Suddenly

Posted June 12, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: movie reviews

Tags: ,

“Suddenly” is a small town in the sticks which suddenly hears its going to get a surprise visit from the President.  Or, rather, the town’s sheriff hears the news from the secret service; it’s all very hush-hush.  But not  hush-hush enough, it seems, because some trained assassins come to town and commandeer a house with a nice view of the railway station — and hold the family that lives there hostage.

Chief assassin is named John Baron, and is played to perfection by Frank Sinatra.  I’m not a huge fan of Sinatra’s music, but he was a hell of an actor, and he does a great job portraying this psychopathic killer.

This movie is infamous because its plot uncannily resembles the events of the JFK assassination, and, because of this, it was withdrawn from the public.  Rumor has it that Oswald had seen this film on TV a few weeks before he killed the President, although this appears to be untrue.

In any case, Suddenly  fell into the public domain, explaining its presence in this collection of mostly turkeys and B-films.

Not a B-film and most definitely not a turkey, this is a very tense thriller, with a load of talent in the cast.  Besides Sinatra, there’s Sterling Hayden as the Sheriff, and character actor James Gleason as one of the hostages.

My rating: 4/5.

One of  “the 300 (movies)

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The Invisible Enemy

Posted June 10, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: ,

Medium used: DVD

Gah! This is dreadful.  I might be a little more tolerant of this story if I’d seen it on its own, but after a long run of good or excellent material this seems really bad. It’s like listening to Tiny Tim after a Three Tenors concert.

 

Great Moments

As if!

Alright, alright, there is one scene that stood out for me: Leela dealing with that near-robotic receptionist.  That was just a little too realistic and gave me the shudders — forget the giant prawn, fear the receptionist.

 

Random Thoughts

Bad as it is, this serial has an interesting concept in something microscopic becoming, not only visible, but almost as big as a human.  Too bad the execution is so poor.

The use of phonetic spelling is kind of interesting, as well.

I concur with previous reviewers who were disturbed by the way Leela is depicted in this serial.  Previous story lines have established her character as being highly intelligent, but lacking an education ( “civilized” education, that is; she is actually quite well-educated in the skills of her tribe).

 

Shipping Report

This story doesn’t do the Doctor-Leela relationship any favors, does it?

On the other hand, we now have a third crew member, and it remains to be seen how he will fit in.

 

Food and Drink

The Titan crew are celebrating the end of their tour of duty.  There’s a big bowl of fruit on the table and they’re drinking from bottles, presumable something alcoholic.

The base commander  –Lowe? — is drinking a brown liquid in his office when the infected relief party arrives.

After his stint in the freezer –er, cryogenics chamber? — the commander is given a hot drink and a back rub by Leela.  Melts the ice right away, that does.

 

Grade: 1/5

June 10, 2013

 

 

The Horror of Fang Rock

Posted June 10, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: ,

Medium used: DVD

A well-crafted tale, suspenseful and claustrophobic.  Very well acted, by regulars and guest stars alike.

 

Great Moments

Those screams are particularly effective.

The many moments that the Doctor is indecisive or lacking confidence.  We’re so used to seeing him as the guy with all the answers that seeing him so unsure of himself is disconcerting. And he actually is wrong sometimes — believing Reuben the Rutan is simply Reuben in shock; and later he realizes that his whole approach has been wrong (“I’d thought I’d locked the enemy out, instead I’ve locked him in.”)

Reuben the Rutan, especially when he smiles — such an evil smile!

 

Random Thoughts

The characters fall into distinctly three groups: the working class crew of the lighthouse and Harker from the ship’s crew ; the gentry class survivors of the ship wreck; and the outsiders, Leela and the Doctor.  The plebeians come across as basically decent and hardworking; and, if Vince turns out to be corruptible, he only becomes so with reluctance.  The three members of the gentry, on the other hand, are portrayed as foolish, sleazy, and conniving.  Skinsale is given the chance to redeem himself, but dies for the sake of some diamonds the Doctor cast aside.

Neither do the TARDIS crew come across all that well.  Leela is indifferent to the fate of those shipwrecked — “They’ll all die, then”, she says in a dismissive tone.  Meanwhile, the Doctor, with his contemptuous dismissal of anything he regards as superstitious, seems more arrogant than enlightened.

Adelaide, although she is supposedly Lord Palmerdale’s mistress, turns to Skinsale for comfort.

And, speaking of Adelaide, I feel a tad guilty for cheering when the Rutan kills her.

I note that the rhetoric of the Rutan is very similar to the rhetoric of the Sontarans. I guess all warlike cultures sound pretty much the same.

