Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Book One: The Classic Era – Now Available on Amazon

August 13, 2014

Hi guys,

Just a note to say that Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Book One: The Classic Era is now available to buy on Amazon.

You can get it here http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00MNK7F30?*Version*=1&*entries*=0 and it’ll work on your Kindle or tablet.

It’s available for a very reasonable $9.99/£6.14SG_Cvr

As a result of this – and because Amazon wouldn’t let me publish something that is fully available in the public domain – I’ve had to take some of the Doctor Who reviews down.

But there’s still plenty here for you to read and sample.

The book also includes my Stuart Reviews Stuff Doctor Who Awards, including my ranking of companions, cliffhangers, best and worst guest stars, most embarrassing moments in Doctor Who are more.

So if you’ve enjoyed my reviews over the years, please consider buying a copy, and of course leaving a review on Amazon.

In the very near future I’ll also be publishing Book Two, which will focus on the Modern Era, and most importantly of all, will include my Stuart Reviews Stuff Colossal 246, ranking all the stories from worst to best.


The Inbetweeners 2 Review: (or “Cutting to the Chase – Is It Funny?”)

August 6, 2014

I could spend 800 words going into detail about The Inbetweeners 2, and if I did, part of that would be to say that it hasn’t really changed from the existing format – with Neil being stupid, Will lusting after a girl out of his league, Jay boasting about sexual conquests that never happened while really being belittled by his family, and Simon stuck in some sort of dysfunctional relationship that he needs to get out of – but that format still has legs and it’s what any fan of the show wants toinbetweeners see from a new movie.

So I won’t bother.

Instead, I’ll just answer the one question you’ll all be asking.

Is it funny?

Answer: Yes, it’s hysterical, almost from beginning to end, and unlike the first movie, it doesn’t sag or feel drawn out.

I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling you my favourite bits; that would diminish your experience.

This is a tremendous effort from the Inbetweeners gang, and one that any fan of the show will want to see.

So if you like it the TV show, go to it as soon as possible.

 


Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy Review

August 2, 2014

When I have reviewed Marvel films in the past – and let’s face it, one in every three films made these days seems as though it comes from the Superhero studios – I’ve found that I’ve reserved the higher praise for the ones more grounded in reality.

I think that’s because I find the likes of Spider Man – set as it is in modern-day New York – or the 1960s America based X Men: Last Stand more relatable than the likes of Thor. Also, I think generally Marvel struggle to write good dialogue and plot for the ones set out in more fantastic settings.

So with that in mind, I was pretty sceptical going to see Guardians of the Galaxy. Hell, I’ve never even heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy comic books.

Would my reservations be proved correct?

Guardians of the Galaxy Review: What’s It About?hr_Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_29.jpg

A human – taken from Earth as a boy in 1988 – living his life out in the far reaches of the universe comes to accidentally possess a very powerful, galaxy destroying weapon. Along with a rag-tag bunch of misfits he meets in his travels, he must ensure it stays out of the hands of those wishing to do harm with it.

Guardians of the Galaxy Review: Who’s In It?

Plenty of well-known faces (and voices) take part. The lead star is Parks & Recreation’s Chris Pratt, and he’s joined by the likes of Batista, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel and Glenn Close.

Guardians of the Galaxy Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

Generally very highly. Imdb has it currently rated at a colossal 9.0 from over 20,000 votes, while Rotten Tomatoes has it with an approval rating of 92%. Critic reviews are mostly high too, with only Time Magazine seeming to mark it down.

Guardians of the Galaxy Review: My Thoughts

At first, I wasn’t too sure about it.

For the opening 15 minutes, it didn’t seem to inspire me, and the setting and characters looked like they wouldn’t appeal.

But then I began to enjoy it; I began to really enjoy it.

This didn’t feel like a Marvel film because it doesn’t involve anyone who could be considered a Superhero. The main character – Peter Quill – is neither a God, nor a mutant, nor even someone who has been surgically transformed into something more advanced. He’s just a regular guy in space. And the people he teams up with aren’t world beaters either. Sure, you’ve got a talking tree who can only say “I am groot”, a wise-cracking, gun-toting, talking racoon and a literal thinking, humourless muscle man among his associates, but none of them are particularly special either.

