Doctor Who – The Ghost Monument Review (or ‘Attack of the Killer Brown Rags’)

October 17, 2018

If I learned anything from my initial viewing of The Ghost Monument on Sunday night it’s that I’m now too old to watch a TV show after 9pm.

Having been out for a meal, that’s as early as I was able to see it, and while I definitely caught the first half of the episode in full, I realised having watched it again today that I completely missed any of the stuff with what appeared to be angry brown rags or toilet roll menacing the Doctor and chums in the latter stages.

I guess it’s a good thing that I watched it again then…

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

It’s the standard ‘Second Episode After The Relaunch’ plot where an alien planet is visited for the first time.

Thoughts – The Slow Lane

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have long been a proponent for a Doctor Who episode without the need for an alien monster. Why can’t it just be about the Doctor and his/her companions fighting

Oh no…rags

‘normal’ villain on Earth, or visiting a regular alien civilisation?

The Ghost Monument almost manages it, and instead focuses more upon characterisation – some of which was missing last week – and cinematography.

The result is a pleasant, good looking and yet uneventful episode, the likes of which are difficult to write too much about.

But that’s not unusual for where we are.

Every time the show relaunches, it sticks to a pattern. You’ve got the first episode on contemporary Earth where the Doctor is the unusual one, and then the second episode is about putting the new companions in a fish-out-of-water situation on a new planet.

By design, I suppose it has to be like that for both the characters and the new viewers.

And it’s fair enough.

But I just felt this plodded along a bit and for a longer term fan like me, it won’t be all that memorable down the line.

As for the characters, Graham and Ryan’s relationship was explored more and unlike last week it was good to see the latter’s character get fleshed out some. Yasmine though has yet to do anything of note.

It does make you think back to the problems the show faced in the early Peter Davison era when it was considered that Tegan, Nyssa and Adric were one companion too many. If anything it’ll be harder in the faster paced modern style of the show for them to make three companions work, and I’ll be keen to see if Chris Chibnall proves me wrong.

And Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor? Definitely more settled this week but I remain concerned that in the eyes of the general public and those running the show, the only way for an actor to be a good ‘Doctor Who’ is to play it like David Tennant.

Random Observations

  • The new TARDIS set is alright. A little dark for me on first impressions but maybe I’m fussy. What I did like though was the way her entrance to the ship was shot by the director. It made more sense of its

    The Terminator has let himself go a bit

    actual structure.

  • The custard cream dispenser smacks of the writers believing that part of what makes the character of the Doctor is to have an affinity to some form of confection.
  • The other characters in this episode were far from memorable, but to be fair at least an attempt was made to give them both a back story and a reason for being where they were.
  • The Call of Duty homage suggests that Ryan may become a bit of a comedy character.
  • As with last week, I’m confused as to why Ryan should want to call Graham “Granddad”. Is Graham a weirdly needy bloke?
  • I thought there wasn’t meant to be any series long story arcs this time around? And yet there were references to the aliens from the last episode and ‘The Timeless Child’.
  • Also, while one of the main criticisms of the Moffat era towards the end was its continued references to the show’s past, and while it was also thought that this season would be different, I notice that once again, there was a play on the “You’ve redecorated; I don’t like it” line. I hope Terrance Dicks gets royalties.
  • Now that the Doctor and her companions have got back to the TARDIS, having travelled long distances on foot on a hot alien planet, I hope they get a change of clothes in time for next week’s episode…
  • And speaking of next week’s episode, it looks like a plot ripped straight out of the US show Timeless. That’s not a bad thing.
  • The incidental music suited the tone and setting of the episode, so there’s nothing to complain about on that score.
  • The coincidence of her accent relative to the setting of her first episode is yet to be explored.
  • Though the episode was well shot, the CGI for the rags was pretty poor.

Doctor Who – The Ghost Monument Review: Final Thoughts

I’m surprised I managed just under 1000 words on this review, as I felt like I was at a bit of a loss to say anything of note.

If an episode is superb, terrible or at least eventful then there’s plenty to discuss, but when the main thing to take from it is that nothing much happens – even if it’s watchable and inoffensive – it can be a bit of a chore to write about.

The main thing I’m going to take from The Ghost Monument is that it serves to set up stuff in future episodes. The pieces are on the board now, and everything is ready to go.

Next week, I expect to have more to discuss.

