Monday, 28 August 2017

TELOS: Shell Shock

It took this long to get a Sixth Doctor adventure and… it doens’t feel like one. Simon A. Forward is trying something rather different with this story, and it feels incomplete.

The Doctor ends up on a beach and Peri ends up dead, and there are crab soldiers. Beyond that, we keep going with the crab soldiers for a while, with a big enemy eventually turning up to kick off the end scenes and then the story finishes.

The problem is that this feels like it has some ideas in it, and the story was written to get them together, but the story isn’t working as that’s the only thing it has going for it. And the ideas aren’t really that good. (There is a horror of war concept, and crab soldiers starter, and that’s about it.) Even the big deal of The Memory doesn’t come across so I’m not sure if Simon worked it out properly.

Then there’s the Doctor, which hardly feels like any Doctor, let alone being played by Colin Baker. Maybe Troughton would have been better, but then you’d have to deal with his companions, and what Simon puts Peri through is hard enough for him to deal with for one companion.

Not a great story, let’s roll on shall we?


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Saturday, 26 August 2017

Universal 1932B

Before Cruise, before Fraser, there was... The Mummy!

A mummy is uncovered but also a box that is warned not be opened... so they leave it alone and this movie is over! Or someone opens it, Imhotep wakes up and takes off (there is a great moment where the person who sees this completely fails their sanity check and goes crackers). Later (as in some years later) this random guide who looks like a revived mummy points at the tomb of the queen and plans to resurrect her, using the body of the nearby hottie of the lead. The lead is too busy getting caught up in the possible threat of Imhotep to notice a mere guard, so Imhotep gets his way... until she basically says no and he dies.

Seriously, spoilers and all that, but the bad guy is defeated by the lady saying "hey, lady god, can you get rid of this guy?" Deus ex nilhio really. And this is after a movie of... I can see why various reboots put action sections in, because in this movie there is a lot of talk about how menacing Imhotep is, or how dangerous this thing is... but talk is all we get! There are two moments that at best are action beats, but not even then.

At least Boris Karloff gets some good make up, although the amount of desiccation on his face varies from shot to shot. He gets a marvelous threatening presence and a wonderful low toned voice to his speaking... but that's all there is.

So it does build some atmosphere, but doesn't pay it off well.


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Friday, 25 August 2017

Next Generation The 4!

Some decent episodes and getting rid of Wesley, okay, this is a season I'll pay attention to.

There are definite possibilities for Star Trek to do Horror. It can do a great set up, you've got lots of psuedo-scientific ideas to draw on... the only problem is when it goes there, the episode starts focusing more on one particular character and then we slide into just another character story and the horror aspect goes out the window. Which should be good, character development yay!, but just ruins the tone of the episode. You've got Clues, Identity Crisis, and the great episode Remember Me as examples. This says to me we really need a good future sci-fi/horror series, but we don't have one.

We also have some decent comedy episodes with The Nth Degree, Qpid (to an extent) and Data's Day. And dramatic episodes like The Loss, The Drumhead and Half A Life. (And Riker has to take one for the team in First Contact.)

So yeah, some good stuff here, even if the Klingon opera ramps up more.


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Monday, 21 August 2017

TELOS: Wonderland

Okay, let’s put a story during the druggie hippies days… and make it as depressing as possible. Thank you Mark Chedbourn.

I hope you like Haight-Ashbury, because we get that a lot. Most of this story is flashback to the Summer of Love, as told by Summer, in a story involving drugs doing weird things to people, and the Doctor eventually getting involved. “Eventually” as he is presented as presented as very aloof, with Ben and Polly being the more relatable people of the crew. However, we get the non-flashback parts, and they are so down, it’s like a bad acid trip we are stuck in. (I guess, I don’t know acid trips.)

It’s not terrible, and Mark does seem to capture the time and language well, but it just feels miserable most of the time that I just don’t care. It became a bit of a slog to get through parts of it...although the end “twist” is well enough done. But speaking of the ending, Mark does give into Trope at the end.

And with this story we get a repeat use of the Second Doctor before we get either the Fifth or Sixth.


