Category Archives: Entertainment

Spectre

So, we saw the new James Bond film today. Spectre.

There was plenty to enjoy, not least was the little nods to the past – the ‘Day of the Dead’ opening was great – and the camerawork on that opening shot was superb. Some of the action shots were disorienting, though – especially in the (first) helicopter sequence, too many cuts, but I get the sense that this was intentional due to the chaos going on.

The film itself had a lot to commend it, Christoph Waltz was great – but the ‘Bond out in the cold’ thing is getting a bit old. I thought they were done with that after Skyfall.

I found the ending rather flat – I had been expecting a ‘Blofeld and Bunt killing Diana Rigg’ moment, and Bond just leaving Blofeld be, to presumably allow him to escape and fight another day was an odd way to do it. Blofeld surviving despite the best efforts of Bond, but damaged and licking his wounds, okay. 

The whole ‘Bond is Blofeld’s adopted brother’ was far too much.

I liked that ‘M’, ‘Q’ and Moneypenny all got an outing, this made a pleasant change, although the reveal that ‘C’ was a villain was the most unsurprising thing since a ‘Q’ gadget was just the thing that Bond needed to save the day – after all, ‘C’ was Moriarty!

There was a missed opportunity, I thought that Monica Bellucci would be the ‘Bond girl’ – which would have been someone his own age – but no, she was abandoned for a younger model. A pity, and a wasted opportunity.

Overall, it was an average to good Bond film. Not as good as ‘Skyfall’, better than ‘Quantum of Solace’, much better than ‘Octopussy’.

I give it a rating of ‘Shaken but not Stirred’

Oh, and the Sam Smith track. Meh… but better with the visuals of the title sequence.

Two Meets Twelve?

It has been announced that Reece Shearsmith is to appear in Doctor Who next season, alongside Peter Capaldi.

Given that he previously appeared in ‘An Adventure of Space and Time‘ as Patrick Troughton, and Mark Gatiss is writing the episode – someone who has seen Shearsmith as Troughton, it seems likely that Two will meet Twelve.

I am quite split about the concept of this, the Second Doctor was fantastic – but I am wary as in ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’ I didn’t think that Shearsmith really captured the look of Troughton, especially in contrast to David Bradley who embodied William Hartnell.

It could be that I simply got used to David Bradley over the course of the drama, and came to accept him as Hartnell in a way that I didn’t accept Shearsmith. If we do get the Second Doctor on screen, I hope to all that is police-box shaped that I am not thrust back into reality with a jarring discrepancy between Shearsmith and Troughton.

If it goes well, then it could be wonderful.

Fingers crossed.

The Twelfth Doctor – Peter Capaldi

It’s hard to believe that it has been only a short while since the twelfth doctor was announced, and even though we have yet to see him on screen, Peter Capaldi feels like ‘The Current Doctor’ now, with Matt Smith biding his time until the change – how nice it would be if the casting could be a secret until the regeneration.

What did I want from the twelfth doctor? I wanted an older doctor – with Tennant/Smith the pendulum had swung too far in the ‘young’ direction. Yes, Smith was great at playing the "old man in a young man’s body", but that wasn’t a game to keep playing. I also wanted there to be a step away from the ‘romance in a box’ that the new series keeps reverting to – and I’m pleased to see that with Capaldi.

I’m not going to get into the arguments of ‘should the Doctor be female/black/ginger…?’ As regards the twelfth, the die is cast. What do I want to see with the twelfth incarnation?

First and foremost, I want a solid, full season of ‘Who’, I want Capaldi to have time to ‘bed in’. Then I want another series after that, and after that… and so on. These split seasons are just ghastly for, what is by any stretch, the flagship production of the BBC and the show with the greatest international recognition. I want Capaldi to have a decent run, with the split seasons it does feel like Smith has only just arrived and is leaving about a season too early. I want a generation to be able to look to Capaldi and say ‘he was my Doctor’.

I want Capaldi to meet River, just the once, I want to see that dynamic (though I still don’t understand how eleven suddenly went from gallavanting with River to mourning her loss, with no obvious on screen event to mark the divide).

I want to see any Moffat loose ends tidied up, and I’d like to see an acknowledgement that the production team are thinking ahead to, what under classic lore, is the doctors final regeneration (or death, if John Hurt counts as a regeneration) – after all, there can only be thirteen Doctors. I can think of several ways to address this, either with a throwaway line (‘Now the time lords are gone, I don’t think there is a limit…’) or something large (Resurrecting Gallifrey, somehow resetting the clock). I’d hate to see them just ignore the issue, or leave it so late that the hand was forced.

I hate to say it, but I think it could well be time for a new show-runner. We owe a lot to Moffat, not least is that under his tenure the show has really grown on the international market (a road started upon by RTD). The first and second seasons of Matt Smith’s doctor was fantastic (though the crack thing was a bit odd). The ‘split season 7’, though it had great bits within it, fell a bit flat. With Capaldi bedded into the role, I want to see a show-runner who can devote himself to the job, it seems that Moffat’s time is divided between several roles (not least of which is ‘Sherlock’).

Mostly, I want Capaldi to be one of the great doctors, to be the modern day Tom Baker.

