Saturday, 28 May 2011

Not enough hours in a day...

It's probably not escaped your notice (it certainly hasn't escaped mine) that I've not been posting a lot recently. I'm not going to make up excuses for why I've not been active; other than the fact that I've not been able to keep with with the blog when finished with my homework schedule.

I'm going on Holiday for a week so there's little chance of me updating anything while I'm there, but when I get back I hope to write another triple-bill Doctor Who review with The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People and A Good Man Goes To War.

Heading towards summer my schedule should start to free up a bit. You'll hopefully be getting reviews of Lost, which is beginning to wrap up, Being Human Series 1-2 and an overview of this series of Psychoville.

Thanks.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Review: Lost 4.10: Something Nice Back Home

Jack supervises his own operation.
My main problem with both Jack and Kate is simply that they're either not doing anything particularly interesting or they're being incredibly unlikeable in a variety of ways. Both of these things are true in this episode, whose main focus is yet again the series' tiresome Love Quadrangle between Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Juliet. However, quite like the last Kate episode, Something Nice Back Home provides us with some other useful distractions to keep us interested. And, with only four episodes of this season left to go, it needs to.
     In the future (after Eggtown and The Beginning of the End but before the Season Three finale), it turns out that Jack is living with Kate and is helping to raise Aaron. They're quite cosy; Jack's starting to take a few pills, but otherwise everything fine and dandy. Upon his request, Jack visits Hurley who tells him that he now believes that the six are in Purgatory, that they died on the island. He says he knows this because Charlie has been talking to him in visions, and has asked Hurley to pass on a message - that Jack shouldn't be raising his child.
     Jack is a little freaked out but he tries to keep it off his mind. Later, Jack proposes to Kate and she accepts.  That night, at the Surgery where he works, Jack goes to fix a faulty fire alarm and sees a hallucination of his father, as predicted by Hurley. Completely stressed, Jack hits the pills and the bottle, heading home. The following night Kate returns home to find Jack drunk on the sofa. He probes her about why she's been late the past few nights, and after some coercing she reveals, frightened, that she was running a last errand for Sawyer. Jack goes off on one, telling her that Sawyer made his choice to stay and that Kate isn't even related to Aaron.
     I've never really liked Jack's character. Every character needs flaws but there's nothing really redeeming to go with Jack's daddy issues, and his main system of belief (that science is the way forward) is shattered by the series end. And just think; considering my general opinions on the vapidness of Kate's character, realise that this episode manages to make her seem like the vicitm! Jack's behaviour in this episode casts a long shade of doubt over the series finale, which settles the insipid quadrangle by pairing these two together.
Jin confronts Charlotte on her eavesdropping.
     The present storyline isn't much better either, a series of events driven by inconsistent quadrangle stroking. On the beach, we pick up where we left off with Jack collapsing after confronting Daniel. Jack manages to wake up and settle the survivors, telling them not to get too angry about it, before collapsing again. Although Jack tries to shrug it off as a stomach bug, Juliet confronts him and says that they both know that he has apendicitus. Jack says that she can operate; on condition that he can assist via use of a mirror.
    Jin, Sun, Charlotte and Daniel are sent off to the The Staff (a medical station left by the island's previous inhabitants) and Jin realises that Charlotte can understand Korean and has been eavesdrpping on all their conversations. He makes a deal with her to do whatever she can to get pregnant Sun off the island in exchange for keeping Charlotte's secret.
     Jack insists that Kate (whom he's suddenly decided he loves) has to be by his side during the operation. In practice it doesn't go well, and Juliet sedates him and finishes the job herself. While Jack sleeps, Juliet and Kate talk, with Juliet telling her that, "that kiss was for you."
     The only interesting thing about this side of the storyline was the interaction between Jin and Charlotte, which was some fun character development for what is an otherwise undeveloped character. Again, I abhor this romantic nonsense and it really added nothing of any value to the episode.
     Elsewhere in the present, and Sawyer, Miles and Clare (with Aaron in tow) are wandering back to the beach. Nothing much really happens in this side of the storyline, but there's some interesting character work. Sawyer acts like a protective big brother and warns Miles not to talk to Claire. Miles discovers the corpses of Rousseau and Karl in shallow graves using his powers. The night after having to hide from Keamy's group moving thrugh the forest, Claire disappears after seeing her father (who just happens to be Jack's father, too) leaving nothing but a baby behind.
Sawyer gets protective over Claire.
     Claire's disappearance has always really bugged me - in Season Four the issue is forgotten and in Season Five it's never spoken of; when the character returns in Season Six she's a gun-toting lunatic. Way to ruin the character, writers! I know Claire wasn't the most exciting person in the world - her main arc was about motherhood and with Charlie, both of which were were running thin. I just think that the haphazard way in which she was temporarily offed was rather opaque; mysterious for the sake of being mysterious.
     Something Nice Back Home is strangely captivating despite its many flaws - notably its reliance on the show's romantic angle as a structure, which offers very little narrative tension. Where the episode tried its best o stray from that, it provided some mediocre entertainment in the meantime. It's a shame that Lost's "protagonists" are its weakest characters; Ben and Locke were absent here for the first time in a while,and it really shows. All of this extra stuff had to happen while they were busy, I suppose, but it doesn't make for captivating watching. We've only four episodes left, and I can tell you that Jack's apendix is not a key part of this season's arc...

