I don't know why this is, but episodes that focus less on the Doctor always end up being so good, don't they? And I think that is exactly what Saturday night's new episode of Doctor Who — titled "The Crimson Horror" — was: quite good. Some people might fight me on that one, but playful, old timey humor is exactly the sort of thing needed to break the tension. Jenny, Strax (lord I love me some Strax), and Madame Vastra are back, and they've headed to the north ("Lots of places have a North!") to Yorkshire (home to my favorite tea in the universe, Yorkshire Gold) to solve the mystery of Winifred Gillyflower (the incomparable Diana Rigg), her blind daughter Ada (played by Rigg's real-life daughter Rachael Stirling), and the creepy, industrial town of Sweetville. with its terrifying red disease and a population of people who never seem to leave.
Before we do anything though — this episode was a really proper penny-dreadful (think Sweeney Todd, or, you know, Google the term), and it was such a wonderful format for a Who story. I loved the use of the creepy morgue man and his ominous announcement of "The Crimson Horror." Well done, Moffat & Co: a right romp — which is exactly what you need in at this point in the story (some may call the episode a bit of a "filler," which I suppose I agree with), even if it is a bit aggravating as a viewer. Penned by Mark Gatniss, I think that if this story had happened earlier in the season, fans would've appreciated it more. Between "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS" and next week's upcoming Neil Gaiman-penned, Cybermen-returning episode, though? Not so much. Plus, there really is no excuse for Gillyflower's painfully pathetic exit: death by massive fall is no way to off Diana Rigg, my friends.
The adventures of the Doctor and his friends were quite a lark overall. The perma-comical trio of Strax, Vastra, and Jenny worked wonders to bring a lightness to what has been a fairly serious season thus far. And how about that Jenny, eh?! Kicking ass and taking names, she was! There was also that Jenny-Doctor kiss, too. Talk about unexpected. Is it just me or was the Doctor coming across as fairly randy (for him) in this episode? Considering the Doctor's sexuality setting generally hovers somewhere on the scale between "a puppy" and "an inanimate object," it felt off the charts tonight.
Regardless, Sweetville is a curious sort, isn't it? Run by a religious zealot convinced the apocalypse is soon upon us (...interesting idea to introduce so close to the finale, even if it was also accurate to the time), and thoroughly convinced through madness or otherwise that the only way the cream of the crop can rise to the surface is if they move to Sweetville and live the life of moral exaltation. Turpitude is not allowed: only supermodels with the certainty of right and wrong entrenched in their hearts. But apparently being dipped into a diluted form of an ancient venom is allowed.
And because of that venon — a fatal sort that Madame Vastra is quite familiar with; it nearly wiped out her entire species — people are turning red. And there's that color again! Red. Red: the color of Rose and the primary color of pretty much every outfit Clara wears. Rejects from the Sweetville venom-dipping process (said to save them once the world ends) turn the color if something about them does not jive with the process, and they're thrown out into the waterways. The horrific state is called — wild guess, go for it — The Crimson Horror. Red as a rose and dead as a doornail.
A young married man named Edmond has fallen victim to the Crimson Horror after trying to discover what this creepy condition is all about. The case was brought to Madame Vastra and Co., who quickly realized upon seeing an imprint image (octogram) of the Doctor on the eye of the dead man, that there was far more to this story. Jenny heads up to Sweetville to pal around with the local color and dig up more information by sneaking into the factory. What she uncovered? Giant gramophones blasting a loud, clanking tune. (Music! Again a reference to a music-player.) We never see them again: what are they?
Ms. Gillyflower has a penchant for religious zealotry. She even fancies herself a fan of the poem William Blake wrote that later turned into the Victorian church tune, "Jerusalem."