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

 

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Movies: Unsane Review (or “Apparently This Movie Can Be Summed Up In 85 Words”)

March 31, 2018

 

As a test study for how easy it is to make a movie on the cheap using a skeleton crew and an iPhone for a camera, Unsane is a great success.

As an entertaining movie, not so much.

It’s not bad, but without spoiling it, the mystery at the very heart of the story is solved very early and then the remainder just becomes a bit flat.

Also, the trailer spoiled too much of the plot as well. I hate that.

Wow…that review was quick.


Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Lochlands Mill (Dundee Rd, Forfar)

March 5, 2017

It’s been pretty quiet on the restaurant review front lately, for which I apologise.

In recent weeks I’ve spent more time going back to places I’d already eaten, so there hasn’t been much to talk about.

But today I ventured further afield to try somewhere new; Lochlands Mill, just outside of Forfar.

The Venue

Well it took us a while to get their thanks to my car’s shitty sat nav, which suggested I drive across a barrier on the A90, but once we finally – and quite by accident – ended up in the right place, we were met with a

The burger was superb

The burger was superb

nice restaurant.

Rather oddly combining as a pet rehabilitation centre and jewellery store, Lochlands Mill looks quite new and has a fresh design.

It’s not the biggest place in the world, and we were lucky to get the last available table, but once we were in it was clean and comfortable.

The waiting staff were pleasant and were happy to offer recommendations on what to get from the menu.

The Food

While Mhairi went for the Soup & Sandwich combo of Lentil & Vegetable soup and an Egg Mayo & Chive open sandwich, I took the waitress’s recommendation of their home-made burger with bbq sauce and onion rings served on a brioche bun ahead of the Roast of the Day or the Steak & Ale Pie.

She recommended well.

I like to think I’m a good judge of a burger, and sometimes I feel disappointed. There are some places that apparently specialise in their burgers – like Rascals in St. Andrews for example – that don’t actually make good burgers.  What they do is try to hide the bland and substandard flavour of their ready-made meat patty with all the wild and wacky toppings available, as if they are more important.

But this burger was different. I could tell that it was freshly made just before it was served, with its rough, uneven shape, and while I’ll be honest and say I’d have preferred it a little less well done, it had a robust

Apparently the open sandwich had the perfect blend of egg to mayonaisse

Apparently the open sandwich had the perfect blend of egg to mayonaisse

flavour. The onion ring was also well cooked and not greasy, which complimented it nicely along with the Applewood smoked cheddar.

Mhairi also enjoyed her food, with the soup being declared light to eat but filling, while the sandwich was considered to have the perfect ratio of egg to mayonnaise.

High praise indeed.

The Drink

Plenty of variety of soft drink, but it won’t come as a surprise to know I went for a lemonade. Shocking, eh? Mhairi veered off the well beaten path though and elected for an Irn Bru.

The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

It should be noted that both the Beer Kitchen and the Meat House in Dundee were considered for today’s lunch but had very little for vegetarians. While I’m sure that’s exactly the most shocking revelation from a place called The Meat House, it actually had far more choice than the Beer Kitchen.

Anyway, there were both light and main options for the carrot munchers at Lochlands Mill, so there were no complaints in that department.

The Price

All in, it came to £21.10, which isn’t bad at all. In fact, Mhairi’s meal only amounted to £6.50 which really is pretty good.

Final Thoughts

A top quality burger, a clean and comfortable venue and plenty choice for vegetarians means this is one place we’ll definitely be going back to soon.

I’d probably book a table in advance though as I think we were pretty lucky to get a table.

 

 


Movies – Dad’s Army Review (or ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It’)

February 16, 2016

Years ago I went to an amateur dramatics society’s version of the BBC sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo.

It wasn’t up to much.

But it was still performed better than the new Dad’s Army film.

Before going, I did think that it might be a disaster because to me, the success of the Dad’s Army TV series was largely down to the quality of the performers.army

What made Captain Mainwaring a memorable TV character was not how he was written, but how Arthur Lowe portrayed him; it was his comic timing and pomposity that made him funny. The same goes for all of them. Mostly – with the possible exception of Clive Dunn – the actors were playing extensions of their own selves.

And so any remake without that original cast obviously comes with the risk that the new actors will simply be doing impressions, rather than playing the characters.

That’s exactly what happened.