Thanks.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Review: Doctor Who 6.2-4: Day of the Moon, Curse of the Black Spot and The Doctor's Wife

Spoilers will always follow.

Season 32 / Series 6, Episode 2 - Day Of The Moon
More like an episode of drama Twin Peaks than Doctor Who, this conclusion to the premier made Monty Python look like Have I Got News For You. The solution, of what little existed, was controvertial and the way in which the episode neglected it for more soap-opera moments got collossally tiring.
     Picking up three months after the premier, and Canton is chasing the companions around the US, killing them whereever he goes and bringing them back in body bags. The Doctor, locked up, is being trapped in a small prison made of white-dwarf-star-alloy, which is the densest substance in the Universe. Once the bodybags and Canton are locked into the prison, they awaken from the body bags in what turns out to have been an elaborate ruse to escape the Silence. Piling into a conveniently hidden TARDIS, the five discuss their progress in tracking the Silence. The Doctor inject's everyone's hands with microphones so as to allow them to make a recorded description of the creatures before they forget them. Trying to find the little girl from the spacesuit, Canton and Amy are sent off to a creepy children's home while The Doctor hacks into Apollo 11 and places a microphone system there, too.
     Amy discovers entire rooms of the Silence at the children's home as well as what appears to be the child's room; it features pictures of the child, as well as one of Amy holding a baby. Canton shoots one of the Silence and holds him captive, shortly after which they abduct Amy, just in time for The Doctor, River and Rory to arrive. 
    Tracking her back, The Doctor finds The Silence at one of their underground bases and reveals his plan. Canton had asked the wounded Silent what Humanity should do, and then recorded it saying "You should kill us on sight" The Doctor, receiving this recording, implanted it into the broadcast of Apollo Eleven, turning it into one massive subliminal message encouraging the human race to destroy the Silence. He encourages them to run. After River gets into an over-long and gratuitous gun-fight with the Silence, the five leave. Canton is dropped off at the White House, River at Stormcage and the three go off on their merry way. Concerned about Amy's uncertainty regarding her pregnancy, The Doctor does a scan that seems to reveal that she is both pregnant and not pregnant in a Schondinger's Cat way. Meanwhile, in an American back alley, the Girl from the suit regenerates.
     Of course, turning the entire human race into a subliminally drived army doesn't really place The Doctor anywhere on the moral high-ground. Oh, it's awfully clever, for sure. And to be honest, it's not that out of place with The Doctor's character, but it doesn't sit easily on my stomach. (Although that might be the bug I've had this past week.) The episode is still good, and provides a lot of food for thought, but some of the more gratuitous and soap-opera like scenes, as well as this contant feeling of repetition, are starting to get to me.

Season 32 / Series 6, Episode 3 - The Curse of the Black Spot

Guest stars Hugh Bonneville and Lily Cole arrive to mark the first stand-alone story since last year's The Lodger, which despite still soaked in this series' darker themes manages to be a little more fun than the premier. I think you have to make sure that your turn into serious drama doesn't go over the top, which I think this series is doing; instead it seems melodramatic and ridiculous to an extent that makes me uncomfortable. The companions are starting to really wear and for me, at least, their appeal is running thin.
     Not following directly on from last week, the Tardis Three find themselves on a 16th Century pirate ship anchored in the middle of the ocean, its crew plagued by a "demon" known as the Siren (played through blue-screen by supermodel Lily Cole) who seems to destroy anyone ill or injured after automatically marking them with a black spot. Soon Rory is "marked" and the pirates (led by troubled Captain Avery, Hugh Bonneville) stock up downstairs. Believing that she can travel by water, they hide in the powder room, but the Doctor's encounter with Pirate treasure shows that the Siren can travel through any reflection. Pirates disappear left, right and centre until Rory and then the three survivors are "killed". Awakening on what appears to be an alien ship, The Doctor realises that the sixteenth century ship crashed into a future ship parked in the same spot, and so the ship's automatic healing hologram (the "Siren") went around abducting and taking care of the human sailors. There's a terribly melodramatic climax where Rory for some reason relies on Amy alone to give him CPR, and then both the pirate crew, on the alien ship, and the Tardis three, fly off.
     This was, disappointingly, an episode that hung more off of its ideas than its plot. The character movements were dull and the plot revelations came in a jarring and splintered form that almost certainly writes this off as a one-view. However, those ideas were captivating enough in themselves to justify this to an extent. True, especially, for our main guest star, Hugh Bonneville, whose character is an interesting addition and slightly more realistic (despite the more piratey overtones) than Canton. Oh, and Rory dies again. I really, really didn't care.
      My opinion is an unpopular one to say the least, but I really couldn't help but enjoy this week's more straightforward tale to last week's labyrinthine abyss. It has its problems, and it may seem disappointing when compared to the last forthnight's premier, but I think it has a hell-of-a-lot of charm.

