Saturday, 30 August 2008

Big Finish Doctor Who 111 - The Doomwood Curse

Curses and tombs, revenge from beyond the grave - and Dick Turpin!

England, 1738. On the trail of a lost book, the Doctor and Charley arrive at the beautiful country estate of Sir Ralph and Lady Sybil. But all is far from idyllic. There’s a murderer on the loose, and the nearby woods are the haunt of the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin.

And that’s not all. Something else has journeyed here. Something that could destroy the very fabric of reality. The Doctor and Charley have just forty-eight hours to solve the mystery before the whole world succumbs to The Doomwood Curse.

Fact: This was a great return to form for Big Finish. Good Fact: It also saw the return of the 6th Doctor and Charley. Even Better Fact: We had a returning monster from the Bernice Summerfield audios!

‘The Doomwood Curse’ is a gripping listen from start to finish. Set in the 1700’s and containing England’s most legendary highwayman, Dick Turpin, it has all the ingredients to be an absolute cracker.

We finally get part two of the 6th Doctor and Charley combination and it’s clear from the start that this combination will work very well. It’s also great to see the return of the Grel (“Glory to the Grel! Glory to the Grel!”), who where heard in the Bernice Summerfield audios ‘Oh No It Isn’t’ and ‘The Grel Escape’. They are one of my favourite monsters, if only for the campness that they ooze! My only disappointment is that they didn’t do their ‘Glory to the Grel’ chant!

The story begins with the Doctor and Charley returning an overdue library book, at a rather sadistic library. The Grel just happen to be there – on the lookout for (what else!) facts! They end up in the 1700’s, a time of ladies, gentleman, curses and highwaymen. Charley seems to recognise the setting but can she work it out before it’s to late….

The story is superbly acted, especially by the two main leads. It’s a lovely bit of fun and by the time part 4 arrives, you’ll notice that all of the actors aren’t really acting anymore – they’re having too much fun!

It’s also nice to see another period setting for the 6th Doctor. I feel that a lot of the Big Finish stuff is too ‘space tech’ but thankfully the majority of the 6th Doctor stuff is set in places and times we know a bit about, so it adds more to your imagination whilst you listen to it!

It’s a masterstroke by Big Finish by placing Charley with the 6th Doctor, it does bring out his good nature, which is far removed from his television incarnation. Although I would like to see more of the ‘dark side’ of the 6th Doctor, if only to keep some continuity.


Next Time: The 7th Doctor goes solo once again as he reaches ‘The Kingdom of Sliver’!

Friday, 29 August 2008

The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - Reviewed

There’s been a lot of criticism directed at this film. Personally I didn’t see a problem with it. Okay Rachel Weisz wasn’t available to reprise her role as Evelyn but I thought Maria Bello did an admirable job in the role. Maybe turning young Alex into an adult (with an American accent?) perhaps was the only gripe I had with it!

The action takes place in China, with young Alex taking over as the adventurer, as his parents have retried from the business. But when a group of followers attempt to resurrect a murderous ancient emperor, the O’Connell’s are called up for one last adventure….

The film has been met with lukewarm appreciation from critics. You either like it or you don’t, a bit like Torchwood really! As a package, the film looks amazing and I think moving the story from Egypt to China has breathed more life into the franchise. Although I don’t think they should have moved the story on as much as they did, in terms of years. I would have liked to seen a film (or two?) set during the war, as the O’Connell’s, apparently, worked as spies. I thought that would have been a far more interesting addition to the story.

Jet Li heads the support cast as the Dragon Emperor, with John Hannah being priceless once again as Jonathan. Although I did feel that his accent was slipping far too much into his native Scots one!

Overall its harmless family fun. Some of the scenes are visually breathtaking, the battle scenes in particular. Although there are some parts that could have been done better, this film was no worse than the recent Indiana Jones film, that people love to compare it against! Also, I didn’t think releasing it in the midst of ‘The Dark Knight’ frenzy helped much!


Monday, 18 August 2008

The Eighth Doctor Adventures Series 2 Episode 8 - Vengeance Of Morbius

Surely Nick Briggs, the ‘RTD of Big Finish’, could not keep up the amazing quality that the previous part of this ‘finale’ served up? Well unlike his television counterparts, he delivered an even better story and a gripping end to series two of the Eighth Doctor Adventures.

‘Vengeance of Morbius’ picks up immediately from where ‘Sisters of the Flame left’ off. Fans of the classic series will of course know who and what Morbius is. But for those who are new to the classic series and/or have never seen ‘The Brain of Morbius’, I would urge you to check it out, as the DVD has just been released. Of course the timing of this audio has got nothing to do with that, honest!

With the Doctor and Lucie facing the dilemma of being separated into particles – thanks to ‘The Sisterhood of Karn’, or ‘David Tennant’s fan club’ as I like to call them, things look bleak for the universe. Meanwhile Straxus and the winner of this months ‘underused character award’, Rosto, are trapped on the ship, as Morbius groupie and part-time richest man in the universe, Zarodnix, moves in….

I’ll go on record as saying this and its previous part, is among the best stuff Big Finish has done. Everything about this audio was just incredible. From the writing by the much-maligned Nick Briggs, the music, which was just superb and stitched each scene together perfectly, the acting, as always, was top notch. Morbius was superbly brought back to life by Samuel West and manic Zarodnix (Kenneth Colley) wasn’t too bad either!

