Doctor Who – The Good, The Bad and The Timey-Wimey

I first got into Doctor Who in 2006-07 when BBC Entertainment brought to the eyes of the budding viewers in India a strange leather clad adventurer with a blue box. Almost immediately I was captured by Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of what would become one of my most beloved characters of all time (pun intended!) – a manic and excitable genius, who seemed to also be hiding a darker side. While I had to bid goodbye to my first Doctor all too soon, with Eccleston only getting the one season (the second shortest reign of any Doctor), I shall never forget what he awakened in me – a great love for all things Who and a slight man-crush on his successor David Tennant.

Let me stop myself there. I seem to have started on a line of thought that could go on forever (or at least roughly 1304 years, if you get my drift.) Let’s get to what we’re here to talk about – the 50th Anniversary. But before you read on, let me warn you… Spoilers sweety! (I really hope you read that to yourself in the voice of River Song, otherwise it was just creepy!)

** For the rest of this article make your way to the full version on the Comic Addicts website run by my fellow geek, author and imagineer Akshay Dhar **

Movie Review – Man of Steel

*** WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS ***

There’s always pressure on a reboot to perform, especially when its a second attempt, so I was genuinely happy to see the brilliant job done with the new Man of Steel after the 2006 attempt (Superman Returns) failed to live up to the hype.

Right off the bat one has to notice that unlike Superman movies of the past, this one takes a lot less for granted. There is an extensive look at the back story, as opposed to the normal 5 minutes of a spaceship in a barn, a blanket with an ‘S’ on it and then Brando’s “Kal-El, you are my son”. We really get to go into the death of Krypton and the reason for Kal-El’s presence on earth. There is also a significant amount of time given to character development, albeit through the generally hackney tool of flashbacks (though they were blended quite well here). It shows you glimpses into his childhood – dealing with the responsibility of having superpowers and deciding to hide them because the world was not ready for him.

But Supes wasn’t the only one. I was also quite pleased with the treatment of Zod, our main antagonist. Unlike the prior incarnation, where he was simply a egomaniacal baddie, this new vision saw him as a driven soldier, bred and created for the sole purpose of ensuring Krypton’s survival, even at the cost of the human race – which puts him at odds with Kal-El who comes to the decision that “Krypton had its chance”. At the same time though, you can see that this is not a decision made lightly, and his hand is forced by the opposing forces of the surviving Kryptonians and the human armies, neither willing to share, as Jor-El envisioned. The friend that I watched the movie with was rather disappointed with the choice of Zod for the villain, but I beg to differ. I think for the story that they were trying to tell – Superman’s origin and reconciliation of his two identities and final acceptance of Earth as his true home – Zod was the obvious choice.

But character development doesn’t mean they skimped on the action – not at all! The fight scenes are rather brilliant. And thankfully they are quite watchable, as opposed to the Transformers/Iron Man trend of everything moving so fast you can barely tell what’s happening. It’s always cool to see super-beings go up against each other and Zod second in command, Faora-Ul was particularly bad-ass! I wonder though if the next movie will address the issue of collateral damage – its something superhero movies don’t usually touch on – who pays when a fight Superman levels half of Metropolis

Shout out to the brilliant casting for this flic. Russell Crowe kind of stole the show most of the time with his wise yet bad-ass Jor-El. While no one could ever really replace Brando in his iconic portrayal, Crowe has definitely reset the bar high. Similar props for Henry Cavill. Christopher Reeves, the real life Superman, has been a role that no one has been able to touch in decades so its a real testament to Cavill that he absolutely nails it! He’s broody, yet good-old-american boy, with a little angst and turmoil thrown in – perfect Superman recipe. And lets not forget Michael Shannon, the man who done an impeccable job in the role of Zod – I actually felt for the guy – that’s saying something for a super-villain!

While I thought this movie was quite awesome, I will point out that there are some things that purists will probably take issue with.

