Sunday, April 30, 2006

School Reunion

I hadn't planned on blogging every episode but never mind! This was a really interesting episode, where Giles, sorry Anthony Head and his form-changing mates were really the side issue to discussing the assistants' relationships with the Doctor. As HolyHosesRob says in the comments to Lisa's post, it was surprisingly moving. David Tennant finally got to get in some emotional depth for the first time since the Christmas Invasion - having to shout indignantly doesn't really count - and his speech about having to leave all his 'companions' behind was beautiful. Grabbing Sarah-Jane's hand like he does with Rose was a really nice touch too... Ooh, and he loves Rose! He said as much! Well almost... But it was telling that he was adamant that he wouldn't leave her behind. 'Not you', were, I think, his exact words. Bless.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dombey and Son

Being an English Lit student and all, you'd think I'd want to mention the odd book now and then. Generally, though, I would rather think about anything but, and it's not that I dislike my course at all - I've discovered many literary friends-for-life already over these last couple of years - it's just mere fatigue of talking and thinking about them.

But I've got to mention Dombey and Son. Hardly obscure I know, but I really want to flag this up for anyone who doesn't like Dickens that much. I wasn't entirely decided, because I thought most of his novels were on a very similar theme - young boy is mistreated a bit, meets lots of over-the-top characters, coincidences abound, workhouses and strict teachers and all that. But Dombey and Son is so different. At it's centre is the relationship between Dombey and his daughter, who he starts off considering simply a waste of space, a 'bad boy' and 'a base coin that couldn't be invested', but (and I don't think I'm giving too much away) eventually learns to see with different eyes. It's how Dickens treats this relationship that's so special - really well studied, and heart-wrenching at moments. The comedy relief characters aren't just caricatures either, but real people with those idiosyncratic quirks that Dickens does so well.

If you don't like Dickens, try giving him one last go with this.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Derren Brown

For a few years now, he's been quite happy just being clever and charming and scaring the bejeebus out of everyone. But this can't last. One day, he's going to use his powers for evil. He'll persuade Channel 4 with that hand-on-the-shoulder-thing to do what is obviously the next step - a programme in which he does his stuff on the audience at home. Suddenly we'll all be genuflecting at his feet, or paying him half our wages, or doing Elvis impressions for the rest of time for his own sick amusement. He needs to be stopped, before it's too late.

Honestly though, I've got to the point where I can barely watch his show for fear of him getting into my head in some subtle way that even the producers haven't noticed. I don't trust him...

Scott's Place

This is such a great site. Scott writes intelligently about our Doctor, he's got a 'Save Our Theatre Museum' logo on his blog, he's involved with The Stage. Gotta be worth a look.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tooth And Claw

Now THAT was a bit more like it! Pauline Collins was brilliant, all the Torchwood/Bad Wolf references were fun, and it was a lot wittier than last week. Very scary, too, but as Queen Vic said, a bit of scaring's good for the blood

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Green Wing.

I tried it again last night, cos I thought there was a possiblity that I'd never actually watched it and just decided that I didn't like it. While that still may be true, I didn't like it. I can't even see what there is in that show to like. I could deal with it not being funny if it were at least very warm, or very biting, but it appears to be neither. The worst thing about it, though, is that it's making me hate Mark Heap. And I love Mark Heap. Brian from Spaced is one of the greatest comedy creations of the last... ever, but in this he's just doing a horrible John Cleese impression. That just makes me sad.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Could Wayne Coyne be any cooler?

The answer is surely no. Just felt I had to say that.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Do I need to tell you what this post is about...?

I'm glad Charlie Brooker lowered my expectations. Not because it was rubbish, because it wasn't, but because the last few things we've had from Doctor Who - The Parting of the Ways and the Christmas Invasion - were so stupidly funny and sad and entertaining that we've been spoilt, and have maybe forgotten that not every episode was like that last series. 'New Earth' was way better than 'Rose' though.

Bad stuff? It didn't seem much of an introduction to DT's Doctor. I know we've already had the Christmas special but it felt very much like a mid-series episode. Good stuff? Billie as Rose/Cassandra was really funny, I thought, and Zoe Wannamaker is going to improve anything she's in. Plus, I really liked how the Doctor reacted to the kiss - 'Yup.... still got it.' This Doctor's a lot more playful than Chris's, who I feel would have been gravely concerned by the kiss and pushed her away or something. And we don't want that. Overall, it was pretty enjoyable, but just reinforces my feeling that Russell T. should do more of the writing, but get in storyliners.