But yet again, I find myself praising Sheridan Smith’s staggering portrayal of Lucie Miller. She just blew her other performances out of the water in this story! She just seems so at ease in the audio world and fits in with McGann’s Doctor perfectly. McGann himself has been constantly upstaged by Sheridan’s performances. Her strong willed, witty and compassionate character is already one of my favourite companions and judging by everybody else’s reactions, they more-or-less agree!

It was an interesting idea in bringing back Morbius and the Sisterhood. In fact the last two series of the 8th Doctor adventures have seen the revival of many of the classic monsters. Thankfully there have been no Daleks or Cybermen this year and I think the series has benefited from that. I just hope that they can introduce a few more original ideas to the mix for next year.


Next Time: It’s a long wait until next year! If only I had a TARDIS……

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Dark Knight Review

Pre-Film Rant

So there I was, having a ‘quiet’ pint on a Saturday evening. Quiet is an understatement! The pub, where I was, used to be great for live music and loud chatter, sadly it’s on the decline now. Anyway, so there I was, blowing the cobwebs off a pint of mild when about 8 people walk in wearing make-up like a 14 year old girl and green hair, also like a 14 year old girl! Yes they where dressed up as ‘The Joker’ or ‘The Dark Knight’ to give him his proper name.

Oh wait a minute, The Joker isn’t the Dark Knight is he? It’s some bloke called ‘Batman’, who once appeared in a 1996 episode of Only Fools and Horses. Basically, this constant love feast for the film and its most well-known villain is getting on my tits! It’s nothing nasty, let me explain:

The value of things goes up when their creator or a major contributor dies. Sadly, Heath ‘The Joker’ Ledger died a few months before this film was released. And because of this, every single second or column inch of promotional material is gearing towards Heath and his untimely death. What with all the tie-in merchandise, including those T-Shirts’s that the previously mentioned pub-goers were wearing, if Warner Bros. don’t make twice as much profit, I will be astonished!

I’m just disappointed for the decent films that are out there that will be totally ignored, all because they have been released in the midst of this frenzy. A film franchise that has been ‘reset’ more times than a working girl’s bra. Will it be wrong of me to say that the hype this film has created has saved the franchise?

RIP Heath, I just hope you had an image rights clause in your contract…

The Film

I was ready to tougne-lash the film the same way I do my women but it was better than I thought it would be. Unlike the majority of the film-going public, I wasn’t caught up in all the hype that surrounded this film, so I’m able to give an honest review.

First of all I thought the film relied too much on its action sequences. We hardly had any backstory for the Joker, something which they could have done in the 2hrs 20mins the film had. I did enjoy Aaron Eckhart’s performance and I thought he stole the show. His portrayal of Harvey Dent far overshadowed those of Bale and Ledger, for me.

I thought Heath’s performance was good, not as great as people have been raving about but solid enough. The introduction of ‘Two Face’ was a surprise and I enjoyed that, as I did the death of Rachel. Not in a sadistic way, I just thought it wouldn’t happen! I wasn’t sure what Christian Bale was playing at with his ‘Batman voice’ but it was nice to see him taking his fighting skills home with him. Earn while you learn, that’s my motto!

I thought the film ended poorly, it seemed the plot just went around in circles and left it open for a possible sequel. Without Heath, obviously.

I’ve never really embraced Batman. I had one of toys when I was a kid but I never really liked the ‘hero billionaire’ background. Spiderman was a proper superhero and only a geeky kid. Says it all really.

But all-in-all, it’s a decent enough film. Not ‘the greatest ever’ as people would have you believe but definitely worth a watch.

Bring back Adam West, I say!


Monday, 4 August 2008

Big Finish Doctor Who 110 - The Boy That Time Forgot

A lost world. A prehistoric civilization. A dark secret.

The Doctor and Nyssa find themselves transported from Victorian London back to the dawn of time, accompanied by debonair adventurer Rupert Von Thal and no-nonsense novelist Beatrice Mapp. Together these unlikely heroes must brave primitive jungles and battle ravening insects as they make their way to the city of the giant scorpions, ruled over by... The Boy That Time Forgot.

It all started so well.....then came part 2! Still stuck in the 19th Century, The Doctor and Nyssa attempt an experiment which goes drastically wrong.

They end up in a prehistoric time, which is littered with giant talking scorpions. But precisely when, where and more importantly – how, even they don’t know! Joining them is their new friends, Mrs Beatrice Mapp (played by Harriett Walker) and explorer, Rupert Von Thal (Adrian Scarborough).

Part 1 builds up quite nicely and ends spectacularly but the follow up is quite disappointing. It seems that a few childish digs are aimed at a certain character called ‘The Scorpion King’ (Andrew Sachs), which where totally unnecessary, you’ll have to give it a listen to know what I’m on about!

The characterisation of the Scorpion King totally spoiled it for me, I just couldn’t get over it! They tried to gloss over it later but it was far too late for me, I was still hurting! Turning him into a sex pest didn’t help either! I also didn’t really buy the whole ‘City of the Scorpions’ and how it came to be. What should have been an epic adventure turned into a mess. There where also some unnecessary deaths, after spending so long building up characterisations. The effect didn’t work I’m afraid.

It wasn’t as bad as last month’s release but overall, I would say it’s the biggest disappointment I’ve had with a Big Finish audio, taking into account the quality of the first part and indeed the whole of ‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster’, which leads into this story.


Next Time: Hopefully the 6th Doctor and Charley can ‘stand and deliver’ us back into ‘Big Finish Heaven’ as they meet Dick Turpin in ‘The Doomwood Curse’!