Thursday, 29 November 2007

Strictly Matt & Gethin ...


I'm not sure if this gif will move by itself - if it doesn't download it to where it will!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Doctor Who - Donna & Rose


The Sun bagged the first shot of the two companion actresses together on location this week. Thought I'd share ...

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Doctor Who - new promo pic from "Voyage of the Damned"


As the Beeb announce their Christmas goodies today, one of the items is a new promo pic for the Doctor Who Christmas Special, featuring as yet unseen 'creatures' that look like Angels. Something of a cross between the Weeping Angels from "Blink" and the robot Santas from the last two festive episodes is my first impression.

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Meanwhile the other buzz amongst online fans has been the Mirror story of a series 4 return for Rose coinciding with photos from recent filming which appear to confirm this. Graeme Harper's appearance in one of these shots would appear to suggest this is for the Doctor-lite episode making up Block 7. This also follows similar reports of Lis Sladen also being on set with Catherine Tate. In otherwords the rumours are that the episode will be Doctor-lite, but companion-heavy with four of them (Rose, Martha, Donna and Sarah) appearing. The Mirror story also says Billie Piper is there for three episodes. And since we also know Captain Jack is back at some point there may be five companions (I feel a story title coming on!).

I put this item in because I'm fairly sure all this speculation is on the right track, partly because Billie is wearing a very Rose-like outfit, but one we've not seen before.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

All hail "The Sarah Jane Adventures"! (spoilers)

Something else I've not been giving the blog-space it should is the new "Doctor Who" spin-off, "The Sarah Jane Adventures". So this is to make amends.

I'm at CBBC pace so I've only got the very last episode of the first series to go - as such I may have spoilers below for the last story so you may wish to skip this until BBC One catches up on Monday afternoon.

Anyways, having been piloted on New Years Day, the series proper kicked off in late September with the first of five two-part adventures. That format in itself has contributed to what many have said is a 'classic-Who" feel to the series - it certainly doesn't seem to talk down to the kiddy audience any more than most of the 80s episodes of the main series. And this also ensures a cliffhanger ending per story, something "New-Who" doesn't have most of the time. It's also one of the best children's dramas produced by the BBC in recent years - surely it must go to a second series?

I'll tackle the five stories individually. First off, to groans at what the title confirmed, was "Revenge of the Slitheen". I forgave this as it meant that one of the "New-Who" aliens that seem to have gone down terribly well with SJA's target age range (if not for many of us 'flamekeepers') had an opportunity to return, but without bothering the parent show. This opening two-parter also had to remind us of the concept and characters the pilot gave us as well as introduce them to those who missed the pilot over the busy festive season.

It helped that a new character, Clyde, was also introduced here who seems to have gone down a whole lot better than the similarly streetwise Kelsey whom he replaced (this also balanced up what had been an overly female line-up of regulars). Here Clyde was let in on the secrets and joined the gang, becoming a grounded 'Geordi' to otherworldly Luke's 'Data' - a dynamic that has worked well through the series. Thankfully that similarity hasn't been taken too far by making Luke too integrated and cool - he eschews football and fails miserably at skateboarding later in the series.

Back to the opening story - I felt it was OK, but not quite as impressive as the pilot. In fact the undercover Slitheen, the dodgy food and Sarah in the school setting did make it too similar to "School Reunion" last year. As with many of the SJA cliffhangers, this plot strives to imperil more than one of our regulars at the climax of episode one, often pulling a twist on the top. Very much the case here where they scored brownie points from me for introducing a child Slitheen who occupied the body of a real, and surely dead, schoolboy. That's still actually a disturbing concept to think about. Nevertheless, this also contributed to feeling some sympathy for the baddies at the climax when the Slitheen father pleads to Sarah and her gang for his son's life to be spared. Only Sarah appears to waver here - the others ensure all the Slitheen are defeated. This advanced one of the themes of "Boomtown" where a returning 'Margaret' pleaded for her own life with an initially ruthless Doctor.

Some kudos to director Alice Troughton (soon to become only the second director to work on all three 'Who-related' dramas) as well, for toning down the buffoonery of the Slitheen a little, if not as much as I'd ideally like. The farting was unavoidably written in Gareth Roberts' script.

Then we have the first of my favourites in the run, Phil Ford's "Eye of the Gorgon" , where SJA really strutted its stuff. Weakened only by giving away the monster in the title again this one plays with a lot of gothic stuff like nuns in hearses and creepy old houses with hidden passages. The use of Gorgon mythology was countered with old-school dismissing of any magic or supernatural forces in a way Sarah would have learnt from her Doctors. Here the Gorgons (like The Daemons) are just another ancient and powerful alien race, of which only one has survived on Earth protected by a devoted coven of nuns.