 

Shipping Report

Leela and the Doctor are now working together as a team, in spite of some sniping between the two.  He keeps referring to her as a savage, and yet sticks up for her when she senses a wave of cold that no one else feels.  “If she says it’s getting colder, then it is.”

Also note how she’s learned to manipulate him by stroking his ego. “You’ll have no trouble defeating this primitive alien,” she says.  “You’re a Time Lord!” (quotation not exact).  She grins to herself, and we get the sense that there’s a bit of sarcasm there.

 

Food and Drink

The lighthouse crew have a supper of soup and bread that they generously share with their visitors.

The kitchen area has shelves full of canisters and jars of various foodstuffs. I noticed labels for salt, plums, and prunes among them.

Henry demands a brandy, but is disappointed to find that alcohol is not permitted in lighthouses.

Grade: 5/5

June 9, 2013

 

The Talons of Weng-Chiang

Posted June 8, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: ,
The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Professor Litefoot ...

The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Professor Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

medium used: DVD

This is my absolute favorite from classic Doctor Who.  Sure, it’s not perfect — there’s some padding (but very well-done padding), and the giant rat leaves something to be desired — but those are minor quibbles.

 

Great Moments

Where to start?  There’s so much great stuff in this serial!

Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere.  I have no idea how authentic the sets, costuming, and dialogue is, but it certainly seems authentic, and draws me right in to the story.

I’m especially charmed by the music hall scenes.

Every scene with Jago and Litefoot, whether individually or together.

Leela trying out the sporting equipment as potential weapons.  Loved it when she handled the golf club as a javelin.

Also, any scene with the Peking homunculus. Very creepy.

 

Random Thoughts

Chang calls both of the women he’s captured for his master “painted drabs”, but only one fits that description.  The other is a respectable servant girl.  I wonder if he is trying to convince himself that these unfortunate women deserve their fate.

The Doctor may be dressed like Sherlock Holmes, but this adventure is more like Fu Manchu tale than Baker Street.

Leela has a way of skewering the pretensions of others with her honesty — including the Doctor.

Doc: “Do you know what this is?” Leela: “You only ask me so you can tell me.”

Litefoot, trying to explain the tea ritual: “And then I ask you if you want one lump or two, and you say one.”  Leela: “But what if I want two?” Litefoot: “It’s always one for ladies.” Leela: “Why ask me, then?”

 

The Shipping Report

It’s towards the end of this  serial that the Doctor finally starts appreciating Leela as a companion.  And it’s about time!  He keeps telling her to stay behind, she keeps ignoring him, and continually displays her competence.  She even saves his life with one of her notorious janus thorns.  I get the sense that he is finally starting to like her.

 

Food and Drink

There’s quite a list this time:

Jago gives his stagehand something to drink from a flask (“You’ve been drinking.” “Not a drop”. “Well, it’s time you started.”)

Litefoot’s housekeeper has left a cold collation, which is more like a cold feast.  There’s ham, roast beef, chicken, tongue, and quail. Leela is awed , “Meat” she exclaims, and grabs a big hunk of roast, eating with her bare hands.  Litefoot, good host that he is, follows suit, although obviously unnerved by her uncivilized manners. (Leela’s enthusiastic response can probably be traced back to the scarcity of game in Sevateem territory.  She probably hasn’t had much meat for  quite a while; and we can also surmise that the Doctor doesn’t keep much meat on board the TARDIS.)

Leela also lifts up a punch bowl and drinks from it.

The Doctor gives Jago something to drink from a vial hidden in his cane.

After chasing the masked man, the Doctor announces that he is going have supper.

There’s a bowl of fruit on Litefoot’s table (mostly pears)

Chiang feeds his pet (i.e., giant rat) a hunk of raw meat.

The Doctor claims to have caught a salmon in the Fleet, which he shared with the Venerable Bede.

Streetwalker says she wants a pair of smoked kippers and a cup of rosie.

Jago says he’s going out for a glass of port.

Doctor promises to bring Leela to the theater and, if she’s good, buy her an orange.

Upon finding the beat-up Litefoot, the Doc tells Leela to get him a drink. “In a glass!  In a glass!” as she grabs the whole bottle.

Doctor jokingly refers to hazelnuts and bread pellets as ammunition.

Doctor offers a jelly baby to Chiang.

Doctor jokes about ordering bird’s nest soup in the House of the Dragon.

After the crisis is over, the Doctor buys everyone muffins.

Litefoot tries to explain the tea ritual to Leela.

