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Tag: Geekdom

[Doctor Who] The Day of the Doctor

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It has been fifty years since William Hartnell premiered in the Unearthly Child.

I can thank WGBH out of Boston for being here.

In the eighties my family was glued to the television set at 7pm on weeknights for 30mins of Cybermen, Daleks and a Timelord played by Tom Baker.

The Day of the Doctor revisits a fixed point that has been elephant in the room since the series restarted: The Time War. Timelords vs. Daleks and Doctor #8 being at the middle of it all until one day he decides drop his pacifist notions and by way of a elixir of life from the Sisterhood of Karn, becomes a war doctor.

The downside of seeing Paul McGann regenerate into John Hurt is that it’s not part of The Day of the Doctor special itself. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great snippet that should be how we start off this special.

Instead we get a classic opening. As in, the old black and white opening turning to color as we find Clara, played again by Jenna Coleman is now a school teacher near to Foreman Junkyard that started it all 50 years ago. This is slightly perplexing because the last time we saw the Doctor and Clara at Trenzalore and the whole timeline with the Intelligence trying to kill them all.

The Doctor and Clara are picked up, literally, by a UNIT helicopter and brought back to London where trouble is a abrewing in the form of a three dimensional painting called Galifrey Falls or No More. It should not exist. This brings up bad memories for the Doctor obviously and the we are shown the final day of the war as John Hurt puts the hurt on some Daleks and steals “the moment” a galaxy eating machine that has a personality.

He steals it because he plans on using it to end the war and in doing so treks to this far off place that if I didn’t know better was his home but no one mentions who, what, when or why so I’m going with his childhood home.

The moment is steampunk-type box with clock gears and it’s personality is none other than the Bad Wolf herself played by Billie Piper.

The dialogue between the two of them is getting off to rather good start when the plot pulls them away when a time vortex opens and a fez pops through something neither of them were expecting unless you’re the audience and you know exactly how Moffat’s mind works.

Everything is out of time/space so going back to the Doctor and UNIT where Kate Stewart played by Jemma Redgrave brings the audience up to speed on the Doctor’s affair with Elizabeth 1.

Somewhere between Voyage of the Damned and Partners in Crime, Doctor #10 visited Queen Elizabeth and the two are having a lovely time playing kissy face when Zygons try to take over the Crown. And while running away from these shape shifters is when #10 and #11 meet up with hilarious results until the War Doctor arrives through the time vortex the fez came through and quickly all three are dumped into the Tower of London as prisoners.

I should also make mention that John Hurt steals every single scene he’s in and for some reason there wasn’t enough in the budget to spike #10’s hair so he may look odd. If the scarf was #4’s trademark then the hair is trademarked for #10.

Soon the Zygons threaten to derail the plot but the Doctors fix the on coming invasion quickly and get back on track to the real problem at hand: The War Doctor is about to blow up all of Galifrey to stop the war. The prop department had a good time with this episode from the Black Vault that is TARDIS proof with certain Doctor items to having 3 Tardi next to each other with different paint schemes and designs.

The three actors, John Hurt, David Tennent and Matt Smith really act with each other. Having all three of them stuck in the Tower of London to bounce off each other was a great idea because there are no explosions or SFX, it’s just them and their baggage and Bad Wolf just watching them all.

Clara and Bad Wolf are mostly in the background and while they’re there for most of the big scenes they get the short end of the stick since the dopey Elizabeth plot is given so much.

UNIT and their secret vaults are a great idea since Torchwood inception and execution was fumbled and they are practically no longer even in the picture. I hope the areas introduced are used again next season.

As for the overall plot: It’s really all over the place and really when you have a Doctor team up most of the plot goes out the window. Part of me and probably my mother would ask this: Ditch Queen Elizabeth and get the Doctor/Donna back in there. Donna zingers would have helped or even Wilf.

This episode thankfully gives the Doctor his call to action without blowing up the universe, or gathering the heroes to save the universe or the hero’s journey shenanigans that most season finales are there for.

Instead this episode was about one man trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do in the time of war.

The Curator idea I loved before the Curator showed up. I wished for more Curators but as you’ll see the extra special video at the bottom of this post helps.

