Posts tagged ‘Sci-Fi’

Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth

As requested, my thoughts on this season’s Doctor Who premiere, The Woman Who Fell To Earth (although … you’d never know that was the title of the episode cuz THERE’S NO FUCKING CREDITS!!!).  These are the comments that I typed up in an email to a friend of mine, plus my friend’s response, plus my reaction to my friend’s response.

* * * * *

I have to preface all of this by saying I have not been eagerly anticipating this season at all.  Not in the slightest.  I’m not pulling a full fanboy tantrum and refusing to watch it (c.f. Ian Levine), but I am keeping my expectations as low as possible.  I had low expectations for Capaldi’s last season and I ended up enjoying the hell out of it.  However … for Smith’s and Capaldi’s casting announcements, I knew right away each of them would end up being a good Doctor (and yes, they were great Doctors, it’s just that they both suffered from a hell of a lot of bad writing).  In this case, I had no prior experience with Whittaker’s work, so I had no idea whether or not her casting was a good or bad thing.  People hated Colin Baker, and I ended up liking his Doctor.  People liked Sylvester McCoy, and I have to say his is still my least favorite Doctor.  Whittaker could end up being another Peter Davison.  Or maybe she’ll end up combining the most annoying aspects of C.Baker and McCoy.  I can’t make any conclusion about that based on a single modern Who episode, especially one that is deliberately cluttered with post-regenerative foolishness in the name of the character’s journey of self-discovery.  The Christmas Invasion did a good job of that.  The Eleventh Hour did a fantastic job of that.  Deep Breath should be renamed Deep Sigh.  As for this one ….

Thoughts as I watched it:

This really felt like an episode of Sarah Jane Adventures, not Doctor Who.  I kept expecting Luke, Mr Smith & K9 to show up.

Is that thing that Clyde … er, Ryan … discovered, is that a giant Hersey’s kiss or a giant turd?

Okay, now with Rani … er, Yasmin … a constable, now I’m getting an early Torchwood vibe.  I know this is supposed to be all shiny and brand new, almost like a reboot, but right from the very beginning this is starting to look and feel like a mishmash of rehashed RTD ideas.

So the Doctor falls from orbit onto/into a train … and survives?  Uninjured?!?  HOW?!?  SERIOUSLY?!?  So much for suspension of disbelief.  This has obviously been going the slow burn route to try to get us caught up in the development of these characters before the new Doctor is introduced.  However, doing it this blatantly unrealistic (and unexplained – or did I miss the explanation?) and downright killed any ability for me to get caught up in either characters or events.  Chibnall should know better.  From what I’ve heard about his work on Broadchurch — I really do need to watch that someday — he is (supposedly) a far far better writer than that.

(But then again, I have no idea whether or not he actually wrote this because THERE WEREN’T ANY FUCKING CREDITS!!!)

The description of regenerating (specifically, experiencing the beginning of a new incarnation) was pretty intriguing.  Reminiscent of Eccleston’s monologue to Rose about being able to feel the Earth moving through space.  Kinda good, but alas, Eccleston did it better.  Either that, or I just liked it more the first time around.  Heavy sigh.

“Best guess: two species at war, using earth as a battleground.”  Heavy sigh.  I liked it better when it was the Sontarans vs the Rutans.

“I am special.  I am valued.” …. Heavy sigh ….  I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people LIKE me!

I’m kinda impressed that Whittaker did her own stunts.  I always respect that.  But I wouldn’t have known that fer sure just by watching the show.  This is one case where I’m glad that I cheated and read some of those Radio Times questions before I watched this.

The unexpected death came across as a cheap attempt at emotional manipulation, rather than a valid emotional kick in the pants.  Adric is the obvious first thought here, but I think Katarina’s death is a more apt comparison and far far more moving, even considering that the majority of that sequence is lost.  I still get shivers when I see her arm flailing, desperately reaching for the airlock switch.  Here I’m left wondering would she really still be able to speak coherently after a fall like that?  (Yes, Baker could do so after the fall in Logopolis, but 1 he’s a Time Lord and 2 he fell onto grass-covered dirt.  So I had suspension of disbelief there.  In tonight’s case, she fell directly onto concrete, or at least asphalt.  Far higher splat potential there.)

