The Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast returns, bringing you news and reviews of the latest horror, fantasy, and science fiction films on home video – DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, and instant streaming. Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski take a look at new releases for Tuesday, November 20, including the Japanese anime title GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, now on Blu-ray for the first time, and the DOCTOR WHO LIMITED EDITION GIFT SET on DVD (featuring the three most recent doctors: Matt Smith, David Tennant, and Christopher Eccleston).
But wait, there’s more! Dan Persons reviews Season 10 of RED VS. BLUE. Steve Biodrowski reviews two films in limited theatrical release that are also currently available via Video on Demand: JACK & DIANE (a teen romance with weird, artsy horror elements spliced in) and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (the film that asks whether the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER franchise can successfully incorporate elements of MEMENTO and APOCALYPSE NOW). And things wrap up with a look at some titles from the late Italian horror specialist Mario Bava, which have recently become available on Netflix Instant Viewing.
THE ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN,
And a look at Season 7.0
The short 2012 seventh season of the revived DOCTOR WHO has been a highly variable, and ultimately less than satisfying one.
It hasn’t been terrible, just far too brief, and filled with interesting premises but at times rather lackluster execution. Part of this is due to the nature of TV in the UK as opposed to the US. Here in the States, we viewers are a little spoiled by generally having twenty to twenty-two episodes of a series a year. If there are a couple of clinker episodes, one can gloss over that fact.
In Britain, most shows are now fortunate to have thirteen episodes. (We’re getting used to this pattern here with some cable series.)
However, largely due to economic concerns, the BBC only allowed for five episodes this fall, with a Christmas special to round things off to six. Technically, there will another eight shows to Season Seven airing in 2013, but it’s going to feel more like a new season— 7.5 if you will (as the DVD marketing practices seem to indicate), as some substantive changes will have taken place.
The season started off well enough with Asylum of the Daleks.
The next episode, Dinosaurs On A Spaceship, seemed pointless, as though it was made chiefly because the producers really liked the central conceit of dinosaurs on a space ship. There were little character moments that were nice, touches of comedy, but also what seemed like an unnecessary bit of anti-Semitic stereotyping for the profit-obsessed villain Solomon. There were plenty of nice effects, too bad there wasn’t a more compelling story to match the expense. A Town Called Mercy was a fun idea, but the Western show (shot in Spain) seemed rushed, predictable, and forced —with the regulars seeming somewhat out of character, without much dramatic preparation or explanation. It was nice to see Farscape/Stargate SG-1’s Ben Browder in a DOCTOR WHO episode, and he did well in a under-written role.
The Power of Three gave us an unusual look at the lives of the Doctor’s companions, and some insight into the Time Lord’s lack of interest in living in linear time, full of what is for him life’s dull or just ordinary moments. It also added to our understanding of how much Amy and Rory mean to this incarnation of the Doctor.
This weekend’s The Angels Take Manhattanwas a return to the emotional power that writer/producer Stephen Moffat can bring to the fore, and the skills of the actors. It also demonstrated one of his weaknesses; he admits he views the Doctor’s adventures as fairy tales, rather than science fiction. This leaves the door open to a lack of internal logic (when viewing the time-traveling series as a whole), and willingness to do silly, unbelievable things just because they look cool.
The Weeping Angels are back, and they’ve isolated a point in 1938 Manhattan. This draws the attention of the Doctor’s wife River Song (Alex Kingston), and soon draws in the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). This is done rather cleverly, via a book that the Doctor is reading, and the need not to read ahead or otherwise “cheat” points up the facts that the players are characters in a story. In the future, the time-traveling River will write the book. Reading the words actually makes the future happen, a predestination paradox. The rules of this concept are somewhat arbitrary; some make sense, while others simply do not.
Even the rules of the Angels seem to have been forgotten. Since the Angels take the form of statues that can only move when no one is looking at them (and now apparently can take the place and form of existing statues) one would think they would have to be quite stealthy. Shown previously to be unable to move even if looking at each other, they now seem to have no problem with this limitation.
Making even less sense, and doubtless because he couldn’t resist the image, the giant form of the Statue of Liberty is also an Angel, and we hear it stomping noisily around the City that never sleeps, apparently unseen by the eight million -strong populace of New York. So we see it turn up, looming over the apartment building the Angles had taken over — Twice. Once in the teaser and again later in the episode, ruining any surprise —as well as a nice, darkly humorous line.