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Saturday, 19 August 2017

Universal 1932A

Right, let's loosely base a movie on the book. Let's just add a new character and change the nature of the villain. Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Visiting the local carny, two couples meet a human ape (which is a lot like a normal ape, expect he has a good PR man) and his PR man Dr Mirakle. One of the men is also interested in the local murders (in the Rue Morgue!), and Mirakle takes a rather too interested interest in his damsel. Eventually the good guys realise that the murders are due to people being injected with ape blood, and Dr Mirakle sends the ape to get the dame. However, the ape kills the doctor and the guy kills the ape. No-one says "'Twas Beauty that killed the Beast", but I kept expecting it.

Dr Mirakle is the sort of inserting you get when you say "we have an ape, but what we really want is a human protagonist, even if they had nothing to do with the original story". Although this does give a good chance for Bela Lugosi to ham it up on screen.

Again we have a problem with a lack of sound. While some scenes get natural sound, most of the time we get large slabs of silence. Come on, Universal, get rid of that!


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Friday, 18 August 2017

Next Generation The 3!

And so we get the full on cast for the rest of the series, with minor variations of minor members.

And yet, when I'm scanning through the episode listing, all I can think now is "ugh". Mainly because the character sentiment overrides the actual story. That said, we do have some good episodes. Powerless Q, return of Tasha Yar, the introduction of Vash and Barcley. And there are a few with actual interesting character motivation, such as The Most Toys which leads to Data's gun fire. And Sarak in which Picard has to do a long take.

But we also get the start of the Klingon fascination and endless Empire development. I don't find the Klingons that interesting, and now we are about the head deep into their mythology. Sigh.

And of course we end on a big cliffhanger of the Borg. Now I do have the BluRay set and such, but can't say that I was more impressed by the Borg now than before. Although this is largely set up to the big set piece next season, which, as is pointed out in the documentary/commentaries, was not meant to be written by Michael Piller, but they kept him on...


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Monday, 14 August 2017

TELOS: Rip Tide

Wow, this is the longest novella so far. It’s even longer than most Target novelisations! And yet…

We are at an English beach down near Cornwell (if it is at an actual place, I’m not going to know that). We follow lifeguard Steve and his sister Nina as they encounter some odd figures and slowly strange events happen. One odd figure is Ruth, and the other is the Doctor.

It takes a while for the Doctor to actually be in the story. In fact, it takes a while for the story to be in the story. Louise Cooper takes her time setting the scene, and there are some scenes that are very well described indeed, but mostly it just feels like a lot of time is passing without anything happening. That is not a gripping novel. Oh, and since I’m critiquing, we get scenes where the third person perspective changes from character to character from one paragraph to the next. Now that is given as a classic example of bad writing, and that’s for a point because it is very jarring.

Nice description, but it goes on longer than needed.


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Saturday, 12 August 2017

Universal 1931B

The same year, another classic, Frankenstein.

Henry Frankenstein has odd ideas about surgery and with the help of Fritz he pulls together a plan to pull together a man. His friends find out about this, and want in, and they all witness the birth of the creature. However, it's a terrible thing that goes wrong, so they have him put down. Only the creature escapes and crashes a little girl, the wedding and then a windmill.

While this is another talkie, and there is a lack of musical score, this works a lot better because there is actual background sound throughout most of the scenes, creating a great atmosphere. This is why I say we don't need musical scores. Admittedly they could turn down the lightning a tad, but there's there's a decent soundscape happening that keeps things going.

Better performances too, including from Edward Van Sloan and of course Dwight Frye. And Boris Karloff may not get many lines, but he can leer with the best of them.

Definitely the better of the two movies this year.


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Friday, 11 August 2017

Next Generation The 2!

On to the two most notable changes: Whoopi Goldberg and Riker's beard!

Let's immediately point out two episodes, The Measure of Man and Matter of Honor. These are great episodes with drama in different directions. However, we also have Time Squared, and one of the worst episodes I tried to rewrite it as a Doctor Who story The Royale. This is a season of differences, we have the one and only flashback episode, but then we also have Unnatural Selection.

Yes, I'm going to come out here on the side of Pulaski. Diane Mulder gives a great performance, and I far prefer her over Beverly Crusher. But I'm in the minority and there were salary disputes involved, and fans demanded the return of Beverly. Oh, and as I mentioned, we also get Guinan the mysterious bartender, who would have a random collection of plot required abilities over the seasons. And large hats. Mainly large hats.