  • Lois Lane’s hair – While strictly speaking she’s still a brunette (I think – the 3D glasses made the screen really dark!) she doesn’t have the classic jet black, but rather Amy Adams’ almost redhead locks.
  • Perry White, Editor-in-chief of The Daily Planet isn’t white – The role went to Laurence Fishburne, who I think, for the 5 seconds of screen time that he had, did a great job.
  • No Jimmy Olsen?!
  • Jonathan Kent dies! (Rather dramatically too might I add) – In teaching his son yet another lesson, Jonathan Kent sacrifices himself to protect his son’s identity, knowing that the world has not ready for his powers, or perhaps it was his son that was not ready? Disappointing – I really like Kevin Costner
  • The suit – Now in our classic Superman its mama Kent that makes him the suit, using the blanket he was wrapped in as a child (thus the ‘S’/Kryptonian symbol for the house of El) – But here it’s presented to him by Jor-El (more correctly a computer program emulating him) as some form of battle-suit?
  • No spit-curl – Oh but how will Clark Kent’s brilliant disguise work now?

Personally, I don’t think any of these changes affects the movie at all. But you know how we Geeks are, we fill find a reason to complain ; p

All in all, while I’m not going to get in line right away to watch it a second time like I did for Dark Knight, I definitely think its merits a second watch. And a word of advice – watch in 2D if you can – there’s nothing in this movie that makes it a must watch in 3D so enjoy a cheaper ticket and more comfortable watch instead.

EASTER EGG – Let’s see if you can spot this one – during one of the fight scenes Superman gets thrown into a sign at a construction site that says “160 DAYS SINCE LAST ACCIDENT” (or something like that)  and the 1 and 6 get knocked off as he collides with it so that, for a fraction of a second, the sign says 0 days instead – I only barely caught this one. My friend did not, which is why he was wondering why I started chuckling in the middle of a fight scene.

Six Seasons and A Movie – Community Gets Renewed

I am truly torn about the news that one of my favorite show in many years will be back for a 5th season. The recent season finale pulled in massive numbers and despite the feeling amongst many fans that the show jumped the shark once Dan Harmon was let go, it still has a lot of support and love. The truth is, I can’t blame people for still wanting to watch it, even though it isn’t the show it used to be.

From the very beginning Season 4 had a dark shadow overhead. Harmon, the original creator and visionary, was no longer in charge, and fans feared what this meant for their beloved Greendale Human Beings. As it turned out, it meant sub-par episodes and a comedy legend calling it quits after a long spiral of negativity towards the show and its creator. But despite the general aura that the show was beginning to flat-line, I still had hope.

Truth be told, there were moments – fleeting ones – but moments nonetheless, where I saw the brilliance this show used to possess bleed through the blah it has become. Episodes like the “Advanced Documentary Filmmaking” and “Basic Human Anatomy” had solid build-up and spiked my interest, but sadly they lacked the follow-through of the old seasons. “Heroic Origins” was a particularly capturing episode, right up to its end, which just fell flat, even though the episode started at such a high point that I actually swore to my friend, who decided that Community ended at Season 3, that there was life in this old dog yet!

But nothing is as definitive of the show’s flat-lining as the Season Finale – “Advanced Introduction to Finality”. I have to admit, that while watching I was unaware it was the final episode, which did alter my reception of it, but that’s beside the point. At first i thought a revival of The Darkest Timeline was brilliant! The show looked like it was kicking it into high gear – in the words of Abed “They found a way to make paintball cool again” – a solid nod to some of the best episodes of the old seasons. But then it went and became “blah” by just explaining it away as a dream sequence. And Chevy’s little storm-in right off at the end – how dreadfully matter-of-fact!

So it is that I find myself not knowing how to feel about the news that the Study Group will be back for another season (minus Chevy). I still remember how great this how used to be, and frequently re-watch old episodes – you can’t help but form a slight emotional investment in such brilliantly sculpted characters – so it’s really hard to watch them disappoint you – but you still want to watch.

Maybe there is a miracle around the corner. Maybe some time away will make people realize this show needs to go back to its roots. If they really want to do this one more time, they better make it count. I refuse to watch this show slowly fizz out like Heroes – If they’re going down, I want them to go out guns blazing.