The episode ends with the Doctor and his beloved companions separated permanently by a time distortion and “fixed point” in history; we must assume that Amy and Rory are sometime in NYC’s past (possibly 1938 to the point of their deaths), and the Doctor can NEVER see them again.
This would seem to fly in the face of the fact that the TARDIS travels in Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. One would think that the two marooned companions could perhaps drive to New Jersey (or further) and wait a year or so to be out of the range of the presumably localized anomaly, but apparently not. But this fairly obvious point is not addressed, not even with a line of double-talk. Are we to understand that the Doctor can never again go to New York for a period of forty or so years? Even though he’s been there in that time-frame in previous episodes?
Oh well, at least it’s a dramatic moment, and very well played by the cast. On an emotional level, it works quite nicely, and for that reason I’d call it a good episode. Possibly even very good. But there are so few episodes this year and I wanted more good episodes. Two out of five —maybe three if generous— is simply not enough. DOCTOR WHO: The Angels Take Manhattan
StarringMatt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill , and Alex Kingston . With Mike McShane, Rob David, Ozzie Yue , Bentley Kalu, Burnell Tucker.
Directed by Nick Hurran, Written by Steven Moffat, Produced by Marcus Wilson, Executive producers Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinne.
A BBC production by BBC Wales.
The Producers and stars give us an advance look at DOCTOR WHO’s “The Angels Take Manhattan”.
This Saturday, Sept. 29 at 9:oo PM /Central BBC America gives us the final episode of the Fall 2012 season of the revived series. The Doctor’s (Matt Smith) companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) will be leaving the show in what’s promised to be a dramatic fashion.
Then at 11:00 PM/10:00 Central, the cable station presents an original special, DOCTOR WHO IN THE U.S., in which they “uncover the Doctor’s special relationship with the U.S., from Daleks to robot gunslingers.”
DOCTOR WHO is back on BBC America for the seventh season of that revived series in Asylum of the Daleks.
As we return to the show, we find that the Doctor is on the planet Skarro, radioactive homeworld of his greatest foes, the Daleks. He’s there to answer the call of a woman (Anamaria Marinca) that claims to need his help to resue her daughter from a Dalek prison planet. The doctor is skeptical, as she claims to have escaped, but he knows that no one escapes such places. And he’s right, of course; it’s a trap.
Back on Earth we, discover that Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), the Doctor’s married companions have broken up. Rory interrupts model Amy’s photo shoot with the final divorce papers. No sooner is that drama played out than they are abducted and brought to the “Parliment of the Daleks”.
It seems the murderous xenophobic race want the Doctor to ‘save’ them, as a broadcast of the opera Carmen is flooding their transmissions, originating from their Asylum planet, wherein they keep the damaged and insane members of their race. It’s a surprise that the evil pepperpots are so concerned about their wounded, it seems they can not bear to see such perfect hatred destroyed.
They can’t investigate the situation themselves, or even destroy their brethren as the planet has a forcefield that can only be turned off from inside the underground Asylum, though they can punch a brief hole in it to transport the Doctor and his companions to the surface. An added complication: the planet is intentionally infested with a nano-machine plague that turns all organic matter, living or dead into Dalek puppets.
So naturally, one of the companions wil lose the bracelet they are given to ward off this fate—in this case, Amy.
It turns out the music and disruptions are being caused by Oswin Oswald ( Jenna-Louise Coleman) a young ‘super-genius’ that appears to be the lone survivor of the crashed Earth ship Alaska. However, what’s really going on is darker and more tragic than initially expected.
It’s a pretty good season opener, though some things seem out of tune. Amy and Rory’s spilt seems out of the blue, and the underlying reason that even Rory isn’t aware of is revealed in a of line of dialog that didn’t seem to have any build-up or foreshadowing.
The nano-virus and conversion of people into Daleks appears off-kilter. Wouldn’t this storyline be much better applied to the Doctor’s other man-into-machine adversaries, the Cybermen?
One nice tie-in to Season Six, and this is a big SPOILER, is that Oswin manages to tap into the Dalek’s cyber-telepathic “Path-Net” and erase all knowlege of the Doctor. This leads to a nice scene at the end of the amassed Daleks asking “Doctor WHO?” Though it did seem odd that erasure of the Doctor’s data would lead to individual amnesia for all the Daleks, who are mutated life forms encased in a mobile shell, and NOT robots.