By the way, it hit me yesterday that someday soon Billie Piper is going to leave. And now I'm scared. The Doctor is meant to regenerate, but no matter who plays him, there'll still be an element of continuity. But when Billie leaves, Rose'll have to leave. And be replaced. With a different character. Does that not fill anyone else with horror?! I love the chemistry that having a female assistant allows, but if I thought anything was going on with the Doctor and the new lass, I'd be constantly thinking GET OFF, HE'S TAKEN. Which would be irrational, but I don't think I'm alone. As such, the next assistant has gotta be male, I reckon. We know that Russell can do really interesting and dynamic and brave things with male relationships, so I think that's the way to go. Mr. Davis, I know you're reading - next assistant = male. Thank you.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

"La la la I'm not listening"

Kevin Spacey's interview with Michael Billington to explain the early closure of Resurrection Blues and other Old Vic-related misdemeanors has done nothing to help him because he refuses to accept he's made mistakes with his choice of plays. As Billers says, it all comes off as 'Crisis? What crisis?'. They're thinking of getting in a show to fill the stage til the Autumn programme gets going - may I suggest the Reduced Shakespeare Co? Old Vic Productions unceremoniously kicked them out of the Criterion last year, and there's not been a single successful show in there since.

And one thing that's really getting on my nerves about this review of Spacey's tenure is that Richard II keeps being referred to as the only 'unqualified success'. I think you'll find I QUALIFIED IT!!

Hrumph. I either saw a different show to everyone else, or the previews were just unfinished and under-rehearsed. In both cases some sort of monetary compensation should be forthcoming.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Rip This Joint

Ash's blog of the same name is just brilliant! He has exquisite taste in music, so I'll be popping over there on a rather regular basis form now on and I encourage you to do the same...

"The audience are laughing at me..."

That's because you're really rather funny, Mr. Tennant. Lisa will be happy to know that I taped his appearance on Ready, Steady, Cook, and a very charismatic and entertaining one it was too - from both him and his rather gregarious dad.

Just while we're on the subject, Marie's post on DT's recent 'fashion' shoot in the Guardian is hilarious, go check it out.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Completely Hollywood (Abridged) - Sheffield Lyceum, 06/04

Now kids, we haven't really discussed my love of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, have we? I've hinted at it a couple of times, and the link has been lurking down there on the left ever since I started here, but somehow the opportunity has never come up.

First of all, you should all know that you probably have the RSC to blame for me being here in the first place. In either '99 or 2000, I went to the now-defunct Ross-On-Wye arts festival, where I saw my first RSC production: the now-defunct Millennium Musical (Abridged) - defunct basically because there's a large section of the show which is about the Islam's contribution to the world's culture and history. While the whole point is to say how little we acknowledge that while the west was forgetting everything the Romans and Greeks taught us, the East was building on it, apparently Islam can't be talked about at all, and especially not in a comedy-type setting. I don't know who's to blame for them pulling this show but it's a real shame cos it's a great one. Anyhoo, a year later I went to see The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) - their first and arguably still best show. Afterwards, I stumbled on the now-defunct British website (there's a pattern here) and forum, and, in my first experience of the 'internet community', I posted there. To my surprise, people responded. Even one of the actors I'd seen the night before did (his name was Eduardo, for the record), so I kept going back, which gradually led to visiting other forums, a very brief LiveJournal period, and finally I ended up here. It's a slippery slope, I tells ya. Anyhoo, I've now seen all the shows (The Bible Abridged is an absolute must-see), met casts at stage-doors, befriended fellow fans, had forum arguments with cast-members over whether the Millennium Musical was actually any good (a certain Mikey and Gary were arguing, loyally, that it sucked) etc.
Yup, I think that's us pretty much up to date. On with the review.