Grade: 5/5

June 8, 2013

 

 

The Robots of Death

Posted June 7, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: ,

medium used: DVD

A well-crafted story, well-acted and well-designed.  The man behind the robot crime wave is revealed a bit too early, but that really doesn’t detract much from the overall quality.

 

Great Moments

We have a very fine opening scene showing the crew at leisure.  Their interaction reveals their individual personalities, the tensions between them, hints at the sort of culture they come from, and indicates their dependancy on robots.  And it manages all this quite gracefully and without being obviously expository.

We then have a contrasting scene showing the TARDIS “crew”, also at leisure.  Leela is playing with the yo-yo, although she doesn’t realize she’s playing.  One can imagine that Leela, new to the TARDIS, has a million and one questions of the Doctor; he’s given her the yo-yo as a distraction to keep her out of his hair. There’s an awkwardness between them — the Doctor, in particular, doesn’t seem keen on her company, but is resigned to being her mentor.

These two scenes set up the situation to follow, and do so with both style and an economy of words — an admirable bit of writing.

 

Random Thoughts

We get two different versions of the scandal in Uvanov’s past.  Wonder which one is the truth?

Sentient robots, robophobia, a slave-based economy, etc — Robots would be the ideal slave class: they can be programmed to serve all functions and satisfy every whim, have no emotions to interfere with their duties, and are created to be harmless to humans.  Theoretically, the overlord class would not develop the fear of the oppressed that other slave-dependent cultures usually exhibit. And yet . . . there’s robophobia, explained away as caused by the robots lack of body language. But maybe it’s also tied in to sociological reasons — the dependency/fear of the ruling class. (and could a sentient robot develop emotions, or something akin to them?  And therefore feel resentment?)

While on the topic of robots, there’s an interesting scene with D-84 and the Doctor: Leela is clearly heard in the background, crying out for help from the locked lounge room; D-84 startles the Doctor, who cries out himself, D-84 says “I heard a cry”; Doctor responds “That was me”.  The conversation is repeated 3 0r 4 times.

What’s curious is this:  D-84 is probably trying to alert the Doctor about the other cry he heard (ie, Leela), and thus he keeps repeating himself, and the Doc, egoist that he is, doesn’t catch on.  Is D-84 programmed to never contradict a human?  Is that why he can’t say, “No, it wasn’t your cry, it was someone else.  Should we turn back and check it out?” (I don’t have an answer, just thought it was an odd moment.)

 

Shipping Report

Doctor: reluctant mentor; Leela: eager student

The Doc still doesn’t have much respect for Leela’s hunter-warrior skills, but he’s starting to learn. She’s able to perceive things he can’t, such as the imminent danger to the mining vessel.  His resentment towards her shows on many occasions, such as when he continues to call her “mouse” even after her helium-affected voice is back to normal.

Who has more to learn, the Doctor or Leela?

 

Food and Drink

The Doctor eats something, probably a jelly baby, as they look for the TARDIS, and doesn’t offer one to Leela.

But, later on, he does offer his captors one.

Leela drinks some water, and complains of its lack of taste.

Poul explains that the water has been reprocessed so often, it no longer has any flavor.  He drops some kind of pellet into her cup that’s supposed to improve the taste.

 

Grade: 4/5

June 7, 2013

 

The Face of Evil

Posted June 4, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: ,

media used: DVD and novelization

Leela!!! That one name should say it all, but I guess I’ll need to write a bit more.  Good serial, with an interesting situation caused by the Doctor himself.  Granted, the last episode drags a bit, but the introduction of the wondrous Leela makes up for just about everything this tale may lack.

 

Great Moments

The Doctor’s face carved into a mountain, ala Mount Rushmore.  When I first watched this serial, that was a real shocker.

Leela puncturing the Doc’s ego by suggesting the entrance way into the mountain is through the sculpture’s nose.

The squirming, slithering Horda. (I’m tempted to say something about Horda hears a Who, but I won’t)

The Tesh leader, so outwardly calm — and, when no one can see, pounding his fist in frustration.

Xoanon, as it goes through its identity crisis, starts speaking in a terrified child’s voice. (Very effective.)

 

Random Thoughts

Judging by the skimpy outfits of the tribe, this is area has a hot climate. But the Doctor wears his heavy coat and scarf all the way through without breaking a sweat.

As with the previous serial, I’m noticing the lack of women.  Leela is the only female character.  There  is no  indication that the Sevateem lock up their women folk.  If Leela were unusual for being a female warrior, we would expect to hear some mention of it in dialog. (She’s banished for blasphemy, not violating  her gender role). Moreover, when Leela is nominated for the leadership position, no one turns blue and shouts, “Gah! I won’t take orders from a woman.”

