sahjhan's lighting a cigarette. Everyone is after Darla's baby in Quickening, but it's Sahjhan and Cyril that are the highlights. Lullaby is a great last hurrah for Julie Benz. The highlights of Dad are Angel's confrontation with Linwood, the hospital scene and Lorne moving into the hotel.

Star Trek: Voyager: Shattered; Prophecy; The Void; Workforce; Human Error; Q2; Author, Author; Natural Law; Homestead; Renaissance Man; Endgame
The seventh and final season continues as the USS Voyager is Shattered into several different time periods and Chakotay travels between them revisiting several episodes from previous seasons in a story like that feels like a 'greatest hits' compilation. Prophecy is a packed episode, which sees the return of some old school Klingons travelling for generations unaware of the truce with the Federation akin to the Japanese holdouts after World War II, the belief that B’Elanna's unborn baby is a messiah, the cynical and political use to which that concept is put, as well as a disease which all the Klingons expect eventually to succumb to and Neelix's enthusiastic efforts in his relations with the Klingons. It sounds like it should be too much for one episode, but it works wonderfully. Voyager is trapped in The Void, where ships compete for resources and piracy is rife, Janeway forms an alliance of vessels to cooperate in an escape attempt in a nice little episode. The two-parter Workforce is wonderfully sinister. A Q episode always gives Star Trek a shot in the arm and Q2 is no exception, John and Keegan de Lancie are fantastic as father and son team, Q and Q. Author, Author begins as a comedy as the Doctor writes a thinly veiled roman à clef holoprogram about the crew of the 'USS Vortex' and takes a crueller twist in the revisions by Paris, before turning into a treatise on the ethical concerns and questions of holographic rights and authorship. Robert Picardo is hilarious in comedy and compelling in tragedy in equal measure and the last scene is very funny. Natural Law is a nice Prime Directive sidestepping episode about the cultural contamination of a primitive society and the decision to prevent their potential exploitation at the hands of their more advanced neighbours. Ethan Phillips' performance lifts Homestead above expectations and Neelix's farewell scene brings a lump to the throat. Almost everybody gets a turn at playing the Doctor in Renaissance Man, as he is forced to impersonate several members of Voyager's senior staff, this episode is a nice slice of comedy hi-jinx and the Doctor's confessions as he fears the end is near are very funny. Series finale Endgame borrows story elements from the admittedly excellent episodes Timeless, Dark Frontier and All Good Things…, but also manages to be more than the sum of these parts. The highlights include the scenes set in the alternate future after Voyager's return via the long route, Dwight Schultz as the elder Barclay, the Doctor’s chosen name, Vaughn Armstrong makes a perfect Klingon, Torres and Paris' differing reactions to her false labour, the USS Voyager's explosive entrance to the Alpha Quadrant and Kate Mulgrew is great as both Janeways. Having its cake and eating it too was the best possible ending for Star Trek: Voyager.

Enterprise: Broken Bow; The Andorian Incident; Cold Front
Two hundred and twenty seven years before Voyager's triumpant return home, Broken Bow, the pilot episode of Star Trek's prequel series goes more boldly than most and features great performances from Scott Bakula, John Billingsley, Jolene Blalock, Connor Trinneer and John Fleck. The Suliban are fantastic villains and their temporal cold war is a brilliant concept. The Andorian Incident introduces Jeffrey Combs as Shran and in one of the bravest innovations of this series this episode gives us the first indication that after thirty five years of television Vulcans might not be as benign as we were lead to believe. Cold Front heats up the temporal cold war and gives the series Matt Winston's Daniels at his enigmatic best.

