TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: KERBLAM! (2018)

Image result for doctor who kerblamDoctor Who: Kerblam! (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 50m) ***½  pr. Alex Mercer; d. Jennifer Perrott; w. Pete McTighe; ph. Simon Chapman; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Lee Mack, Callum Dixon, Claudia Jessie, Leo Flanagan.  A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer: Kerblam! Obvious links to the massive growth of companies like Amazon, this does not play to the expected corporate greed sub-plot in the traditional way – instead linking the threat to anti-corporate terrorism. As such this is a refreshingly straight-forward tale, which adds to the mix elements of robo-phobia (mirroring stories such as THE ROBOTS OF DEATH). The result is one of the better entries in this otherwise disappointing series to date and there is genuine tension generated by McTighe’s script and Perrott’s direction. The performances, however, remain variable – Cole seems to be becoming more wooden by the week – but at least the companions get to be split up and given equal roles to play. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: DEMONS OF THE PUNJAB (2018)

Image result for demons of the punjabDoctor Who: Demons of the Punjab (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 51m) ***½  pr. Alex Mercer; d. Jamie Childs; w. Vinay Patel; ph. Denis Crossan; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Shane Zaza, Amita Suman, Hamza Jeetooa, Leena Dhingra, Shaheen Khan, Shobna Gulati.  India, 1947. The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, as the country is being torn apart. While Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother’s hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land. Who are they and what do they want? Bold attempt to add emotional depth and historical significance to the series partly pays off – notably in its heart-wrenching finale. The plot is reminiscent of the Christopher Eccleston story FATHER’S DAY, in its theme of returning to a companion’s past and a tragic outcome that cannot be avoided. However, the narrative still feels cluttered due to too many companions and a need to cover broad topics in a short running time. Some of the dialogue feels anachronistic too, belying the 1947 setting. Still, an improvement on recent episodes and Whittaker continues to grow into the title role. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE TSURANGA CONUNDRUM (2018)

Image result for doctor who the tsuranga conundrumDoctor Who: The Tsuranga Conundrum (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 51m) **  pr. Alex Mercer; d. Jennifer Perrott; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Simon Chapman; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Brett Goldstein, Lois Chimimba, Suzanne Packer, Ben Bailey Smith.  Injured and stranded in the wilds of a far-flung galaxy, The Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan must band together with a group of strangers to survive against one of the universe’s most deadly — and unusual — creatures. After a strong start to this beautifully designed episode things spiral downwards very quickly with a monster fresh out of a Warner Brothers cartoon (was the Pting based on Looney Toons’ Tasmanian Devil?) and some unnecessary emphasis on political correctness by having a pregnant man give birth to a baby boy in a world where seemingly gender parentage is the norm. If Chibnall and the production team could just have concentrated on what could have been an effective sci-fi chiller, without the need for constantly having to tick-box the PC list and with a better-designed monster, then this could have been a winner. As it stands the only real positive, outside of the production design, is Whittaker’s most assured performance to date as the Doctor. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: ARACHNIDS IN THE UK (2018)

Image result for doctor who arachnids in the ukDoctor Who: Arachnids in the UK (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 50m) ***  pr. Alex Mercer; d. Sallie Aprahamian; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Tico Poulakakis; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Chris Noth, Shobna Gulati, Tanya Fear, Ravin J Ganatra, Bhavnisha Parmar, Jaleh Alp, William Meredith, Sharon D Clarke. The Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan find their way back to Yorkshire – and Yaz’s family – only to find something is stirring amidst the eight-legged arachnid population of Sheffield. This episode is an ecological sci-fi/horror tale, which plays to the fears of arachnophobes by introducing us to toxically mutated spiders running amok. Some effective scares and jump moments are offset by a script with some unfilled holes and a performance from Noth as a Trump-like political figure that is over-the-top in the extreme. The TARDIS crew are developing nicely, however, and Walsh continues to bring warmth to his bereaved character. Whittaker is finding her feet well and overcomes some of the script’s weak dialogue with the force of her personality. The spiders are brilliantly realised by the effects team. An abrupt conclusion, which fails to explain satisfactorily how the spider threat to the city is overcome on a broader scale means this episode can at best be seen as entertaining but is undeniably dramatically flawed by overplaying its comedic elements. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: ROSA (2018)

Doctor Who: Rosa (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 50m) **½  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Mark Tonderai; w. Malorie Blackman, Chris Chibnall; ph. Tico Poulakakis; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Vinette Robinson, Joshua Bowman, Trevor White, Richard Lothian, Jessica Claire Preddy, Gareth Marks, David Rubin, Ray Sesay, Aki Omoshaybi, David Dukas, Morgan Deare.  Montgomery, Alabama. 1955. The Doctor and her friends find themselves in the Deep South of America. As they encounter a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks, they begin to wonder whether someone is attempting to change history. A well-meaning episode that boldly tackles racism in 1950s Southern USA and the moral stand that leads to the raised focus on the Civil Rights Movement is hampered by a heavy-handed script and inconsistent performances. Whittaker is still finding her feet as the Doctor whilst Robinson is excellent as the dignified Rosa, but her performance is undermined by clumsy scripting and Cole’s increasingly annoying naivety as Ryan. Bowman’s time-travelling escaped convict, Krasko, has got to be one of the series’ least convincing villains. Composer Akinola tries to add menace to the character through his foreboding score, but only succeeds in making it seem like a parody. The South African locations double well for Alabama and again the technical credits are top-notch.  The overwrought song delivered over the end titles lashes on the emotion with a trowel. With a more considered script and a stronger cast, this could have been a dramatically powerful tale, as all the elements are there, but we’re left with what feels like a missed opportunity. [12]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE GHOST MONUMENT (2018)