I've got a theory. Basically, ever since its announcement, I've always had concerns about this new show, in that Hollywood, unlike Shakespeare or the Bible, is not something that's revered, or seen as untouchable. While I don't think this problem can ever be totally overcome, consciously or not, the writers Austin Tichenor (who plays the odd doctor and lawyer in Nip/Tuck and The West Wing making him incredibly cool) and Reed Martin (who used to be a clown, making him possibly ever cooler) have made quite a subtle but distinct change to the RSC formula to deal with it. Take the Shakespeare show. In that, contrary to semi-popular opinion, the humour does not come from making the plays themselves look stupid - quite the reverse in fact, a lot of respect is paid to the texts. Instead what's funny is these three slightly misguided guys' dumbed-down reactions and ridiculous interpretations of it. The problem is, it's pretty tough to make Hollywood more ridiculous than it already is - except by treating it incredibly seriously and academically, and that's precisely what the writers have done. All the way through, you've got the guys coming out with these film-appreciation class, pseudo-intellectual discussions about the nature of film, like whether there's two or three fundamental plot-lines and stuff. It's commonly said that they dumbed-down Shakespeare, well now they've dumbed-up films.

So that's the theorising out of the way, was it any cop? Well it's no Shakespeare or Bible, and the opening twenty minutes were definitely light on laughs, but eventually it got into its stride, and when the RSC are on, they make an audience laugh like no-one else. We didn't clap at jokes, we laughed, and that's important. Well, we clapped as well, but you get my point.

Clever word-play and silly physical humour have always been the RSC's strengths, and there's plenty of both in this show. Unusually for an RSC show, there was half a plot Completely Hollywood, in that the three performers are the director, writer and star of a film, all pushing for their interests and concerns - money, the 'message' and exposure respectively - to be most important. As the director wanted something already familiar to film-lovers, this allowed for lots of merged film titles - the best one probably being 'Singing in the Rainman'. Funnier acted out though. On the physical side of things, the slo-mo Matrix sequence was really well thought-out and performed.

It's unbalanced - all the real belly laughs came from the second half - but there was an obvious love and real understanding of film that ran throughout which was cool to see. The RSC's productions are always brilliantly casted, too, with the performers getting a chance to show off both their laid-back (and so wonderfully camouflaged) acting, as well as their quick-witted and spontaneous comic skills. If you like RSC at all, you really can't afford to miss any show, cos there's always a bit of magic involved.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days

Morgan has, of course, been a very naughty boy recently (and apologised for it), so it was nice on Monday night to forget all the fervered hoo-har surrounding that, and watch him doing what he does best - ie, be cool and funny and throw in a bit of social commentary while he's at it. Cold-hearted Sam Wollaston is immune to Morgan's charms; of Super Size Me he says
A guy eats McDonald's and nothing else for 30 days, and becomes less healthy. Well of course he does; you wouldn't really expect anything else. In what way is that a movie, apart from there being some kind of horrible fascination in watching it happen?

and so it's not surprising that of 30 Days he takes the 'a month means nothing' line:
it must be so irritating for real poor people to have these journalists and film-makers parachuting down into their world to play at being poor for a few days, saying, "Oh my God, isn't it awful, how do these people do it? I'm a much better person for the experience, we need to do so much more," before flying off back to their well-off lives. How can you really understand what poverty is like when you know you just have to make it through a few more days and then you can return to your lovely New York apartment?

Well of course Morgan and his fiancee do not now know exactly what it's like, nor do they claim to. The experiment element of both the series and Super Size Me is not meant to be scientific, or bring about any ready-made solutions to the issues raised. It's a ... a ... I'm desperately trying not to use the word gimmick cos that gives the wrong impression, perhaps 'televisual device' is a better, though clumsier phrase. Whatever it is, you've gotta accept that it's a damn fine one, which 'humanizes' (man I'm not doing well today) the barrage of facts and stats we usually get. If, like Sam, you're not willing to go on the journey with Morgan, then you're really not gonna get a lot out of the series but I guess I'm more easily pleased, cos it hit home with me. I'd rather have a charmer who makes an impact than a straight-man who gets nowhere, but then that probably says more about me than the quality of the programme.
I feel I should wrap this up, having failed to articulate anything I came to say... all I know is that today I'm still thinking about, and that's gotta count for something.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

MediumRob continues to be right about pretty much everything

I've lost count of the number of times I've sat at my laptop and thought 'you're so right!' when browsing through MediumRob's blog. This about A for Andromeda (which I may have mentioned a dislike of myself...) and this about Green Wing are both spot on. Well, I agree with them and that's what matters. :)

Subtle they ain't

'Fruitcakes, loonies and closet-racists', 'lazy frogs'? That old foot-in-mouth syndrome is getting mighty widespread these days...