So it was different to the norm and therefore didn’t suffer from the problems associated with the likes of Thor.

In fact, this seemed more like a Star Wars type movie than a Marvel one

And I liked that..

As a story, it wasn’t the most original or complex one you’ll ever see, and the characters weren’t exactly deep, but I think it was clear that they weren’t aiming for that to be the case.

Instead, I suspect what Marvel wanted to do was to present a film that was exciting, humorous at the right times and just generally fun throughout.

And it did exactly that.

The sound track also added to it as well and gave it some character.

If I was to be critical of anything, it would be that the villains weren’t the most exciting bunch (and Karen Gillan’s attempt at an American accent was a bit “Dick van Dyke in Reverse”) but I suppose by being so bland, it made the well cast protagonists stand out even more.

On the whole, I came away from this having more than got my money’s worth. It’s definitely one of the best films Marvel has ever produced, and it really is one that lives up to the imdb fanboy hype.

Give it a shot and you won’t be disappointed.

 

 


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review (or “Sunset of the Village of the Apes”)

July 18, 2014

When you look to review a movie, or at least try to find a means of scoring it, I think you have to look at a number of factors.

There’s no doubt that in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the CGI is excellent. But I would argue these days that CGI is excellent as standard. It’s no longer something to turn your head and make you go “Wow”, but rather should only be remarked upon if it’s bad. If I was scoring a film now, there would be no extra points given for excellent CGI, because you’ll find every blockbuster is the same; instead, I’d only mark it down if it wasn’t up to scratch.

So if you ignore that, you’re then left with the acting and the writing.

There’s nothing wrong with the acting here. Then again, there’s nothing majorly right about it either. The humans – played by actors like Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Jason Clarke – all do a decent enough job for the rather shallow characters DawnPOTAthey are given to play. Meanwhile, the voice actors of the apes hardly have a serious amount of work to do in their jobs, and so I found them unremarkable.

So we can check that off as being nothing to write home about either.

And what of the writing?

Well here’s where it gets interesting for me.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a plot that has been done time and time again in science fiction. The notion of two different races trying for peace only for warmongers in their respective ranks to bring about conflict instead is nothing new. As a Doctor Who fan, it’s essentially the plot to Doctor Who & The Silurians, The Sea Devils, Frontier in Space, Warriors of the Deep, The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood and probably a handful of other stories that don’t spring to mind right now. And that’s just from one TV show. It will have been done in other mediums before as well, not least in the 1973 film Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

And what’s so crushingly familiar is that they don’t bother to deviate from the same plotline at all. The humans meet the apes, there’s initial mistrust, the leaders of the respective races look for peace but their lieutenants aim for war. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t even try to be different. And that disappoints me.

Don’t get me wrong; taken as a self-contained piece of work, this is fine – good even – but because it’s so unoriginal, I just cannot understand the ratings that it’s been awarded, such as 8.5/10 from 30,000 votes on imdb, a 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and an average of 4 stars from journalists across the globe.

Why?

For a film to be rated so highly, I think it either has to have something extraordinary about it – which this doesn’t – or for it to be a fine variation on a theme – which this isn’t.

Even away from the basic formula, I watched it and found myself  pondering the following issues…

  • It seems as though this has been written in the same dodgy way as so many science fiction and horror shows before it, in that a planet has been condensed to a handful of square miles for the benefit of storytelling that can’t be arsed to think in terms of scale.
  • As powerful as these apes are supposed to be, they remain susceptible to bullets and can be easily killed.
  • Moreover, they are only one relatively small colony living in the hills near San Francisco. There are more humans than apes!! “Planet of the Apes” indeed; more like “Village of the Apes”.
  • There’s no good reason for why they weren’t killed off years earlier.
  • Now you could argue that they weren’t because most of humanity has been wiped out by Simian Flu, but that’s clearly not the case; there are thousands of people – more than enough to succeed as a society – living in San Francisco alone, surviving thanks to immunity. You would therefore expect that there will be survivors all across the US and the globe. Where are they? And how did the people of San Francisco lose contact with them?
  • Or is it that we’re supposed to believe that the majority of humanity has decided to settle within walking distance of the apes and that there’s only one dam in the whole of the US that they can draw power from? Even though they’ve been getting on fine for the last 10 years using petrol?
  • With so many survivors and – you’d imagine – communities, how come civilisation didn’t manage to be maintained anyway? Like I say, the sheer number of people living in the settlement suggests the problems facing humanity in shows like Survivors just wouldn’t apply here.
  • And lest we forget that in shows like Survivors where a huge proportion of the population have been wiped out, settling in cities is out of the question because of the amount of death and disease remaining in them. There was none of that here at all.
  • If – as appears to be the case – the apes are soon to find themselves on the receiving end of organised military attack, it doesn’t seem feasible that they would survive; they just don’t have the numbers for it. So how is this the dawn of their planet rather than its sunset?