But they weren’t just doing impressions, they were doing terrible impressions.

Well, they didn’t all do impressions I suppose. Bill Nighy just played the same character he plays in every single thing he’s ever been in; he played Bill Nighy.

Apart from him though it was like a bunch of actors who shared the physical characteristics (or in the case of the bizarrely cast Bill Paterson, shared the same nationality) of the original cast were given a Dad’s Army boxed set and told ‘Just copy them’.

With that said, the worst of the lot was the supposedly respected actor Sir Tom Courtenay’s attempt at Corporal Jones. I’ve never seen anything like it. Perhaps the problem was that instead of hiring a younger man and dressing him up as an older one, they just cast a tired old man who could barely get the words out.

It was all just rather sad.

And it wasn’t funny either. Though I heard the occasional laugh in the cinema today – and indeed almost chuckled myself exclusively at some of the lines from Michael Gambon’s Private Godfrey – the 100 minutes played out in front of silence. That’s never a good sign for a comedy.

Partly this was down to the acting, and partly it was because they tried to recreate the style of humour of the original without an audience to laugh at the jokes. It was never going to work.

The only credit I’ll give Dad’s Army is that the plot – basic as it was – worked. Catherine Zeta Jones played a Nazi spy working undercover as a magazine columnist doing an article on the Home Guard. Naturally she managed to string the troops along for most of the film until it comes to a head in a reasonably exciting final 20 minutes.

But that’s not nearly enough to cover up for the flaws here.

I think they should just have left Dad’s Army alone. It’s repeated often enough and will simply never be bettered.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


Movies – Spotlight Review (or ‘Engaging and Engrossing, But Is It Worthy?’)

January 31, 2016

While I certainly don’t want to be swayed by other people’s opinions before going to see a movie – a notion that I accept is somewhat ironic considering I’m writing a review that will probably influence the opinions of others before they see it – I did read a couple of conflicting views of Spotlight from people I know before venturing out to the cinema last night.

One person said that he thought it was excellent; a gripping ensemble piece where the cast – pardon the obvious pun for the second review in a row – share the spotlight so that there is no obvious lead.spotlight

Another guy said he thought it was far too ‘worthy’; a predictable and plodding movie designed with the intention of winning Oscars rather than telling a good story.

Now those are two contrasting views at the opposite ends of the spectrum. If you read them before you go to see it you wouldn’t know if you were going to be engrossed or annoyed.

So what did I think of it?

Honestly, though I err towards agreeing with the first guy, I can understand to an extent what the second guy is talking about.

It’s true to say that this is a great ensemble piece. The likes of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James share equal amounts of screen time and don’t stand out as obvious leads.

But then it’s also true to say that thanks to Mark Ruffalo, it does feel a bit ‘worthy’. Personally, I felt he let the side down because he was so obviously ‘acting’, and though the types of people who give out Oscars are known to love that sort of thing, I don’t. To me, a good actor is someone who makes it look like the character they are playing is them being normal. The rest of the cast manage this easily, but Ruffalo – with his fake accent, occasional shoutyness and over the top body language – just came across as someone doing an impression. He’s trying too hard.

I disagree with the second opinion though where he said that it’s plodding and predictable. To me the movie never slowed down or became dull, and the two hours flew by. Predictable? Well there weren’t any shock twists like it turned out that the kids were raping the priests, but what do you expect? It’s a true account of the slow and painstaking process good journalists must go through to complete a story.

And I suppose that’s at the heart of the matter, isn’t it?

If that sounds interesting to you, then you’ll enjoy it. If you go along looking for something more thrilling and action packed, you probably won’t.

But if it’s the former, then the movie does a great job of explaining how the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe happened upon the cover-up going on in the Catholic Church, and gave an insight into how Boston society as a whole managed had previously and unwittingly swept it all under the carpet.

I guess you’ll just have to decide for yourself whether or not that sounds interesting.


Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review (or “A Pleasant Surprise”)

July 2, 2015

A few months ago I was asked by a reader of this blog to review Kingsman: The Secret Service, but since it had only just finished at the cinema and I hadn’t gone to see it, I couldn’t oblige.

Why it didn’t catch my eye when it was on, I couldn’t tell you, but a quick google search shows that it had mixed reviews, with The Telegraph giving it one star (describing it as obnoxious) and Empire Magazine awarding it four stars, which by their standards means ‘excellent’. Perhaps I only caught the negative ones.