Beth Goddard played the chief nun with an evil gusto, but this story was stolen by Bea (Phylidda Law) an elderly adventuress now confined to a home and suffering with Alzheimers. But only Bea knows anything of the truth and possesses an ancient artefect sought by the Gorgon to bring more of the creatures through a portal. As someone personally touched by the tragedy of Alzheimers, you might think I felt the inclusion of this by name in a children's programme was a touch insensitive but I thought it was well handled and very brave not to 'cure' Bea where they clearly had an opportunity. A 'cure' would give cruel hope to children in the audience and here Bea is a hero despite the affliction.

In another twist cliffhanger it is Maria's Dad, Alan who is unexpectedly turned to stone by the Gorgon. Later, Sarah is blindfolded and held by the nuns as she is prepared to be the next 'host' for the Gorgon - a scene that brought back memories of a similar peril she faced in "Seeds of Doom". As with the casual mention here for the Sontarans, I felt this might be a another little bonus for us older viewers.

And I must mention the realisation of the Gorgon itself, which must have scared the kiddies witless. Though there was no snake-hair it was a very creepy creation, as ever strengthened by the whole 'look and you'll be turned to stone' idea used so powerfully (if in reverse) by "Blink" earlier this year.

Then to "Warriors of Kudlak". Sorry, I only managed episode one of this but may catch the conclusion at some point. It just seemed a bit hackneyed and full of things I'd seen somewhere before, notably the blatant lift from the "Cloudbusting" video. As many others have already wrote the whole 'laser-tag' type game at the heart of the plot is really not of the same generation as Clyde who'd probably rather go for a Wii. Perhaps the author was pining for an earlier era or just didn't understand 'da yoof'? I also felt splitting the regular team up by gender rather weakened their appeal and I missed getting a weekly dose of Maria's Dad. Though I did like the comic cameo by the receptionist.

"Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?" was the one I'd been looking forward to, as it had been described as 'darker' than the rest of the series. As with "Eye of the Gorgon" it went more toward fantasy than sci-fi with a simple premise of removing Sarah-Jane from the time-stream and switching her with a Sarah-Jane-like replacement.

Maria, like the audience, was the only one who remembered how things should be and set about challenging the situation. Sarah-Jane's replacement (living in her house and seemingly having the same relationship with Maria and family) was Andrea Yates, played with a disconcerting estuary accent by Jane Asher. She is otherwise, I'd say, deliberately directed and styled as close to Sarah-Jane as possible. In both the 'correct' and this timeline there had been a fatal accident involving Sarah-Jane and Andrea when they were on a school trip aged 13. However in the 'correct' timeline Andrea had died while Sarah-Jane survived. Somehow this was reversed in the timeline Maria now encountered, having the knock-on effect that Luke was also absent, though he had never existed in the first place.

Thanks to Maria's meddling, Andrea is forced to remember/confront what has really happened - she's entered into a faustian pact with a cowled creature seen only in mirrors (named here as The Trickster only by Alan in episode 2) who has saved her life for his own purposes. As we'd seen at the episode's opening, in the 'correct' timeline Sarah-Jane and Mr Smith casually tell the gang and audience about an approaching meteor that is on course to hit Earth the next day, but not to worry as this will be effortlessly repelled by Mr Smith's supercomputer powers. Yes, Mr Smith is also not around but the meteor is, so The Trickster has conspired for there to be no defence. And that's about it for his motives - he wants chaos for its own sake and later sneers at the merely greedy reasons behind the other foes we've seen from the Bane onward. In fact he's also specifically deflected their incursions from this timeline.

It transpres though that the reason Maria is unaffected is something conferred upon her by a "Hellraiser"-type puzzlebox Sarah-Jane gave her early in the episode. The Trickster though arranges for Maria's 'despatch' using a Graske to catch her and imprison her in a white-void limbo. In doing so, she leaves the box behind in her living-room and it is picked up by her Dad. He has a bit of a special-effects induced 'bad trip' here and then finds another changed timeline where, although he still has no knowledge of Sarah-Jane, no-one else now except him has any memory of Maria either. Meanwhile Maria manages to escape the void but drops into 1964 rather than home, where she immediately meets up with two 13 year old girls who are about to venture onto a dangerous pier. We know it's the cliffhanger when the more sensible girl introduces herself as Sarah-Jane Smith.

Again it is to the programme's credit that the resolution in the next episode is NOT Maria managing to change what happens next - in fact she's swiftly recaptured and taken back to the void where she's re-united with a helpless Sarah-Jane. It falls to Maria's Dad Alan to do the hero business for several scenes from confronting Andrea to wrestling down the Graske. Clyde is around by now but equally ignorant of the 'correct' timeline and thus useless bar switching on the TV to see a report of the incoming meteor. Maria is returned, but Sarah-Jane cannot be without Andrea's express consent to end her contract with the Trickster. This will return the 'correct' timeline but kill Andrea.