Season 32/Series 6, Episode 4 - The Doctor's Wife

The Doctor and Idris (promotional picture)

Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, a known Doctor Who fan, delivers us an enchanting and poignant episode this week that stands out amongst this series' trappings so far. Originally intended for the previous series in place of The Lodger, the episode does feel a lot like series Five, except this time it can take a little more pleasure in its indulgences now that the Tardis is out of danger.
     Upon collecting a small box, The Doctor immediately identifies it as a Time-Lord distress call belonging to The Corsair, a renegade whose calling card was a tattoo of the Ouroboros. Following the signal, they pass through a rift into a bubble universe containing only one, very dense, asteroid. Upon landing they meet the mad Idris (the stunning Suranne Jones), who calls The Doctor "her thief", two weird-looking people named Aunt and Uncle (Adrian Schiller, of Being Human fame, and Elizabeth Berrington, who last played Ruby on Waterloo Road.) and a green-eyed Ood named Nephew. Aunt and Uncle reveal that the asteroid is occupied by a green sentient mass known only as House (voiced by the magnificent Michael Sheen), who can possess Aunt, Uncle and Nephew as well as "fix them when they break."
     Amy and Rory are unwittingly locked back into the Tardis by a concerned Doctor, who investigates further to find that any Time Lords he thought lived here were long dead. Examining Aunt and Uncle, he finds that they are "patchwork people," made up of the bodies of dead Time Lords that House has lured here. Fascinated by Idris's previous ramblings, he finds her locked up and she reveals that her mind contains the sentient matrix of The Doctor's Tardis, which House has now possessed and is flying off with Amy and Rory inside. House eats Tardises, but he has to get rid of the immensely powerful core before he can even try, so he places the core into a human body so it can fizzle out safely. This time, however, House knows that there are no more Tardises left, and so has gone off to find more food in the Outer Universe.
     Argueing with the now-sentient Tardis about various things ranging from which way the doors are supposed to open and how reliable it is, the two recreate a Tardis console out of scraps of Tardis left on the planet's surface. Meanwhile in the Tardis, House is torturing Amy and Rory by making them run through the Tardis corridors and essentially mind-rapes Amy into believing that Rory has died. Again. Idris and The Doctor, ready to set off, send a telepathic signal to Rory telling them to go to one of the Secondary Control Rooms, which in this case is the Tardis used in RTD's era, a welcome return. The two materialise just in time, and The Doctor bluffs House into deleting the old console room just before Idris finally dies, unable to support the Tardis matrix. However, this redeposits them back into the main console room, where the Tardis Matrix returns to the ship's core and essentially eats House.
Nephew keeps Idris captive.
     The most essential contribution that this episode makes is to finally settle the nature of the Tardis's consciousness, showing that the Tardis stole him by deliberately leaving itself unlocked. Suranne Jones' manic and often loving portrayl made it all the more poignant when she had to return to the console, revealing a side of the Doctor's relationship with the Tardis that we've never really seen before. This, combined with the episode's myriad of well-placed references to the Classic series and to Time Lord mythology (aparrently Time Lords can traverse gender with their regenerations.)
     For the first time this series, the episode left me excited for next week; maybe it's because I'm a real who fan and I loved all of the little references, but I also think that even Not-We can appreciate this episode's magic and potentcy. It was complex in a delightful way and most importantly, the complxity payed off for a powerful finale.

Thanks.

Friday, 13 May 2011

List: The Top Five Songs I Hate (At The Moment)

You all know that here at Audenshaw Reviews I like to keep things positive (with a few exceptions). I don't like pain, and so I try to avoid reviewing anything that's actively or offensively bad, but I can't help but find these things in daily life. Especially in the horrendous modern music scene. So here, to apologise for my lack of posts due to illness, are my least favourite five songs in the charts, or about to enter the charts, at the moment.

