Doctor Who: Deep Breath (2014)

Last year, the BBC graced upon us the opportunity to see Doctor Who on the big screen in lieu of a full length feature ever appearing. Last time it was all chins, old faces and Zygons for the show’s 50th anniversary and then last year, it was regenerations, steampunk and dinosaurs in the series 8 opening, Deep Breath.

Bursting onto our screens literally like a belch from a T-Rex, Deep Breath hit the ground running acting as a reboot, relaunch and continuation all in one feature length portion. The Doctor may look older, but the show appeared to have undergone a bit of a renaissance.

After the baddy stuffed, exposition overload that had been the previous Christmas special, showrunner Steven Moffatt wiped the table clean of all his timey wimey, Silence Will FALL, ‘I can’t go back for Amy. No, really I can’t. I’m not listening, lalalala’ bag of tricks, to focus on a lean plot that managed to sow the seeds for future plot lines in a manner reminiscent of the Davies era.

Ben Wheatley (A Field in England) took over directing duties, which certainly gave the whole thing a bit of oomph; a meaningless word and one which doesn’t do his work justice, but it’s done now. There were some glorious set pieces, from a T-Rex on fire, Peter Capaldi riding a horse through London in his jim-jams and, let us not forget, the spine-tingling and tense scene of Clara holding her breath. It doesn’t sound much on paper, but revisiting the scene still gives chills.

Having been painted into a corner (in the nicest possible way) last season, Jenna Coleman had her role beefed up. Not that the Impossible Girl wasn’t beefy last year. She was just more beef flavoured. Oxo cubes; the role was the equivalent Oxo cubes. Yes, let’s stick with that.

This time around, relating it back to the Davies era, here was a companion ready to think on her feet and fend for herself. Admittedly, the opportunity arose because she was left with her backside in the breeze by a still-percolating Doctor. ‘We can’t risk both getting caught.’ The Doctor said, skirting ever so close to his time during The Twin Dilemma. Of course, as the series progressed, there would be further examples of her being left out to dry, but Clara managed to scrabble back her dignity and eventually became The Doctor. If only for a short time.

Speaking of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi has certainly become one of the more iconic interpretations. He’s rude, impertinent, insulting, confused, loving, unable to do hugs and prone to throwing people onto church steeples. In short: brilliant. If his previous incarnation could be seen as a midlife crisis wrapped in a new face and tweed, then here was a teenager in middle age clothing. Sensing that an old Doctor might put off the kids – sorry folks, we need to remember, this show is always about the kids first and foremost – time was taken to ease the nippers into this new fierce face. All of which was topped off by a cameo by Matt Smith lovingly telling Clara (i.e. us) that he is he, and he is he and we are altogether.

Let’s not forget the return of the Paternoster Gang, clockwork baddies and new potential baddy, Missy played by the always brilliant Michelle Gomez. Of course, we all know what happened to her. Or do we? Deep Breath was bursting with fun and was the perfect jumping on point for those who still hadn’t dabbled in Nu-Who over the last ten years.

Here’s to keeping our fingers crossed that the momentum can be kept up as the ninth season approaches.

Here’s hoping.

Deep breath everyone.


The World’s End (2013) “Just 3 cornettos, give them to me”

2004 saw the big screen debut of the comedy triumvirate that is Simon Pegg, best mate Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. What they gave us was, quite frankly, fucking brilliant. Shaun of the Dead is a brilliant homage to the zombie greats that have gone before, paying particular reverence to all things George A Romero, (all hail to the king). It was so good that Romero himself is a huge fan of the film.

2007 then brought us part 2 of the 3 flavours Cornetto trilogy. This time spoofing/loving/improving on the action movie genre. Hot Fuzz is a film that just gets better and better with repeat viewings (something we think will be true of this one as well). Once again the trio of Spaced alumni absolutely nailed it.
2013 The World’s End. The finale. If they were worried about their ability to bottle lightning for a third time, they really shouldn’t have. They’ve nailed it again.

The World’s End sees a tonal shift from the gang. Gone is Pegg and Frosts buddy buddy shtick, instead they are former best friends who were driven apart by an event in their past. Also gone is Simon Pegg as a loveable slacker or an uber cop, here he is barely likable as Gary ‘The King’ King, one time most popular kid in school now…..a bit of a twat.

The confidence of the 3 writers here is obvious. They trust the script enough to allow it a slow start. A very slow start. We are sloooowly introduced to the main players as King runs round trying to put the band back together to take on ‘The Golden Mile’. A stretch of 12 pubs, (1 pint in each), that they attempted but failed to conquer when they were 17. We meet Nick Frost as Andrew, a corporate lawyer, Paddy Considine as Steven a successful developer, Eddie Marsan (excellent) as the formerly bullied Peter and finally Martin Freeman as  Oliver or Oman as Gary likes to call him.

Fortunately for the film once they get back together and head back to their old stomping ground of Newton Haven it gathers pace in double-quick time. After they settle in to their old banter routines, (it’s obvious how close they all are off-screen as some of the interplay flows as well as any you’re ever likely to see) the reveal of the aliens who have taken over the town happens almost immediately. Cue a brilliant fight scene in a toilet, a wonderful moment when a very drunk gang try to figure out a name for the invaders, a scene that Buster Keaton would be proud of when Gary is trying to fight off an invader whilst not spilling his pint and a scene stealing turn from the bloke who plays the caretaker from the Harry Potter films.

Whereas in the previous 2 films Pegg was clearly the star here it is Frost who steals the show. He is excellent and very funny throughout. He carries the emotional scenes brilliantly and is quite the mover when it comes to a fight sequence. Who’d have thunk it. All of the main cast are great and ably supported by those around them, particularly Rossamund Pike as Oliver’s sister and the object of both Gary and Steven’s affections. Both get some great lines to share with her including, “I love you…I always have. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve had 7 pints” and Gary’s “We’ll always have the disableds” which is as beautifully written a line as you will ever hear.

What follows is a couple of rug pulls and lots of running, jumping and whacking people with bar stools all done with plenty of vim and vigour. We did have to question how they were all such brilliant fighters but we’ll let it slide because it was so much fun we didn’t really care.

If you are a fan of Pegg, Frost and Wright then you should love this film. It ticks all the boxes and is different enough from what’s gone before to be interesting while not so different that you will be scared off.
And if you aren’t a fan of these 3 we think you will be by pint 12.

The World’s End is out now and well worth a watch.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Three years ago JJ Abrams took on possibly the bravest undertaking of his meteoric rise to prominence by agreeing to direct the Star Trek reboot / reimagining / re….whatever you want to call it. Fan boys and geeks everywhere went into meltdown and feared the worst. However, what followed was ludicrously good fun.

Few would deny that 2009’s Star Trek was exactly what a summer blockbuster should be. It was exciting, loud, brash and unashamedly geeky. It wasn’t without its faults of course, most notably a gaping plot hole that we still can’t quite understand how it escaped everyone’s notice. (If Nero had traveled back in time why didn’t he just go and warn Romulus before it was destroyed instead of waiting 30 years for Spock?) That aside, though it was a joy.

For the most part Abrams steered clear of shoehorning in references to the original series or the films, which we think was hugely to his credit. It allowed viewers who may not have previously been fans to access this Star Trek universe without needing any knowledge of Shatner, Nimoy et al.

And it’s here that Into Darkness really falls down. There are just too many references and overt nods to both the series and the films. So much so that my companion was left feeling completely alienated by the in jokes and references to what has gone before. We assumed that after cleverly creating an alternate universe in the first film that we would avoid this, sadly not. A lot of the time we caught ourselves thinking  “Really? Did they need to do that? Is this just a reboot of another of the films? That makes no sense.” And finally “WHAT!!!!! YOU CAN’T SAY THAT……THAT’S NOT EVEN YOUR LINE”.

Abrams also seems to struggle to know what to do with any of his female characters. For the most part they are just used as exposition or are just shown in their underwear.

The film itself delivers plenty of bang for your buck in the effects and wow factor stakes. There are a couple of scenes that are draw droppingly good, especially the opening. We are reintroduced to the crew of the Enterprise as they are chased by a primitive tribe on a faraway planet as they try to avoid breaking the prime directive, (you can’t interfere with the development of another species – I’m not sure that Kirk’s libido got that memo in the original series though) with limited success almost resulting in one crew members death.

Meanwhile back on earth we meet the film’s big bad – JOHN HARRISON. Hardly a name that strikes fear into your heart. As it turns out he is formerly of Star Fleet and has turned terrorist against his former employers. Benedict Cumberbatch is clearly having a whale of a time, he chews his way through scenery while still sounding like he has plums in his mouth. (Steady) He commits an act of horror against the Star Fleet big wigs and then promptly scarpers to Kronos, (the Klingon home world) where he cannot be followed. We get to see some of the old Cornish Pasty faced warriors as they get their arses handed to them by Sherlock himself.

We won’t go into too much detail after that as it would be difficult to do so without giving away vital plot points. Needless to say the brown stuff hits the fan and Kirk and Co are thrust into a variety of perilous situations. These just seemed to be a procession of fights and chases which seemed to go on, and on, and on ad nauseam.

We were left feeling a little short changed by Into Darkness. Yes the villain was an improvement from the first film and yes it looks great, particularly if you like lens flare, but like many Vulcans it lacked emotion.

One real positive however is Zachary Quinto as Spock. He is the beating heart of this franchise. Although others perform admirably, (even with the dodgy accent, Simon Pegg is again on good form) it is he who performs the films heavy lifting. Kirk feels strangely redundant in this film and Cumberbatch although good is woefully underused.

The 12 year old in me enjoyed the explosions but the adult in me just couldn’t help but feel like they could have done much, much better. It’s a shame that they couldn’t capitalise on the start they made three years ago, this feels like a step in the wrong direction.

This was less Wrath of Kahn and more Trouble with Tribbles. Let’s hope he does a better job with Star Wars.

2010: The Year We Made Contact (1984)

Sequels, so Goldman says, are whores movies. Films made, in the most, for the express purpose of making money. Films that milk a love for the original, often made with less money, less care and a great deal less respect for the audience.

Nine years after David Bowman took his extraordinary voyage to Jupiter three Americans hitch a ride on a Russian Vessel to attempt a joint mission (HaHa, it’s more 80’s than Red Dawn) to find out what happened. What foolows is not good, not good at all.

Going into 2010 with an open mind, with an attempt to view it without thinking of the gigantic elephant in the room, is rendered impossible by the opening minutes. We are told via classic 80’s computer text the details of the Discovery mission to Jupiter documented 15 years earlier in a film that garnered more than a little acclaim. 2010 migh as well start with a big shot saying “WATCH 2001”.

Watching 2001 is the last thing this film’s makers would want you to do. Whilst 2001 is presented with such care and skill as to make it seem effortless, 2010 is clunky, narrow minded, badly shot, hurried yet ponderous and shot through with such a tv episode feel, such a “gee guys, if we only work together” simplicity that an advert break wouldn’t have been out of place. Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren and John Lithgow all have bags over their heads as they deliver dialogue that falls flat from their tongues. None of them look proud. HAL is restarted and in a rubbish presaging of Terminator 2 is now used for good rather than evil. Allowing a computer some redeption is not a concept that should’ve got past the drawing board. HAL is left innocent and childlike in confusion over his murderous actions, this is film assassination on a grand scale.

Making a sequel is one thing, making a sequel that actively undermines the original is quite another. 2010 attempts to interpret and explain the wonderfully unexplainable 2001.Example; In the original David Bowman’s last transmission is “My God, it’s full of stars” as he falls toward the monolith, In 2010, a manned probe sent out to the monolith see’s the same thing except so do we, portrayed with awful special effects that make the unknowable monoliths semm cheap and tawdry. Removing mystery from the mysterious is hard to forgive in horror sequels, done here it’s criminal.

The original is big enough, intelligent enough and timeless enough to survive this kind of corpse fucking but it shouldn’t ever have had to. No-one involved can possibly have thought what they were doing was noble or even artistic. 2001 portrayed the evolution of man and hinted at the next step, 2010 portrays a bunch a squabbling cosmonauts attempting to solve the cold war in space. Such petty, human divisions were unworthy for the original so why bring them up here. It’s a film made about the future that is very much still set in the eighties. 2001 transcends interpretation whilst 2010 tries to catch and bolt down the ephemereal.

Peter Hyams, the director, was rewarded for this by getting the jobs to direct Timecop and End of Days. EBFS wholeheartedly agrres with this level of karmic punishment and can’t wait to see Michael Bay helming a sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding starring David Spade.

Attack the Block (2011)

Attack the Block follows a group of youths (or yoof) who, after a successful mugging, witness an alien crashlanding to Earth which they promptly kill and parade around their estate like a badge of honour. Whilst celebrating their victory with the local drug dealer (Nick Frost) in his top storey flat, they witness another alien landing. Sensing an opportunity to make money, the newly christened alien hunters go in search of potential spoils.

Attack the Block suffers from unfair comparisons to Shaun of the Dead; British comedian puts together scary movie that’s got the potential to translate across the pond. But this really is a lazy comparison. This is a stronger, more confident piece of work. Director/writer Joe Cornish throws his balls to the wall and provides us with an sci-fi action movie that just happens to take to place in SAAAAAAAAAF LAAAAANDON. The set pieces are impressive and Cornish proves that he is more than capable of the being the next big thing. A battle between Team Chav and Team ET set within the confines of a living room, showing that you don’t have to go large scale to literally go large scale.

Rather than provide us with a cheeky chappy spouting numerous pop-references, Attack the Block‘s protagonists are introduced as the kind of children that keep the Daily Mail awake at night. They skulk around masked in hoodies and balaclavas talking in thick accents and dialects. With the aforementioned mugging, they are not the people we usually cheer on and yet, Cornish manages to make us care about them once the claret starts to flow. This is in no small part down to the actors who play our group of chavs. Led by John Boyega as alpha-male Moses, the gang are incredibly believable. Showing street smarts and naivety in every snarl from their lips. The only chink in the armour is Nick Frost, whose indelible, doe eyed chunky monkey routine is growing a bit stale.

Attack of the Block’s director/writer, Joe Cornish was one half of the duo, Adam and Joe, who, in the late 90s, gave us this:

This has nothing to do with the review, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to both relive my youth and give you an idea of what we at EBFS dance to at Christmas.

Attack the Block is more believable than Kidulthood and Adulthood put together and for that reason alone, it should be seen.

Dr. Who and The Daleks (1965)

Dr. Who and the Daleks is what happens when the BBC tries to make a bit money off a flagship show, but realises it’ll be a good 30 years till someone invents video. With the promise of not only starring the Daleks, but also being in colour and having Peter Cushing as the Doctor, you can see how a child of the 60s would be screaming down the house to go see it. The thing is, if we were that child we’d be punishing ourselves afterwards for even letting our parents considering to take me.

The film wastes no time in taking us straight us to a mysterious planet and getting the plot running. At a run time of only 70 minutes, it can’t afford to. Within six minutes, we’ve met Dr Who, his family (also with the surname Who), a man called Ian (played in Carry-On style by Roy Castle), the TARDIS and then, BOOM, we’re on an alien planet. You want to get straight to the point, you come to this movie. Unfortunately, the proceeding 65 minutes is filled with poor acting, terrible scripting and some fantastic conjecture. ‘No one could survive on this planet,’ says Dr Who, having only been on the planet for 30 seconds and both seeing and hearing evidence to the contrary.

So, onto the Daleks… A race of terrifying aliens… who need static electricity to move around. Which really makes them a bit quaint and, honestly, a bit shit. They mope around wanting to be released from their casings and yet these metal pre-cursors to emos managed to find time to destroy half their home planet in a war. They really are crap.

The Thals, our hero species and enemies of the Daleks, look and act like a satirical dig at the rising hippie youth of the time. All floppy hairs and clothes no doubt made from hemp, Dr Who ensures that they buck up their ideas and learn to fight. In fact, aside from impersonating William Hartnell, this is all Cushing does for the entire film. He really does seem to be phoning this one in. It will be probably come as no surprise to some that he never mentioned this, or its sequel Dalek Invasion 2168 AD, in his autobiography or anywhere else.

What we have here is not so much a Doctor Who movie, but rather a cheap sci-fi movie that’s managed to get hold of a couple of BBC licenses. And once you remove those copyrighted items, you still can’t garner any joy from it.