Though it's obvious she will die with everyone else when the meteor strikes rather than falling from a pier in 1964 Andrea takes rather a long while to come to the 'correct' decision. And here is the reason I use inverted commas when referring to the 'correct' timeline as the emotional dialogue here (between Andrea and a mirror-only Sarah-Jane in the attic) questions what 'correct' should be, which is a bit more existential an interlude than I would expect.

Again the resolution adds a further twist as our heroes (now including Luke) return to a more familiar attic, complete with Mr Smith. But they return with Alan in tow, who is now in on the whole set-up and this poses a cliffhanger of a sort rather than a traditional reset where somehow his memory would be wiped.

This leads straight into the situation at the opening of the last story, "The Lost Boy". It's certainly the best title as the eponymous boy might actually be one of three characters, even if we are initially led to believe it refers to Luke. Having been largely absent for the previous story it does give him a bit more of the action here. I have to add here that I inadvertantly found out two rather large spoilers for this before watching it, and I'd definitely have enjoyed it even more without that knowledge. So I say again, don't read it here if you haven't seen episode one.

It starts with Alan taking last week's revelations rather badly, citing Sarah-Jane as a bad influence on Maria and planning to move away from the area. This is altogether encouraged by ex-wife Chrissie, who has never quite gelled with Sarah-Jane (nor been able to correctly remember her name). Meanwhile another pesky news report punctures procedings for our regulars. Now this element was very brave of the producers to include in light of recent events - two distraught parents are appealing for the return of their lost son, Ashley, at a televised press conference. A picture flashes up of the boy - a double for Luke. Chrissie immediately calls the police - this only confirms her suspicions about the weird lady across the road.

Partly because of one of the spoilers I knew, I was taken aback by the tone of the story so far. If anything it was darker still than its predeccessor throwing up all sorts of real-life nasties we hear on the news. Although never actually mouthed, there's every possibility of Sarah-Jane being seen as a potential paedophile or deranged child snatcher! Though I have to say this always going to be a bit of an elephant in the room ever since our heroine adopted Luke in the pilot, with Mr Smith helping to falsify the official records. Apparently.

Luckily, through some vaguely explained UNIT string-pulling, Sarah-Jane is released from arrest on a never specified charge. Luke is given up to Ashley's parents. (Bit of artistic licence here as I'm sure Luke would have been interviewed by the police rather than given straight back to the parents).

In some ways this should be the weakest point in the story as it points out how glibly the adoption has been treated previously and also how we didn't really know Luke's origins or if he somehow started human. Our questioning heroes had never questioned. Even his non-existant belly-button could have been surgically removed by the Bane. But it works, as it captures the theme of Sarah-Jane's world falling apart after Mr Smith confirms that Luke and Ashley are a genetic match. Significantly, Sarah-Jane goes on to reject Maria, in order to lessen the hurt of the latter leaving.

Mr Smith gives Sarah-Jane a distraction from the trauma which she readily accepts - investigating experiments in telekinesis at the Pharos Institute. There she meets an obnoxious child genius, Nathan, whom she compares unfavourably with Luke.

Meanwhile Luke is not finding life as Ashley very comfortable - they have little in common and he remembers nothing of the life documented in photos he is shown, while his parents lock him in his room.

Things start to veer back to more normal SJA territory when both the child prodigy and Ashley's parents start acting suspiciously and using strange technical terms like 'the Xyloc'.

Clyde tries to visit Luke but is batted away by Ashley's parents who give him a photo of the previously happy family to prove their claim. Clyde takes this immediately to Mr Smith for analysis, saying he suspects it's been faked. Mr Smith concurs - he faked it himself.

Luke briefly escapes after spotting Clyde but is recaptured just as Ashley's parents are visited by an irate Nathan who advises never to trust a Xyloc. Seeing no further need for discretion Ashley's parents reveal themselves as Slitheen, albeit ones with new slimline bodysuits (which also appear not to have a flatulence problem). Nathan angrily rounds on Luke and soon reveals himself as another Slitheen. But this is the child Slitheen whose father was 'murdered' by Luke and friends earlier in the series. This is his revenge.

Back in the attic Mr Smith explains he is a Xyloc and zaps Clyde from the room.


Credits roll.

Another sublime double-whammy cliffhanger ending a remarkable episode. Even though it was the Slitheen appearing and Mr Smith's betrayal I'd heard this was still a belter and I really can't wait for the resolution next week. Had I not known I wouldn't have guessed - the disguised Slitheen displayed none of the trademark giveaways and Mr Smith just seemed to be being Mr Smith until the last scene.

