February 28, 2013

Working Girl (1988)

Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is a working-class woman from New York on a run of misfortune. Despite all her efforts she hasn’t managed to climb up the corporate ladder higher than being an executive’s secretary, she discovers her boyfriend Mick (Alec Baldwin) has been cheating on her, and after her boss Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) suffers a broken leg on a skiing holiday Tess discovers that Katherine has stolen one of her ideas – a corporate buyout of a radio network - and is planning to claim it as her own. While Katherine is out of the city recuperating, Tess secretly steals her office and professional contacts, hooks up with executive Jack Trainor (Harrison Ford) and attempts to set up the lucrative deal by herself.

My immediate reactions after seeing the film were almost all about the cast. For one thing, it's clear that Harrison Ford is a very underrated actor, particularly in regards to comedy. Even in otherwise average movies like Six Days Seven Nights and Hollywood Homicide he manages to not only be funny, but make it look like it was effortless at the same time. He's great here, and performs the funniest drinking of a cocktail I think I've seen in a film.

It's Always Fair Weather (1955)

Three GIs, just returned from World War II, share one last drink together in a New York bar. They promise to meet up again at the same bar in ten years. A decade later they do reunite, but discover to their mutual horror that they don't like each other any more, and that their lives since the war have fallen far short of where they expected to be. For one of them in particular, Ted, the meeting makes him realise he's actually a bit of an asshole.

Oh, and it's a dance-filled musical.

It's Always Fair Weather is an outstanding musical feature, starring Gene Kelly and directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen, whose collaboration on Singin' in the Rain three years earlier had resulted in what is arguably the best feature film of all time. At the time of its release Fair Weather flopped: it was too dark, too cynical, just a bit too off-kilter to engage a mainstream audience at the time. Six decades later, and it's very close to topping Singin' in the Rain as my favourite film musical.

February 27, 2013

Judging the New 52: Batman: The Dark Knight

I have slowly been catching up with some of the New 52 titles that I didn't bother picking up when they were launched. Most recently, I've finally had a chance to look at Batman: The Dark Knight by artist and co-plotter David Finch. This book is basically David Finch's baby - it was launched in December 2010 to accomodate the newly signed artist, and basically exists solely so that one of DC's most popular artists can work on their most valuable property. (Marvel is doing a similar thing at the moment with Frank Cho's Savage Wolverine comic.)

Based on the first story arc, which is available in a hardcover collection, it's terrible stuff. While Finch is an accomplished artist with a keen visual style, his plotting (and Paul Jenkins' scripts) is absolutely dreadful. Like Jim Lee's terribly overrated Hush storyline some years ago, this book exists solely to let Finch draw as many of Batman's villains as possible. He even manages to use Clayface in disguise to squeeze in a Joker guest appearance, since the Joker himself was off-limits to creative teams at the time.

Babylon 5: "There All the Honor Lies"

Captain Sheridan is framed for the murder of a Minbari warrior, setting him on a collision course with Ambassador Delenn and putting his career at risk. Meanwhile, a reluctant Ivanova is placed in charge of the station's new merchandise store.

'This isn't some kind of Deep Space franchise, this place is about something,' says Ivanova, in what I hope was a knowing wink and not an actual highly hypocritical dig at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It's becoming very clear that the manner in which Babylon 5 handles comedy - wholly comedic subplots rather than light-hearted touches or funny dialogue - is not one I particularly enjoy. For one thing this episode spends a lot of time making essentially the same joke: that merchandise is silly and vaguely tacky. It could have made it once, if it really needed to, but it doesn't need over-egging.

February 26, 2013

Babble On #37: "Hunter, Prey"

Dr Everett Jacobs, the personal physician to President Morgan Clark, escapes to Babylon 5 as a fugitive from the Earth Alliance. While the Alliance's investigator (Bernie Casey) leads the hunt, Sheridan and his crew secretly race to find the Doctor first - as he holds crucial evidence of previous President Luis Santiago's assassination.

