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…we came in?

A few years back, in the early part of my relationship with the woman I proudly call my best friend/wife/listener to the worst of my pop culture rants, I used to have a terrible time shutting my brain off. I’d start thinking about little things that bugged me. Really pointless inconsequential things. These little ticks would snowball and before I knew it, I’d be turning to my best friend/wife/person who makes a cracking stir fry and cry, ‘I’ve done it again. I’ve thought too much.’ I could construct monuments to paranoia and anger; the biggest ball of introspection in the west. After a while, I managed to sort it out and can get through the day quite reasonably without starting a fight with myself…

I’m sure everyone has a similar story, which is why the latest episode of Doctor Who, Listen, worked so well. We’ve all talked to ourselves, we’ve all debated ourselves into a knot and we’ve all thought about the worst case scenario. And that’s where we find the Doctor; talked into a corner by himself and trying to find out whose fault it is.

Grabbing an almost unwilling Clara, The Doctor bounces around time trying to work out why we all talk to ourselves and why we sometimes have that sense of dread that we’re not alone. The genius of this episode is how Steve Moffatt manages to lay out two co-existing plots here, and I’m not just talking about the sub-plot with Danny Pink, but we’ll get to that. No, I’m referring to the following:

Storyline 1: The Doctor believes there is a creature out there with a terrific ability to hide. You can feel it just behind when you’re in the dark. It plays with you by moving things around. Everyone at some point in time will meet it. The Doctor pieces together the clues to hunt it down.

Storyline 2: Lost in thought he recalls a time in his childhood when he felt most terrified. The Doctor begins to overthink things, which leads him into failing to see the woods for the trees. He turns a molehill of a memory into a mountain of misunderstanding, corrupting the facts to fit his hypothesis.

Look on the internet and you’ll see that people are divided as to whether there was anything out there. Even when there’s other witnesses, such as a young Danny Pink and his descendent Orson Pink, the story is written to fit a number of conclusions. Young Danny could be the victim of a practical joke, whilst Orson has been on his own for so long his mind is playing tricks on him. Or maybe not?

Staying focused on Danny for a moment; He is, for me, fast becoming our sense of reality on Doctor Who. He’s Wilfred. He’s Jackie Tyler and Mickey Smith. Suffering from PTSD, part of me feel he’s  a reason for Clara to stay in the present should the opportunity arise. But then, Orson did mention that one of his great-grandparents used to tell him stories about time travel… Why must we assume that it’s Clara? To assume that is to assume everything works out for Danny and her in the end. I don’t think Moffat works like that. Danny may step on board the TARDIS one day, but I’m not sure he’ll be with Clara forever. Especially if she continues to put in her foot in her mouth. She may very well be able to stand up to alien creatures and overlords, but she is not so good on a first date.

And then there’s that scene in the barn and a young weeping time lord. Some will, or already have, cried foul. Ooh, Moffat is messing with Doctor Who canon, blah, blah! But then those people, politely, need to get over themselves. Not to sound dismissive, but as the last 50 years of Doctor Who have been built on chopping and changing the show’s canon, I couldn’t care less. Whenever you get really angry about someone changing something in the show you hold dear, just remember that a long time ago, Doctor Who was about an old man with a time machine and one heart. Psychic paper, time lords, Adric and regeneration limits were the stuff of fancy. Times change and so must we.

Anyway, yes, it all turns out that the Doctor was comforted back to sleep by Clara, who soothed him with words she learnt from the older him only hours earlier. And then, and THEN! She ends up telling him something that he’ll end up saying when he kidnaps a couple of teachers in his future. It turned my brain in to a pretzel, but I loved it and, honestly, it brought a tear to my eye.

Listen was a brilliant episode and possibly one of Moffat’s best since Blink. Since the problematic sixth season, he has been upping his game and if this is the kind of thing he can do, then I look forward to more of the same. Come on Moffat. I know you’ve got it in you.

And then I began to think… How do we actually know that it was the Doctor Clara was talking to? Who’s to say that it wasn’t a young boy who had stared into the time vortex and was driven mad? Who’s to say that Clara’s soothing words weren’t accidental encouragement for a pre-destined goateed maniac who will try and conquer 1970s UK and then the world? Look, I’m not saying it WAS the Master, but it could have been. But it probably wasn’t. But it could have been. Though it’s doubtful. But it might not be. I’m drifting. Have I ever told you I over think things?