Whittaker’s description of how she copes with her family being gone brought back memories of Troughton saying something similar to Victoria in Tomb.  Sorry, Troughton did it better.  At least I didn’t have to strain my ears to understand his accent.  Heavy sigh.

And her being rather insistent that her family is gone — do we take that to mean Susan is dead, too?  We never had any confirmation either way as to whether or not Susan got caught up into the Last Great Time War.  And since Capaldi had her pic on his desk, I was hoping that meant we’d see the Doctor finally go visit her (or her come and find him) at some point.  Carole Ann Ford may be ancient now, but she ain’t dead yet.

So overall, upon first (slightly scattered) viewing, I’d have to rate it a solid meh with a handful of heavy sighs.  The missing opening titles really has me wondering what show I’m watching.  What do I think of Whittaker as a Doctor?  Dunno, jury’s still out.  Took me three eps to believe Eccleston was the same Doctor that I watched way back when.  Can’t remember how many for Tennant.  Smith was the Doctor for me right before the end of The Eleventh Hour.  Capaldi, just two.  At least Whittaker isn’t gurning about whilst playing the spoons.  So she’s got that going for her.

MY FRIEND’S RESPONSE:

“I’m gonna withhold comment for now except this: check the scene where the alien explains what it’s doing to The Doctor and company, then go review a scene in either in the first or second acts of the 3rd season Lost In Space episode, ‘Hunter’s Moon,’ where the alien describes his purpose on the Robinson’s planet.”

MY SUBSEQUENT REACTION:

And … oh good grief!  Motherfucking Chibnall cribbed the alien’s motivation ALMOST WORD FOR WORD from that 1967 Lost In Space episode!!!

Dammit!

I am seriously not looking forward to the rest of this season.  Feh!

 

Advertisements

BrainDead

Well, gee whiz, that’s a bit of a disappointment … news broke yesterday that CBS cancelled BrainDead.  So … time to dig into my backlog and write this one up.  The paragraphs below were written before the cancellation announcement.

BrainDead has got to be the most brilliant show that I’ve seen on broadcast television in an extremely long time!  Invasion Of The Body Snatchers meets All The President’s Men by way of space bugs!

Everyone was excellent; Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Danny Pino, Tony Shalhoub, Aaron Tveit, Johnny Ray Gill … I could go on to name all of them, but hey, just look ’em up on Wikipedia or IMDB.  And the absolutely most brilliant aspect of the show was to have Jonathan Coulton sing for the recaps of previous episodes.  The show made me laugh, the show made me yell at the TV (in a good way), the show made me want to see the next episode right away without having to wait a week … I’m racking my (remaining) brains trying to think of anything that I didn’t like about the show, and I honestly can’t think of anything.

Alas, the overall ratings weren’t quite up to par, so I’ll be very surprised if we end up seeing any more episodes.  Especially since Tony Shalhoub has reportedly signed on for the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s The Price.  On one hand, that’s a bad thing, because I’ll really miss this show.  On the other hand, that’s a good thing … they were able to wrap things up well enough in this thirteen episode run that the season finale could easily function as a series finale.  If it ends there, I’ll be happy with the quality of the thirteen episodes that we have.  That’s far far better than shows that don’t know when to stop and keep going long after their entertainment value has worn away (Big Bang Theory and Red Dwarf, I’m a-lookin’ at youse!).

 

Westworld

I typically stand wholeheartedly against anyone doing a remake simply for the sake of remaking something, especially when the original was not only pretty darned good but also something that I have a bit of a soft spot for.  Zack Snyder managed to win me over with his version of Dawn of the Dead, a film I desperately wanted to hate just because I thought that the original film should never ever have been molested by a remake.  And now here comes Jonathan Nolan and HBO to molest Michael Crichton’s classic Westworld.

And y’know what?  It works.  It’s in the process of winning me over.  The pilot episode seriously intrigued me.  I always loved Crichton’s original film, and this new interpretation looks like it could visit some pretty interesting (and rather dark) places.  I would love to see them address the various aspects of artificial intelligence and questioning reality that the creative brains behind Caprica and Virtuality suggested those shows would eventually visit.  I’m not even missing Yul Brynner.