"Hunter, Prey" is a solidly entertaining hour of Babylon 5, and pushes the series' story arc along in two directions. The central plot confirms once and for all that Santiago was indeed assassinated, and that his replacement Morgan Clark is almost certainly involved in the conspiracy. While there is nothing exceptional in this storyline, it moves along at a brisk pace and allows Garibaldi and Franklin to engage in a little action while rescuing Dr Jacobs.

February 25, 2013

Who50: "The Curse of Peladon"

Who50 counts down to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who by reviewing my favourite episodes and serials over the history of the programme, counting down from #50 to #1. Today, #36: "The Curse of Peladon", a four-part 1972 serial written by Brian Hayles and directed by Lenny Mayne.

The Doctor and Jo travel in the TARDIS to the planet Peladon, where delegates of the Galactic Federation have assembled to discuss the planet's admission into their government. There is evil afoot, and the spirit of the great Peladonian beast Aggedor has awakened. The Doctor, however, thinks there's a different culprit working behind the scenes.

With "The Curse of Peladon" Brian Hayles created not a simple location for an adventure but an entire world. His characters have traditions, religion, politics and personality. They have an entire culture and a history. It may not be the most original or fully developed culture, but in the context of 1970s childrens television it's pretty exceptional stuff.

The Last Stand (2013)

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the biggest name in cinema. He was one of the most iconic figures in American film, guaranteed to draw in an audience with his over-the-top muscular screen presence, thick Austrian accent and canny choice of populist action thrillers and comedies in which to star. Through The Terminator, Predator, Twins, True Lies, Kindergarten Cop and a string of other films, he firmly cemented his place as one of cinema's most recognizable - if not always most appreciated - actors.

Then he shifted into politics and - a few cameos aside - quit acting altogether. Now, to use a phrase that Schwarzenegger himself is fond of using, he's back, starring in his own action film again. He is 65 years old. He hasn't starred in his own action film in ten years; not since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003. So how did he fare?

February 23, 2013

Krull (1983)

Krull is a weird movie. It was original going to be titled Dragons of Krull, but then Disney and Paramount's Dragonslayer flopped, so a risk-averse Columbia Pictures retitled it to just Krull and added in some laser beams. They didn't add any actual science fiction per se, they just gave the monstrous Stalkers some laser rifles and set them on our heroes - who all use axes and swords.

So there's a kingdom, and a prince about to marry a princess, only the princess is captured by a Beast (capital letter intended - he doesn't seem to have a name or a real purpose, he's just "the Beast"). The Prince sets off to rescue her, accompanied by a Ben Kenobi analogue, a blind wise man, a wizard with the power to turn himself into a duck, a cyclops who blinks precisely once after every line (it's hypnotic), a gang of mercenaries, and a young Liam Neeson.

February 22, 2013

The Pull List: 20 February 2013

DC Vertigo's Hellblazer ends this week with its 300th monthly issue. It's the longest-running title Vertigo ever had, and was written over a decades-long period by pretty much every top-class writer the imprint ever had. Its star John Constantine was created by Alan Moore, and the book was written by the likes of Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, Brian Azzarello, Mike Carey, Andy Diggle, Paul Jenkins and Eddie Campbell.

Many readers and comic book enthusiasts have been quick to criticise DC for cancelling the book, although I suspect the vast majority of those angry at the cancellation were not reading it anyway. In December 2012 Hellblazer sold an estimated 9,132 copies. That's less than all six DC Universe books cancelled around the same time. The truth is that Hellblazer had been published on borrowed time for some years. Jump back 12 months to December 2011: back then the book was still only shifting 9,404 copies. December 2010? 9,342. December 2009? 10,334.

Many Vertigo titles turn a profit because, while the monthly sales are comparatively weak, the trade paperback sales are relatively strong. Books like 100 Bullets and Fables have thrived in the bookstore market. Hellblazer never had this fallback, simply because the series is too damn long. The Sandman can be collected into a neat collection of 10 books. At the same size of volume, Hellblazer would take 40 books to collect together.

