Sunday, June 29, 2008

SUDDEN REALISATION

I'LL BE AT THE BOOSH FESTIVAL WHEN THE DOCTOR WHO SEASON FINALE AIRS. Ok, so there's worse things I could be doing, but still! :P

Doctor Who - The Stolen Earth

C'mon guys, I *know* you can pretty much write this review for me, because I *know* you know what I thought. I loved it. Of course I did!

We've had Moffat's ridiculously clever plots and mythology-creating, we've even had RTD going a bit subtle on us, but now it's time for - take a breath - millions of Daleks, Harriet Jones former Prime Minister (yes we know who you are), UNIT, bizarre bee-based epiphanies, emotional manipulation, The Medusa Cascade, a hysterical Dalek Caan, Jack being understandably scared, Donna being impressed by Jack, the Doctor's phone number, funny Ianto, brave Gwen, The Shadow Proclamation, Martha AND Freema being bloody awful, Martha's mum, Davros, "death for the most faithful companion", a possible regeneration, and Rose with a big-ass gun.

Time for everything, in other words. It was the best Bombastic-Who since The Parting Of The Ways, and I sat there with a big, dumb smile on my face (until the last few minutes when I was crying, obviously), lapping up, unquestioning, everything that RTD was throwing at me. You like Ianto making a little joke, right? Here you go! You kinda liked Harriet Jones and thought the Doctor was a little over-rigid in his morals, didn't you? Well, here she is being the hero. Want a big surprise at the end? Have one of those, too. Roll on next week.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Today's most squee-enducing picture...

*Squee*

Mark Watson might not be doing a 24 hour show this year but...

This might just make up for it...

Event Info
Host: The Mark Watson Long Show Community
Type: Party - Reunion

Time and Place
Start Time: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 9:00pm
End Time: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 5:00am
Location: Pleasance Courtyard
City/Town: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Description
As there is no long show planned for this year, a few of us lifers thought it would be nice to meet up at the usual time anyway for a few drinks. And possibly the odd rendition of the anthem. Oh and some ballads. And some art. And maybe some games. There could even be a few comedians around....

Monday, June 23, 2008

Funny the things you find when you Google your name...

Or, more correctly, your mum does. Remember I did a review of the Rhod Gilbert gig in Doncaster? Well I also sent a cut-down version to my local paper, but as their regular gig reviewer had also been to the show, obviously that review was printed. What I didn't realise was that they had actually put it on their website! Yay!

Doctor Who - Turn Left

Like Rob, the thing that really struck me about this episode was how very dark it was, but again, as he said, it's not the first time that RTD has done dark - and he's always done it very, very well. He really does go by the philosophy that with kids it's only gore (along with sex and swearing of course) that's off the table. Kill off the Doctor, kill off Sarah Jane, kill off the kids from Sarah Jane Adventures, kill off the Torchwood team. Kill 'em all.

The wartime-esque scenes in (gasp) Leeds were wonderfully bleak too - it's amazing that a line as simple as "It's happening again" could have me and mum both reaching for the tissues, but the fact is that RTD can make us care deeply about characters in a matter of minutes. We were genuinely sad to see the man who had let Donna's family and so many others into his home taken away to such an abhorrent fate, and yet we knew next to nothing about him - we didn't need to, because what RTD had told us was more than enough to know that his death would be a tragedy and a disgrace.

As for Rose's return, I won't be the billionth person to mention her bizarre speaking style, and instead say that this wasn't really her story, it was Donna's, and it was very creepy. Rose will only be back in earnest when she's face to face with the Doctor or Jack - she has no relationship with Donna, other than recognising how important she is, but with those there is history and emotion. It was telling that we only really saw the old Rose, the one who isn't quite so cold, when she was talking about the Doctor's hair...

Overall, a brilliant episode that was as much straight drama as it was sci-fi (so often the best) , and a brilliant taster of things to come, you imagine. Here's a question though: since when did Bad Wolf mean the end of the universe? It was a good thing in the first series, wasn't it...? I clearly need something explaining... :P

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Doctor Who Catch-Up!

What with being busy and spending rather more time in the bathroom than I would have liked (lovely stomach bug) I haven't had chance to talk about the second episode of Moffatt's two-parter or RTD's standalone thriller. I loved both, boringly, and both were fantastic examples of the writer doing what they do best. For Moffatt, that's plot - twists, turns, the complete inability to work out where things are going - and for RTD that's dialogue and a great central idea.