Speaking of spoilers,—although is is actually more of a puzzle— is that Oswin was played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, who is slated to become the Doctor’s new compaion Clara in this years’ Christmas special, after Amy & Rory leave the show.
Will Coleman’s Clara be Oswin, or perhaps some relative? Hard to tell in a time-traveling show. For those of us who only travel trough the years day by day, we’ll have to wait until then. DOCTOR WHO: Asylum of the Daleks.
Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill. Guests: Jenna-Louise Coleman, Anamaria Marinca (Darla von Karlsen), David Gyasi (Harvey), Naomi Ryan (Cassandra).
Directed by Nick Hurran, Written by Steven Moffat, Produced by Marcus Wilson, Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner.
BBC One/Wales. Aprx. 50 minutes in original form.
Here’s the trailer for Season 7 of DOCTOR WHO, on BBC America.
From BBC America’s DOCTOR WHO PRESS RELEASE:
The new season will see the last days of the Ponds, with Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill making their final rollercoaster voyage with The Doctor (Matt Smith).
Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) have been at the Doctor’s side for more than two seasons but what will he do after their heartbreaking departure?
New guest stars so far confirmed to star will include David Bradley, Rupert Graves and Mark Williams. Season 7 will then see a dramatic turn of events when The Doctor meets a new friend – the recently-announced new companion, played by Jenna-Louse Coleman.
Prepare yourselves for thrills, adventures and dramatic surprises as the show builds towards its enormous, climactic 50th anniversary year.
Fourteen big, blockbuster-movie episodes – each a brand new epic adventure featuring new monsters and some familiar foes as you’ve never seen them before.
According to Deadline.com , Martin Campbell (CASINO ROYAL, GREEN LANTERN) is attached to direct a pilot that would re-boot the 1970’s BBC space opera hit BLAKES 7.
Joe Pokaski (HEROES) is set to write (and one assumes re-interpet) the original series, created by the late Terry Nation, who also gave us the Daleks of DOCTOR WHO.
Marc Rosen (THRESHOLD) is to produce the project with Georgeville Television’s Leon Clarance. The venture’s development is to be funded by Motion Picture Capital, with the hope that the new version of the dark UK ‘Cult Classic’ series will interest an American network.
Georgeville Television got the rights from Andrew Sewell’s B7 Enterprises, who had purchased the property from Terry Nation’s estate. B7 had been trying to relaunch the franchise as a TV series with ill luck for the last several years. Only audio dramas based on the original program have thus far been produced, with a potential new series on the UK’s SKY 1 not coming to fruition. The series, which ran for four 13-episode seasons beginning in 1978, starred Gareth Thomas as the protagonist Roj Blake, a political dissedent framed for a crime by the Terran Federation. Sent off to exile on a primitive world, Blake along with other convicted criminals, are sent to try to salvage a mysterious advanced spacecraft. Blake managed to push through his plan of using the ship that he dubs “The Liberator” as a weapon to fight for freedom. Some of the crew would be supportive of the plan, while others seemed more concerned with protecting their personal freedom and enriching themselves instead.
The show also starred Paul Darrow as the calculating Avon, Sally Knyvette
as smuggler Jenna Stanis, Michael Keating as the genial expert safecracker Vila Restal, David Jackson as the strong and loyal Olag Gan, and Jan Chappell as the cloned telepath Cally, from the planet Auron. Sentient ship’s computer Zen brought the team up to seven, and the independent ORAC (both voiced by Peter Tuddenham) would be added later. That team would change over the seasons; Gan was killed on a mission during season 2, and Blake and Jenna would leave as series regulars at end of the second season, lost and presumed dead.
Younger characters Dayna Mellanby (Josette Simon) and Del Tarrant (Steven Pacey) would join the crew in the third, with expert shooter Soolin (Glynis Barber) replacing Cally for Season four, after her off-screen death.
Often called the “anti-STAR TREK”, BLAKES 7 took place in a dark and bleak universe, with the corrupt Federation running or pulling the strings behind most human worlds. Even organized crime was under government direction. The power-mad Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce, veteran of Hammer horror) rises from Commander to President, becoming obsessed with possessing the Liberator and quelling rebellion.