With Hellblazer gone, and only Fables really holding the fort, I think it's maybe time to say goodbye to DC Vertigo. It produced some of the best mature readers comic books ever, but there's a time for everything, and Vertigo's time has passed. See you, John.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Batwoman, Daredevil, Green Lantern, Happy, It Girl and the Atomics, Justice League, Justice League of America, Legion of Super-Heroes, Revival, Saga, Sword of Sorcery, Thor: God of Thunder and Wonder Woman.

February 21, 2013

Free Enterprise #36: "Vanishing Point"

Hoshi takes her first trip through a transporter, and after returning to the Enterprise she worries that the system hasn't reformed her molecules correctly. Dr Phlox assures her she's simply being paranoid, but soon she begins to fade from view, gets ignored by her workmates and seems to be fading out of reality altogether. Once invisible and intangible, she discovers an alien plot to blow up the entire ship.

And it was all a dream.

Don't think of this as spoiling you, think of this as saving you. Now you never need to watch this episode. "Vanishing Point" is a tedious chore of an episode, less a story than it is a simple creative affront. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, who wrote this episode, should be ashamed of themselves. The entire cast and production crew should hang their heads. Someone, someone somewhere along the chain for storyline to post-production should have pointed out the ridiculous, insulting asshattery of this episode. I assume no one did, because here it is, like a steaming turd loving transferred to DVD to offend and annoy entirely new generations of victims for years to come.

February 20, 2013

The Raid (2011)

Rama, a rookie SWAT officer and expentant father, joins a 20-man team on a dawn raid on a decripit Jakarta apartment block. The entire block is controlled by Tama Riyadi, a wanted drug kingpin and crime boss, and filled with his mercenaries,dealers and other assorted criminal associates. Six stories into the building and the SWAT team is rumbled, leading to a non-stop action extravaganza as they attempt to fulfil their mission and get out alive.

Gareth Huw Evans is a Welsh film director who, after failing to find support for his film projects in the United Kingdom, found himself directing a low-budget action film in Indonesia. That film, titled Merantau, was a charming throwback to the Hong Kong martial arts action films of the early 1980s and introduced a major new face for action cinema in Indonesian Iko Uwais. The Raid (titled The Raid: Redemption in several international markets) is their second collaboration, and represents a major step forward in craft and technique.

February 19, 2013

Free Enterprise #35: "Singularity"

As the Enterprise makes its way to a trinary star system to observe a black hole, the crew take the additional time to work on personal projects. When each officer becomes obsessed with their own trivial tasks, T'Pol begins to suspect something is amiss - and before long the safety of the entire ship is at stake.

"Singularity" is an incredibly old-fashioned episode of Star Trek, one that wouldn't be out of place if it had featured Captain Janeway, or Picard, or even Kirk. A mysterious radiation emitted from the star system begins to affect the minds of the crew, making each of them obsessed with one specific task as the Enterprise flies ever-closer to certain destruction. Sometimes it seems that the greatest threat in the Star Trek universe is not Klingons, or Q, or the Borg: it's stellar phenomena.

February 18, 2013

Attenberg (2010)

23 year-old Marina lives with her terminally ill father in a Greek factory town. She constantly approaches her best friend Bella for advice and instruction on sex and romance. She obsessively watches the nature documentaries of Sir David Attenborough. She finally encounters a stranger and tentatively begins a relationship with him.

Attenberg is a strange movie. It's rather small-scale, based on just a few characters and entirely set in the one small town. It's shot with a high degree of artificiality, as if its writer/director (Athina Rachel Tsangari) wants us to remember that we're watching a film. The script and performances are quite stylised as well. Despite those elements it remains quite an engaging experience.