Does The Day of the Doctor make up for the lameness of Season 7. Nope.

Season 7 should have built up to this but instead this episode is rather stand alone. Like neatening up dangling plot lines.

The Christmas Episode should be interesting since it’ll be Matt Smith’s last and Peter Capaldi’s first. I’m hoping for a grim Christmas episode or least one without the sweet tooth.

And for a extra special treat: A 30min film written and directed by Peter #5 Davidson which features a good deal of the Whovian cast both past and present.

The Five(ish) Doctors –

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[Movie Review] Byzantium

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Byzantium directed by Neil Jordan and staring Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton as two vampires surviving in present day Britain, running from town to town as the bodies stack up all the while two investigators played by Uri Gavriel and Sam Riley nip at their ever growing trail.

This movie does not try to be something it’s not. It doesn’t over extent itself, it doesn’t burden the plot with too many ideas. I would say it’s gender roles are switched from Interview with a Vampire which was also directed by Neil Jordan.

The movie follows Clara played by Gemma and her daughter, Eleanor played by Saoirse living out life, Clara as a stripper and Eleanor as the teenager that will never grow up and writes down her tale of woe that is revealed to the audience in dribs and drabs.

Clara has her way of getting blood and Eleanor has her way and both are fairly straight forward until a former beau tracks down Clara and ends up losing his head.

So, a tank of gasoline fueled fire later and the girls are off to another town.

Several truck rides later they end up in a seaside town that looks fun to Clara but Eleanor knows she’s been here before since it turns out to be the same town they were born in. Clara goes back to what she knows and finds a rube in the form of Noel played Daniel Mays and sets up a make shift brothel in an old hotel called Byzantium.

Eleanor and Clara’s actions/roles are reversed. Clara dresses like the free wheeling spirit that she is while Eleanor in her red hoody desperately wants a friend.

Both of their histories are played out through the use of flashbacks. The flashbacks don’t become a drinking game and are kept to a minimum and or in Eleanor’s case it simply happens in front of her. Their histories and the people they’ve touch over two hundred years will continue to haunt them until the end of the movie. From the Johnny Lee Miller’s bastard captain to Sam Riley’s calm Lieutenant to Eleanor’s new friend, a waiter named Frank played Caleb Landry Jones.

The empire building for the vampire society is not as structured as the one found in Blade. Vampires powers are fairly weak which allows for a great deal of walking around in daylight. No fangs. No bodies turning into ash. No super strength or suggestive powers. No type of sire hierarchy.

Just a cocaine nail to suck the blood out.

So with no way to make a Vampire how do they do it?

Each of the characters come across an island in their travels. The island has a stone cabin and inside that cabin is a duplicate of themselves.

Or at least we’re made to believe it’s them. Since most of the vampires are made some two hundred years ago this doppleganer-type of presence is creepy. Once they become a vampire the island which is gushing with waterfalls already flows with blood.

Yes, I know, Gemma’s heaving bosom covered in blood, right? Yep. And tastefully done no less. Sure the blood waterfalls were post-production but it looked creepy.

Unfortunately, this vampire society is not very forward thinking so it should come as no surprise when a woman (and a hooker no less) becomes a vampire the men aren’t too happy and banish Clara and her daughter until they catch up with them in the end.

I found the movie enjoyable because it focused on the characters and not their powers. This could have turned into a blood bath but the blood is kept to a minimum and the acting from all parties involved made the movie worth renting.

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[Movie Review] Riddick

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Riddick directed and written by David Twohy with Vin Diesel returning to the titular role of Richard B. Riddick that made him famous in 2000 with Pitch Black. Four years later Chronicles of Riddick came out and while it cast was stellar the plot not so much and so now 9 years later Twohy goes back to the roots of what made Pitch Black so interesting: people trying to survive on an alien world with no help in sight and oh by the way: blood thirsty animals are trying to kill you. It’s a B-level movie with A level stars.

Riddick begins with Riddick rising from the dead after being left by his Necromongers, a brief cameo by Karl Urban reprising his role as Vaako dangles the carrot of helping find his homeworld. Riddick takes it hook line and one fall off a tall cliff later and Riddick has to fend for his life because everything on this world is trying to kill him.