Isn’t this where…

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

Warning: We’ve tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but please advised that if you’ve still yet to see the 50th Anniversary Special of Doctor Who, you’re best looking elsewhere for now.

You’ll have to have been trapped in some distant nebula to not know that that Doctor Who is now into its 50th year. As part of the celebrations, the anniversary special has made it the cinemas in glorious 3D – and not 12D as the good Doctor (Matt Smith) suggests in the opening promo.

Steven Moffat was always going to have to a hard time of it with The Day of the Doctor. On the one hand, we have the hardcore, dyed in the wool fans who want to see a special that carts out William Hartnell’s corpse to appease them. To them the show goes beyond pin-up boy David Tennant and his lovey-dovey Doctor. They want a dark doctor! On the other hand, we have the youngsters, the ones who helped make the show’s resurgence. They embraced Russell T. Davies’ reboot and The Day of the Doctor should acknowledge them. And on the third hand – This is sci-fi! We’re allowed three hands – there will be people who know Doctor Who as nothing more than that show with the metal pepperpots, and will be tuning in to see what all the fuss is about.

So, how did it go?

Well, pretty well actually. In fact, very well. In actual fact, we’re still recovering from it all.

Moffat seems to have managed to address concerns on all fronts; embracing the show’s canon, whilst providing a narrative that embraces newcomers one and all. A series of events leads to three incarnations of the Doctor having to join forces to save the world from the Zygons. Well, that’s not really the A-Story, but it’s the one we’re going to tell you. The Day of the Doctor is a bit like opening presents on Christmas Day. You don’t really know what you’ve got until you open them, and then there’s that giddy joy of finding one or two extras tucked away behind the tree. From Gallifrey, to long scarves, to mockney accents, references appear like little chunky nuggets of fun that won’t confuse the casual viewer.

It’s not just Moffat’s script that’s worth mention, Nick Hurran’s direction is particularly dynamic. It’s very easy for a show-runner to say his script is dynamic, but it’s the director that has to realise it. From to barren deserts to war-torn cities, Hurran has added some real weight to the visuals. We are far, far, far from the days when two school teachers turned up at a junkyard to talk to an old man in a blue box.

Whilst we take a break from the gushing praise, we should address the elephant in the room. John Hurt. Yes, he’s a forgotten Doctor, but it’s quite obvious that the character was originally the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston. Whilst Moffat has provided a backstory to explain all this away, it does irk a little. But only a little. Hurt is superb as the earlier and grumpier incarnation of Smith and Tennant. He acts as a bridge not only from the classic series to the new, but he also plays mouthpiece to the numerous old school fans who have had quibbles with the new show’s tropes, such as the overuse of sonic screwdrivers as a weapon. ‘What are you going to do? Assemble a wardrobe at them?!’

The other major problem is a cameo from the show’s past that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really add anything to the story. But then again, who are we to fault a desire to please everyone.

The Day of the Doctor is a funny, moving, fast paced adventure. It’s big and bold and it’s a standing testament to the endurance of the show. Not bad for something that was cobbled together 50 years ago to fill a gap between the football and Top of the Pops. Not bad at all.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

Afflicted (2014)

August 3, 2014 — Leave a comment

 

Another film festival, another found footage film. We can hear the deep sigh from the backroom. But hold on there young Bucky, before you join the other detractors to stroke your chins and cry, ‘what is to be done with this world?’, we want to introduce you to Afflicted. We think you may like it.

Written, starring and directed by Cliff Prowse and Derek Lee, Afflicted pitches it stall as a series of video blogs presented by two best friends, Cliff and Derek (yes, they use their own names as well). Derek suffers from a cerebral arteriovenous malformation, suggesting that each day may be his last. Refusing to sit down and take, he and Cliff embark on a yearlong around the world trip. When the boys set up digs in Paris, and after picking up in a bar, Derek is found unconscious in his hotel room. Over the next few days, he begins to exhibit feats of super strength and speed. Unfortunately, he also displays signs of being deeply unwell. And from this point on, the film finds its reason to not ‘put the camera down man’. Cliff, worried about his friend, continues to upload videos to their blog in the hopes that friends and family can encourage him to seek medical help.

Those with a common understanding of supernatural lore will twig to what’s happening to Derek long before our heroes do. But then, the filmmakers probably know you will and, like the Sci-Fi Chronicle, they’re happy to lounge around playing with Derek’s new found powers. Once the situation becomes serious, the film takes the viewer down a dark alley and Derek begins to struggle with what he’s becoming. At times, the film can be unbearably tense as Derek’s nighttime shenanigans begin to encroach on Cliff’s safety.