Seven things due for a Doctor Who comeback

Right from the get-go, the modern-day series of Doctor Who has mined the franchise's past, starting with the Autons and continuing with the Daleks, Davros, the Cybermen, the Macra, the Master, the Sontarans, the Time Lords, Sarah-Jane Smith, K9, UNIT, the Great Intelligence and the Silurians. This isn't a surprise: if you're continuing a series with such a rich history of characters and monsters, it would be silly not to take advantage of them.

Another old foe is set to return in 2013 - I've put in underneath the cut in case you don't want to be spoiled. This got me thinking, however, about all the Doctor Who monsters and characters that haven't made it to the new series yet. Also beneath the cut are my seven most-desired elements from the old series to return.

Who50: "Doctor Who and the Silurians"

Who50 counts down to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who by reviewing my favourite episodes and serials over the history of the programme, counting down from #50 to #1. Today, #37: "Doctor Who and the Silurians", a seven-part 1970 serial written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Timothy Combe.

Something is leeching power from a nuclear power station. In the caves beneath the station, maintenance workers have been attacked some giant reptile. UNIT is dispatched to investigate, and the Doctor discovers there is a civilization of humanoid reptiles awakening underneath their feet - indigenous reptiles who want their planet back.

1970 brought about what is possibly the most jarring transformation in Doctor Who's long history. First of all, the series returned for a seventh season in colour and with a new actor in the title role (Jon Pertwee). Then there was the setting: the Doctor was trapped on present-day Earth (or near future Earth, depending on which episode you're watching). He is, rather strangely for an anti-authoritarian figure, now working for the military. The oddest part about Doctor Who's seventh season, however, is the tone: suddenly, and for one year only, this really isn't a childrens drama any more. There's a maturity and sophistication to the seventh season, and an uncharacteristic lack of humour. His companion for this year is Dr Elizabeth Shaw, a Cambridge-based scientist quite unlike any previous companion save for Barbara Wright - and she'd been gone for five years.

February 17, 2013

Free Enterprise #34: "The Communicator"

After a covert away mission to a pre-warp technology civilization, Lieutenant Reed realises that he has left his communicator behind on the planet's surface. To prevent Starfleet technology from contaminating an alien culture, he and Captain Archer return to where he left it - only to be captured by the military as enemy spies.

There's a strong sense of deja vu about this episode. The ideas that lead to Starfleet's feted Prime Directive keep coming up again and again in Enterprise, and in this case it feels like that one trip too many to the creative well. There's nothing specifically bad about "The Communicator", but it does give one a sense of "been there, done that" thoughout.

February 15, 2013

Odds'n'Sods: 15 February 2013

Some random links to finish up the working week:
  • Want to get kidnapped and locked in a dark room for kicks? There's a Hong Kong game running that may be for you. (link)
  • A fabulous alternative history of Doctor Who were the part was played by women. Further proof that a female Doctor would not break the series, and is actually overdue. (link)
  • The Hour, a fantastic BBC drama about making news in the 1950s, has been axed after two seasons - if only they handed ended Season 2 on a cliffhanger... (link)
  • Now that "Death of the Family" has wrapped, Scott Snyder speaks to Newsarama about what's next for Batman. (link)
  • And finally, sticking with "Death of the Family", these animated gifs made out of Batman covers are about the creepiest, most icky thing I've seen this week. Follow the link with caution. (link)

The Pull List: 13 February 2013

The DC Comics news that struck me the hardest this week was the complete revamp of the Green Lantern line coming in June. May 2013 sees the final issues for the creative teams on all four titles: Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Red Lanterns and Green Lantern: The New Guardians. June sees... well, I suppose June will see something new.

Geoff Johns has been the creative force behind Green Lantern since 2004, when he and Ethan van Scriver worked on the Green Lantern: Rebirth miniseries which returned 1960s character Hal Jordan to the title role. Johns has been the writer of Green Lantern ever since, clocking up more than 100 issues and adding numerous new wrinkles and elements to the character and background along the way. Anyone who doesn't understand the immense impact Johns has had on Green Lantern should hunt down what I think was his high point on the title, the 2007 story arc "The Sinestro Corps War". This 11-issue epic was one of the few "events" from DC or Marvel that actually felt significant.