I’m also unsure how to feel about the departure of Chevy Chase. I mean this man is a comedy legend – his many years of starting SNL with this iconic fall, his MANY movies – Fletch, Caddyshack, the Vacation series – I absolutely love this guy! Too bad he is a complete prick! His antics and resistance was a major contributing factor in Harmon’s departure – like his character, he was just becoming harder and harder to deal with. I tried my best to separate the man from his work, but I fear I have lost repeat for both. On the bright side though, maybe his departure will open up a possibility of the creator’s return?

Help us Dan Harmon. You’re our only hope.

Doctor Who Turns 50 – 6 Months To Go

With filming on the 50th Anniversary mega-sode having begun, I thought I’d do a quick post about what it looks like it’s shaping up to be. All the speculation and gossip is definitely building it up to be an event that Whovians the world round are awaiting with bated breath. The biggest and most enticing of these was of course the possibility of the episode featuring all 11 Doctors – with the dearly departed being fit in with a combination of CGI and stock footage. I must admit, that would be terribly exciting! I remember watching the episode where the first three doctors were brought together in Season 10 of the original series. I can’t imagine how incrementally more awesome 11 would be! But this is of course, just rumor. It seems BBC seems to be rather delighting in leaking these little speculative teasers to keep fans interested. Well, its working!

Here’s a few things that seem to be for certain (for now):

  • Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) won’t be making an appearance in the special celebration episode.
  • The Tenth, and one of my (if not the) favorite Doctor(s) (David Tenant) has been confirmed. Woo hoo!
  • Rose (Billie Piper) is back too!
  • As for the “monsters” that the episode will feature – It seems the writers are going with The Zygons (WHAAAAAT?!) Though I’m a bit disappointed not to hear of the familiar Daleks or Cybermen making an appearance, it is interesting to see they’ve picked up such a fringe race for the episode. I suppose it will have the advantage of giving a lot of scope to run with. Fans of the new series might not be familiar with them, they made their first appearance in Season 13 of the original show and though they’ve been hinted at, have not been seen in their true form in the new show.

Now here is who/what I personally would love to see in the special episode – I know some of these aren’t possible, but a boy can dream…

  • Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)- One of my favorite recurring characters. Though he was never a “companion” technically, he outlasted many of them, appearing in 108 episodes of the show. I think that the most any individual character has played, other than the Doctor himself.
  • The Master – The arch nemesis – How can we have a mega-sode without this guy?! Find a way to bring him back!
  • K-9 – I know technically he blew up in the “School Reunion” episode helping the Tenth Doctor escape from The Krillitanes, but surely they can find a loophole? He is a machine after all, he can be repaired! Plus, he was surprisingly funny for robot dog : )
  • How about some surprise companion cameos? – Leela (Louise Jameson), Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) or Jo Grant (Katy Manning)

With 6 months still left to go there’s still plenty of time to speculate, gossip, hope and dream. But one thing is for sure, it’s going to be quite an event in space and time…

There’s No Candlelight Vigils For Dead 50 Year Old Fat Guys

WARNING: This post includes mature language and some obscene references. If you are not of suitable age or likely to be offended by graphic imagery please do not read on.

I’ve been watching Louis CK’s shows for years now. I even watched every single episode of his TV Series “Louie”. Frankly, I love the guy. So when I heard this amazing stand up comedian from New York was playing London I absolutely flipped! And I was so psyched when I managed to get some tickets to his show at the Hammersmith Apollo – I’ve written about this venue before – it really is one of my favorite venues in the city.

You know how when you build something up in your head it can disappoint you when it actually happens in real life? Well this was NOT one of those cases. I was literally in tears within minutes of him starting his set. I mean there’s something about his delivery and his material that you don’t really need to be eased into it. No warm up act – just him walking onto stage and starting with the hilarity. For the first 20 minutes or so I couldn’t really believe I was actually there watching him live. It felt surreal. I guess to some extent my brain still thinks like I’m in India. Just a year ago I couldn’t have even imagined I would be watching one of my favorite comics live!