The heroes were less than perfect, the series pitched as an outer-space “Dirty Dozen”. Even the initially heroic Blake realized on some level that his quest for freedom had a high and possibly futile cost in human lives. The amazing precedent of continuing BLAKES 7 (never an apostrophe) without the title character required that the cynical, self-interested Avon take on Blake’s crusade, and by the fourth season it was clear that the pressure was driving him mad.
Originally made on the budget of a canceled police show, BLAKES 7 was a rough-hewn low-rent affair, shot on a mix of studio video and location film, often looking hokey even for its time.Some of the scripts and acting were cliche or over the top at times—and yet it worked. The series was very popular, watched by over ten million people in the UK, and exported to many other counties, including the U.S.
(The series ran largely on PBS stations in America, often paired with DOCTOR WHO.)
It’s difficult to imagine an American broadcast network being interested in a dark SF series like BLAKES 7. Fox’s FIREFLY had a similar vibe, leading to a very short life. The old Sci-Fi Channel’s FARSCAPE and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA reboot had more success, but would the current, mainly Earth-bound SyFy have any interest? Hard to say. Perhaps there’s a cable programmer looking for a space-based series with some kind of pedigree.
Via BBC AMERICA, here’s the first teaser trailer for the seventh season of the revived DOCTOR WHO.
In addition to the Doctor (Matt Smith), we see Amy & Rory (Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill) as well as our first look at Ben Browder’s (FARSCAPE, STARGATE SG-1) character, a lawman in an anachronistic Western town. And a Cyborg gun-slinger, scenes on a dismal beach where all is not well, a snowy landscape with oddities of its own, and much more.
According to BBC America , Jenna-Louise Coleman “will play The Doctor’s new and as yet unnamed companion, in the hit British sci-fi TV series DOCTOR WHO.
Coleman will be introduced to audiences for the first time in the show’s 2012 Christmas Special following the departure of the current companion Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan, who will leave in episode 5 of the upcoming Series.” (The seventh season of the revived series.)
Jenna-Louise Coleman is best known for her work on the long-running BBC primetime soap opera EMMERDALE, set in Yorkshire.
“Matt Smith says of Coleman:
‘It’s very exciting news. I was part of the audition process where we met a number of wonderful actresses.
‘But I think Jenna responded to Steven’s (writer/ producer Steven Moffat) writing in the most interesting way. We’re very excited to welcome her to the Doctor Who family.’ ”
The BBC quoted Coleman as saying: “I’m beyond excited, I can’t wait to get cracking; working alongside Matt I know is going to be enormous fun and a huge adventure.”
The Doctor will meet his new friend in a dramatic turn of events as the show builds towards its enormous, climactic 50th anniversary year – full of thrills, adventures and big surprises. Series seven is currently filming and comprises 14 big, blockbuster-movie episodes – each a brand new epic adventure featuring new monsters and some familiar foes as you’ve never seen them before.
Lead writer and Executive Producer, Steven Moffat, says: “It always seems impossible when you start casting these parts, but when we saw Matt and Jenna together, we knew we had our girl. She’s funny and clever and exactly mad enough to step on board the TARDIS.
“It’s not often the Doctor meets someone who can talk even faster than he does, but it’s about to happen. Jenna is going to lead him his merriest dance yet. And that’s all you’re getting for now. Who she’s playing, how the Doctor meets her, and even where he finds her, are all part of one of the biggest mysteries the Time Lord ever encounters. Even by the Doctor’s standards, this isn’t your usual boy meets girl.”
Danny Cohen, Controller, BBC One, adds “As we approach Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary it’s great to welcome a new companion to the TARDIS. I feel confident the Doctor will look after her in his own very unique style.”
Here’s the first picture released of Johnny Depp as kind of ‘ghost-warrior’ Tonto and a slightly city-fied Armie Hammer as the Masked Man in THE LONE RANGER.
Radio Ranger actor Brace Beemer often wore a black & white outfit in his public appearances as the character, so it’s not entirely without precedence.
Directed by Gore Verbinski (PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN) THE LONE RANGER is due out in 2013 by Jerry Bruckheimer and Walt Disney Films.
Continuing in the western theme, DOCTOR WHO will go West in the third episode of the new season of the revived series, Written by Toby Whithouse (BEING HUMAN).
Actually, it’s south, as Spain is subbing for the American West in the BBC production.
Here’s a pic of Matt Smith donning a Stetson once again for the show, in which Ben Browder (FARSCAPE, STARGATE SG-1) will guest star. Saul Metzstein is directing. Photo via Whovians.net