Anyway, since that request, I’ve seen nothing but praise for this movie; not from the press, but from punters who went along and loved it.

Someone even described it to me as one of the best films they’ve ever seen.

So this morning, I finally got a chance to sit down and watch it.

Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review – What’s It About?

Not so much a parody but a comedic love-letter to spy films of old,Kingsman is about a young working class Londoner who is brought in to a top secret – and incredibly upper class – British spy agency, and must

It can't be often when the lead actor in a movie doesn't even get his name on the poster

It can’t be often when the lead actor in a movie doesn’t even get his name on the poster

help save the world from an evil billionaire who plans to use mobile technology to cull most of mankind in a bid to save the planet from ecological decline.

Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review – Who’s In It?

Though I wasn’t familiar with lead actor Taron Egerton (which is unsurprising considering he only seems to have five acting credits to his name), Kingsman is loaded with well-known actors like Michael Caine, Jack Davenport, Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and even Mark Hamill.

Quite the collection.

Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review – My Thoughts

There’s a scene halfway through the film where Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson discuss how spy films are so serious nowadays and that the old James Bond films with the over-the-top megalomaniac super villains were much more entertaining.

Now clearly this is a metatextual reference to what Kingsman is trying to achieve, and I think it sums it up perfectly.

As much as people like the Telegraph’s movie reviewer might think this is obnoxious, for my money it’s what spy films should be about.

Kingsman has the thrills, spills, action scenes and special effects that you would hope to get from any James Bond type movie and indeed it’s probably got quite a bit more violence, but it does it in a way that’s designed to entertain and make people chuckle; something which modern Bond has forgotten.

But Kingsman adapts it for a modern age and a modern viewer. There’s humour, there’s lots of swearing – and not for shock value, like when Judi Dench swore in Skyfall and Bond forums went into meltdown, but rather because it’s just how people talk – and there’s a certain appeal to it that should mean most people find something to enjoy.

The story itself has a good flow that not only builds up the main character to the point where he’s equipped for the final showdown with the villain at the end, but also allows for high points to keep you entertained until he gets there. I found the scene in the church quite a daring thing for any film to present.

And speaking of daring, the joke at the end where the Princess declares that if Eggsy manages to save the world, she’ll give him anal sex was controversial but hilarious. It’s a joke that’s designed to go one step further than the sort of cheeky ‘Bottoms Up’ style joke you’d find in some of these older films, but takes it that deliberate step over the edge. The zoom in on her bare arse just hammered that point home.

If I was to criticise it for anything, it would be that the way it’s directed – with each action sequence filled with slow shots – seems to weighted too greatly towards viewing it in 3D. That sort of gimmickry has long since past its sell by date.

To sum up though, I found Kingsman: The Secret Service to be thoroughly entertaining and would give it the thumbs up.

If you haven’t seen it yet, look it out.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


Wrestlemania XXX Review (or “Nope, That’s Not The Name Of A Porn Film”)

April 7, 2014

This time last year I sat here and wrote a scathing review of Wrestlemania XXIX.

I don’t often do wrestling reviews, but I was so disillusioned by the poor quality on show that I felt I had to.

Here’s how I summed it up…

As a viewer since 1991, I must admit my interest in the WWE product is at an all time low, and I saw absolutely nothing atWrestleMania 29 to make me feel positive about the weeks and months ahead.

A Great Way To Start The Show

A Great Way To Start The Show

That’s how bad it was.

A lot has happened in the last year though, and since the massive fan backlash at the Royal Rumble, there have been signs of an improving product.

And that leads us to the present and WWE’s latest offering, Wrestlemania XXX (which isn’t a porn film).

WWE Wrestlemania XXX Review

I’ll go through it on a match by match (or segment by segment) basis.

The Hall of Fame Ceremony: Ok, a quick detour first of all to the previous night’s Hall of Fame Ceremony. I can only echo what others have said. In order, in terms of speeches, Lita was incredibly dull, Jake Roberts was just breathtakingly

amazing, Mr T was unintentionally hysterical, Kane’s speech for Paul Bearer was enjoyable, Scott Hall was short, effective and to the point, Carlito was the only amusing bit in an otherwise super-dull Carlos Colon speech, and The Ultimate Warrior was fantastic. I especially loved the way Warrior thanked the people who really helped him in his career rather than the usual suspects. Overall, a great watch.