Futurama: Parasites Lost; Amazon Women In The Mood; Bendless Love; The Day The Earth Stood Stupid; That's Lobstertainment!; The Birdbot Of Ice-Catraz; The Luck Of The Fryrish; The Cyber House Rules; Insane In The Mainframe; Bendin' In The Wind; Time Keeps On Slippin'; I Dated A Robot; Roswell That Ends Well; A Tale Of Two Santas
The Planet Express crew take a Fantastic Voyage-esque trip into the bowels of Fry's bowels in Parasites Lost, an episode which makes the relationship between Fry and Leela more complex and manages to be very funny indeed. Most SF series have done the female-dominated society story at some point, but few deal with clichés as well as Amazon Women In The Mood, plus Zapp Brannigan singing 'Leela' to the tune of 'Lola' by The Kinks is worth the price of entry alone. Bendless Love examines a love triangle of the most tangled variety. The Day The Earth Stood Stupid is phenomenal: the Hypnotoad is fantastic, the Nibblonians are wonderful and Fry's defeat of the Brainspawn is very satisfying. Zoidberg's comedy yearnings lead to That's Lobstertainment! and the making of The Magnificent Three, but it's Bender's brief tenures as Boiler and as the movie's Executive Producer that provide the highlights. The Birdbot Of Ice-Catraz is another example of an environmental episode of the sort that Futurama excels at. Told largely in flashback, The Luck Of The Fryrish, is a beautiful episode about loss with comedy graverobbing. Adoption is "a great way to have a kid without having sex" and Bender takes full advantage leading to a hilarious tale of child neglect in The Cyber House Rules. A spell in a robot asylum Insane In The Mainframe is a horrific, degrading and dehumanising experience for Fry which owes more than a little to One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and features some real time ageing. Beck is great in Bendin' In The Wind and Cylon & Garfunkel are hilarious. Time keeps on slipping in Time Keeps On Slippin' and the jumps in time through the wonderfully pointless game between the Harlem Globetrotters and Earth's atomic monsters and pop starlet Wendy's career are hilarious, but the ending is heartbreaking. I Dated A Robot features another great episode of The Scary Door and the eponymously-titled public information film within is fantastic. Roswell That Ends Well is a lot of fun as the Planet Express crew accidentally travel back through time to 1947 and crash in Roswell. It’s great to see Zoidberg flirting with President Truman, his subsequent autopsy (Zoidberg's, not Truman's) and Fry messing around with own genepool. A Tale Of Two Santas is another great Xmas episode with another great song and a cameo from Jesus.

Farscape: Liars, Guns & Money; Die Me Dichotomy & Season Of Death; Self-Inflicted Wounds; Incubator; Scratch ‘N Sniff; Infinite Possibilities; Revenging Angel
The show gets darker, more adult and more playful. The three-parter Liars, Guns & Money brings back loads of first season guest stars and sets them all against Scorpius, while the second season finale and its follow up show that you can't really keep him down and that everything has a price. Self-Inflicted Wounds sets up a sense of loss which cuts deeper than expected. Dividing Moya's crew in two and alternating episodes between them gives a greater variety in story. Incubator explores Scorpius’ back story and some how keeps him enigmatic, Scratch ‘N Sniff is an editing masterpiece akin to a Fear And Loathing On Lomo and the two part Infinite Possibilities brings the two Crichtons storyline to a surprisingly downbeat close. Back on Moya, Revenging Angel sees Crichton dreaming in the style of a Looney Tunes cartoon.

The Armando Iannucci Shows
The funniest comedy show of the twenty-first century (go on world, you have 89 years to prove me wrong). Unfortunately for all concerned it was broadcast in the wake of 9/11 and mostly sank without trace. Highlights include Hugh talking about life in the good old days when the internet was in black and white, the village which employs a sniper, Walking With Nazis, the British theatre's fundraising attempts in Africa and swearing in cress.

