Sunday, 30 September 2012

HYPNOBOBS 96 - Captain Jetlag's Random Movie Round-up

This week, a just back from his holibobs Mr Jim Moon proudly presents Captain Jetlag's Random Movie Round-up!  Featuring extended rambling and aural bollocks on BattleshipSherlock Holmes - Game of ShadowsChronicleLawlessParaNormanThe Adjustment Bureau! And Real Steel! There's be laughter! There'll be tears! There's be random tips for travellers! And blowing a whole years worth of exclamation marks!!!!!!

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Saturday, 29 September 2012

DOCTOR WHO 7.05 - The Angels Take Manhattan

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So then, here we are at the mid-series finale, or rather the the mini-season climax as I think of it. After this, there's no more Doctor Who until Christmas. But what a fine choice of adversary for this final episode! Following in the footsteps of both the Muppets and Jason Voorhees, the most iconic of monsters that new Who has spawned, the Weeping Angels, return for a third momentous outing!  

Now I must confess, in what seems to be a somewhat traditional fashion for this series, the title did give me pause for thought. For this isn't the first time, that the TARDIS crew has visited the Big Apple. However the last time was the less than fondly remembered Daleks in Manhattan. Of course, considering their previous appearances, Blink and The Time of the Angels/Flesh And Stone, some the better adventures the series had delivered since its triumphant return in 2005, I really shouldn't have worried. 

Well, not about that at least...

...What I should have been fretting about is how in the name of Sutek am I going to review this without spoilers! For, of course, this final episode sees showrunner Steven Moffat returning to scripting duties. And as long-time readers know, his episodes always give me a headache reviewing sans spoilers! 

So then what can I tell you? Well, the Angels are on top creepy form as per usual, New York looks fantastic, the performances are great and the scripting is Moffat on good form... And that's it, thank you and goodnight! 

What you want more? Who do you think you are? An extra in Oliver! ?

Oh alright then... but be warned....


Still with me? Ok then...

 ...*deep breathe*...

... This episode sees the return of River Song! 

Right that'll teach you to skip ahead, oh impatient one! 


Right then, no messin' about, in this episode we bid the Ponds a fond farewell. And this departure has been billed by all concerned as 'heart-breaking'. And indeed, judging by the amount 'ahm fine... I jus' got somefink in mah eye...' style twitterings on my time-line, I think it's fair to say that this was no mere hyperbole! 

Of course, the big question is HOW they go and one I won't answer here. However what I will say is that I thought is was a very satisfying departure. It's a very fine, and yes rather touching (look I jus' got somefink in mah eye...), conclusion to the whole of Amy and Rory's story arc. Definite thumbs up (and hanky in the other mitt) from me. 

And I also think it's fair to say, that in that light, it does seem like that this has been a little complete series on its own, rather than a half-season. Furthermore, having got the conclusion, I do think my initial suspicions were correct - namely, that this set of stories are as unconnected as we were lead to believe. 

Now then I know many of you have been missing the spoilerific second reviews I've done for series past of Doctor Who and so therefore I've having a marathon rewatch of this quintet of adventures in the coming week and will deliver a suitably epic, no spoiler left unturned, end of season round-up, and test the above hypothesis... probably to destruction! 

But for now, I'll round this off by saying that this series has been a rather strong run. It may not have been biggest, or best, and it may have been rather light-weight much of the time, but it's certainly been fairly solid, without a single episode I've not enjoyed. The show's been ticking along nicely, and while some may feel it's been idling, I would point out that next year is the big 50th anniversary and I suspect they are saving the really big guns for then...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

DOCTOR WHO 7.04 - The Power of Three

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So then, let's get the obvious facetious remark over with first... Why was The Power of Three, the third episode? Come on Mr Moffat, you KNOW how obsessive us SF fans are! Having it as the fourth offends our geeky love of numerical symmetry! You're stirring a wasps nest here! 

However on the plus side, there was plenty in this episode which would delight the long-time Who fan, with a  delicious sprinkling of links and references to older stories and characters. And it's a good mix of allusions and callbacks too with nods and winks for both the classic old school series and the rebooted modern show.   Indeed in some respects, as Mr Danny Davies remarked upon the Twitters last night, this is one of the most RTD-esque stories we've had since the Moff took over. 