The Tag Title Fatal Fourway: A decent way to kick things off in the pre-show. The right team won, but it’s a bit odd that Cesaro was the one to take the fall. The split was a sign of things to come,

The Opening Segment: Hogan, Austin and The Rock all in the ring together exchanging barbs to start off with? That’s about as good as it gets. Well, I’d have preferred it if Bret Hart was in there instead of The Rock, giving it the whole “Uh…well…uh…you know…uh….Hogan is a piece of shit” stuff, but hey, you can’t have everything. The Rock doesn’t do much for me, but Austin and his “What” stuff is still gold, and the way they got round Hogan accidentally calling it the Silverdome twice was genius. A great start.

Triple H vs Daniel Bryan: As you would expect, it was a solid match, although Triple H’s entrance was a bit stupid. Stephanie McMahon is a very effective character these days too.

The Shield vs Kane & The New Age Outlaws: Well, it was over with quickly, but then why wouldn’t The Shield make short work of a trio of semi retired older men?

Aaaaaaaaaah!!!!

Aaaaaaaaaah!!!!

The Battle Royal: I’m disappointed that were weren’t one or two legends in there, and I don’t really get why they didn’t just announce that the likes of Tyson Kidd and Yoshi Tatsu (can you believe he won the battle royal at Wrestlemania XXVI?!) would be in it in the pre-match graphic, but it was a nice little battle royal. The Kofi Kingston spot was impressive, although he seems to be employed purely for high spots in matches like this. The right man won though in Cesaro, and the sight – and reaction from the crowd – of seeing him slam the Big Show over the top rope was superb.

John Cena vs Bray Wyatt: While I enjoyed it, I feel the match went on just a little bit too long, and I also think the wrong man won. While Wyatt shouldn’t have won cleanly, he still should have emerged the victor. Losing doesn’t do much to help him on the face of it, while Cena losing would have done nothing to his status.

Brock Lesnar vs the Undertaker: Wow. Who the hell saw that one coming? In the pre-determined world of pro-wrestling, very little can shock a viewer as long-term as me. Sure, things can pleasantly surprise me (like the Cesaro victory in the Battle Royal) but not *shock*. This shocked me. And it shocked everyone.

Now sure, all the logic of pro-wrestling said Lesnar should win considering the Undertaker dominated him in the run up to the show, but this is The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. He doesn’t lose. And even though it was quite obvious he was old, run down, not a patch on the guy he was even two years ago and – to be blunt – looked like an old drag queen, and even though he was up against a beast like Brock Lesnar, wrestling logic would not allow anyone to believe the Undertaker wasn’t taking the win.

So I thought that was fantastic – even though the rest of the match was shit – and I loved the crowd reaction. Grown men were crying and some left in disgust, but that’s what wrestling can just so very occasionally do to you. Superb. I would say The Undertaker should now retire, and from listening to what the commentators were saying, I think that might be what happens.

The Divas Match: An absolute mess. To be fair, I’m sure it would be difficult for any male wrestlers to create a good match in similar circumstances, but it still came across as amateur hour. As a fan of Total Divas, my mum wanted to watch this match, but even she could only say “That looked so fake” as all the Divas queued up on the outside for that Bellas plancha spot. The crapness ended when Naomi managed to botch tapping out. *groan*.

Daniel Bryan vs Randy Orton vs Batista: So Daniel Bryan got his happy ending after all. It was a decent match and included a gruesome lookingPowerbomb/RKO spot through a table, and a nice cameo from Triple H & Stephanie, but I

Undertaker lost? This guy can't believe it either

Undertaker lost? This guy can’t believe it either

think most people were still just shocked at Undertaker losing. To give the wrestlers credit, they *almost* had me believing that Batista would win on those two near falls.

Wrestlemania XXX: Final Thoughts

Apart from the Divas, this was a rock solid Wrestlemania for the first time in a long time. Indeed, it’s easily one of the best they’ve ever done.

Without doubt the polar opposite of the abysmal Wrestlemania XXIX.

Storylines were concluded, new superstars were made and there was nostalgia aplenty, but the big story was the Undertaker’s loss.

I just don’t think anyone saw it coming.

Tonight’s Raw should be very interesting.