Dr. Terrible's House Of Horrible: And Now The Fearing…, Frenzy Of Tongs, Curse Of The Blood Of The Lizard Of Doom, Scream Satan Scream!
Steve Coogan is fantastic in all seven of his roles across these six episodes. And Now The Fearing… is seventies style portmanteau horror of the Amicus breed, Frenzy Of Tongs is Doctor Who's The Talons Of Weng-Chiang with extra Fu Manchu and crustaceans instead of rats, Graham Crowden and Simon Pegg are great in Curse Of The Blood Of The Lizard Of Doom, and Scream Satan Scream! is more Wenchfinder than Witchfinder General.

A Small Summer Party
This prequel to Marion & Geoff is essentially a dramatisation of events described by Keith in that series of a party held in honour of the titular characters and their affair is uncovered and from the brilliant twist of its teaser to Keith’s bizarre parting gift made up entirely of footage filmed by attendees.

Brass Eye: 2001 Special
Chris Morris' brilliant 'Paedo-geddon' satire is less about making light of paedophilia and more about the abuse of the public's moral indignation in news broadcasts regarding paedophilia. Phrases like "depravitivity", "intergenerational sex" and "makes your child smell like hammers" abound. The special features great performances from Simon Pegg, Julia Davis, Doon MacKichan and Morris himself, while appearances by self-appointed paedophilia experts Gary Lineker, Sebastian Coe, Dr. Fox, Richard Blackwood, Philippa Forrester, Kate Thornton and Phil Collins reveal how little consideration these celebrities put into such bold claims. Any doubts about the validity of this special was surely dispelled by this damning coverage from the Daily Star.

When Louis Met The Hamiltons
Louis Theroux gets an incredible scoop as a bizarre sex scandal while he is interviewing Neil and Christine Hamilton, but the real beneficiaries are the Hamiltons themselves. Christine's flirty banter, Neil's awkward humour and Granny's voice of reason allow the viewer behind the façade, humanising the pair that were previously painted as mere caricatures. The documentary also provides an insight into the workings of the press.

Pulp: We Love Life
The seventh (and to date the final) Pulp album takes the band into ever more contemplative mood. Embracing nature and yet maintaining a reassuringly wry outlook on life. Lyrically as impressive as ever, but more melodic than its predecessors. 'Weeds II (The Origin Of The Species)' looks at the themes of 'Mis-Shapes' through a This Is Hardcore lens and arrives at "Do your dance, do your funny little dance". 'The Night That Minnie Timperly Died' is a fantastic single that never was.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Weeds', 'Weeds II (The Origin Of The Species)', 'The Night That Minnie Timperly Died', The Trees , 'Wickerman', 'I Love Life', 'The Birds In Your Garden', 'Bob Lind (The Only Way Is Down)', 'Bad Cover Version', 'Roadkill', 'Sunrise'

Gorillaz: Gorillaz
The animated hip-hop dance Latin punk dub reggae electronic acid rock fusion band’s eponymous first album is a great fusion of hip-hop dance Latin punk dub reggae electronic acid and rock.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Tomorrow Comes Today', 'New Genious (Brother)', 'Clint Eastwood', 'Double Bass', 'Rock The House', '19-2000', 'M1 A1', 'Clint Eastwood (Ed Case Remix)'

The Strokes: Is This It
The zeal and intensity of The Strokes' debut album is incredible. The simplicity of the production feels so fresh and as if recorded live. Staccato rhythms and guitar solos abound unashamedly but nothing seems out of place or self indulgent, while the lyrics tell tales of city lives and city loves they also have a sense of being out of place.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Is This It', 'The Modern Age', 'Soma', 'Barely Legal', 'Someday', 'Last Nite', 'Hard To Explain', 'New York City Cops', 'Trying Your Luck', 'Take It Or Leave It'

Eels: Souljacker
The band's fourth album is less autobiographical than its predecessors and turns its focus instead towards circus freaks and the dispossessed. Exhibiting E's usual lyrical gift and distinctive Eels sound while combining them with luscious string arrangements, the sounds of children's toys and elaborate piano.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Dog Faced Boy', 'That’s Not Really Funny', 'Fresh Feeling', 'Woman Driving, Man Sleeping', 'Souljacker, Part I', 'World Of Shit', 'Souljacker, Part II'