I hope DC have the sense to hire a new mastermind for the Green Lantern franchise. I hope they get someone really creative, someone willing to take a few risks and find a new direction for the characters and the Green Lantern Corps. I hope, but also doubt, that they have the sense to stand back and let that creator do her or his thing, and not interfere from on high. A singular creative vision revived Green Lantern in 2004, and a new vision could set it off for 2013 as well.

One final hope is that they continue to use Simon Baz (above), since he's about a million times more interesting than Hal Jordan (the one central weak point of Johns' run) and DC needs more heroes of colour.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Batman, Batman and Robin, Bedlam, Change, Cyber Force, Demon Knights, Katana, Manhattan Projects, Star Wars and Storm Dogs.

February 14, 2013

Babble On #36: "Acts of Sacrifice"

Ambassador G'Kar begs Sheridan and Delenn for assistance in the war against the Centauri, as relations between Narn and Centauri on the station break into outright hostility. Meanwhile Ivanova is tasked with escorting a representative of a new alien species around the station.

Bathos: let me explain it to you. If you don't need to have it explained to you as if you're a child in school, feel free to jump past the explanation and read the rest of the review. Otherwise, read on...

So you're all likely familiar with pathos, which is a form of rhetoric intended to produce sympathy in the mind of the reader/viewer. There's a good example in this episode, actually: G'Kar learns how little support he is going to get from the Minbari and Earth governments, stoically accepts what is offers, steps outside and - in the middle of the corridor - breaks down and cries. The scene is written and performed very effectively to elicit sympathy and pity in the minds of the viewers: we feel sorry for G'Kar.

February 12, 2013

Free Enterprise #33: "The Seventh"

Seventeen years ago T'Pol was sent by the Vulcan High Command to apprehend six Vulcan fugitives: she caught five, but the sixth escaped. Now that he has been located, her mission is re-activated - and she's intent on bringing Captain Archer along for support. Capturing the sixth fugitive may not be as straightforward as T'Pol expected: who, for example, is the seventh?

"The Seventh" is a wonderfully taut, suspenseful character drama, in which T'Pol is forced to face events in her past and is revealed as significantly more fragile and complex a character than she first appeared back when Enterprise started. It's incredibly well performed by the entire cast, notably Jolene Blalock but also guest star Bruce Davison (X-Men), who plays the Vulcan fugitive Menos.

February 11, 2013

Who50: "Snakedance"

Who50 counts down to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who by reviewing my favourite episodes and serials over the history of the programme, counting down from #50 to #1. Today, #38: "Snakedance", a four-part 1983 serial written by Christopher Bailey and directed by Fiona Cumming.

"Where the winds of restlessness blow. Where the fires of greed burn. Where hatred chills the blood. Here, in the depths of the human heart. Here is the Mara."

There are so many Doctor Who stories in which the Doctor arrives on a planet, notices a crisis, dives in to save the world and gets enthusiastically assisted by the locals. Then there are stories like "Snakedance", where the Doctor turns up out of the blue, begins raving like a madman about the end of the world, and the local population treat him accordingly. And it's not just their reaction to the Doctor that makes the Manussans so fasscinating: they're also one of the most roundly drawn civilizations in Doctor Who history.

Manussa is a planet with a past. It's not just the namechecking of two former empires that covered the planet, it's the cultural touches. Old relics and ruins. Traditional puppet theatre and acoustic bands in the village squares. Multiple religious beliefs. It's a planet with a believable culture, a visible past and three-dimensional characters. It's also a planet where people talk in some of the most beautifully crafted, lyrical dialogue to ever grace British television.

February 8, 2013

The anti-gay adventures of Superman

So DC Comics are going to launch a new digital comic book, The Adventures of Superman, to act very much like a companion to their successful Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight. I love DC's digital books: cheaply priced, and less concerned with continuity than they are with telling a decent story.