So it doesn’t hold up to me at all when you take a moment to think about the plot. And I’m sure there will be some of you reading this thinking I’m being pedantic, but I’m not. It wouldn’t have been difficult to redress the scale of both the ape colony and the human settlement to make this seem even remotely believable within the confines of the world it’s supposed to be set.

But they didn’t do that.

Therefore, I would say that while this is a decent enough film if you switch your brain off, it doesn’t have a plot that holds up to scrutiny, nor does it have one even slightly original.

And because of that, I just don’t get the hype, or the ratings.

 

 

 


TV: 24 – Live Another Day Review (or “One of These Days, The Daleks Will Show Up”)

July 17, 2014

Let me first start off by saying there are spoilers in this review, so if you haven’t seen all of 24 – Live Another Day, then I would suggest you skip it.

Anyway, for those of you who have seen it, here are my thoughts…

24 – Live Another Day Review: What’s It About?

The British widow of an Al-Qaeda commander killed in a drone strike by the US plans on taking over US drones and attacking London with them unless President James Heller – on a state visit to the English Capital – turns himself in.

Naturally Jack Bauer has heard about this and emerges from exile to help stop them.

And sure enough, he’ll kill lots and lots of people to make sure he doesn’t fail.

Also, because this is 24, once that initial threat is over, there’s suddenly a newer, bigger threat than ever before. Oh!!!! Em!!!! Gee!!!!!

24 – Live Another Day Review: Who’s In It?

Apart from the obvious one, 24 – Live Another Day brings back old cast members like the incredibly wooden President Hellerbot (James Devane), his daughter with the face like a soup ladle, Audrey (Kim Raver) and the fidgety and awkward to

"Destroy him! Destroy him at once!!"

“Destroy him! Destroy him at once!!”

watch Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub).

Other than them, major parts go to the likes of Yvonne “Typecast” Strahovski, Steven Fry, Tate Donovan off the O.C. and the most b00-hiss of panto actresses, Michelle Fairley.

Oh, and in terms of minor parts, there’s only bloody Denis Lill as the captain of a Russian ship!! Denis Lill getting TV jobs in 2014; awesome.

24 – Live Another Day Review: My Thoughts

Well in every way, this is the standard 24 formula. Jack Bauer reluctantly emerges to deal with a threat, the local authorities initially mistrust him and  – despite his record in the past – believe he’s fighting for the forces of evil until he proves himself; then the threat becomes critical, it gets stopped just in time, only for another, bigger threat to turn up. Throughout it all, Jack happily slaughters dozens upon dozens of people that he deems unworthy of living while screaming in people’s faces saying “WHERE IS (insert critical piece of information here)” and then just before the end he comes up against some kind of personal tragedy. Oh, and as always, someone working with Jack turns out to be a villain.

But who cares if that’s the formula, it’s a great laugh when it’s done correctly.

And unlike the last couple of seasons of 24 – which seemed to be unimaginative, uninspiring and at times plainly ridiculous – this did manage to get it right.

I’ll be honest; the first few episodes were a wee bit disappointing, and in general the Margot Al-Harazi storyline was let down by Michelle Fairley’s rather dodgy acting skills (cue Game of Thrones fanboys sending me angry emails), but it soon picked up pace.

And by the final quarter when the Chinese turned up, it was just fantastic.

Indeed, the bit where the Chinese showed up was such a great and unexpected swerve, that it reminded me as a Doctor Who fan of the end of episode one of Earthshock where the Cybermen suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The screen grab there reflects that.