The Hobbit

Yesterday, we went to see ‘The Hobbit’ in glorious HFR 3D …. and left feeling somewhat disappointed (spoilers below).

The 3D itself didn’t give me eyestrain in the way that 3D usually does, so that’s the high frame rate’s benefit right there. That said, I’m still not sold on the virtues of 3D, it can look like a series of cutouts overlaid on each other. A few times I closed one eye to remove the 3D effect, and the picture looked a lot more ‘integrated’ (though some of the effects noted below did not vanish).

The film itself is well put together, and I enjoyed the opening a lot, it was lovely to see Bilbo, Frodo and The Shire. Gandalf’s opening scene was really nice, as one might expect.

Plotwise, I was somewhat concerned when the dwarfs broke into song – in The Lord of the Rings they cut out all the songs (and still had to jettison some plotpoints, such as the scouring of the shire) – with the Hobbit I thought ‘Three films? They’re keeping it ALL!, Oh no….’

This didn’t feel like the same universe as Lord of the Rings – I know that is true to an extent with the books having different characters, but with the production team knowing before they started that these were all connected, a luxury Tolkien didn’t have, I hoped this wouldn’t be an issue – but it was. It felt foreign to the films already in existence, it had the same sets, many similar actors, but yet, it felt different, and not in a good way.

The look and feel of the film is best described as ‘patchy’. It felt like a ‘made for TV’ movie, albeit with a big budget. There were scenes of spectacular scenery, intermingled with quite poor CGI (by modern standards) of the type an XBox might generate.The poor CGI would have stood up to scrutiny a few years back, but by today’s standards the characters often felt animated rather than real (trolls, white orc etc).

Then there were shots which looked like they were filmed on a soundstage with very sharp, directional lighting. I know that many shots were on a soundstage, but the point is that it should not feel like that. This left me with an impression of a BBC play of the 60s or 70s – examples include when the company was leaving Rivendell and were clambering along mountain pathways, or going into the mountain cave. The mix of visual tones tended to throw me out of the film.

The film suffered somewhat from sticking too closely to the raw material, and so things could feel like non-sequiturs at times, for instance, the battle of the mountain trolls came from nowhere – in the book it works reasonably well, a gap can be bridged more smoothly, a few seconds of real time can take much longer to read – but in film the reverse is true, and it jarred.

Later on, the whole escape from the misty mountains sequence felt massively over-done to me, it was a case of ‘more is less’ (as I felt for some of the ‘Return of the King’) – and a part of me looked at those ricketty bridges and thought ‘totally unstable, not practical even for Orcs’). It was too much to be believable. The falls were massively overdone (huge falls kill the bad guys, but not the good guys). I know it’s fantasy, but if you’re going to have falls like that (as you must), soften the impact somehow!

I’m also sorry to say that James Nesbitt keeped giving me jolts back to reality, I thought he was going to suggest looking up a taxi cab in the yellow pages – his voice is too distinctive in my head for him to be a dwarf.

What worked well? Even in spite of the problems (which were mostly technical, but spread through the film), I did enjoy the film. Martin Freeman as Bilbo was well cast and utterly believable. The sequence with the riddles (he said euphemistically for anyone not familiar with the story) was absolutely superb. If I was to watch this film again, I’d go for the straight 2D version – though I don’t think the issues with ‘obvious studio work’ relate to HFR, I don’t think the 3D helped.

Honestly, though – having seen the film, I think I should have waited for it to be on TV (although that would have felt like I was missing out).

Jean DuJardin in 'The Artist'

The Artist

I saw the Artist about a month ago, and thought it absolutely superb. It’s recently cleaned up at the BAFTAs, and it looks to be a shoe-in for the Oscars. Well deserved.

Yes, the plot is thin – but as it’s a silent film, what do you really expect, Shakespeare?

The film is about the emergence of the ‘talkie’ and the often career-ending effect this had upon the silent stars. Essentially it’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ without the Singin’.

The style of the film, as you’ll know by now, is that it, itself, is a silent movie. Yes, that’s a conceit and one which has caused some people to shun the film unseen. A mistake. ‘Black and White’ and ‘Silent’ may not be common these days, but they’re not synonymous with ‘Bad’. If you deny yourself films with either of these tags, then you deny yourself some true greats. I’ve been talking this film up to anyone who’d listen, but have mostly got back "silent film?" – it’s great to be able to point to some awards!

Due to the lack of dialogue, the audience has to concentrate on the screen, and just watch – this is engrossing – when I saw the film, a pin could have been heard to drop, it was quite eery.

The introduction to the film is very clever, it introduces people into the world of the film very quickly – and soon one forgets the style of the film and becomes immersed, to the extent that the sequence where Jean DuJardin sits in front of his mirror and drinks a whiskey is absolutely shocking in its simplicity.

When I came out, I had a great big grin on my face, and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a comparable film at the cinema. I’ve seen many great films, but nothing quite like this.

It’s fantastic that it’s got lots of awards, and this’ll prompt more people to see it at the Cinema. This really is a film which I don’t think would translate well to the small screen – so do try to make the best of the extension of screenings that the awards have earned it, and get along.

… and yes, the dog is as good as you’ve heard.