And then there are the Borg. The remastering here should make this look a lot better, but it makes the matte painting really obvious and they retained the props and the quality of the shot of the props, so not really. Oh, and this was back when the Borg were potentially a menace, unlike the nerfed appearances they would make later.

With Pulaski checking out, what is the point watching any more really?


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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Batomic Londe

So kickass female hero? I have to see this right?

This is more spy thriller than action flick, as we are when the Berlin wall is coming down. The Mcguffin is the standard "list of spies" which Theron is sent to find, and we get a ready supply of unreliable characters to get in the way and possibly help. To be honest, you've probably guessed most of the plot already just from that, but we do have action scenes.

Kinda. There are a couple, and a big set piece, although (I really am too cynical) I spent a bit of time going "and that's a hidden cut there" and working out how the scenes were put together. And although it isn't cut to music in the same way that Baby Driver was, there is a lot of 80s hits here.

And I'm also guessing the IMDB trivia/goofs page will be chocka with millions of tiny little anachronistic moments most of us don't care about.

Decent performances, but overall this felt more middling than the action movie people were thinking it was going to be.


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Monday, 7 August 2017

TELOS: Foreign Devils

This is a bit more like a classic DW story, this time told by Andrew Cartmel. No particular gimmick of language or concept, just a story told short. (Because it does sort of feel like a longer story that’s been truncated a bit.)

This also features Carnacki, a creation of William Hope Hodgson, who might well have out Lovecrafted Lovecraft if he had lived longer. It’s pretty good characterisation, and this volume contains The Whispering Room to compare with.

This is a horror story that ramps up from strange death to being in the void. In this is the Second Doctor and Zoe. Jamie is around, sort of, but is basically out of the story. And often Zoe is viewed as a creature to be leered upon (but methinks the author doth protest too much about that).

In that this is a more standard adventure it is a departure from the standard fare so far. But that this is a good story I welcome it, which makes this the better of the stories so far.


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Saturday, 5 August 2017

Universal 1931A

It's been a few years, and there are quite a few changes, and we get into it with a big name, Dracula.

While we know the story, in this version we start with Renfield coming to Dracula and falling under his power, and they move to London. While the ship crew is rather... dead, and Renfield is insane (complete with eating spiders). Dracula meets the Harkers and co and is rather quicker in killing. However Van Helsing is on the case, and when Mina is threatened they instantly manage to track down Dracula's casket and stabby time.

This is a quicker retelling of the story, and... it feels very sterile. We have actual dialogue now, not just a music score, and... Now, this goes against things I have said, but without a musical score the scenes are just large parts of empty air with odd bits of dialogue. Yes, Bela Lugosi gives a good performance, although mainly when in a single shot with the right light setup. And Dwight Frye is an early Jim Carrey. But Edward Van Sloan is not a good performance.

As an early talkie, they've got some way to go.


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Friday, 4 August 2017

Next Generation The 1!

I watched the Original Series a while ago, so I would get around to TNG. However, not just any TNG, but the BluRay Remastered Sets!

Season 1 gets a lot of stick, for episodes like Code of Honor and Angel One and... yeah, deservedly so, really. But then it has episodes like The Last Outpost, Datalore, and.. well, there are adequate episodes. A lot of episodes have some good ideas, like Home Soil and Too Short a Season, but don't quite manage to put it off entirely.

Now, we do get a different take on the whole crew, and the idea of the Captain not being the one at the center of away missions (which would last only as long as Patrick Stewart didn't complain to the writers). And, to be fair, they did have too many characters, but what they did to Yar was just stupid.

And this is the remastered. Call it 'memory cheating' but the amazing new picture quality isn't that amazing. Sure, you can tell when it's gone back to the old style footage, but the cleaned up version still has quality issues to it. As for the new effects... without the old side by side, it's hard to tell that it is amazingly new. It's been ages since I've seen the episodes, so I'm not blown away by how good they look now.

Due to the VHS released, I am familiar with a lot of these episodes, and not that avid about these episodes, so only good things to come?


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