So overall, I found it an enjoyable return to form for a series which shows that it still has legs. Long may it continue

Random Observations

  • I laughed at the bit where Heller tells the British Prime Minister “You’d have done the same if roles were reversed”. The understated look of “Don’t think so, mate” on Steven Fry’s face was great.
  • Going back towards the start of the season, was that meant to be the House of Commons Heller was speaking to the MPs in? If so, that was rotten.
  • I find that Yvonne Strahovski just plays the same part in every show now, and I’m getting pretty tired of her. There’s no doubt she’s well suited to playing the intense high action roles she’s cast in, but you’d think she’d try to amend her acting style at least a little bit.
  • At least we won’t see William Devane in the show again. What summed his acting ability up was the way he wandered back aboard Air Force One with a coffin containing his recently deceased daughter, and his emotions and expression were no different than they had been at any point in the show previously.
  • Hey look, it’s Kevin McNally off Dad!
  • I think Cheng Zhi would have been better if he was played by Ken Jeong
  • Do you think Jack will face any kind of enquiry for throwing Margot out that window?
  • You can’t not laugh at the bit where her daughter was hit by that bus.
  • In a real life situation where someone – even the US President – had to get to the centre circle of Wembley Stadium on a night when it was closed, they’d have far more trouble getting access than they did. Inevitably there’ll be some simpleton groundskeeper with the keys who would have come out with the line “I don’t care if you’re the Queen of Sheba mate, you’re not getting in there tonight” 
  • There’s a bit where someone – I think it was Strahovski – tries to get a shell-shocked child to open up to her by offering her a can of Ginger Beer. Ginger Beer? Really? I imagine most children these days would have told her to fuck off.
  • As always with 24, there were plenty of example of people being beaten to within an inch of their life in one hour, and being seemingly fine in the next. You’ve got to love it.
  • Similarly, the ease in which they got through traffic was astounding.
  • 24 simply has to have an episode where the Daleks show up towards the end. Surely you agree with me on that?

 


TV: Murder One Review

July 13, 2014

Back in the mid 1990s, Sky One was one of the best channels available in the UK. Whether it was Games World (anyone remember Big Boy Barry?), The Simpsons (when it was still good) or WWF, there was plenty there to keep me occupied.

Now I can’t even remember the last time I watched Sky One, or what is even on it anymore (I just checked; it’s still The Simpsons, but also Modern Family, and that’s about it).

The point is, it used to be as important a channel to me as BBC One.

And one thing I remember most of all about it back in those days was a TV show I never even watched.

Murder One.

I think what made it such a striking show, purely based on the weekly adverts, was the sight of leading man Daniel Benzali; an actor with a head like a white chocolate Malteser. The vision of him clearly stuck in my mind.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and I decided to buy the boxed set, based on nothing but those memories of the adverts. I didn’t even check whether it was highly rated before I bought it.

So far, I’ve only seen the first season.

Was it any good?

Murder One: What’s It About?

From the mind of StevenBochco – probably the most famous TV Crime writers in America with hits like Hill Street Blues,NYPD Blue,Columbo (a few episodes at least) and L.A. Law to his credit – Season One of Murder One focuses on the

There's the man with a head like a white chocolate Malteser, Daniel Benzali

There’s the man with a head like a white chocolate Malteser, Daniel Benzali

“Goldilocks Murder Case”, in which famous movie star Neil Avedon is accused of raping and murdering the 15-year-old call-girl, Jessica Costello. Avedon must call upon the help of Defence Attorney Theodore Hoffman and his team to prove his innocence.

But with the millionaire businessman – and alternate suspect – Richard Cross seemingly intent on making the defence’s lives as hard as possible while claiming to be on their side, Hoffman & Associates have their work cut out for them.

Over the course of 23 episodes, the case – from Avedon’s arrest through to his trial – is fully dealt with before the truth is finally revealed.

Murder One: Who’s In It?

The leading man is Hoffman, played by the aforementioned Dr Bunsen made flesh, Daniel Benzali. Other than him, recognisable actors these days would include Mary McCormack (West Wing, In Plain Sight), Stanley Tucci (he makes movies you know) and Gregory Itzin (the rat bastard slimeball President from 24)

Murder One: How Highly Is It Rated?

