Saturday, 28 May 2011
Phoenix is back on the old address! It's only a holding page at the moment, but it should be fully back in the next couple of days.
Ash sent this message by email to Phoenix members and has given me permission to post it here.
Euan and I caught up and covered a lot of ground. He's away at a wedding this weekend, but has already made the first steps on the road to the Phoenix rising from the ashes once again. He's getting started on the real nuts and bolts on Monday and aims to bring us a sitrep and action plan then. Meanwhile, the group Jason assembled now includes Euan as well and has started in on emailing one another sentences including strings of letters like 'SQL' nd 'BigTable' which I'm not tech-savy enough to understand. :-)
But we now have a phoenix.roleplaying google account, which Euan is putting the forum's app engine stuff down on, the details of which can be passed on from TC to TC. He's also putting together a holder page asap, and we'll announce the URL as soon as it's ready. It looks like we don't need to find a host that charges, as google is likely reliable and provides a very good service for free. So those of you who were willing to donate now won't have to, unless you'd like to donate towards advertising costs. I may need to look into legal issues around that, however, before we go ahead, so keep your wallets in your pockets for now!
So, on Monday or soon thereafter, expect updates on how soon the renewed site will be available to post on.
We'll keep you up to date.
In addition, Ian Chisholm is planning to release the third instalment of the brilliant Clear Skies machinima series this holiday weekend. I certainly plan on doing a review of the 72-minute epic.
Have they fixed it yet? Have they fixed it? Have they... fixed it yet?
Friday, 27 May 2011
I’m one of the people affected by the Blogger log-in issue, so I’m not really in a position to a) approve comments or b) comment on other people’s blogs. I can still post by email and I certainly plan to post some stuff this week or next.
I will be delaying the posting of my review of “The Almost People” for a week; the Memorial Day weekend has forced the US showing of that episode back until the following Saturday.
Monday, 23 May 2011
Exploring the themes of "surrogate bodies" and identity, "The Rebel Flesh" involves Team TARDIS arriving at a factory on 22nd century Earth just before it's hit by a solar tsunami (of which more later). The dangerous work is done through created bodies controlled by human operators known as "Gangers". When the tsunami hits, the gangers become living people of their own...
"The Rebel Flesh" is a rather different episode from the previous four of Season 31. Instead of being big and bombastic, it focusses on moral issues, like quite a few of the great stories over the years, such as "Doctor Who and The Silurians", "The Ambassadors of Death" and "Genesis of the Daleks".
On this form, I don't think the story is going to join the pantheon of true greats, but neither is it going to end up in the pit of shame like "Timelash" or "Warriors of the Deep".
Matthew Graham's done a good story here, making us think about our views of clones and AI duplicates, which we too often dismiss as cheap plot devices and don't really feel for as they're not "real". The Gangers feel very much real and should be considered as such. Matt Smith turns in a quiet, understated performance, not overdoing things - in fact he's a little too subtle at times. Everyone else, including Marshall Lancaster and Sarah Smith, do well and the pre-titles sequence is good in particular.
There are two flaws in the story. I've heard of solar flares, but I've never even heard of a solar tsunami. Without some decent explanation, it sounds stupidly unscientific (yes, I know this a show with a time travelling spaceship that's bigger on the inside) and a power failure, plus attendant earthquakes, could have been caused by, well, an earthquake...
Secondly, the pacing seems a bit slow for my liking. While Who doesn't have to always be a huge rush, this story seemed to be going for the pace of the classic era and it didn't always work.
I'll see how "The Almost People" goes, but so far this isn't brilliant, it's merely good.
Saturday, 21 May 2011
For the uninitiated, I'll start with an explanation of the premise of this show, which is far more popular in the US than it is here - in the US it's a network show shown on ABC usually straight after Dancing with the Stars, whereas in the UK it's aired on cable network Alibi (personally, I feel that Channel 5 should buy this and give it a wider airing). So here we go:
Best-selling crime novelist and all round loveable rogue Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion, best known among Phoenixians for his role as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly) is shadowing NYPD detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic, who was a Russian vampire in one of the Librarian movies, I am informed and also turned up at the scene in Kazan at the end of Quantum of Solace. She was also in 24 season 5 for a bit, something I managed to completely forget... probably because it's the show's worst season...), a sensible-with-a-hint-of-wild woman who is still trying to solve the murder of her mother, the reason why she joined the force. Armed with her detective skills and his "arsenal of rapier wit", they and their team solve murders in the Big Apple, while Beckett and Castle fill the precinct with their sexual tension, as we wonder when and if they're going to hook up.
Think of it as a cross between Murder She Wrote and Moonlighting, except the crimes come to Castle through a telephone call rather than while he's on holiday somewhere.
Oh, we forgot to mention Castle lives with his actor mother, Martha and surprisingly smart teenage daughter, Alexis.
This is one of those shows that is way better than it sounds.
Anyhow, after killing off his previous literary lead, Derrick Storm, Castle decides to create a new lead based on Beckett, one Nikki Heat. As we approach this episode two novels starring Heat have been published ("Heat Wave" and "Naked Heat" - in a rather interesting tie-in move by ABC, you can buy the actual novels) and a film adaptation of the first has been commissioned.
As we start this episode, Castle is watching an audition tape of the actor chosen to play Heat, one Natalie Rhodes, who has the reputation of being a blonde bombshell appearing in schlocky exploitation horror movies, something which dismays Castle. When called by Beckett to the murder scene of a millionaire match-maker, Natalie arrives. Beckett has asked her to shadow her on a case as research...