5.) Party Rock Anthem - LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett and Goonrock




Not all of the songs on this list are wrong, offensive or necessarily bad. I'd never heard of the brashly named LMFAO before this rather quite clever song, and I probably won't hear of them again. The video is very clever, and the song does fit its purpose as a dance track, as the nearly eponymous title suggests. However, you didn't read this article to here why I liked these songs.
     The simple fact is that this song is on every UK music channel at several times throughout the day. It's on the mainstream radios, it's on soaps and on supermarket song-systems. And, being a dance song, it's fairly repetitive. To make a long story short; I'm sick of it. I'm sick of hearing it, I'm sick of hearing about it. It's the Number One at the moment, and like many other tracks before it it suffers from crippling over-playing. I never, repeat, never want to hear this song ever again.

4.) Wonderman - Tinie Tempah ft. Ellie Goulding



Ah, Ellie. I've reviewed some of her music before; in my last review I was wondering whether she was heading in the wrong direction, trying to feed the populist market after her less than stellar chart history. Here she proves my point exceptionally by lending her talents to the modern British superstar, Tinie Tempah.
     I don't usually find Mr.Okogwu so offensive; I actually liked his two Number Ones, "Pass Out" and "Written in the Stars." They weren't perfect, by any means, but they were well constructed and pandered to the modern chart-music audience. Here, however, Okogwu decides here to simulatenously boast and whine about his newfound fame in a song disguised, at least in the chorus, as one about a comic-book superhero down on his luck. Apparently his main advice is that, "when the fans start grabbing you, Show gratitude with a little brag or two." Need I say more?
     Also, the video gives us no context as to exactly why blowing up a building is a heroic act. Could be an arsonist for all we know. Luckily enough, the structure of the song is decent enough and it's perfectly listenable... if you don't focus too much on the lyrics.

3.) On The Floor - Jennifer Lopez ft. Pitbull



It was Number One over here, guys. Pitbull. This walking insult to modern pop music releases a song with a washed out popstar, and the wise people of the UK decided to put it to number one, giving a boost to both of their careers.
     The song's lyrics are, of course, vapid and empty. This is a club song, a song mass-produced for no other purpose than to facilitate the gyrations of several drunk and sweaty people in dark, expensive night-clubs across the country. I think we can all accept that this is not a song that starts out with any reputation for musical integrity. I think what clinches the real hatred for me is the crippling repetition of the main verses, which make it often akin to fingers drawn down a blackboard.


2.) The Lazy Song - Bruno Mars 


I'll say it now; I thought Bruno Mars was actually quite a promising star when he appeared onto the British Charts in the Summer of 2010. He wasn't annoying, and his songs felt like genuine, modern love ballads with some real point to them. His collaboration with B.O.B, "Nothin' On You," was a favourite of mine during the summer, and felt like the best love song the other side of the Pond had produced in quite a while.
     Then, for some reason, Mars released "Grenade," a whiney song whose hyperbolic, logic-bomb melodrama made it unbearable. It wasn't, however, particularly hateful, unlike this entry. The Lazy Song is cocky, arrogant and irritating, taking an appropriately laidback track and inverting it with lyrics so horrible that they beggar belief.


Tomorrow I'll wake up, do some P90X
Find a really nice girl, have some really nice sex
And she's gonna scream out
This is great
(Oh my god, this is great)


What a long way we've come from, "You look amazing, just the way you are." I could accept that this was tongue-in-cheek, but that's no excuse to be so obnoxious and cockey about it. This, and the song's inane video, means that this song makes my skin crawl. Also, it's Number effing Two on the UK charts. Pull yourself together, UK.

1.) Bass Down Low - Dev



We're here, ladies and gentlemen. The song that inspired the list, a horrific American splodge that insults the neurons and destroys the eardrums. A sequel of sorts to the equally vapid "Like A G6," Bass Down Low takes the abject stupidity of that record and manages to fully drain it of any miniscule positives. 
      Its similarities to G6 are immediately apparent; the bassline is identical and Dev's contributions to that earlier track help to imbue this opus with much of its familiar obnoxious arrogance. That, of course, coupled with both songs' meaningless lyrics, tinged with only the slightest smudge of relevance. Dev claims with some confidence that any possible suitors of hers must be aware that, "I like my beats fast and my bass down low." And? What does that have to do with anything? The irony is especially apparent; the song's tempo is surprisingly casual and the bass isn't particularly lower than any other song I've heard recently.
      Of course, to any American readers this is old news; the song dropped out of the charts there with a peak of #64. But the song is currently in my native charts in the UK, climbing because of an impromtu remix with that omnipresent figure, Tinie Tempah. I can only hope it goes the same way as in the States. 

And that was my Top (Bottom?) Five Songs I Hate. I hope that the above songs haven't offended your sensibilities too much, as they offended mine. 


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That Doctor Who review will appear some time next week, as either three seperate articles or as one bumper-review covering Day of the Moon, Curse of the Black Spot and the highly anticipated The Doctor's Wife. I also hope to finish Lost 4.10 and maybe take a glance at Being Human 1.4, but I'm making no promises whatsoever. 


Thanks.