Moffatt, as brilliant as he is, isn't infallible when it comes to the words he puts into his character's mouths (I'm sorry, but the Doctor should NEVER have said the phrase "I'm all over it" or "Are we good?"), but in terms of intelligent, creative plotting he just can't be beat. I can't think of a single other writer working in the UK at the moment who could have come up with such an original concept as Donna's dream-life - and, as I had suspected, he *did* get me crying in the second episode, especially when Donna's "husband" tried to call after her back in the real world...

As for Midnight, it was just wonderful to have an episode set in one place - no running down corridors, no outlandish monster, just a wonderful psychological thriller for all the family. As Paul Fuzz said in our usual post-DW phone-call, it was great to see the Doctor under such pressure, not from an alien threat, but just from the people he was trying to help - and whom, it must remembered, he *didn't* help. As the Fuzzster said, he didn't save, he was saved. The central idea of repeating was sinister enough in itself without the need to really be explained, and brilliantly realised by Lesley Sharpe and our lovely DT.

Obviously, I cannot wait for next week's Doctor-lite episode and the return of Ms Tyler - but will it be the same? Will it be a let down? Will, as I hope, the Doctor fall over a bucket in a slap-stick style way when he sees her again for the first time? What is the Medusa Cascade? AND WHAT IS ON DONNA'S BACK? So many questions...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Live At The Chapel: Tim Minchin, Simon Day, Tony Law and Arthur Smith (MC)

The Union Chapel in Islington is a working chapel, so it's a testament to the liberalism of some corners of the Anglican church that Tim Minchin - a committed sceptic - should be invited to play there. But in fact comedians perform at the Union Chapel on a regular basis (along with bands, artists and speakers) and it must be a wonderfully symbiotic relationship: artists get a fantastic, intimate space in which to perform, and the Union get a healthy income which no doubt helps towards the building's considerable upkeep.

Tim Minchin was the headliner on Saturday, but the whole night boasted an impressive line-up; Canadian stand-up Tony Law was on first, then Simon Day as his Fast Show idiot of a character Billy Bleach, and Arthur Smith MC's the evening.

Taking the stage in a white linen suit with knee length shorts, he was the sort of MC you want, as he clearly has decades' worth of material stored up in his head, and is hugely confident without you being left with the feeling that he really felt he should be on the bill proper. There is a huge stone pulpit right slap bang in the middle of the stage, which he had been told he Absolutely Must Not climb up to. He did, naturally. I mean, when they have dry ice coming out from underneath it, how could anyone resist?

I'd heard of the first act, Tony Law, but apart from the name ringing distant bells, I really didn't
know anything about him. Suffice to say I'll be trying to find out as much as I can now. His act, you'll be understandably dissatisfied to learned, is one that is really hard to put down in words. He hops from subject to subject, twists the ordinary into the extraordinary, and switches from accent to accent with apparent ease. Now he's frenetic and verbose, then he's speaking slowly and deliberately, like the voiceover from some late night infomercial. He talks about how to get the very best fight between a shark and a bear (a bear of your choice, he says, generously) and then sticks the microphone in his mouth to make a sound like a didgeridoo.

I might not be able to describe it all that well, but I know it was absolutely joyous to watch. He doesn't appear in the Edinburgh Fringe programme, which is a shame, but then again there is a rather large Fringe shaped hole in his gig listings at the moment...

Simon Day's character Billy Bleach is the default setting that many of his other characters on The Fast Show sprang from, but which can be seen in its purest form in the pub sketches, where he tried to help other punters, but ends up simply ruining their evening. If only he'd been rubbish, I could have made a wonderful link there... but alas he was good.

I'm assuming that he hasn't done stand-up in a while, because he seemed very nervous, and anxious to acknowledge that his new material took all of about five minutes - it did boast one of the best jokes though: "Barack Obama is the first black Presidential candidate in America; Jay Z is supporting Shakin' Stevens at Glastonbury. It's one step forwards, two steps back, isn't it?" His comedy is of an old-fashioned school, I'd say, and not entirely to my taste, but even with the prospect of Mr Minchin coming onto the stage, I definitely wasn't clock-watching.

When I saw Minchin last Autumn, I was pretty unwell, and didn't even blog it, let alone embrace him as my new favourite thing in the whole wide world. But those clever lyrics, that potty-mouth, that hair and those heart-breaking chord progressions were still there waiting for me when I was ready. And at about Christmas time, I was. Now I consider Tim one of my favourite artists as well as comedians, and have spent a good few hours getting to know some of his biggest fans on forum.