What I deduce from this is that the Sevateem are used to female warriors and have no particular problem with women in authority, which further means that we should be seeing a few of them out and about, participating in tribal councils, and so forth.  Where are they, then?

The Tesh have no women in sight, either.  Given the Tesh asceticism, they might be segregated from the male population.  I’m assuming that the Tesh do, indeed, have females, unless they’ve developed a way to reproduce asexually —  but that really wouldn’t help Xoanan’s eugenics experiment, and probably wouldn’t be allowed.

This issue was brought up in the DVD commentary, with the explanation that it was due to budget restraints.  I don’t get it — are female extras more expensive?

 

Shipping Report

A new companion, her name is Leela, and, as you’ve probably guessed, I think she rocks.  She’s a maverick from the very beginning, and it’s not surprising she should run off with the Doctor, even if he doesn’t really want her.  Leela had outgrown her tribe even before the Doctor came into her life, and she knows he’s the way into a new world.  They’ve got a mentor / student sort of relationship, and it will be interesting to see how it develops.

 

Food and Drink

The Doctor offers Leela a jelly baby,(and she exclaims, “So it’s true!  The Evil One eats babies.)

The Doctor threatens to kill a tribesman with a “deadly jelly baby”, but, this time, his bluff is called. (Actually, this qualifies as a Great Moment)

The Sevateem leader complains about the lack of game, and that people are going hungry. (The scarcity of game is hardly surprising.  Most hunting-and-gathering cultures — which I assume the Sevateem are, as there’s no mention of agriculture — need to be nomadic in order to survive.  But the Sevateem are stuck in one area because of their religion — they can’t leave the vicinity of Xoanon.  They’ve exhausted the resources of their area; it’s a wonder it hasn’t happened much earlier.)

After recovering consciousness, the Doctor eats a cube of food concentrate given him by Leela (in the book, he also drinks a beaker of water).  I suppose that’s the limits of Tesh cuisine.

When Leela and the Doctor converse with the now-sane Xoanon, the computer creates a sofa for them to sit on.  It also creates a small box that has a food stuff inside.  The Doctor eats something from it — maybe it’s another jelly baby, but I can’t tell for sure.

 Grade: 4/5

June 4, 2013

 

The Deadly Assassin

Posted June 3, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags:
The Deadly Assassin

The Deadly Assassin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

media used:  DVD and novelization

 

This serial does have some very fine moments, but, personally, I find it lacking.  Maybe it’s the lack of a companion, or maybe it’s the over-long Matrix sequence or maybe it’s the de-mystifying of the Time Lords (although, in the long run, that was probably a good thing) — for whatever reason, I can’t get too enthused about this story.

Great Moments

First sight of the Master’s face – yeah, creepy.  See, boys and girls, that’s what happens if you don’t live right.

Scary, laughing clown. ‘Nuff said.

The costuming — sets weren’t so great, but costumes were inspired.  We get a good feel for Gallifreyan culture just by looking at them.

 

Random Thoughts

So . . . the life of an average Time Lord.  It looks, at first glance, very placid.  The council and chief officers are made up primarily of complacent old men.  They like ritual.  They like it when everyone knows their place. Clothing indicates rank, caste, and function.  Women don’t have much of a role here. (there is no female presence until towards the end, when we hear a woman’s voice reciting the mythology of Rassilon.  Possibly there are women among the throng of Time Lords, but we don’t see them.)

And, what’s more, this isn’t much of a democracy.  The President normally appoints his successor; elections only occur when he doesn’t.  And who is allowed to vote, I wonder?

We can see clearly why the Doctor left town.

 

Shipping Report

Not much to ship here, except the ongoing Master-Doctor hate/love relationship. (I’m sticking with my theory that the origins of the Master’s hatred is unrequited love)  Poor, old Master has become quite mad by now — an evil life will do that to you –and he’s not satisfied with killing the Doctor, he wants to destroy his reputation, too.  Of course, he fails, but it’s not all for naught, as he actually succeeds in renewing his life energy to live a while longer.  Crime does indeed pay, once in a while.

Food and Drink

In the Matrix: the Doctor chews on a leaf, presumably for the moisture; attempts to drink from a canteen (but it’s empty); drinks water from a stream via a hollow reed (to avoid the poison)

Engin gives the Doctor a glass of an unidentified beverage.

 

Grade: 3/5

June 3, 2013