And did those feet in ancient time.Walk upon Englands mountains green:And was the holy Lamb of God,On Englands pleasant pastures seen!And did the Countenance Divine,Shine forth upon our clouded hills?And was Jerusalem builded here,Among these dark Satanic Mills?Bring me my Bow of burning gold;Bring me my Arrows of desire:Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!Bring me my Chariot of fire!I will not cease from Mental Fight,Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:Till we have built Jerusalem,In England's green & pleasant Land
Interesting that they sang the song, though, isn't it? The episode takes place in 1893, but the music to accompany the poem wasn't written until 1916 (by Sir Hubert Parry, I might add). Not sure if that's a continuity error or something more, but worth noting nonetheless!
Anyway, things continued to unfold in a fun and well-paced manner. Turns out Mrs. Gillyflower is actually a host for the prehistoric parasite, Mr. Sweet (who meets his death at the hand of poor little Ada who had been experimented on by her evil mother). Ada, then Jenny, saved the Doctor — and the Doctor saved Clara. All together they discovered the deadly secret of Sweetville and end up removing the virulent venom from the hidden rocket, where the plan was for it to rain down on humanity, but save the perfects to begin a master race of superior beings. Gosh, people sure do love perfect things more than imperfect, huh? What happened to variety being the spice of life, you guys? What happened?!
But in the end, we are still left with more questions of the same: the Doctor calls Clara "the boss" (like BOSS, the old 70s-era Who villain aka a Biomorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor?), and she seems to enjoy the title. Is this who Clara is? Or is this who they are fighting?
For those that are unaware, BOSS was a supercomputer that appeared in an episode titled "The Green Death" back in the early 70s (third Doctor era) which created a chemical that mutated maggots into super-giant-uber-gross maggots (Mr. Sweet is a parasitic leech, but still! Very similar to a maggot). The BOSS had a megalomaniacal personality and intuitive software that made it "inefficient" (like humans), which enabled it to make the same sort of inuitive leaps that we humans do. Interesting lead-up. It almost feels like a lot of the past stories, companions, and people are being tied together for one super-conspiracy blow-out of a 50th anniversary episode. And the BOSS sure does feel like it could have a lot of potential with Clara, next week's Cybermen return, and — of course — the Daleks. Oh! And maybe the Zygons, too, since we all know I had a fun few weeks there where I was convinced Clara was one of those.
Mention and reference to past companions keeps popping up, episode to episode. Anyone else catch the Tegan Jovanka (companion of the fourth and fifth Doctor) references there when he said "brave heart, Clara" and again when he said "gobby Australian to Heathrow Airport"? It's not the first time in New Who that he's said the old phrase, but with all of these teeny, tiny insinuations you can't help but wonder more and more about the theory that Clara is somehow a product of Bad Wolf and a culimination of past companions rolled into one seemingly normal girl.
The other curious reference to the past that I found most interesting was the moment the Doctor looks up (at seemingly nothing ...or the sky?) and says "Clever clocks." This, naturally, made me to think about "The Girl in the Fireplace" episode back in the David Tennant era. As did the turning organ that later revealed itself to be some sort of alien technology (the fireplace had a similar turn-round aspect). Is Clara connected to Madame Du Pompadour?! Are those creepy clock people involved? Also is that...BESPOKE engineering I see in the console behind the organ?
OK seriously, something is going ON here, you guys. What if Clara is the sum of all parts — think back to "The Girl in the Fireplace" — they were waiting for her brain (she saw the Doctor's name when she was going through his memories, and it wasn't erased, remember). Each companion since Madame (who was around when Rose was around, and Rose was Bad Wolf) leading up to Clara represents an aspect of what makes a "good" companion for the Doctor. We've seen so many references to so many past companions this season. Rose, I think, essentially created the companions (to an extent), before scattering them all across the universe. Every lonely monster needs a companion. After all, this isn't a ghost story, it's a love story! There I go, spouting all sorts of potential (and random) theories again! When I'm wrong, feel free to I-toldja-so me til the ends of the earth. If I'm right, somebody get me a job on the writing staff of this show.