I do have a vague suspicion that all is still not what it seems, but not sure whether this will exonerate Mr Smith's actions or magnify them. Maybe K9 will ride back to the rescue?
A final update next week I think!
Some screencaps by Wear Your Wellies Graphics

Mano a Mano

Cross-posted from my 18+ blog, a really rather fantastic short film aptly set to "Dueling Banjos", with a touch of "Glengarry Glen Ross".

Very adult themes and language but no nudity.



More of these guys' videos at YouTube.

Strictly Come Dancing Week 7 - Jitterbug & 'Jack'

I'm still avidly watching (and still avidly supporting Gethin) but I hadn't posted anything recently and this one just can't be overlooked. On the show screened last Sunday the remaining couples performed a group jitterbug, with the guys in uniforms being a quiet nod to the Remembrance weekend. Some of us admired this move for additional reasons ...



And popping up on the same show was everyone's favourite outrageous gay man, John Barrowman, singing and dancing to promote his new album.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

More "Children in Need" japes!




On top of the "Doctor Who" mini-drama, I'm also rather looking forward to the Eastenders' cast '40th anniversary tribute' to "Sergeant Pepper". It's a while since the Albert Square alumni have done a musical turn in the show and it seems that many of the newer and younger cast are getting their chance on Friday. As these pictures specifically show it is worth it alone for sour faced characters like Sean and Shirley showing a lighter side. It looks like a mountain of curtain material was used to wrap the cast.

Here's the Children in Need website with full details.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

More like "Happy Birthday BAFTA" please ITV!





Hopefully this is the Grade effect, but I watched this show at 9pm last night and, had it not been for the ads (a very festive and expensive bunch incedentally), I'd have sworn this was a BBC production.

From Stanley Baxter to Victoria Wood and the choices of Parky and Lumley as co-hosts this just reeked the sort of considered class that ITV has lacked for years.

About the only ropey bits were the "Coronation St" fake retro pieces where Kim Ryder and Anthony Cotton were digitally imposed on old footage and the apparently obligatory Sharon Osborne appearance.

Great to see the "Upstairs, Downstairs" cast re-united (sort of) with the revelation that the first proposed spin-off was actually to feature Hudson, Mrs Bridges and Ruby running a seaside guest house - unfortunately Angela Baddeley died mere weeks after the final episode was broadcast.

Oh and special mention for the set - again a cut above what we normally see.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Jiggle in those Jockeys boys!


"Jockey is sponsoring an online competition that features regular joes dancing in their skivvies. Aspiring guys who wants to win the $5000 prize has until November 15 to upload their videos.The website is here: http://www.jockeyunderwars.com/"

Via WetBoxersGuy.

I really want to see those entries! But not the best season to launch this in surely ... and why only for America? Maybe the dollar prize is too paltry for the rest of us these days!

5 minute management course

No doubt this will already be known to some of my readers but I thought it was worth sharing here:

"Lesson 1:
A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbour. Before she says a word, Bob says, "I'll give you £800 to drop that towel." She thinks for a moment, drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob. After a few seconds, Bob hands her £800 and leaves. The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs. When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, "Who was that?" "It was Bob the next door neighbour," she replies. "Great!" the husband says, "did he say anything about the £800 he owes me?"

Moral of the story :
If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.


Lesson 2:
A priest offered a Nun a lift. She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg. The priest nearly had an accident. After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg. The nun said, "Father, remember Psalm 129?" The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again. The nun once again said, "Father, remember Psalm 129?" The priest apologized "Sorry sister but the flesh is weak". Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way. On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, "Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory."

Moral of the story:
If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.



Lesson 3:
A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out. The Genie says, "I'll give each of you just one wish." "Me first! Me first!" says the admin clerk. "I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world." Puff! She's gone. "Me next! Me next!" says the sales rep "I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life." Puff! He's gone. "OK, you're up," the Genie says to the manager. The manager says, "I want those two back in the office after lunch."

Moral of the story:
Always let your boss have the first say.



Lesson 4
An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing. A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, "Can I also sit like you and do nothing?" The eagle answered: "Sure, why not." So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story:
To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.



Lesson 5
A turkey was chatting with a bull. "I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree," sighed the turkey, "but I haven't got the energy." "Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?" replied the bull. “They're packed with nutrients." The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree. He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.

Moral of the story:
Bullsh*t might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there.



Lesson 6
A little bird was flying south for the Winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field. While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him. As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was. The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Morals of the story:
(1) Not everyone who sh*ts on you is your enemy;
(2) Not everyone who gets you out of sh*t is your friend;
(3) And when you're in deep sh*t, it's best to keep your mouth shut!


This ends the 5-minute management course."

Monday, 5 November 2007

Doctor Who - the 2008 Sontaran!

The official BBC website has released two pics of the TARDIS crew and a newly remodelled (powder blue!) Sontaran.

Martha Jones also returns as of this story, following a 3-episode stint in "Torchwood" which will screen first.

Here's one of those pics:

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