Movies: Dunkirk Review (or “An Artistic Demonstration”)

July 24, 2017

While it’s true to say that a good movie doesn’t necessarily have to have a strong story, I think it’s also true to say that if it doesn’t have a strong story, it can’t be considered as the best movie of the year.

And that’s where I am with Dunkirk.

To me, Dunkirk is an exercise in visuals and sound. It’s an artistic demonstration.

The idea behind it seems to be to immerse the viewer in the sights, sounds and struggles of the British evacuation of Normany during the Second World War, and it certainly does that.

It’s very loud, visually stunning – with some quite superb direction and camera shots – and remarkably tense thanks to its unrelenting incidental music.

I just saw it at a regular cinema but I imagine it’s best seen in an iMax.

But I don’t think it’ll be my favourite movie of the year – and in fact I can already tell you that it’s not – because it lacked enough of a story to hook me in.

The gimmick – presenting three converging timelines – didn’t seem to add up entirely, and even though there was a good reason for it, the lack of dialogue early on became slightly wearing.

So like I say, as an artistic demonstration, this was absolutely top notch, but it failed to capture me from a creative point of view.

Much like Gravity, I think this is one for the cinema that might not translate as well beyond it.

And because of that it can’t be movie of the year.


Movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

July 21, 2017

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to comic book characters, so I’ll hold my hands up and say that when it became obvious in the pre-credits sequence of Spider-Man: Homecoming that the Vulture would just be Michael Keaton in a some alien tech wing suit, I was disappointed.

I wanted an old bald bloke in a green leotard with wings.

But hey, you can’t have everything, and as it turned out, Keaton made it work, although that shouldn’t come as too much of a shock considering he’s been good in everything he’s appeared in since his career revival. For me, he was one of the best parts about the movie, along with Jacob Batalon as Peter Parker’s always-amusing best friend, Ned.

And it was a good movie.

Rebooting the Spiderman series yet again in such a short space of time was a risk, and thankfully they took a different approach, casting and writing him as a younger man living in a world not populated by the same school-friends as we’ve seen in previous films. It was fresh.

It also felt a little less CGI/action-scene heavy compared to most other Marvel efforts, which is no bad thing.

In fact, unlike most superhero movies, this felt like a story from start to finish, including a terrific twist towards the end that I didn’t see coming.

If I was to criticise it for anything, it would be that it presumes knowledge of the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, so f you’re coming in with a fresh pair of eyes, it might be a little confusing.

That though wasn’t a major issue for me, and so on the whole I enjoyed it.


Thoughts On The Casting Of Jodie Whittaker As The Doctor (or “I’m Unsure; I Hope That’s Ok?”)

July 16, 2017

I’ll preface this by saying that no matter who took the part of the new Doctor, they wouldn’t inspire me. Peter Capaldi is the best actor ever to have the role in my opinion and I’m disappointed to see him leave. There were no outstanding/obvious replacements.

And I won’t lie either; I’ve spent my life associating the character of the Doctor as a man so I never had any burning desire to see that change. It seems to me that lots of people – including those who don’t watch the show and never will – are heralding this as the most amazing news not because of Jodie Whittaker’s acting prowess but because she’s a woman. That’s equally daft to people hating on her for the same reason.

But me; I’m just…unsure. Is that ok? Or is the blanket reply that it’s not ok and I must be a sexist, misogynist pig?

Why am I unsure? It’s not because I don’t think the part should be played by a woman – the outrage and sexist jokes we’ve seen so far have been very poor if not unexpected from certain quarters – but rather how a woman playing the part will affect the show itself.