Thus begins comedy gold.
The cases in this show are always pretty interesting, but you don't watch the show for that and I won't go into the case here (spoilers and all that). You watch it for the leads - and they both turn in great performances.
Rhodes, way smarter than she looks, decides to get into character by copying Beckett's mannerisms and vocal patterns, a move that throws the usually self-assured Kate completely off her game - and it's hilarious to watch, particularly once Natalie breaks out the brunette wig. Castle, who has enough problems keeping up with Beckett on a good day, finds himself as third fiddle for much of the time, although there's a great scene where Beckett is complaining about Rhodes and he seems to be very much in command, an unusual role reversal. Scenes with all three characters together are generally gems.
There's lots of great laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled in this, such as Alexis' "Natalie was great in this movie or so I heard" comments, Natalie wondering if Castle is gay and Natalie's spot-on imitation of Beckett. They'll all perfectly timed as well. The dialogue is brilliant as always (Castle has always been a very self-aware show), plus there's a lovely ending as well.
There are some minor flaws in this, mostly scenes without Rhodes and Beckett in the same room, so I can't quite give it a ten, so I'll give it a 9.
It's even better than "Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind", my previous favourite episode.
With a fourth season now ordered, this show could run and run.
Monday, 16 May 2011
I'm not going to describe the plot - for a start,I couldn't explain it properly without spoilers and the Moff has expressed his unhappiness about spoilers. Secondly, no amount of description would do it just.
So, I'm going to resurrect something I used to when I was reviewing 24. I used to do "24 Points on 24". That's a bit long, so I'm going to do eleven points, one for each Doctor so far.
- The TARDIS travelling effects look much better than they've ever done before - of course, Doctor Who has had some ropey effects over the years.
- Matt Smith's Doctor, while very good here, tends to be at his best in Steven Moffat stories. Moffat of course created the character and so can channel him best - others do a rather hit-and-miss job. Gaiman's was a hit though.
- Speaking of chanelling, Idris did remind me a lot of Helena Bonham Carter in a lot of her roles (it's rare for Bonham Carter not to play crazy these days). Full credit to Suranne Jones for a great performance - she's left Corrie well and truly behind her now.
- Rory's is turning into this show's version of Daniel Jackson without the archaeological knowledge.
- Amy does not have a very nice episode - she even lets out a couple of screams. It says something about the state of the show now that it's no longer a huge issue that a companion screams. Of course, Rory does as well.
- That was Michael Sheen doing the voice? I thought it was Gabriel Woolf!
- Oh, lovely to see [spoiler] again - I hope to be able to see it in person at some point soon.
- We haven't had this many repeating corridors since "The Horns of Nimon".
- I'm happy with the outcome in connection with my RP.
- It's a good choice of title - that's all I'll say.
- Uncle and Aunt were creepy. In fact, much of this episode was.
A very good episode and one that's arguably a lot differently from regular Doctor Who. There were great performances all around and a very moving ending. By no means perfect (the pace was a little off in the middle and the Doctor was a little unconvincing at times), but a lovely first go and I'd be glad if Gaiman came on board for another story.
Sunday, 15 May 2011
Monday, 9 May 2011
I'm not going to go into a description of the plot, which involves an alien spaceship, treasure and a famous pirate. I'll just go straight into the review.
The start is very promising, but then things go downhill rapidly. The pacing is off badly; this might have worked better as a two-parter. The dialogue starts to get a bit forced - this seems to be a pale imitation of Moffat's style and it shows. Then the bit at the end with Rory just walks slap bang into cliché. One note - if you're not breaking ribs, you're not doing it right.
Hugh Bonneville's Captain Avery is served badly by the script. Lily Cole doesn't even get an intelligible line and doesn't really add much to the story. Matt, Karen and Arthur all try their best with the material, but that's all they can do.
Nice try, but I'm going to have to give this a 5/10. The words "whole", "sum" and "parts", spring to mind.
Neil Gaiman's episode next week looks good. We'll see if my Doctor Who RP (The Triple First) ends up having its entire concept yanked out...
Monday, 2 May 2011
After the "previously on", we jump three months to a situation where the Doctor has been incarcerated in Area 51 and the rest of the crew (henceforth called the Timey Team) are on the run from Canton. Of course, things aren't quite what they seem.
The Timey Team (plus River) then carry on investigating the evil Silence via a very creepy set of scenes in an abandoned children's home and engineering their overthrow via a very famous transmission....
I had a problem with the first 25 minutes of this episode. For a start, it wasn't fully holding my attention. I didn't like the sudden time jump, which didn't properly explain why the Timey Team were on the run from the FBI (It's obviously something the Silence did, but a single line of dialogue wouldn't have gone amiss). Also, it was badly paced - things seemed to be taking a little too long. Finally, I wasn't too keen on Nixon for much of this. So, not a slow-burner.
Things kicked up a gear in the second half, with Matt Smith on fine form at the climax, along with everyone else. Karen Gillan has been particularly good in this story as well. The climax was a barnstormer, with great dialogue, a wonderful resolution and some lovely final scenes as a misunderstanding is cleared up.
Speaking of final scenes, that last scene of all where we discovered the truth behind the little girl is clearly going to have ramifications throughout the rest of this season and arguably beyond...
8/10. The poor start was made up for by a spectacular ending. Next week, pirates!