The size of Chronicles that made the movie so bloated is turned down to focus for the first act on Riddick surviving. From making weapons to poisoning himself to build up an immunity to the toxicity to even getting a dog which just like Tony Stark getting a kid sidekick in Iron Man 3 is good thing. The Mad Max vibe was prefect since the feline CGI creature from Chronicles was probably the best thing of the entire movie.

The helpful discovery by Riddick’s dog that things may get worse moves the plot along to a deserted Mercenary encampment and a giant: SOS button that brings down several ships. They’e all looking for one thing: Riddick, preferably dead.

Two sets of crews, a merc crew led by Santana played by Jordi MollĂ  and a military crew led by Boss Johns played by Matt Nable their differing styles helps give the soon to be redshirts and one red skirt, Dahl played by Katee Sackoff. Along with their arrival is large call back to Pitch Black with Boss Johns being the father of departed drug addict/law man Johns played by Cole Hauser.

Once the ships are disabled (so Riddick doesn’t take them, smart move) the countdown clock begins and Riddick’s psychologically messing with the crew is a great call back to Pitch Black even if Pitch Black did it with cleaner cuts. The bodies being to drop one by one, some unseen by Riddick and some by the little beasties that come out of the ground when a rain storm hits.

And for the most part it works. Dahl is given enough story to work with and is not treated as arm candy, Johs is looking for answers to why his son is dead and Santana just wants to get paid and get off the rock. Most of the merc characters are given enough personalities to not come off as cardboard cut outs. It’s unfortunate, Nick Chinlund couldn’t reprise his role of Toombs. All in all it’s drama with action and not an action movie with drama.

The planet itself along with it’s creatures is fun little place from the dingos to the eels in the water to the long tailed scorpions that serve as the main villain of the movie. I heartily agree with some of the other reviewers that some of the shots looked very Frazetta-esque.

The ending was a little bit of the let down and so were the SFX sounds for the lasers. I may sound like a whiney geek but did the SFX for those lasers sound so weak. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy to see a science fiction franchise that isn’t Resident Evil getting a second go round but sometimes the SFX sounded too B-movie.

In hindsight it would have been nice to begin and end the movie with Vaako. Something other than what we got because it felt like after surviving this journey through this planet and escaping by the skin of his teeth there was no prize besides escape and while that sounds like a great emotional prize it’s the physical prize (no Katee Sackoff is not treated as a prize, thankfully) that I was looking for just something besides Riddick riding off into the sunset like in Pitch Black.

Good movie and probably worth seeing in IMAX.

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[Movie Review] The Colony

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The Colony is a science fiction/horror movie directed by Jeff Renfroe. It stars Lawrence Fishburn, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Sullivan and Kevin Zegers as a group of people surviving in the inhospitable world of Earth after mankind tried and failed to fix global warming with weather machines. The world they live in now is not pretty without medicine to cure the colds the infected have two options take a walk into the snow or bullet.

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[Movie Review] Hot Fuzz

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Hot Fuzz directed by Edgar Wright and staring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is the second flavor in the cornetto trilogy. The first being Shaun of the Dead and the last being the soon to be arriving The World’s End. Each movie is it’s own genre. Shaun is horror. Hot Fuzz is action. The World’s End is alien/robot invasion.

Simon Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a police officer in the London that is constantly working much to dismay of his soon to be ex-girlfriend played by an uncredited Cate Blanchett even after getting stabbed through the hand by a drunk Father Christmas played by an uncredited Peter Jackson.

His bosses played by Martin Freeman, Bill Nighly and an uncredited Steve Coogan aren’t to happy with him either and decide to send him off to the county town of Sandford for a little rest. The editing of all of these events from Nicholas’s introduction via voice over to the arrival at Sanford are slick and everything introduced in the first twenty minutes is used through out the movie.