The announcement of the new Superman book, however, is likely to bring with it more than a little controversy, because the first writer out of the gate is Orson Scott Card.

Now Card is has an excellent pedigree of quality science fiction behind him, notably his 1985 novel Ender's Game which won both the Nebula and Hugo Award. He's also a published writer of superhero comics, having written Ultimate Iron Man for Marvel.

But here's the thing: he's also a bigot.

February 7, 2013

The Pull List: 6 February 2013

What are the must-read superhero comics of the moment?

Let's say you're on a limited budget. You've only got the cash to afford US$25.00 a month on superhero comics, and you want the very best that you can buy. At the moment I think you want to be buying six comics. Three from Marvel, and three from DC.

From Marvel you need to be buying Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye. It's just astoundingly entertaining and, with its Chris Ware-inspired small panels, a surprisingly good value read. Secondly, I can't recommend Mark Waid's run on Daredevil enough. He's pitching the perfect balance of dark and light elements with great art by Chris Samnee. For a third Marvel book I think you should look to something by Brian Michael Bendis. Depending on your superhero tastes, that means either All-New X-Men or Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.

From DC you first need to be reading Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's excellent run on Batman, easily the must-read book of the New 52. Secondly, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have done wonders with Batwoman: it's an artful, stylish masterpiece each and every month. Finally, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman is - after a controversial start - turning into a fabulous modern-day take on Greek mythology. It's highly reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, and has a wonderful complex plot with plenty of intriguing characters.

That's my limited budget recommendation for superhero books: Hawkeye, Daredevil, Batman, Batwoman, Wonder Woman and either Ultimate Comics Spider-Man or All-New X-Men. What does your recommended list look like?

Under the cut: reviews of All-New X-Men, Animal Man, Batwing, Daredevil: End of Days, Detective Comics, Fearless Defenders, Great Pacific, Human Bomb, Multiple Warheads, Red She-Hulk, Stormwatch, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Worlds' Finest.

February 6, 2013

Babble On #35: "All Alone in the Night"

Sheridan uses a string of attacks on merchant ships as an excuse to pilot a Starfury: getting abducted by aliens in the process. While he's gone Earthforce General William Hague arrives to urgently speak with him on important business. Meanwhile Ambassador Delenn returns to the Grey Council to hear their decision on how to react to her startling transformation the previous year.

This is a strange episode of Babylon 5, because while some fairly important events happen in terms of the broader story arc the episode as a whole feels incredibly inconsequential and underwhelming. Much of the episode is based around either Delenn talking to other Minbari in a big dark room or Sheridan having fistfights in a fairly unconvincing alien prison set. There's also time taken to give Sheridan a symbolism-filled dream and get a mysterious message from Vorlon ambassador Kosh. I hate dream sequences in film and television. They feel tedious and pretentious with few exceptions. This episode is not an exception.

Chicks Unravel Time (2012)

Mad Norwegian Press has, over the last few years, managed to carve itself a niche as one of the best publishers of independent TV criticism out there - particularly in regards to Doctor Who. Their six-volume About Time series by Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles is possibly my favourite series of its kind, analysing each Doctor Who serial in turn with humour and incisive critical comment. Last year the company received its biggest plaudits ever for their collection of essays titled Chicks Dig Time Lords (edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O'Shea), which won a Hugo Award. A few months ago they released a hotly anticipated follow-up: Chicks Unravel Time, edited by L.M. Myles and Deborah Stanish.

This is a set of essays by women about Doctor Who. Each essay tackles a different season of the series (both old and new). They are arranged in... I don't want to say random order, because I'm sure there was thought put into it. They're not in chronological order is what's important. As a result the book dips in and out of Doctor Who history, guaranteeing that any reader not enamorous with a particular period in the show's history is never going to encounter a lengthy down patch.