Speaking of Ronald D. Moore, yes indeed, I have to say that this new series appears to do for the original film what Ron Moore’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica did for the original ’70s Galactica series.  The third episode here is bogged down by too much dippy exposition and some dodgy de-aging CGI, but it also includes the most chilling moment thus far:

“Analysis: what prompted that response?”
“I don’t know.”

So … three eps in and I’m enjoying it enough to ride it out for the rest of the first series.  The production value is impeccable; the interior of the park looks even better than Deadwood, and the behind-the-scenes parts of the park look far sleeker, colder, more sterile and more chilling than any of the behind-the-scenes bits of the original Delos.  The cinematography for the location shoots is gorgeous.  And Evan Rachel Wood is just amazing.  As long as we don’t dive back into dippy exposition, I expect I’ll enjoy the rest of the run.

 

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor Revisited

I meant to type this up a long time ago, so here is another belated post that I can finally scratch off my to-do list.  Let’s finish complaining about Peter Capaldi’s first series as the 12th Doctor.

Kill The Moon – I really wanted to like this episode, to the extent that I tried very very hard to ignore the problems with basic physics.  Didn’t work.  This could’ve been an amazingly scary episode, and yes when the li’l beastie jumped on the Doctor I certainly did jump, but the stoopid problems with basic science kept me from enjoying it as much as I wanted to.

Mummy On The Orient Express – This surprised me.  A lot.  In very good ways.  When I saw the title, I expected I would despise it.  When I saw the synopsis,  I expected I would despise it.  When I saw the “next time” trailer, I downright winced.  But no, this was fantastic!

Flatline – Ditto.  This was a fantastic one-two punch from a writer who has never written for Doctor Who before.  Yowza!  Almost tied with Mummy for the best episode of this series.

In The Forest Of The Night – Yawn.  Major misfire.  Not quite as wincingly bad as Deep Breath, but a major disappointment

Dark Water/Death In Heaven – Oh dear.  An extremely promising opening.  I don’t think I’ve been that stunned at a sudden death in Doctor Who since Earthshock.  Alas, this was no Earthshock.  There is no need to bring back the Master as a woman.  No need whatsoever.  If you need a villainous female Time Lord, bring back the Rani.  Or better yet, let’s please see Romana turn evil.  Oswald’s death was utterly unnecessary, to the point of leaving an extremely bad taste in my mouth.  The mere fact that Moffat is bringing that character back for series 9 tells me he realizes how big of a mistake he made there.  And the so-called “tribute” to the Brigadier was gut-wrenchingly disgusting.  No.  Just no.  Plus … based on what was depicted here, can we assume that every single companion that has died on Earth has been Cyber-ressurected?  Amy?  Rory?  Jamie?!?  Funny thing is, with the recent announcement that this will be shown in cinemas in 3D, I asked my kids if they want to go and … nope.  No interest whatsoever.  This was so bad that they do not want to see it again, at all, not even for the gimmick of big-screen 3D.

Last Christmas – Not bad.  Well … not entirely bad.  Still a few missed opportunities.  Again, another groan out loud when I found out Santa was going to be involved, but Nick Frost sold it to me.  The dream crabs were get-under-your-skin creepy, and I loved the constant playing around with concepts of reality.  And Faye Marsay absolutely rocked!  But my biggest problem (which also relates to the end of Death In Heaven) is how many times are they going to tease Clara leaving?  Originally Jenna Coleman was set to leave the show, and then she wasn’t, and then she was again, and now she’s not again!  Screw that.  I’m tired of Clara.  I would much much rather see her leave for good and have this Doctor take Shona on a trip to go back and pick up Journey Blue.

So overall, some pretty mixed feelings here.  The highs of the series were pretty high, but the lows were pretty low.

My final tally, in order of how much I enjoyed the stories:

1) Mummy On The Orient Express
2) Flatline
3) Time Heist
4) The Caretaker
5) Robot Of Sherwood
6) Into The Dalek
7) Last Christmas
8) Listen
9) Kill The Moon
10) Dark Water/Death In Heaven
11) In The Forest Of The Night
12) Deep Breath

 

Jurassic World

Sigh.  The few reviews I read about this ahead of time were pretty mixed, so this is yet another film that I went into with lowered expectations.

Oh dear.  That is one big pile of shit.