Doctor Who: The Ghost Monument (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 48m) ***½  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Mark Tonderai; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Tico Poulakakis; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Susan Lynch, Shaun Dooley, Art Malik.  Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough in a hostile alien environment to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo? A perfunctory story is enhanced by excellent production values, visual effects and effective use of South African locations to create an alien environment. Whittaker continues to grow into the role of the Doctor, but her excessive crew of three companions leaves little room for individual character development and a vying for screen time. Malik is wasted in a mysterious role, whilst Lynch and Dooley do their best to bring life and motivation to their competitive characters. Whilst the storyline is refreshingly simple, it is also lacking in any real sense of peril – as the night threat is all too easily dispatched. There is promise here that the series can develop, but it will need to find space to allow its ensemble cast to breathe and develop in a format seemingly restricted to standalone episodes and a lack of two-parters, which would allow the stories and characters the requisite room. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE WOMAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (2018)

Image result for the woman who fell to earthDoctor Who: The Woman Who Fell to Earth (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 60m) ***½  pr.  Nikki Wilson; d. Jamie Childs; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Denis Crossan; m.  Segun Akinola. Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Sharon D. Clarke, Samuel Oatley, Johnny Dixon, Amit Shah, Asha Kingsley, Janine Mellor, Asif Khan, James Thackeray, Philip Abiodun, Stephen MacKenna, Everal A Walsh.  In a South Yorkshire city, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan and Graham O’Brien are about to have their lives changed forever, as a mysterious woman, unable to remember her own name, falls from the night sky. Can they believe a word she says? And can she help solve the strange events taking place across the city? Whittaker’s debut as the first female Doctor is a refreshingly straight-forward story but lacks any real wider threat being seemingly contained to a small area around Sheffield. Whittaker acquits herself well and in her post-regenerative state is sparky and witty. Walsh, Cole and Gill look promising as future companions. The whole thing is sumptuously photographed – mostly shot at night to create a more claustrophobic atmosphere – and the score is appropriately menacing, without being overbearing. This serves to give the story a more cinematic feel. As debut stories go it ticks most of the boxes and creates a new feel for the series that is seemingly a back to basics approach and that’s not necessarily a bad thing after some of the overblown and lazily written concepts that had crept in during Steven Moffat’s tenure. That said dumbing down the show would be a mistake. A promising, if flawed opener. The episode’s title is a reference to THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976) starring David Bowie. [PG]

Film Review – CIRCUS WORLD (1964)

Image result for circus world 1964Circus World (1964; USA; Technicolor; 135m) ***  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Ben Hecht, Julian Halevy, James Edward Grant, Philip Yordan, Nicholas Ray; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Claudia Cardinale, John Smith, Lloyd Nolan, Richard Conte, Wanda Rotha, Kay Walsh. A circus owner is beset by disasters as he attempts a European tour of his circus. At the same time, he is caught in an emotional bind between his adopted daughter and her mother. Spectacular circus action makes up for lack of plot and two-dimensional characters. High production values and an exciting finale built around a devastating fire are also pluses. Wayne and Nolan give strong performances, but the rest of the cast are swamped by a script that gives them little to get their teeth into. Aka: THE MAGNIFICENT SHOWMAN. [U]

Film Review – HATARI! (1962)

Image result for hatari! 1962Hatari! (1962; USA; Technicolor; 157m) ****  d. Howard Hawks; w. Leigh Brackett; ph. Russell Harlan; m. Henry Mancini.  Cast: John Wayne, Hardy Kruger, Elsa Martinelli, Gerard Blain, Red Buttons, Bruce Cabot, Eduard Franz, Michele Girardon, Queenie Leonard, Major Sam Harris. A group of men trap wild animals in Africa and sell them to zoos. Will the arrival of a female wildlife photographer change their ways? Vastly entertaining adventure has no plot and instead asks you to spend two-and-a-half hours in the company of likeable characters doing dangerous work in an exciting location. Hawks taps into his trademark themes of group camaraderie. Whilst the performances are mixed – some of the younger cast are a little wooden – there is much to enjoy in the central performances of Wayne, Martinelli and Buttons. Mancini contributes a catchy score – notably during the “Elephant Walk”. Based on a story by Harry Kurnitz. [U]

TV Review – SPACE 1999: BREAKAWAY (1975)

Image result for space 1999 breakawaySpace 1999: Breakaway (TV) (1975; UK; Colour; 50m) ***  Exec pr. Gerry Anderson; pr. Sylvia Anderson; d. Lee H. Katzin; w. George Bellak; ph. Frank Watts; m. Barry Gray. Cast: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse, Roy Dotrice, Prentis Hancock, Zienia Merton, Anton Phillips, Nick Tate, Philip Madoc, Lon Satton Lon Satton, Eric Carte Eric Carte. Commander John Koenig, the new commander of Moonbase Alpha, leads the investigation of a mysterious disease at the station and uncovers evidence of a far greater looming disaster. First episode of the TV series sets up the premise by telling the tale of the events that lead up to the Moon being blasted out of the Earth’s orbit and out into deep space. Landau has the right amount of gravitas as the base commander and is well supported by Morse as his scientific sidekick. Bain, however, gives a one-note performance as the medical doctor and lacks charisma. Her chemistry with real-life husband Landau would be allowed to develop as the series progressed. Great special effects and model work for the day as Gerry Anderson adds his usual high production values. Anderson re-edited Katzin’s initial cut, which reportedly ran close to 2-hours in length, and shot new scenes once series production was underway. [PG]