The essays are remarkably varied, but are for the most part highly enjoyable to read. There has been a dearth of high-profile analysis of Doctor Who by women, and this book takes another step in redressing that imbalance. I don't want to over-emphasise this, however, because the bottom line is that you shouldn't consider reading this book because it's written by women: you should consider reading it because it's a great book about Doctor Who.

February 5, 2013

Who50: "Vincent and the Doctor"

Who50 counts down to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who by reviewing my favourite episodes and serials over the history of the programme, counting down from #50 to #1. Today, #39: "Vincent and the Doctor", a 2010 episode written by Richard Curtis and directed by Johnny Campbell.

Steven Moffat's tenure as executive producer has seen a number of unexpected writers contributing to the series, including Simon Nye (Men Behaving Badly), Neil Gaiman (The Sandman) and Neil Cross (Luther), but possibly the most unexpected writer for the Moffat era is Richard Curtis. Curtis is co-creator of classic British comedies Blackadder and Mr Bean, the writer of such films as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill and even a noted film director with the films Love Actually and The Boat That Rocked. Curtis is without question the most prestigious and widely known script writer to ever contribute to Doctor Who, and his contribution is to my mind extraordinary.

February 3, 2013

In praise of Short Round, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

There's not a lot of love for Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Most of the complaining tends to circle around romantic co-star Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), who is admittedly a colossal creative misfire of Jar-Jar Binksian proportions. Capshaw mutters, struts, shrieks and cries her way through a role that is entirely passive and responsive, victim-like and shrill. This isn't Capshaw's fault in the slightest: indeed she does a pitch-perfect performance of what she's required to do - it's that requirement that sucks so much. The fact that her character replaces the iconic Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) from Raiders of the Lost Ark only makes it worse.

Then there's the vaguely racist (sorry, did I type "vaguely"? I meant "entirely") depiction of Indians as either superstitious peasants or blood-thirsty child-beating cultists, and the utterly gratuitous and silly dinner banquet of various inedible delicacies. All up, it's very easy to understand why Temple of Doom has always been the under appreciated middle child of the three 1980s Indiana Jones films. The problem is that, while disliking the film is perfectly valid, it does ignore some absolutely knock-out elements that still make this an incredibly enjoyable movie to watch.

February 1, 2013

Popular Posts: January 2013

David Morse continues to be extremely popular on this blog, charting at #1 for the second month in a row. The previous top post, the review of Pale Rider, is still hanging on at #4. As for January itself, my review of Doctor Who's "Warriors' Gate" went down very well indeed. Thanks for reading!

The five most popular posts in January were:
  • Five Films: David Morse (link)
  • Who50: "Warriors' Gate" (link)
  • The Dungeon Masters (2008) (link)
  • Pale Rider (1985) (link)
  • Odds'n'Sods: 4 January 2013 (link)
The five most popular posts published in January were:
  • Who50: "Warriors' Gate" (link)
  •  Odds'n'Sods: 4 January 2013 (link)
  • The Pull List: 2 January 2013 (link) 85
  • AKB0048 #1: "Eternal Dreams" (link)
  • Golden Statue Playlist: Best Actress (link)

Coma (1978)

Dr Susan Wheeler (Geneviève Bujold), a surgical resident at Boston Memorial Hospital, is devastated when her best friend is pronounced brain dead after undertaking what should have been a minor surgical procedure. When she investigates further she finds a trail of surgical patients, all of whom fell into mysterious comas. All of her attempts to dig into the cause are blocked: by the hospital's Chief of Surgery (Richard Widmark) and even her own boyfriend (Michael Douglas).

Coma is a 1978 thriller based on the Robin Cook novel of the same name. The film is written and directed by Michael Crichton, who is probably better known now as an author of thick, inoffensive airport novels but who had a great career in the 1970s and 1980s as a writer and director of feature films. He directed Westworld, Runaway and The Great Train Robbery. This film, while based on a Robin Cook novel, has Crichton's fingerprints all over it. There's a fear of technology and science than runs through much of his work, and Coma is just about the most paranoid work of them all.