Thief Of Time by Terry Pratchett
Procrastination is said to be the Thief Of Time, but the creation on the Disc of the first truly accurate clock threatens to stop time itself. The Auditors Of Reality are a great concept and it's reassuring that they are as fallable as the rest of us. The novel is replete with allusions as varied as The Matrix, James Bond, Reservoir Dogs and the Book of Revelations. the pages are populated by wonderful characters old and new: The History Monks, the Auditors in Human form, Susan Sto Helit and the fifth Horseman of the Apoc(r)alypse (who left before they became famous) among them.

The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett
Beautifully illustrated throughout by Paul Kidby. On the face of it this seems like a blend of the modern Discworld stories with the more fantasy-based earlier in the run, but actually that does it a disservice. This is a story about rules, playing with the reader’s expectations of narrative structure and drawing attention to these conventions as conspicuously as possible with very funny results. Shorter than the usual Discworld fare and yet still crammed full of characters, Leonard of Quirm is beautifully handled and Harry Dread, a villain that never made it big is a great new addition.

The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
The first Discworld novel aimed at children certainly doesn’t condescend. Maurice, his educated rodents and a piper named Keith have a racket along the lines of The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, but with talking animals and added cynicism. The rat king is terrifying, Malicia's ideas of proper storytelling are great, the scene between Darktan and the Mayor is wonderful.

Carter Beats The Devil by Glen David Gold
The fictional biography of Charles Carter, stage magician and suspect in the murder of the 29th President of the United States is compelling, dark, intricate, witty and mischievous. In the 1920's at the height of his fame Carter meets Harry Houdini, Philo Farnsworth, the Marx Brothers and of course President Harding in a richly drawn depiction of the era. The overriding themes of Carter's life are those of escape and wonder. Using both those elements to great effect, Carter the Great's stage act does not disappoint even on the page and manages to live up to the lofty ambition of the title.

Fray: Big City Girl; The Calling; Ready, Steady…; Out Of The Past; The Worst Of It
Joss Whedon has done it again, but Buffy spinoff Fray is much more than just a Melaka the Vampire Slayer-style retread. His future slayer, Melaka Fray, is a worthy successor to Sunnydale’s heroine, but in a great exercise of world building, Melaka's world has no magic in it and she has no idea that she is the slayer. Just as one of Buffy's strongest assets was those cast around the slayer, Fray's dramatis personae is another superb array of characters: Urkonn, Gunther and Loo are all great. Whedon's script is fantastic an the lexicon is part-Buffy, part-Firefly and yet still fresh. The vibrancy of Karl Moline and Andy Owens artwork gives Fray a real identity. Fray is fantastic.

Doctor Who: Ophidious; Beautiful Freak; The Way Of All Flesh
The strip turns full colour in Ophidious and introduces Destrii and ends with a shocking twist on a bodyswap story. Izzy tries to come to terms with what has happened to her in Beautiful Freak, a fantastic two-hander character piece set entirely within the TARDIS. The Doctor and Izzy meet Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera on a visit to Mexico in 1941 on the day of the dead in The Way Of All Flesh and the parallels drawn between Destrii's current identity crisis and Kahlo's accident are very nice.

Doctor Who: Death Comes To Time 1
Sylvester McCoy returns as the Seventh Doctor once more in Dan Freedman's bold reinvention of Doctor Who. Death Comes To Time's first episode At The Temple Of The Fourth is epic, maybe self consciously so, but this sense of scale is great. McCoy, Stephen Fry, Kevin Eldon and Leonard Fenton are all wonderful and Lee Sullivan's accompanying illustrations look great. It's unbelievable that Radio 4 turned this down and very unfortunate that it isn't still available online.