Whilst both Lee and Prowse give strong performances playing themselves, it’s the set pieces that will stay with you long after you walk away. The film doesn’t try to con you by having things happening off camera, which tends to be a shorthand technique used in the usual found footage fare. The characters of Derek and Cliff mean that they try to get literally everything on tape. Hopefully, without giving much away, a shoot out in a Parisian apartment is a particular highlight.

A nerve rattling popcorn muncher, Afflicted is a fantastic example that there is still fresh blood to be found in the most tired of genres. We can’t help but look forward to seeing what this filmmaking duo give us next.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

What do you think when we say New Zealand? Maoris? Lamb? Chups? Hobbits? Kiwi comedy, What We Do in The Shadows would like to draw your attention to its undead quota. Namely Vampires. In this faux-documentary written by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, four bloodsuckers form a house share in Wellington. Rising everyday at 6pm, they’re bogged down in the same politics all houses shares have; fighting about housework, going on a lads night out and tidying away spinal columns left on the floor. We’ve all been there. When a freshly turned vampire moves in with his human friend, they are forced to adapt to a new way of life.

The joy of What We Do in The Shadows is watching how the macabre is turned down to mundane. Yes, you can live forever, but how do you get into the hottest nightclub in Wellington when vampire lore states explicitly that you have to be invited into any building? And for that matter, how do you dress if you can’t see yourself in the mirror? Clement and Waititi’s film develops some novel twists on the stereotypes we’ve come to expect from Nosferatu. Want to know why Dracula always drank virgin blood? Well, Vlad has a rather astute analogy involving sandwiches, if you care to hear. And it doesn’t just stop with digs at the supernatural, the film is equally at home exposing the tropes of the documentary genre.

From beginning to end, the laughs come thick and fast and a cameo from Rhys Darby will readdress any support you had for Team Jacob during the Twilight’s heyday. Occasionally, to the film’s credit, the merriment takes a backseat to allow the film to pump some pathos through its veins. Either through Viago, the lovestruck, foppish member of the house (played brilliantly by Waititi) pining for love, or party-vamp Deacon lamenting the loss of friends to swans.

It’s all so deliciously funny and if What We Do in The Shadows doesn’t raise at least a titter from you, then you might want to check you’re not one of the undead yourself.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

Bullying in all forms should not be tolerated.

See that sentence? It’s pretty clear and concise, but unfortunately it doesn’t end the problem. It’s like saying, if we all turn our backs on Justin Bieber he’ll eventually get the idea and skip back across the border to Canada.

VH-1, the grown up home for grown-ups for grown up music like Maroon 5, has waded into the topic of bullying with a public service announcement aimed squarely at the bullies. ‘See that child,’ it cries, ‘See how you introduce his head to the contents of the toilet bowl in front of you. One day, oh one fine day, he will be an adult and you better brace yourselves. Because he is going to make your life a living hell.’

Yes, rather than pointing out that debagging someone for your amusement is a shitty thing to do and let’s be honest we’re all humans at the end of the day, so let’s just all get along; VH-1 is appealing to the menacing masses with the suggestion that what you do now will impact on you in the next life. Much like God did in the popular book, The Bible, but with the next life being eternal damnation in an office cubicle being crushed under foot by the girl you called Smelly Kelly.

One of the problems here, aside from suggesting all bullying is merely physical, is kids don’t work like that. As they’re writing another comment on Kevin’s Facebook wall about how he should just die, they’re unlikely to stop when you intervene with a glimpse of a future where Kevin is your boss and refusing you some leave. If anything, it’ll spur them on to punish them for future crimes like their Tom Cruise in Minority Report. I knew someone in college(!) who mocked me regularly because one day I might be rich like Bill Gates. In a future he’d created, I could have enough money to send a militia to his house and make him dance in his pants. This didn’t stop him lobbing bottles at my head. Well, jokes on them, I’m not rich. Ha! Bet they feel foolish now.

And there’s that other problem, where the ad suggests that bullying is just a right of passage with the dividends being a chance to spend your adult life being shitty to others. Again, this is not how bullying works. Victims do not all become vindictive with a thirst for their tormentors head on a spike. Often they become introverted and lose a part of themselves they’ll never get back.

VH-1’s intentions are admirable. Topics like bullying need to be addressed. But it needs to be taken more seriously than with a parody of Donna Summers. In real life, no matter how hard a child sings I Will Survive, they sometimes don’t.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.