The New Doctor

  • What will it mean for the casting of a companion? Are we going to get some strange dynamic of a young bloke desperately in love with an older woman? Or Bill Potts suddenly besotted with her? I think we’ve seen enough ‘Companion Loves The Doctor’ sub plots in recent years. The stuff with Martha and especially Rose was terrible.
  • What happens when she leaves the show? Going back to a male Doctor at the first time of asking might end up suggesting that she’s somehow been seen as a failed experiment, resulting in female Doctors being cast for a while with no men being considered for fear of backlash.  And that is positive discrimination.
  • Does the casting of a female Doctor limit the setting/scope of stories set in the past? That might sound ridiculous but – even though most episodes would work regardless of the gender of the Doctor – there are definitely situations and stories that the character has found himself in that couldn’t have worked if he was a woman.
  • Will the writing focus on the fact she is a woman more than it does on actually writing good episodes of Doctor Who?

This all remains to be seen.

I’m always an optimist, so when the time comes for the new season to start next year I’ll be as excited as ever.

Change can be good and hopefully this will be a good change. Michelle Gomez was excellent as Missy but felt like a completely different character to the Master.

How will Jodie Whittaker do then? Who knows. I haven’t seen enough shows she’s been in to know how good an actress she is. I’ll certainly give her a chance; the sort of people who won’t are pathetic.

Ultimately it’s the quality of the writing that counts the most.

And it’s chiefly because of how the writing might change to take this into account that makes me unsure.

I hope that’s ok?

 


Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls Review (“A Masterclass of Acting, But Maybe Not of Writing”)

July 2, 2017

Only this morning I was speaking to a friend about the time back in 1987 when my dad didn’t record episode four of Paradise Towers and it took until December 1994 for it to be repeated on TV again.

That sort of thing must seem alien to the youth of today.

But imagine if it wasn’t?

Imagine if for some reason an episode shown today wouldn’t be able to be seen again – unless you happened to know someone who taped it – until 2024? If that was the case, the whole of Scotland would be absolutely raging right about now.

Because for some reason, right at the point when The Doctor Falls was reaching its climax – when Bill had left the TARDIS and the Doctor lay dead on the floor – BBC Scotland’s feed of the show lost its sound and the remainder of the episode played out to a load of buzzing noises. And then they didn’t even bother to apologise in the post-credits continuity announcement. Bastards.

Thankfully it’s 2017 and I was able to immediately go to the iPlayer and watch it properly there, but by that point arguably the most important scenes of the episode had lost their immediate impact.

Still…I suppose it’s better than waiting seven years to find out what was said.

Anyway, on to the review…

Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls Review: What’s This One About?

Writing everyone out.

Thoughts – A Familiar Change of Pace

Last week I was concerned that this episode would fail to capitalise on the strengths of World Enough and Time, and that it would end up completely over the top like Last of the Timelords.

Those concerns were unfounded to an extent, but as good as this was, my immediate thoughts were that it not only paid a little bit too much tribute to the show’s own lore, but also rehashed old ideas.

For example…

  • References to Telos, Marinus (that was put in there just to mess with people like me, presumably), Planet 14 and so on.
  • Repeating famous lines from classic stories. And Dragonfire.
  • A situation that resembled the events of The Time of the Doctor a little too much.
  • A companion going off to travel the universe after supposedly dying.
  • The Doctor having a Logopolis style flashback to all his companions (except, bizarrely Rory, but even then that could be a deliberate nod to Leela’s omission to the flashback from Resurrection of the Daleks

    The moment when the sound went out and viewers in Scotland went mental

    for all I know)

  • Finishing the story in what we must assume is the last few minutes of The Tenth Planet.

Is this a problem? Mostly no. The references will either go over people’s heads or be seen as quite cool; either way they aren’t essential to being able to follow the plot.

And I guess for the untrained eye, the similarities with Time of the Doctor will go unseen, and there won’t be anyone out there who doesn’t like the set-up to the Christmas episode.

But Bill’s departure – if that’s what it is – was too similar to Clara’s, even to the casual viewer. Objectively, that’s lacking in originality.

Having said that though, where else could it go? Steven Moffat was faced with a choice – just as he did with Clara – of killing the character off or finding a way to give her a happy ending.

Had he not given her that happy ending, it would have been one of the most astonishingly bleak but also brilliant ends to a companion in the show’s history.