The free online encyclopedia written by volunteers. People knock it because anyone can edit it, but that's precisely what makes it great. Millions of articles, in 282 languages, often updated within seconds of news events making it often the most up-to-date site available on any given subject.

Time And Relative Dimensions In Space by Mark Wallinger
I love how it echoes this scene from the 1979 Doctor Who story City Of Death.

Recommendations welcome.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

“You’re Going To Have A Hell Of A Year”

So says the Tenth Doctor to Rose the last time he met her (and the first time she met him), in the last few moments of Doctor Who's The End Of Time, Part Two and the first few moments of 2005.

This was the year that the Huygens probe landed on Saturn's largest moon Titan, the Kyoto Protocol went into effect, the women of Kuwait were granted the right to vote, controversial drawings of Mohammed were printed in a Danish newspaper and the Live8 concerts took place across the world.

Personally, I worked on shows like 1905, Weave and 13 Rooms. I left my job in the bookshop and found work in a call centre, then later I left the call centre to work on Sleeping Beauty.

These are a few of my favourite things from 2005:

Joss Whedon’s Firefly hits the big screen and really feels like it belongs. This is that rare commodity: the Science Fiction action film featuring characters that are real people just trying to get through the day. It’s criminal that there was never a sequel. Here's the trailer.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel and Sam Rockwell are all great in the big screen version of Douglas Adams’ SF comedy tale. The film successfully interprets the story for a new audience and proves to be robust enough to include new elements as disparate as singing dolphins, the point-of-view gun and the romance between Arthur and Trillian. Here's the trailer.

The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse
As Royston Vasey faces the end of its world, its inhabitants stray into ours to plead with their creators to save their lives. The bleakness of the real world, the vibrancy of Vasey and the colour of The King’s Evil all combine to make this film much more than the sum of its parts, with Ray Harryhausen-style stop-motion animation thrown in as well. Here's the trailer.

Doctor Who: Rose; The Unquiet Dead; Aliens Of London & World War Three, Dalek, The Long Game, Father's Day, The Empty Child & The Doctor Dances, Boom Town, Bad Wolf & The Parting Of The Ways, The Christmas Invasion and its prelude
The triumphant return. Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper are wonderful. Rose starts us with a bang, it’s like a traditional four part story, but with Rose experiencing the first half, while the Doctor is rushing through parts three and four at the same time. The Unquiet Dead is a wonderful Victorian romp with great performances from Eve Myles, Simon Callow and Alan David and marks the first of the ‘celebrity historicals’. Aliens Of London & World War Three is both the most far fetched story this season and also the most realistic. Yes, it has farting aliens, unerring missile accuracy and a space pig in it, but it also shows Jackie and Mickey reeling from Rose being missing for a year, shows aliens using our own government against us and gives the Slitheen a very plausible motivation for their actions. As the first new two-parter it also features the first new cliffhanger ending and gives us three cliffhangers simultaneously. Dalek successfully puts Skaro’s finest back on top. It looks like a battle tank, kills almost everyone in sight, but still manages to illicit pity from Rose and a lust for revenge from the Doctor. I don’t understand why The Long Game is so derided. This episode deserves to be lauded as an excellent satire on media propaganda, and yet people seem to miss the point. Simon Pegg and Anna Maxwell-Martin are wonderful in my favourite episode this year. Father's Day is a touching tale and Rose’s dilemma is palpable with great performances from Piper, Camille Coduri and Shaun Dingwall. Gasmasks are terrifying to behold and the scariest thing in horror to an adult is a lost child. The Empty Child & The Doctor Dances uses both of these to create a tense World War II chiller. This two-parter has beautiful Blitz design, features one of the best cliffhanger resolutions in the history of the show and one of the best lines of dialogue in the history of the English language: “What’s life? Life’s easy. A quirk of matter. Nature’s way of keeping meat fresh”. The story introduces John Barrowman as Captain Jack, but it’s Florence Hoath’s Nancy that steals the show. Eccleston and Annette Badland are wonderful in Boom Town. The two-part finale Bad Wolf & The Parting Of The Ways brings the “Bad Wolf scenario” to a fantastic close. Russell T. Davies and Christopher Eccleston gave Doctor Who both a zeal and a gravitas that cannot be underestimated. Despite appearances the Children In Need episode with no onscreen title is an essential prelude to The Christmas Invasion. This episode has possibly the hardest task of any episode ever, to introduce the another new Doctor to a Christmas Day audience. It illustrates the strength of the surrounding cast with great performances from Piper, Coduri, Noel Clarke, Penelope Wilton and eventually David Tennant. Fantastic.