I’m convinced that two more script revisions and some extra thought given to the casting process is all they would’ve needed to turn this into a fantastic piece of moviemaking.  Alas, no.  Most of it is crap.  Watching this on the big screen was a major waste of time and money for me.

Where do I start?  The script: stupid people doing stupid things, with too many blatant attempts at homages to classic scenes from the first film.  Every time I hit one of those moments, it pulled me out of the story.  With the exception of Owen and Barry, the characters weren’t characters; they were caricatures at best, completely cardboard at worst.  (And I had to actually look up the name of Omar Sy’s character, because I don’t even remember anyone ever calling him by name in the film.)  I’m also convinced that Owen and Barry were as good as they were entirely because of Chris Pratt’s and Omar Sy’s acting abilities and personalities, not because of how the screenwriters depicted them.

The cast: Chris Pratt and Omar Sy were excellent.  Everyone else could be flushed down the toilet for all I care.  Especially the two lead kids.  For the love of all you consider holy, if you are going to have kids carry two of the lead roles, you have to make sure that the child actors are able to make us care enough about the kids to carry us along for the emotional ride.  Rooting for the dinos to rip people apart here is like rooting for the zombies to rip people apart on The Walking Dead.  I desperately wanted these two kids to be shredded and eaten alive, and was tremendously disappointed when that didn’t happen.

Likewise for Bryce Dallas Howard.  Are you telling me that Claire *REALLY* can run all over the place like that in those shoes?!?  Plus, earlier in the film she is in a near panic, desperately forcing Owen to take her out into the park to rescue the two boys.  Then what happens?  They stop.  For a long time.  To have a pseudo-emotional moment with a dying apatosaurus.  What the fuck?!?  From a character standpoint, that makes *NO* sense!  It does make sense for Pratt’s character, but not for Howard, at least not in the sequence of moments leading up to that scene.

And I’m sorry, but the mosasaurus moments were all blatantly telegraphed in advance.  What could have been two really cool bits were spoiled by foreshadowing heavy enough to slap you in the face.

Lastly, are you telling me that, after laying completely dormant for 20ish years, there is still enough juice in the batteries to power that pair of night vision goggles and to get one of those jeeps started?  I really don’t think so.

I’ve had enough.  This is the worst of the Jurassic Park series.  I’ll rewatch The Lost World again before I’ll rewatch this one.

But … in the meantime … this is FANTASTIC:

 

 

The Last Man On Earth

I originally had no interest in this show, but I decided to give it a try because I heard through the grapevine that it was good, that it was funny and that it was rather well written.

It might be well written, but it’s written well enough to make me actively dislike both of the main characters.  And if I don’t like the only two characters in a show, I won’t be watching the show.

I did consider it watchable until Kristen Schaal appeared.  From that point, none of the interactions between the characters were even enjoyable, let alone humorous.  If I ended up in Will Forte’s shoes, I would eventually be forced to treat her the way Walter treated Genevieve in Ray Bradbury’s “The Silent Towns.”

When I get a total of zero laughs out of the first two episodes of a new (supposed) comedy, there’s no point in me wasting any further time watching it.  So much for that.

 

Predestination

“I’m an unmarried mother — at four cents a word. I write confession stories.”

Wow.  wow.  Just …. wow.

I first read the original source material, Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies,” back in high school.  Growing up watching Doctor Who made me kind of jaded when it comes to stories involving time travel, but “All You Zombies” totally upended the concept for me.

“Never do yesterday what should be done tomorrow.”

I figured the original story was unfilmable, so I never expected to see anyone develop a film based on it.  But here come the Spierig Brothers, and >BOOM< Predestination hits all of the right marks.  I was a little disappointed at first in them building up the whole Fizzle Bomber conceit, as if they felt they needed to shoehorn in an action-based subplot to pad out the film, but the ultimate conclusion left me more than satisfied. I have to say I think this is a very valid film adaptation of Heinlein’s work.

“If at last you do succeed, never try again.”

Ethan Hawke was good, but Sarah Snook was just fantastic.  After watching the film, I had to sit down and watch the “making of” featurette in its entirety.  Her level of creating the character that she played was as mind-boggling as Heinlein’s original concept.

And I cannot tell you the amount of joy I experienced in finally hearing someone say “A paradox may be paradoctored” in a film!

“I miss you dreadfully!”

Wow.