I’d like to tell you that you should all go as a family and watch him, but that might leave me liable for seriously traumatizing your children. Louis CK comes off as a really nice guy, but his jokes are really rather crude and make you cringe (while at the same time laughing your ass off). There literally seems to be NOTHING that is off-limits – Parents murdering their children, celebrating in a Cancer ward, Slavery… At one point he actually mimed a handjob – to completion! My friend, who accompanied me to the show, compared him to Jimmy Carr. I would make the distinction that while Jimmy Carr comes off as horrible person, Louis CK is more like a nice guy who says some genuinely horrible things.

But to be fair, he rips on himself as much as he goes after anyone else. You have to love how confidently he walks onto stage and calls himself a fat useless fuck – thus the title of the post. I loved one bit where he said if you’re an unattractive young guy, don’t worry, it gets better. You just have to wait for her circumstances to match your ugliness. As long as you’re relatively well employed and bath once in a while, apparently you’ll be fine – (in his words) Pussy+Time/Income Squared

I have to admit, once in a while I have some pretty fucked up thoughts in my head too (Too bad I chose to be a lawyer instead of a stand up comic). But, in the words of the wise and masterfully funny Louis CK, “It’s okay to have bad thoughts. As long as the good thoughts win.”

What Are The 39 Steps?

Based on the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock (which in turn was adapted from a novel by John Buchan) The 39 Steps, playing at the Criterion Theatre, is just simply brilliant, both conceptually and in its execution.

The entire cast comprises of only 4 people playing scores of roles. It is genuinely baffling to see them move with such lightning speed and never once miss a beat. Using fast costume changes and excellent comic timing the players keep the stage in constant movement, giving the play a quick pace that is enjoyable and at the same time creates a sense of action and drama. The script is genuinely witty and it doesn’t have to stretch very far to get a laugh. The combination of comic timing and straight-faced humor had me in fits for most of the 100 minutes of run time. But even though the plot revolves around murder, espionage and mystery, that doesn’t prevent the players from breaking the fourth wall once in a while and including the audience on the joke – a technique that if used minimally and subtlety can be good for quite a few roars.

The most remarkable thing about the play (apart from the 4 player cast) is the amount they manage to do with as little as they use. There are no set changes to speak of. Each new scene is set with the use of props, which there aren’t that many of. Brilliantly, the actors themselves do the work of generating most of the “special effects” – no wind machines, just sound effects and actors flapping their jackets; no elaborate props, just four chairs and a steering wheel to simulate a car – at times it almost feels like the plays we used to put up in college, with little or no budget. The difference of course is they have an amazing way of playing along with the joke, which makes it all the more easier to appreciate the scene and laugh along.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Hitchcock references, or shall I say homages. Some are quite evident, for example when someone looks straight at you and says “Vertigo!” but others are possibly a little more subtle. Keep and eye and an ear out for them when you go see the show.

And you simply must go see it. To quote the official site “Book Now and avoid incredible disappointment” The 39 Steps

An amusing story to close with – The friend who I went to the show with got herself some ice-cream in the interval, as she always does. The only flavor they had was “Hazelnut and Caramel”, which didn’t sound too appealing to her, but she was coaxed into trying it. After trying it myself I turned to her and said, “that just tastes like Butterscotch”, to which she responded, “Oh my god you’re right. It does… Maybe they don’t have Butterscotch in England, maybe Hazelnut and Caramel IS Butterscotch”. I was so amused I just had to share this brilliant observation!

 

I’ve got a band!

Alright so my friend and I wrote a couple of songs while we were jamming. I published them on my tumblr blog – http://khurshidz.tumblr.com – which I maintain separately, mostly to exhibit some of my photography. Recently however I found myself idle with a bit of time on my hands so I did what I usually do in such a situation. What’s that? Study? Go to the gym? Surely you jest! No I gave myself a little side project ; p

So after discussing it with my friend and fellow band member, I came up with a name and created a profile on Grooveshark – an online music listening service. Its got no fans or followers on their yet, maybe one of you can be the first : )

http://grooveshark.com/#!/artist/Victorious+In+The+Sun/2649426