Star Trek: Enterprise: Observer Effect; Babel One, United & The Aenar; Affliction & Divergence; In A Mirror, Darkly; Demons & Terra Prime
As Enterprise draws to a close, the links with other Star Trek series are strengthened significantly. The crew are unaware of being lab rats in an Organian experiment in Observer Effect which makes a refreshing change for some of the regular actors. The three part Babel One, United & The Aenar is meandering story that sees the foundation of the alliance that would lead to the Federation, sees the Romulans at their sneakiest and includes another great performance from Jeffrey Combs. Affliction & Divergence is Enterprise at its most fannish: Section 31 are back, there is fallout from the Augment crisis and the change in Klingon foreheads is explained, but despite what on paper looks like too much, it also manages to be a great story as well. The two part In A Mirror, Darkly is from a different TV show altogether. A glimpse into how the show might have looked in the mirror universe, which gives the regulars an opportunity for very different performance and also sees the welcome return of the 23rd century’s sets, uniforms and vibrant colour scheme. Demons & Terra Prime sees humanity on the eve of the coalition of planets at its most xenophobic. With great performances from Jolene Blalock, John Billingsley, Linda Park, Connor Trinneer, Harry Groener and Peter Weller. This would have been a much better note to end the series on.

The Thick Of It
Chris Langham's weariness as Hugh Abbott MP is palpable as he presides over a department which announces a policy and flip flops to an entirely contradictory policy and then flop flips back again. Second guessing and overreaction abound in the corridors of power (and for a couple of scenes in the broom cupboard of power).

Nighty Night
Even bleaker and barmier than the first series. Julia Davis is even more manipulative as Jill Bulb, nee Tyrrell, and Rebecca Front, Ruth Jones and Ralph Brown are all great, but Mark Gatiss steals the show out from under them.

A sordid soap opera with a compelling storyline. It is beautifully directed and boasts great performances throughout, astounding art direction and a series of cliffhanger endings that keep upping the ante.

Star Wars: Clone Wars Chapters Twenty-One to Twenty-Five
Genndy Tartakovsky’s animated series continues, with highlights including the animated cave paintings, Shak-Ti’s staff fight and Palpatine’s kidnap leading right into the opening crawl of the third prequel film.

The Quatermass Experiment Remake
David Tennant, Mark Gatiss and Indira Varma are wonderful in this live remake of Nigel Kneale’s first Quatermass serial set in a slightly odd hybrid of 1953 and now. A great TV experiment.

Mr Benn: The Gladiator
Another lovely slice of costume-related time travel whimsy from David McKee.

David Tennant, Shaun Parkes, Peter O'Toole and Laura Fraser are all astonishingly good in a wonderful script by Russell T Davies that bounds along beautifully.

The Quite Interesting quest reaches C with shows about Campanology, Cockneys and Cummingtonite, as well as this.

Chris Addison’s The Ape That Got Lucky: Language And Communication; Social Development; Science And Technology; Man Or Monkey?
Addison charts our first fumbling steps up the evolutionary to undisputed Top Species (capital T, capital S) and our subsequent development of tools, social conventions and language. “This show is made up almost entirely of language” and contains some insulting Esperanto. Featuring the excellent Jo Enwright in roles as varied as the first woman who ever spoke, the wife of a comatose inventor and a cow being milked.