So I was particularly excited for this gig, as although I'd heard a lot of the songs from his two albums live, I didn't know them at the time, so this would actually feel like the first time. I was thoroughly anticipating - indeed hoping - for him to try new material out in advance of his Edinburgh run, but I've gotta say that my heart leapt at the words "If you really loved me..." which opened the show, and can be seen in full here. He also performed the lyrically-complex beat poem Mitsubishi Colt, and his Peace Anthem For Palestine.

When it came to the new stuff, he asked whether it was ok to play half-finished works. He hadn't meant it to be a rhetorical question so he had to take the silence as a sort of dubious consent. There weren't many whole new songs, but he finished with "Bears Don't Dig On Dancing" - clearly intended to be his new Canvas Bags, now that that particular issue is all sorted and that. He added a new verse to a song childishly and sublimely slamming Guardian comedy critic Phil Doast, though, (something that made me half want to give him a bad review...) and got us all singing "I love Jesus/I hate faggots". You could see a few people looking sheepishly around at the gorgeous ecclesiastical surroundings, but most joined in.

The set was not exactly what you'd call coherent - he clearly hadn't set in stone what he was going to play - but Minchin's winning persona (an indistinguishable mix, I suspect, of his actual personality and one he assumes on stage) meant that the audience happily stuck with him, even down to accepting Drowned as his encore, a song that, while still quirky, could never be described as comedy. He said he played it partly because he knew that the girls down the front wanted him to push the boundaries, and, charmingly, Minchin was more than happy to acknowledge his most committed fans who had bagsied the front row, throughout the set. When he was expressing annoyance at having to drink Day's beer, for example, a lady known to me as Shell threw him a bottle of water. "Thanks Sheila from Liverpool!" he said, and then added "I remember people from the internet."

This proved absolutely true when I met him after the gig, and he said hi without me even having to say who I was. He remembered that I'm a big Ben Folds fan, hummed Annie Waits, and had his photo taken with me:
(Lisa does stripes, I do checks!) For all his many talents, Tim (yes, it's Tim now; proper review is over!) just doesn't seem to be able to be big-headed or stand-offish, and instead stood and talked to people - some of whom he knew from many gigs gone by, others he didn't know at all - for ages. An actor, a singer, a comedian, a lyricist, a pianist and a gentleman, I've decided that it's my mission to find something that he sucks at...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Paul Fuzz on the pointlessness of Acoustic Versions...

Acoustic Versions are popular for a bunch of reasons. The main reason they're popular is that they allow people who like Scouting For Girls but find their regular electrified output too loud and rocking the chance to own quieter, less engaging, less intrusive versions of Scouting For Girls records. Another reason is that bands themselves like doing Acoustic Versions because they think doing Acoustic Versions makes them look more like Proper Artists and less like Scouting For Girls, which is especially useful in Scouting For Girls' case. From Woodie Guthrie to Craig Mclachlan, the Acoustic Guitar has been the symbol of Serious Adult Rock Music.

Read more here...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Doctor Who - The Silence In The Library

The positives about this episode are self-evident - it looks classy, and there are at least three storylines which we have basically no idea about. The girl, Donna and River Song. All equally intriguing, and all equally unfathomable.

But but but.... did it make you *feel* anything? It was very clever, and I loved the fact that I was left with no clues as to how any of the stories will work out, but it didn't move me to any emotion other than bafflement and interest. And that's just not enough, is it? Nor is it what we expect from Moffatt - yes, he's the master plotsman, and messing with timelines is absolutely his thing, but so is humour and joy and heartbreak. You could say that that is all to come - and believe me, I have no doubt whatsoever that we will get them all in bucketloads next week, and that the stories will tie up in ways that none of us could imagine - but The Empty Child wasn't devoid of those things, so being the first episode of a two-parter is no excuse.

And if I was waiting for my pulse to raise a little, what must have it been like for kids? They might have liked the skeleton zombie, but that didn't come until late on and otherwise I worry that they might have found it (hush now) a little dull.

Now I didn't dislike this episode by any means - it truly is fascinating, and I've been trying to work out who River is as much as anyone (another Time Lord? His daughter? His mum? Himself...?!) but I thought it'd be worthwhile to play Devil's Advocate, and expand on the niggles that I did have about this episode.

So, ladies and gentlemen - discuss.