So then, we have a story that is about the mysterious appearance of odd little black boxes all over the world, complete with montage shots of said enigmatic cubes dotted around famous landmarks and famous faces  playing themselves as talking heads appearing on various TV broadcasts through the story. Furthermore however, this is an episode more concerned with characters and emotion than delivering big action and timey-wimey plot twists. Hence the so called 'slow invasion' of the little black boxes plot-line was largely just a MacGuffin to set up the real concerns of the story; the exploration of  the relationship between the Ponds and the Doctor.

And all of this works rather well. Yes, it's light and frothy fun for the most part, with Mr Chris Chibnall turning in another entertaining script and a character he introduced in his previous outing this series Dinosaurs On A Spaceship making a welcome return appearance. However while there is fun and games with spaceships, aliens and explosions, this is the same kind of romp as the earlier interplanetary prehistoric malarkey we had a fortnight ago. There's a lot more sentiment but thankfully a tad more humour to keep the story from drifting into the jagged candy coated reefs of sickly sweetness. Hence we have some very nice scenes between Matt Smith and Karen Gillan and Arthur Davril, which range from very funny to rather touching. And the story of the boxes is deftly threaded through the episode too, weaving together neatly the humour and the character work.

Now it would be easy to see this as a throwaway episode; a less expensive bit of running about in between the more blockbustery stories which relies on character and comedy rather than big special effects. It's a nice little story, possibly a little forgettable but there's nothing wrong with that... However I suspect other forces at work here, which may be considered spoilerific! So then...


Then as previous mentioned in reviews for this series, the Moffat credo for this series of Doctor Who is "a blockbuster every week"... and indeed that phrase is becoming the Bad Wolf of these reviews. However if the first rule of travelling with the Doctor is "the Doctor always lies!", then so too the first rule of watching Steven Moffat-era Who is "Moffat always lies". 

Now I'm not casting cheeky aspersions on the blockbuster quality of this run of episodes, although it's fair to say that The Power of Three has been the least cinematic of the four so far shown. But I am casting doubt on the idea Mr Moffat has been bandying about that there isn't a big story arc to this season. 

And my reason for this? Well, firstly this is a series in two parts - five episodes now, Christmas special, and the rest in 2013. And what's special about 2013 for Doctor Who? Well it's only the 50th anniversary of the show... and can you really see there NOT being a big story to lead up to this momentous birthday? 

Secondly, and more pertinently to The Power of Three, we know that the Ponds are leaving the show during this run. And throughout the episodes show so far there's been a running theme looking at the Doctor and his relationship with his companions, not to mention some subtle hints that our favorite Time Lord suspects, or possibly knows, there is dire danger in the future for Amy and Rory. And considered in this light, this week's episode suddenly doesn't look quite so throwaway after all...

Indeed I may well be wrong, but I rather suspect that the events of this fun and frothy story may take on a greater significance when we understand its place in the overall story arc. And indeed some of the sweetness on display here may well be the last moments of light this trio of characters enjoy...

Friday, 21 September 2012

HYPNOBOBS 95 - The Horse of the Invisible

By the fireside in the Great Library of Dreams, Mr Jim Moon once again opens up the Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder. This time round, Mr William Hope Hodgson recounts Carnacki's investigation into a most troubling family curse and the manifestation of an exceedingly malign equine spectre...

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Thursday, 20 September 2012


Hey ho, so another creepy, splattery horror flick featuring subterranean monsters? Yeah, yeah, we've seen it all before... or have we? And wait! This one's from a director, Rafael Eisenman, who cut his teeth making Red Shoe Diaries!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

DOCTOR WHO 7.03 - A Town Called Mercy

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Now I must confess that the prospect of this episode didn't exactly fill me with thrills, for several admittedly somewhat nebulous reasons. Firstly, much like dinosaurs, in the past Doctor Who hasn't had a lot of luck with the Old West. Somewhat surprisingly for a time travel based show, there's only been one previous TARDIS-powered foray into Western territory and that was back in the days of the First Doctor, William Hartnell. 

That adventure was The Gunfighters way back in 1966, and it was poorly received at the time that it led the production team to scrap the concept of doing straight historical stories shortly after. And while the Doctor would return to Earth's past many times over the years, usually there would be assorted alien tomfoolery to spice things up. However while monsters and robots would replace hobnobbing with famous historical figures, the TARDIS would never return to the Western again... until now. 