Nebulous: The Night Of The Vegetarians; The Lovely Invasion; The Dust Has Landed; Madness Is A Strange Colour; The Coincidence Machine; The Man Who Polished The Sun
The year is 2099 and the first series of this loving Post-Withering parody, Professor Nebulous proves that vegetarians can't be trusted in The Night Of The Vegetarians, a sort of The Quatermass Experiment meets Meglos in a geodesic dome. Later Earth undergoes The Lovely Invasion and Nebulous is the only dissenting voice. Surely they can't be all they seem, can they? In The Dust Has Landed, K.E.N.T. finds itself competing with a rival organisation the Legitimate Organisation Undertaking General Humanitarian Business Operations Requiring Optimum Unconditional Global Harmony, or L.O.U.G.H.B.O.R.O.U.G.H. and contending with the professor's ex, played by Julia Deakin. Madness Is A Funny Colour as Garrow paint begins sending people honest Bod-bothering people into schizopathic psychophrenia, Harry who no longer has the luxury of eyes becomes the only salvation. The Coincidence Machine causes a build-up of coincidences threatens both our universe and a parallel universe (that’s different) with coinciclasm. The Man Who Polished The Sun cements David Warner's Dr. Klench as the arch nemesis of Nebulous and shows that Harry's reward is also his punishment. K.E.N.T. can do.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: Fits The Nineteenth to Twenty-Sixth
The adaptation of the last two books of the trilogy in five parts was never going to be straightforward. The previously demolished Earth has somehow reappeared, Arthur has returned to it and fallen in love with a girl called Fenchurch, who then disappears. The Book is becoming The Bird. Ford, Zaphod, Marvin and at least two Trillians are each wandering independently through The Whole Sort Of General Mish Mash. This is a fitting end to twenty-seven years of radio hitchhiking and features wonderful performances from William Franklyn, Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern, Bill Paterson, Jane Horrocks, Toby Longworth, Stephen Moore, Rula Lenska, Saeed Jaffrey and Douglas Adams among many many more.

Doctor Who: Storm Warning; Sword Of Orion; Invaders From Mars; The Chimes Of Midnight Parts One & Two
From Paul McGann’s opening monologue in Storm Warning it's clear that the Eighth Doctor is back and he’s going to be magnificent. Gareth Thomas and Hylton Collins put in great performances and the story serves as a great debut for India Fisher’s Edwardian adventuress Charley Pollard. Sword Of Orion is like a Cybermen ‘best of’ album and is all the better for it. David Benson's impersonation of Orson Welles in Invaders From Mars is nothing short short of miraculous. The story posits that aliens really did invade during the famous broadcast of The War Of The Worlds in 1938 and John Arthur is deliciously evil as Cosmo Devine. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without The Chimes Of Midnight. The first two parts are beautifully atmospheric and dialogue like “Edith was a very stupid girl, she may not have known it was impossible when she did it” is wonderful.

Gorillaz: Demon Days
The second album from the animated band is more like a concept album than the first, but since the band themselves are mostly conceptual this isn't as unwieldy as it might be in other more flesh and blood hands. The album has a raft of great singles, but spare a thought for 'Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey's Head' is a great yarn told by Dennis Hopper and 'Don't Get Lost In Heaven' is Gorillaz viewed through the lens of The Beach Boys, which show the Gorillaz are as inventive as ever.
Stand out tracks: 'Kids With Guns'; 'Dirty Harry'; 'Feel Good Inc'; 'Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey's Head'; 'Don't Get Lost In Heaven'