But back to the Doctor's companions and friends: we mustn't forget that this is the first time Jenny, Vastra, and Strax have seen Clara since her Victorian iteration. Obviously this meant they were just as curious as us to know why she's still alive and who she actually is: meaning tonight more than ever, the question was posed directly to the Doctor: who or what is Clara? You still haven't told us, Doctor! "I know who you think she is, but she isn't ...She Can't Be." He whispered to himself. Who can't she be, Doctor? Who?!
Clara also seemed to be a bit of a robot this episode: having very little emotion and far fewer flirty, banter-y stuff (We all know Clara likes "stuff." Not sure about the kinds of stuff, though.) with the Doctor. Why is that? The shift in her personality in certain episodes can't be by accident, right?
Next week looks to be a real banger of an episode, since Clara's wards now know she time travels with her "boyfriend" the Doctor (and they oh-so-conveniently have pictures as proof. Found at school: what are the odds? No seriously...), and are taken to the theme park where the Cybermen return. Clara seems downright warrior-esque in the previews, and the Doctor's face-machinery feels eerily similar to the face tattoos we saw in "A Town Called Mercy." And what the heck do you MEAN they're calling the Doctor the savior of the Cybermen?! Lord, next week's episode cannot come soon enough.
Other Things We Need to Discuss...- I loved the sort of filtered effect placed on the footage of Clara and the Doctor's arrival to Sweetville: the production quality on this show just keeps on improving. - The Northern accents. So good. The Doctor's from the North (of Gallifrey, duh).- The Doctor seems to have wanted Clara to meet Strax, Jenny, and Vastra (hence why he got upset that they didn't end up in London): do you think their knowing or not-knowing of her will reveal something to him?- The photo studio! The color red! The color red — does it help us see the truth? The darkroom has now come up twice this season (also in "Hide"). I think it's funny to note, now that many black-and-white papers are only sensitive to blue light (blue representing the Doctor and the TARDIS, obviously), so that's why a red light is often used: it's the only one that can be used (safely) without exposing the paper. Perhaps this is a metaphor for Clara's existence?- The noise from the gramophones sounded an awful lot like an aggressive whisper: could this have something to do with the new, rumored big baddie from this season, The Whisper Men?- Two more musical references today: the gramophones and the organ — both instruments used to project music to a larger audience. Hmmm!- Thomas Thomas: proof that parents have been hating their children since the beginning.- Pontefract cakes. A seemingly inocuous reference to a popular local candy actually has some interesting connections to the story. It's a licorice sweets (Sweetville!) ...created in (you guessed it!) Yorkshire. The licorice root extract used in them is from ...Australia! Another Tegan reference?- It drives me crazy when the Doctor lies about his ability to accurately land the TARDIS where he wants it to go — since we all know he can with impressive skill — but it's something that's never really been explicitly discussed. When he lands not where he intends, is that the TARDIS doing that, or is he just lying? Time will tell, I suppose! But what do you think?- "I'll see you again, I shouldn't wonder." The Doctor says, knowing full well that he will clearly see them again very soon. He knows what's going on! I just hate that we don't, still. I'm too impatient for this s**t, Moffat! - The signs in the alley way: the circus has come to town (oh and has it ever!), plus the "human wax work" one: interesting coincidence or just the set designers having a bit of fun with the episode's story? - The word "chuffed" is repeated (I only notice this because that word makes me so happy): in "Cold War" Clara says it after rationalizing that she did well with Skaldak, and here, again, the Doctor says it in response to being admitted to Sweetville.
What did you think of "The Crimson Horror"? Excited for next week's episode? Have any nutty theories yourself? Let us know in the comments!
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"Sorry if my snoring bothered you."