However I don't think this was purely down to The Gunfighters having such a poor rating with Who fans down the ages, who have often voted it one of the worst stories in the show's long history. Rather I think, it more to do with a certain tension between the Western and SF genres. Now while they have cross pollinated  successfully in the past on occasions, often they appear to rub each other up the wrong way - a perfect example of this being the recent dog dinner, I mean, movie, Cowboys Versus Aliens which despite being chock full of both cowboy and alien invasion tropes managed to fail as both a Western and a science fiction movie. And the problem is basically this, Westerns look to the past whereas SF looks to the future, hence any story mixing the two genres is often pulled into two contrary directions. And it's no coincidence that when the West and SF have worked together successfully, such as in Westworld or Outland, the stories have firmly favoured one set of tropes over the other, Westerns in the case of the former and SF in the latter.

Anyhow from the trailer for A Town Called Mercy, it wasn't clear how this adventure would play out, whether it would prove to be an uneasy mix or masterful blend. Although with the clips of a cybernetic gunslinger and a traditional shoot-out in front of the town clock, there was a distinct possibility this would be Who does Westworld. Now modelling your SF/Western hybrid on a previously successful venture is a smart move, however if it was too close to the original, it was going to look very derivative...

And also hanging in the balance for this episode was the fact it was penned by Toby Whithouse. Now previously I really enjoyed last series' The God Complex, and liked School Reunion well enough, but Vampires In Venice felt like a missed opportunity.

So then,with much much up the air for this story, and considering this is the mid-point story of this run of Who, I must confess I was expecting A Town Called Mercy to be *ahem* shall we say one of the least distinguished stories of the opening half of Series 7... Oh alright, I admit it, I thought it would die in the dust with fanboy critics measuring it for a cheap pine coffin by the halfway mark!

But as it turned out, it wasn't just a cheap clone of Westworld, nor was the story was ripped apart by different genres pulling in opposite directions like ornery mules, and above all I was very pleasantly surprised! We got a very cinematic episode with a decent balance of humour and drama and a very deft blend of SF and the West.

As a wise old SF bookstore owner of my acquaintance once remarked, often the essence of a good Doctor Who story is having the plot rooted in a huge moral dilemma. And oddly enough, that same ethical dynamic is at the heart of many a Western too. In the classic time periods for the Western; the frontier settlement and the Civil War eras, the law was weak or non-existent, what was right or socially acceptable was open to question, and this climate of moral relativism made for some great stories.

And here in A Town Called Mercy, it's the big ethical questions at the heart of the story that successfully bond together SF standards such as cyborgs, anachronistic technology and visiting aliens to equally familiar Western tropes such as gunslingers, US Marshalls, and shoot-outs under clapboard clocktowers. And it's well worth noting that Mr Whithouse has a lot of fun subverting such familiar elements, so we have many classic story ingredients, from both SF and Westerns, used in interesting ways.

Furthermore, while you might be expecting another romp of an adventure, another fun but throwaway story in this series of 'a blockbuster every week', this episode becomes more than just Matt Smith and co. rummaging through the Wild West dressing up box. Obviously as I'm keeping this spoiler-free, I can't go into details... but I will say there some unexpected character depths carefully and subtly explored here. Don't get me wrong, it's a very fun episode, but it's also a very interesting one too.

Now I appreciate the gulf between Westerns and scifi may so great for some viewers that they disappear into a cross genre limbo of dissatisfaction. Equally I acknowledge that for others the plot will seem slim and all the moral jiggery pokery I found fascinating will feel like filler. But that's Doctor Who for you - you can't please all the folks all the time!

But personally, I really enjoyed this one, despite have large reservations about it. And one of the things that stand out for me is that for once this was a story that didn't feel rushed. There was enough plot for the time slot and plenty room in the script to explore the ideas satisfyingly. It might not be be the flashiest episode with  lots of running, explosions, or massive story arc bombshells, but I think that the thoughtful nature of A Town Called Mercy will ensure it's going to more appreciated as time goes by.

Friday, 14 September 2012

HYPNOBOBS 94 - Night's Black Agents

This week a busy Mr Moon delves into the archives of old time radio horror. We talk of the legendary Man in Black and the classic series Appointment With Fear, and heard an episode of its parent show Suspense which features Mr Henry Hull, star of The Werewolf of London in an audio adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit And The Pendulum. Then we visit old London town to visit Orson Welles in The Black Museum and hear of the crimes of John George Haigh, a man dubbed both The Acid Bath Murderer and The Vampire Killer!