Supergrass: Road To Rouen
The fifth album features longer and more orchestral tracks than the trio's usual fare. The tone shifts towards darker realms, but does so without taking itself too seriously. If it's a concept album, then it successfully manages to avoid the cliché and maintain variety within its theme. I suppose we will never discover what happened to 'Tales Of Endurance, Parts 1, 2 & 3'. Despite the serious nature of most of the album 'Coffee In The Pot' shows that this is still the same band and they can still have fun and the album title itself is a reassuring pun. A beautiful album.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Tales Of Endurance, Parts 4, 5 & 6'; 'St. Petersburg'; 'Sad Girl'; Roxy; 'Coffee In The Pot'; 'Road To Rouen'; 'Low C'

The Call Of The Weird by Louis Theroux
Theroux returns to the USA to pay visits to many of the stars of his Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends. Highlights include Survivalist Mike Cain, ex porn star JJ Michaels and alien hunter turned vampire slayer Thor Templar.

Charlie Brooker’s Screen Burn
Bile aimed squarely at the likes of Big Brother, 24, Cold Feet, The Frontier House, Hollyoaks, Touch The Truck and everything in between.

Ex Machina: Tag; Fortune Favors; Fact Vs Fiction; Off The Grid
Proving that Ex Machina deals with issues that comics rarely dare to, whilst still managing to keep a superhero in the mix and not cheapen said issue. Tag follows New York’s mayor Mitchell Hundred through his backing of gay marriage, while fending off assassination attempts from the religious fanatics and someone from his past. Fortune Favors shows that there are no easy days for Hundred. Fact Vs Fiction sees a copycat attempt to pick up where 'The Great Machine' left off whilst Hundred serves jury duty, neither ends well. Off The Grid concerns lies and sees Hundred's mother finally tell him the truth while a machine deceives him.

The Vesuvius Club Graphic Edition by Mark Gatiss & Ian Bass
Lucifer Box ventures into new territory and graphic is certainly the word as the unveiling of one character is unflinchingly anatomical. The artwork, by the illustrator of the novels, is languid and the adaptation of the novel is compelling.

Doctor Who: The Love Invasion; Art Attack; The Cruel Sea; Mr Nobody; A Groatsworth Of Wit
The Ninth Doctor and Rose arrive in comics for a brief but impressive run. They travel to Earth in 1966 and overcome The Love Invasion preventing an alien from averting humanity’s forays into space for our own good. A visit to see the Mona Lisa leads to a story that is arguably a modern riff on this scene in Art Attack. Rob Shearman's The Cruel Sea is the jewel in the crown of this run. Epic, spooky at times surreal. Mr Nobody is a nice little inspirational tale. The 'finale', A Groatsworth Of Wit, is a complex and fascinating 'celebrity' historical ,which ends with a panel clearly dedicated to Christopher Eccleston. The artwork and likenesses are impressive throughout.

Serenity: Those Left Behind
Helping to bridge the gap between the end of Firefly and set the stage for the movie Serenity (see above), Those Left Behind takes no prisoners featuring as it does the return of several recurring characters from the TV series, while Inara leaves Serenity and Shepherd Book is increasingly uncomfortable staying aboard. The script and art just feel right.

Noise To Signal
A great source for books, comics, film, games, music, net, print, radio and TV criticism. Unfortunately it's no longer updated, but thankfully the archive remains online. A straw poll of my favourite articles yields subjects as varied as: the Science of Romance in an episode of Futurama, the friendship dynamic in Shaun Of The Dead, Alan Partridge's character flaws, the history of road safety public information films, Torchwood's Children Of Earth reviews, Dorian Gray's hair, a very thorough three-part article on Dollhouse and a philosophical debate asking at what point do you stop being The Sugababes? Sadly missed.

R. Tam, Sessions: Session 416, Second Excerpt; Session 1, Excerpt; Session 22, Excerpt; Session 165, Excerpt; Session 416, First Excerpt
Five short clips released as viral marketing for the movie Serenity (see above). They feature Summer Glau as River Tam and writer and director Joss Whedon as her interviewer. The sessions provide an insight into the events at The Academy that unsettled River so much. They were released out of chronological order and form an intriguing story, presented here in the order they were made available online:

Recommendations welcome.