New Divine Comedy Album and tour! Woo!

All from

Neil Hannon returns as The Divine Comedy in June with the follow up to 2004’s ‘Absent Friends’. ‘Victory For The Comic Muse’ will be released on Parlophone on June 19th. This will be preceded by a new single on June 12th.

The album was recorded virtually live in the studio over a period of two weeks in late 2005. Modern recording techniques were set aside in favour of analogue tape and as few microphones as possible. The entire project was arranged and produced by Neil himself and features many long-standing Divine Comedy collaborators.

17th May – Cambridge, Junction. Tickets £13.50 Box Office: 01223 511 511
18th May – Wolverhampton, Wulfrun Hall. Tickets £13.50 Box Office: 01902 552 121
19th May – London, St James' Church. Tickets £16.50 Box Office: 020 7403 3331
21st May – Sheffield, Leadmill. Tickets £13.50 Box Office: 0870 010 4555
22nd May – Manchester, Academy 2. Tickets £13.50 Box Office: 0161 832 1111
23rd May – Glasgow, QMU. Tickets £15 Box Office: 0870 169 0100

Monday, April 03, 2006

A few reasons why Dave from Invasion rocks

1) He's called Dave. Not fancy 'Russell' (two lots of double-consonants? I mean really) or frankly bizarre 'Larkin', but good ol' Dave.
2) He figured it all out first. Not just the comedy relief, Dave was onto the whole hybrid thing while everyone else was still trying to look for 'rational explanations'. The fools.
3) His hair. Height in hair is A Very Good Thing Indeed. I don't mean in a punk type way, but in a messy, I'm not bothered kinda of way. Remember when Ross had to give up seeing Rachel to save his marriage and it was hinted that he was drinking to numb the pain? Well his hair was great then. Just like Dave's.
4) He's a bit like Jack Black. Which needs no explanation.
5) He listens to Buddy Holly. Which needs no explanation.
6) He's brave. Yeah he likes his beer and makes jokes but when it comes down to it, give him an oar and he'll face anything.
7) His alter-ego Tyler Labine is a good actor. Not something you can level at most of his colleagues, Tyler showed a level of emotional depth last night (when he met Dave's semi-formed hybrid body, of course) that took me a little by surprise.
8) He's a blogger. Mais oui. His blog can be found here. Yes really. Well, kinda. :)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

See How They Run - Sheffield Lyceum, 01/04

This play is a farce and then some - vicars with their trousers down, inebriated old ladies, slamming doors, scatty blondes, it's all there. As such, comedy is not exactly subtle, and the whole thing did show its age slightly - but that was the only real problem I had with it. (Well, apart from the aforementioned scatty blonde who seemed to just be doing her very best Queenie-from-Blackadder II impression - I kept expecting her to say 'and if you don't play I'll chop off your head...!)

It was not hilariously funny, then, but it was a whole lot of fun, and directed by Douglas Hodge to absolute perfection which, with a fast-moving plot and essentially two hours of pure 'stage business', is exactly what is required. The entrances and exits were all spot-on, all accompanied by a satisfying crash of the door, and a lot of the humour came from stuff that Hodge had inserted himself, rather than it coming straight from the script. For instance, there was a five minute joke involving drinking an invisible glass of brandy, but when I concentrated on the actual words, it was obvious that this brandy could have in fact been real, and the drinking of it was probably not intended to be funny. I know some people have a problem with this sort of thing (especially when it comes to Shakespeare - 'the humour should come from the text!' they cry), but theatre is a collaborative medium, and whatever the director can throw in to get a better production they should go with... in my humble opinion.

The two stand-out performances came from Julie Legrand as Miss. Skillon, who gamely threw herself around the stage, and Jo Stone-Fewings as Lance Corporal Clive Winton who's transformation from brave soldier to nervous wreck and back again was brilliantly manic. All in all then, not exactly cutting edge, but not intended to be, and what it did, it did really well.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

They got me.

Yes, for a fair few paragraphs I was indeed taken in by The Guardian's April Fools joke. It shows how little regard I have for Coldplay and Mr. Martin that I believed it for as long as I did. I haven't downloaded the song but I'm sure it's hilarious...