Those are not the first words I'd expect out of the mouth of someone who got up on a Friday morning to catch the 10:30 AM screening of a new movie but that is more or less what the fellow who'd been sitting behind me said as I passed him on my way out. I'd heard him snoring over the constant rat-a-tat-tat of bullets and butt-kicking being doled out by Milla Jovovich et al in this latest iteration of the never-ending Resident Evil series (this time in IMAX 3D) but I figured maybe I was hearing things. Nope he was asleep.
I used to play Resident Evil on my ancient PlayStation when it first came out. It scared the crap out of me. I enjoyed the first two movies — hey they included the skinless zombie dogs! — but I lost interest soon after that. How many times can you make the zombie apocalypse exciting? How many different skintight outfits can Jovovich wear while killing grotesque creatures who shoot evil grasping tentacles out of their mouths? Why should we care about all the blood and guts when we know the people we're supposed to be emotionally invested in will never die? We don't.
Try as he might there are only so many ways for writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson to give the Resident Evil series fresh new layers for each new movie. The Umbrella Corporation is the big bad. They were playing with biological weapons and somehow there was an accident that let one of the viruses loose... and boom you've got a zombie apocalypse on your hands. Our heroine is Alice played by Milla Jovovich and there is a rotating cast of characters who help her fight the good fight against the hordes of brain-eaters and whatever is left of the Umbrella Corporation that's now after her. There are some parallels to the video game series but Paul W.S. Anderson (a gamer himself) has taken lots of liberties with the basic plot over the years. While Anderson's flashy style is especially suited to these types of movies there's not enough plot to make it work.
We don't go to video game movies for plot of course but there has to be something to hold onto; otherwise why would we care if our protagonist were in danger? Anderson tries some neat tricks to snap us back to attention like bringing back characters that were killed in previous movies and throwing in a cloning subplot that calls into question some of the characters' true identities but it's still hard to get worked up about anything onscreen. However it ultimately sidesteps any deeper ideas that might take our attention away from all the guns. And there are so many guns and explosions and elegant butt-kickings doled out by Milla and her pals (or former pals in the case of Michelle Rodriguez's character Rain) that they blend together.
It is especially difficult to work up any interest in the story because it's a franchise and no matter how many times the stars or director might say they're not that interested in doing another everyone is just waiting to see how much money this will make before deciding to go forward. There is no question how franchise movies will end; there will be no derring-do on the part of the writer or director to actually kill off a beloved character permanently. At one point it seemed like Anderson was going to pull the old "And then she woke up!" trick which would have been bold both because it's such a hackneyed idea that it would make writing professors' heads explode all over the world but also because it would have required Anderson to play in a different universe and expand his repertoire a bit. Alas like Alice and Anderson himself we just can't seem to escape this rabbit hole.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The $64,000 question has been answered. Steven Spielberg will make his next directing effort with a contemporary adaptation of Harvey, the play that the James Stewart classic film was based upon. The movie will be co-financed by 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Studios.
Fox Chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman and DreamWorks partners Stacey Snider and Spielberg announced the project -- which marks one of the first new initiatives from the reconstituted DreamWorks -- on Sunday.
Casting and preproduction will gear up immediately with an eye to shoot at the start of 2010, the trades report. Variety notes that Spielberg may look to Tom Hanks and Will Smith as possible stars.
Jonathan Tropper, a novelist, will write his first screenplay, creating a contemporary adaptation of Mary Chase's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a man and his invisible, giant rabbit.
The first big-screen adaptation in 1950 was a Universal film.
Spielberg and Don Gregory will produce.
Distribution rights are yet to be determined. DreamWorks will finance 50% of the production through its new funding relationship with Reliance and distribute either domestically or internationally through its arrangement with Disney.
As The Wrap notes, the announcement also signals that DreamWorks is close to finalizing some of the funding that it has been awaiting from a consortium of U.S. banks and the Indian media conglomerate, Reliance ADA Group.
An executive close to the deal told TW the funding would be done "within days."
Full story: http://power.networksolutions.com/index.html
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