I have to say though, the sentimentalist in me is happy that she was spared that end. I like Bill and if it’s the last time we see her then it’s a pity.

The Story Itself

Beyond the similarities it has to old episodes, how good is The Doctor Falls?

Well it’s not without its flaws, but it is very good.

If I was to be critical, I’d say that the Cybermen were all too readily relegated to bit-part players. I’ve said before that they work best as incidental figures because of how devoid of character they are, but then this is

Mon Then

the Tenth Planet Cybermen we’re talking about, and as characterisation goes, they are the best ones. They could have been used better.

I’d also say that much of what went on in this episode amounted to window dressing. Ultimately it didn’t really matter where the characters were, because nothing was resolved. Though Nardole led the villagers to safety, it was left unclear what their long-term fate was, both in terms of Cyberman attack and the ship falling in to the black hole.

And while earlier in the episode it was suggested that they couldn’t get back to the TARDIS because of how time was passing (even though that doesn’t hold up considering the pre-Cybermen came for Bill last week) a magic wand was waved to get the Doctor back there in the end.

In spite of those issues though, what made it enjoyable was the strength of acting from the main players.

Matt Lucas seemed to have more about him as Nardole this week, while Michelle Gomez and John Simm – though both toned down a little bit over the last seven days – worked as a wonderful double act.

Pearl Mackie was excellent as Bill, she really was, and the strength of her acting sold the heartbreaking predicament Bill found herself in.

But best of all was Peter Capaldi.

Even though I don’t think he was always given the best material to work with – why he doesn’t want to regenerate is yet to be explained – he was utterly superb; perhaps the best he’s ever been. Not a single line of dialogue is delivered with anything less than brilliance.

While this looks to be the end of the road for most of the characters, we’ve still got Christmas with Capaldi – the finest actor to play the part in my opinion – and if this is anything to go by, he’ll be tremendous one last time.

Random Observations

  • I feel I might have brushed over how good Missy and The Master were. Some of the lines – including “The Doctor’s dead. He told me he’d always hated you. Let’s go.” and “Urgh, well doesn’t that take all the

    Rory was sad to find out he wasn’t worthy of being in the flashback while that Silurian and her lover were.

    fun out of cruelty” – were sublime, and the way they both stabbed each other in the back was as apt a way for them to go as any.

  • The explanation for how the Master got there and why he was in disguise was also well done.
  • But I’d liked to have seen him regenerate, and felt the suggestion that he had an erection to be a little bit crude for Doctor Who.
  • Hey look, it’s that woman who has made a career out of playing Barbara Windsor.
  • The incidental music was top-notch, as was the direction.
  • On that note, I loved how we saw the Doctor ‘die’ through the shutting of his own eyes.
  • Although if I’m going to be a bit churlish, I found the perspective of the Doctor looking down at ‘Bill’ when he should have been looking up at a Cyberman was a bit off.
  • Anyone else notice that the Cybermen guns used what seemed to be the same sound effect as the Autons from Spearhead from Space?
  • Pearl Mackie’s delivery of the line “Why can’t I be angry” is a highlight of her performance.
  • Maybe I’m being a bit daft but why did they film the pre-credits scene from World Enough and Time a few weeks ago when – based on Capaldi’s hair length – the end of this week’s episode was filmed at the same time as the rest of it?
  • My guess is that the Christmas episode might be all about the two Doctors learning to accept regeneration. I could be off though.
  • The scarecrows were pointless.
  • It’s been pointed out that John Simm’s Master seems to have an obsession with putting the Doctor in a wheelchair. It’s true; it’s happened in every story he’s been in.
  • I was wrong about Nardole’s fate; he wasn’t killed off, and in fact the way he departed – while understated – was nicely handled.

Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls Review: Final Thoughts

Overwhelmingly, the strengths of The Doctor Falls lie in the performances of the actors. They – led by Peter Capaldi – were on top form.

The writing? Only so-so.

Now we’ve just got to wait six months to see how this era of Doctor Who is going to end.

I’m looking forward to it already.

More Doctor Who Reviews

Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon