A TRIP INTO THE DOCTOR WHO ARCHIVE
Doctor Who and The Daleks and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD were two Doctor Who spin-off films made respectively in 1965 and 1966. When they were released, they were disowned by the BBC but they have just been released by StudioCanal on Blu-ray. Peter Cushing plays the Doctor, who is called Doctor Who here, and both scripts deal with the Daleks. The first one sees the Doctor accompanied by his companions travel to Skaro, the planet of the Daleks, and become embroiled in a war between the dustbin-shaped aliens and the human inhabitants. Doctor Who and The Daleks is let down by a poor script and the fact that the costume design for the humans consists of some very sixties-looking eyeshadow and some cheap tunics and Roy Castle as the gormless Ian is very poor indeed. Cushing does look a little embarrassed on screen but it has a certain sort of period charm…
Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD, where the Doctor and his companions, which includes policeman Tom (Bernard Cribbins), find themselves on a future Earth ruled by the Daleks, is a little better. The Daleks have taken over a number of the human population to enslave the planet, with the eventual aim of transporting Earth through space to be closer to Skaro. The special effects look like they got change out of a fiver but for some reason, the second film feels a little closer to the TV series. Cushing seems a little more comfortable here and Cribbins is better than Roy Castle, who was in the first film, as a foil for the action.
Neither film is a work of genius but as a period curio, and for fans of Doctor Who who haven’t seen them, they are worth checking out on Blu-ray, with reservations.
NOT SO NOVEL AN APPROACH
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, one of the greatest 20th century novels, has been brought to the big screen on a number of occasions before (in 1974 with Robert Redford and as a TV movie most recently with Toby Stephens in 2000). Director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Australia) doesn’t seem the natural choice for the latest cinema version of Scott Fitzgerald’s revered book. I shall start with the positives for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Leonardo DiCaprio as the enigmatic Gatsby was a good choice. We all know that DiCaprio is an exceptional actor and he is able to bring something to material which would be unengaging in the hands of a less talented screen presence. Tobey Maguire as the narrator of the film, Nick Carraway, who finds himself drawn into Gatsby’s web of lies, acquits himself decently as the most sympathetic of the characters here. But now I shall move onto the problems with Luhrmann’s project. I saw the film in 3D and this was totally unnecessary, as it gives everything an unreal sheen here and makes it impossible to concentrate on what should be the emotional core of the film: the triangle between Carraway, Gatsby and the object of both of their affections, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). One of the other major problems with Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is that he throws so much on screen that, while the film looks pretty, it makes it all a totally empty confection. There is no emotional connection between the audience and the main characters and the look of the film has the feel of an extended pop promo. The director even inserts contemporary music into the mix, for no apparent reason, a gimmick which doesn’t work. Mulligan has shown that she can be a very good actress (she was exceptional in Never Let Me Go) but here she feels like she is drowning in Luhrmann’s over-the-top visuals and Joel Egerton as her tragic husband Tom feels like a caricature. Scott Fitzgerald’s story is a classic tale of hubris and doomed love but all Luhrmann has done is created a bloated, unwieldy mess, devoid of any real human emotion, wasting a good cast. There are a few scenes that work: the untimely end of Gatsby is well directed and should strike a chord with the viewers but the problem is that, by this point, you really don’t care what happens to him. The Great Gatsby is a story that still has modern resonance but Luhrmann’s latest effort is vapid, vacuous and ultimately pointless…
Our TRIPWIRE 21 evening on 16th May, this Thursday at Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London, still has tickets available. They’re only £5 or £3 concessions and you get to see Michael Moorcock, Mike Carey, Peter Milligan, Christopher Fowler and Roger Langridge talk about TRIPWIRE and 21 years of history. You’ll also be able to get TRIPWIRE 21, in paperback and hardcover, signed at the event. So what are you waiting for?
TRIPWIRE 21 Foyles event
On Friday I’ll be getting in the car and heading to Bristol for the annual Comic Expo. It’s not what it once was but I still enjoy the weekend. We’ll have copies of the TRIPWIRE 21 in paperback and hopefully in hardcover too at our stand and there’s a panel at 12noon with myself, Andy Colman and possibly a few artists from the book. So if you’re there, why not pop by and say hello?
Bristol Comic Expo
JJ Abrams has become one of the most powerful people in mainstream Hollywood. He is now at the helm of the revamped Star Wars and Star Trek on the big screen, the two biggest modern genre franchises. When Star Trek came out in 2009, it split audiences. It made $386m worldwide but fans of the original cast criticised it for not being a Star Trek film and for a number of plot holes you could drive a fleet of lorries through. We move forward to 2013 and Star Trek Into Darkness hits the cinemas. We have already been introduced to Chris Pine as the hotheaded Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Doctor McCoy and the rest of the regulars so Abrams can throw us straight into the action. The film opens with Kirk and Bones on an alien planet fleeing a group of dangerous natives. Kirk disobeys the prime directive to save the planet and Spock and so he is disciplined and demoted to commander, serving with his old mentor Pike (Bruce Greenwood). The crew of the Enterprise find themselves thrown into a conspiracy that threatens to destroy the whole of Starfleet with mysterious Federation spy John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) at its heart. There have been rumours about Harrison’s true identity online and his real name is even listed on IMDB so I am not spoiling anything by confirming that they are indeed true. I saw Star Trek Into Darkness in 3D and often I find 3D dark, murky and rather annoying but here Abrams has used it cannily. The regular cast are likeable as they were in the first film and Cumberbatch brings a sense of the theatrical to his villainous role here. Sometimes you do wish for a little more character development and less action set pieces but Star Trek Into Darkness is a very enjoyable early summer blockbuster, an immersive experience on the big screen. Simon Pegg as Scotty stays just the right side of infuriating as he did in the first film and Pine and Quinto have a well-handled chemistry, just like they did in the 2009 film. Is it Star Trek? I think that some of Gene Roddenberry’s original vision survives here as the main cast do channel Shatner, Nimoy et al. It is unlikely that Abrams will direct the third film since he will have his hands full with Star Wars VII but despite a few misgivings, I think that again he has managed to create a film that stays true to its origins while offering something that will appeal to a new audience…
LACK OF THRILLS
Deadfall is a film that came out in the US last year but the distributors have been sitting on it in the UK until now. It is a thriller that follows the fortunes of two siblings, Addison (Eric Bana) and his sister Liza (Olivia Wilde), on the run in the wilds of America’s midwest after escaped a casino heist gone wrong. It is a very odd film. The conceit is quite a nifty one and the opening scene which introduces the pair is well-handled by director Stefan Ruzowitzky. The pair go their separate ways, with the gorgeous but crazy Liza falling in with disgraced boxer Jay (Charlie Hunnam), who has just been released from prison, and the psychotic Addison trying to find somewhere to lie low, who finds himself in the house of June Mills (Sissy Spacek) and her husband Chet Mills (Kris Kristofferson). Buried somewhere in here, there is a taut and engaging crime thriller but the arthouse approach that Ruzowitzky takes means that it is turgid, ponderous and a rather shallow affair. You can’t knock the cast: Bana acquits himself well and Kristofferson and Spacek keep you watching. Wilde is the weak link here: she isn’t much of an actress and pales when compared with the standout members of the cast. Hunnam isn’t much better either, to be honest. So Deadfall is just about worth watching for some strong performances but it suffers from a poor script and an unengaging denouement…