The villagers of Sandford are well meaning folks. Played by several UK actors like Timothy Dalton, Olivia Coleman, Paddy Considine, Paul Freeman and many more. Timothy Dalton being the only one that is relishing his role at eating scenery. Nicholas attempts to settle down and unwind aren’t helped by Nick Frost’s Danny Butterman because of Danny’s awe, general fanboy of Nicholas’s deeds and being a giant action movie junkie. His DVD wall reminds me of my wall before I sold them.

But there are things afoot in Sandford. People are dying via horrible accidents and it takes Nicholas the rest of Act 2 to piece everything together by researching his hypothesis and putting the puzzle pieces together until he confronts the problem and like one of Danny’s Hollywood heroes roars into a third act with guns blazing. The movie’s plotting as a whole feels refreshing and expects the audience to keep up as it takes itself seriously.

Well almost seriously since the movie goes from being a Masterpiece Theater Mystery to a Michael Bay shoot’em up in the last twenty minutes. Thankfully the action pieces have been kept to a minimum throughout so the car chases or gunfights are not boring. Many of Danny’s outlandish questions regarding Nicholas’s work are immediately squashed since police work like flying an airplane: it’s very very very boring. His character and Sandra Bullock’s character from Demolition Man are essentially the same but with a sex change.

Having said all that it should then come to no surprise as the last act everything is an homage to action movies. This isn’t a bad thing since Edgar Wright knows his audience and knows we aren’t idiots. This was filmed for the Die Hard/Lethal Weapon/geek crowd and it does not disappoint from the gun fights to car chases to explosive fourth act reveal it’s a fun movie.

I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to this either set it in the USA ala Red Dawn/any other movie dealing with the fish out of water-trope so long as they saddle Nicholas with a woman partner.

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[Movie Review] Shaun of the Dead

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Released in 2004, Shaun of the Dead was directed by Edgar Wright and starred Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and a whole lotta zombies.

Filmed three years after Wright’s TV show Spaced. Shaun, played by Simon Pegg is not yet your typical man child. His life at sales person at the electronic store is dull. His relationship with his roommate, Darth Maul, er, Pete played by Peter Serafinowicz is on par with his step dad, Phillip played by Bil Nighy is rocky to say the least while the few bright spots being his girlfriend Liz played by Kate Ashfield, playing video games with his best friend Ed played by Nick Frost and going to the pub.

Unfortunately, Kate and her friends, Dianne and David played by Lucy Davis and Dylan Moran feel Shaun needs to expand his horizons since they are always going to the pub. She wants to go out to nice restaurants and get out and see the world and breaks up with Shaun.

This sends his small world into a tailspin. Meanwhile in the background through out the first act things are starting to stand out like the Omega 6 space probe that broke up over England. The bodies collapsing at the bus stop. The military vehicles driving around in packs and quite possibly the vagrant eating a live pigeon.

A new day dawns only to find Shaun’s world has been spun even more with the rise of Zombies. If the news is reporting it must be true, right? The lovely tracking shot to and from Shaun’s house pre and post zombie invasion serves it’s purpose for the before and after. The encounters being small as Shaun and Ed find they cannot stay in their home or bring people back and after several What If montages they cement a plan into place to track down Kate & Co, get to his mother’s to pick up his step dad and hole up in the bar until the bitter end.

The plans as always do not go as planned thanks muchly to Ed’s wants and needs from driving several fancy cars, running several zombies over and ignoring the fact the world is ending. Ed doesn’t have much of an arc except to be the comic relief while Shaun does grow up by burying the hatchet with his step dad.

Throughout the movie between the slick editing, long camera shots and whip snap dialogue there are nods and homages to zombies movies. The movie manages to cover new ground while keeping itself firmly within the standard zombie movie framework with the Winchester Pub being the bunker/house/mall that will hold up for only so long while the characters erode under the pressure of the apocalypse outside.

The SFX throughout are well done. The blood and guts are mostly for show until the finale when several characters are either turned into zombies or torn apart by the horde. For the purists the zombies are the shambling kind and do not race like 28 Days Later.

This is the first movie in Wright’s unofficial cornetto trilogy and is well worth spending money on via iTunes/Amazon if you have seen it.

I highly recommend a double shot of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland since both movies are well made and thought out even if Zombieland’s third act falls apart.

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