Murder One is critically acclaimed and has a cult following. In the UK and Europe it was a hugely popular show at the time, but in the US it struggled with ratings, with viewers apparently unable to cope with the season-long story arc format. Those silly Americans…

Right now on imdb, it gets an 8.0 rating.

Murder One: Was It Any Good?

I would say so, yes.

In some respects, Murder One is quite dated. Now that’s not going to come as a shock seeing as it’s 18 years old, but being dated can sometimes work to a show’s advantage. Personally, I love watching old episodes of Columbo, as they have a time capsule like quality to them; it’s like you’re watching a show made in a completely different world. Stuff from the mid-90s though can be dated in a poor way. You look at the outfits, the hairstyles and the production values and think “Urgh, I remember those days”.

Mostly what dates it is the aforementioned production values. The opening credits look extremely old-fashioned, and they are made worse by the attempts at using “hi-tech” CGI. Then there’s the incidental music, which often sounds like something from a Sega Megadrive game. Awful.

As well as that though, the mid 1990s were a time when TV wasn’t taken quite as seriously across the pond as it is now. It feels as though Television acting wasn’t deemed as worthy as the cinema back then, and arguably the reverse is true now. But what that means is that you watch the show and see some examples of acting – like that of Bobbie Philips and Patricia Clarkson, who played Julie Costello and Annie Hoffman respectively – that are so bad, you know that they wouldn’t be deemed acceptable in 2014.

So in those respects, it suffers, but thankfully the good outweighs the bad.

Daniel Benzali and Stanley Tucci are both excellent in their starring roles and bring a sense of authenticity to the part, and while most of the other actors are of a good standard, Gregory Itzin must also get a special mention for being possibly even more unlikable as the slimey District Attorney, Roger Garfield.

Beyond that, the season long story arc is well paced, and though there are the occasional lulls and distractions – like Hoffman’s marital crisis which came out of nowhere – I felt it kept moving smoothly from episode to episode and kept me entertained.

It was also interesting to see court procedure laid out in more detail than you’d usually expect on TV. In particular, I found the episodes dedicated to juror selection intriguing.

Finally, the conclusion to the whole thing kept me guessing, and I found myself pleased to know I hadn’t manage to work out the ending in advance.

Who Should Watch Murder One?

I’d recommend that anyone who enjoys crime drama or long, winding story arcs would enjoy Murder One.

I certainly did.

Give it a shot.


The 75 Game Challenge: Game #2 – Typer Shark! Deluxe

July 3, 2014

Next up in the 75 Game Challenge is Typer Shark! Deluxe

Typer Shark! Deluxe: What Is It?

Another one from the PopCap Collection, this is a game where you play as a diver trawling the seas for booty, and have to fend off sharks, piranhas, squids and pirates by typing the letters/words written on them before they have a chance to

It's simple; you type the words on the sharks in time or you die

It’s simple; you type the words on the sharks in time or you die

cut your line and drown you.

Typer Shark! Deluxe: How Much Did It Cost?

I got it as part of a £20-£30 collection of 35 games a few years back. Today it sells on its own for £4.25

Typer Shark! Deluxe: How Long Did I Play It For?

Four hours.

Thoughts

Typing games are the sort of thing that sound boring but really aren’t. When you think about any game, it mostly involves your ability to press the right buttons or make the correct gestures at the appropriate time on a controller or screen. How is a typing game any different to that? You press the right buttons on your keyboard in time; simple!

And there’s no doubt about it; Typer Shark! Deluxe is strangely addictive. You have three lives (but can get more if you score enough points) and you have to get through as many levels as you can. Not only does it have that moreish quality where you want to play it again when you die – something, incidentally, that AstroPop Deluxe didn’t have – but it also feels quite frantic when the difficulty level ramps up.

Ultimately, after a number of tries, I completed the game in about four hours on Hard Difficulty, but it’s definitely one I would go back to, because the replay value and challenge is there.

Proving that sometimes its the most simple games that are the most enjoyable, I think Typer Shark! Deluxe would be well worth the money at full price, but even better value as part of that pack.

Incidentally, there are other games like it, such as Typing of the Dead and Bookworm Adventures that I would recommend just as highly.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,378 other followers