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Sunday, 9 September 2012

HYPNOBOBS 93 - A Beginners Guide To Judge Dredd

This week Mr Jim Moon presents a highly zarjaz Beginners Guide To Judge Dredd. In this thrill-powered episode, we'll uncover the history of British comics, detail the creation of 2000 AD, explore the the world of Judge Dredd, and finally round off with a spoiler-free review of the brand new movie Dredd 3D! Miss it at your peril grexnixes!

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Saturday, 8 September 2012

DOCTOR WHO 7.2 - Dinosaurs On A Spaceship

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Ah dinosaurs! The monsters guaranteed to strike terror into the hearts of long-time Doctor Who fans! Is it because the ground shakes when these titanic reptiles walk by? Is it because they sport fearsome jaws and claws? Is it simply their incredible size? 

No, it's none of the above - we dyed-in-the-scarf Who fans fear them because they have a habit of appearing as ruddy awful not-so-special effects. Let's look at their track record...

The first saurian monster from the past appeared way back at the beginning of the Third Doctor's time. In his second adventure he encountered the Silurians who had a large dinosaur as a pet/watchdog. The actual species of this reptilian horror is unclear; the Target book adaptation identified it as a Tyrannosaurus Rex but most viewers more accurately pegged it as a large glove puppet. 

However this wouldn't be the last time the Third Doctor would encounter monsters from prehistory. They would return en masse in his final series for Invasion of the Dinosaurs in 1974. Now in fairness, some of the dino effects in this are rather decent for the time and the budget they had. However few viewers can forget the sight of a wobbly T-Rex which although it's supposed be attacking a Brontosaur appears to be attempting to do some unmentionable to it! 

The next terrible lizard which would cross the Doctor's path was the Loch Ness Monster in Terror of the Zygons. Yes, I know that the story revealed that Nessie was actually a cyborg alien moo-cow (no, seriously) called the Skarasen, but as its design was modeled on the popular idea that the Loch Ness Monster is a plesiosaur I'm shamelessly crow-barring it in here. Once again, the realisation of the Skarasen was a case of reality trumping the hopes of the effects crew, with the beastie menacing the Fourth Doctor in very jerky stop motion animation. And in this adventure's climax, it terrified Londoners in glove puppet form, popping up out of the Thames like a scaly Sooty

Now the last appearance of dinosaurs in classic era Who came in  1985's Mark of the Rani. With their wicked schemes foiled, renegade Time Lords the Master and the Rani flee in her TARDIS, but the Doctor has sabotaged the ship's systems. This resulted in a time spillage which caused one of the Rani's biological samples, a T-Rex embryo, to spring into life and begin to grow at an accelerated rate! Viewers however were largely unconcerned - partly because it was the baddies getting their just desserts, but mostly because it looked like the Rani had procured said T-Rex from a seaside joke shop... 

So then with this less than impressive track history, you can understand why dinosaurs are feared by fans. And although this episode is being made in the modern age, with a better budget and the magic of computer  created effects, personally I did wonder whether the 'curse' of the dinosaurs might not still strike again. After all, we've all seen plenty of rubbish CGI FX work haven't we...

But... as it turned out the dinosaurs looked fine. Yes, at some points they were clearly only TV quality CGI but nicely realized on the whole plus there was some nice practical stuff too! Decent dinos on Doctor Who at last... Come to think of it, how come it's taken them seven series to do a dinosaur story! Anyhow, now we know the saurians were up to scratch, how was the actual episode itself?

Well this is another adventure penned by Chris Chibnall who gave us the Hungry Earth/Cold Blood two parter back in Series 5. Now I rather enjoyed that one, as it felt like a nice blend of old and new Who, but Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is as different for his Silurian story as it was from it's predecessor 42 in Series 3.  And this latest offering seems very in tune with Mr Moffat's tag for this season of Doctor Who being 'a blockbuster every week'. For Dinosaurs on a Spaceship felt like a big fun family film, simple straightforward plot, lots of actions, familiar faces in the cast, and plenty of laughs. Yes, it's another light and fluffy episode, but jolly good fun all the same.

Now I know some of you will be groaning 'oh Rassilon, not another bloomin' romp!', but I don't mind the show being a daft and lightweight sometimes. But of course, for every one who hates the frothier episodes, there will be others who are rejoicing, who equally disliked the dark and scary episodes last year.  Now for me personally, I embrace the different styles as it's the wonderful thing about the format of Doctor Who - you can be creepy one week, silly the next, and epic after that.

If I'm honest, I do prefer my Doctor Who dark or epic, but I will say that in this case, I was more than happy to have an adventure will higher humour quotient. For, let's be honest, dinosaurs on the a spaceship is n't the most high-brow SF concept out there: it is a daft idea. But what made it work so well here was that the comedy was clearly in the great tradition of SF comedies like The Hitch-hikers Guide To The Galaxy. 

Now bearing in mind we've avoid spoilers here, I don't want to say too much about the plot. Though I will say say that the story is constructed about the mystery of why there are dinosaurs on a spaceship, and having the Doctor and his companions riddle out what is actually going on makes a pleasing change for the endless the galactic threats the Doctor is called upon to thwart. And what is going on, does make for a cracking little adventure.

There's some nice surprises along the way, both in terms of the little plot twists and in the characters who appear. Now as I like to largely ignore all the pre-showing publicity, I was pleasantly surprised to see the sprinkling of famous faces appear and who they portrayed, and so if you don't know either I won't go into detail. However I will say, the guest cast were great fun and we met some fascinating new folk.

All in all I had great fun with Dinosaurs on A Spaceship, despite being very wary of the funnier episodes as a rule. Now obviously I'd not want the show to be like this every week, in exactly the same way you wouldn't want a bag of jelly babies for breakfast every day... But once in a while it's tremendous fun!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

HYPNOBOBS 92 - The Hunt for the Croglin Vampire

This week, Mr Jim Moon embarks on a perilous journey to hunt down the infamous Croglin Vampire. During the course of our investigations into this notorious case of British vampirism, along the way we'll meet such luminaries as occult scholar Montague Summers, the legendary Man In Black himself Valentine Dyall, and Sir Francis Varney, hero of epic Penny Dreadful Varney the Vampire! The truth is indeed out there... and it has fangs!

And check out The Croglin Files here

DIRECT DOWNLOADThe Hunt for the Croglin Vampire

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Saturday, 1 September 2012

DOCTOR WHO 7.1 - Asylum of the Daleks

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So then, it's been a long time coming, longer than usual but the long wait is over, at long last, it's time for that much anticipated moment... when the ratings of Total Wipeout suddenly spike!

And the new season of Doctor Who begins soon after! 

(These two facts may be connected, you know...) 

Anyhow, all of that means that I'm back here, turbo-digesting what I've just seen to bring you a hot-off-the-press spoiler-free review. And of course, as this is another episode from showrunner Steven Moffat that mean that writing a spoiler-free review is a damn tall order! 

You know, I could really get to hate Moffat! I usually find his episodes entertaining and full of interesting ideas and concepts, but as soon as the credits start rolling, a cold sweat breaks out upon my brow. For I know full well that when I mentally compile a check-list of everything I liked about the episode, nearly everything is going to get crossed off again as it's a ruddy whacking great spoiler! 

But if you can't take the heat, stay out of the TARDIS...

So then, let's get the usual givens out of the way. Moffat's script is sharp and funny and full of things I touch with a sink plunger for fear of spoilers. Although I can say though it's Moffat in dark mode, and there are plenty of nice creepy moments. And our trio of leads are up to scratch as usual, with lots of nice scenes across the emotional spectrum providing plenty of dramatic meat for both Matt Smith's Doctor, and the Ponds, to get their teeth into. However I will naughtily hint that the stand out performance comes from outside the regular cast.

Now then plot-wise, I'm giving no details away what so ever. However I will say that this episode follows the trend set up in the last few appearances of the Daleks in the show, and that is using them in different ways. Unlike the RTD years where whenever Skaro's finest appeared, they were usually out to destroy everything, here once again their schemes are of a far smaller scale. And like their appearances in the last couple of seasons, we are seeing different sides to the Daleks, and that in my book is a good thing. Asylum of the Daleks gives some additional details to their mythology but also has some very nice references to their past history. 

Overall, this was a very decent opening episode, however as this series will be one of single episode adventures, as Mr Moffat puts it "a blockbuster every week", there's no story arc clues to tease out. Or is there? There's certainly plenty of things which I can't mention under pain of extermination, that definitely look like nascent plot threads to me! 

But nevermind that now! The important thing is that Asylum of the Daleks is a solid opener for the new series, and judging my my Twitter feed, has gone down rather will well many of you. Yes, the Doctor's back and on good form!