Monday, May 26, 2008


Regular readers of this blog who are interested in such things (hello Marcus!) will have observed that I watch some of the Saturday evening talent shows in the UK, but rarely comment on them until they are nearly at an end. Basically, I don't really care about the things until it gets down to the final few.

And so "I'd do anything" nears the end and, as usual, I have a last minute switch of loyalties and a last minute disappointment.

You see, I've been thinking that Jessie was clearly the best for most of the series, but she seems to have lost it a bit in the last couple of weeks and Samantha has just got better and better as time has gone on. And so the last minute switch of loyalties - I approached Saturday evening's show wanting Samantha to win, and to be joined by Jessie and Rachel in the final. I've been thinking that Jodie should be voted off for several weeks now, but the public seems to like her.

So what I was expecting last night was for Samantha and Jodie to be voted into the final and for Jessie and Rachel to face each other in the singoff (and I would then have expected Andrew Lloyd Webber to have saved Jessie). That's what I was expecting. On the basis of the actual performances on Saturday I thought the singoff should have been between Jodie and Jessie as Rachel and Samantha were both excellent on Saturday.

But of course my opinions and expectations were both wrong and (on the basis of this weekend's shows) the best two performers had to do the singoff. And of course ALW had to save Samantha.

And it was at that point I found myself absolutely gutted that Rachel was out of the show. Her final performance of 'As long as he needs me' was completely over-acted, over-emoted, over-cockneyed and over-everything-elsed, but was absolutely brilliant and the best send off of anyone in the series so far. She should have been in the final. Furthermore, in all the interview bits this weekend, she came across as the nicest of the four (ok, they're all hugely ego-tastic at this stage, but she did have a degree of humility that Jodie and Samatha particularly are lacking).

So what will happen next week? Well, I'm back to wanting Jessie to win, but won't mind if Samantha does. However, I fear that Jodie will win the public vote and go on to star in the west end show (and then burn out after 6 months and vanish from the public eye). Of course, the others will all get stage work, I have no doubts that Samantha will be a leading lady in something big before she's 20 - lets face it, she's already done the audition for Wicked if Kerry Ellis ever decides to stop doing it... but only time will tell. And I'll probably be wrong, as usual.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Doctor Who: 'The Unicorn and the Wasp' (S4E7)

Was alright, I suppose. Next...

Updated following Marcus's comment below:

Yes, sorry, I felt the need to comment on that one but didn't have the time. I quite liked it but also felt it was overly silly (a giant wasp?) and overly talky for its own good. The whole thing about why the wasp did everything in the style of an Agatha Christie story was one plot contrivance too far. But I think the overall idea of trying to do a Doctor Who murder mystery was great, I'm just not convinced the actual end result was as good as it should have been.

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Doctor Who: 'The Doctor's Daughter' (S4E6)

I liked this one, but it was a bit of a let down too.

The idea of creating a daughter for the Doctor was good, but given that the whole story had to be wrapped up in 45 minutes, the whole thing was kind of lacking. This would have been done better in the old days where the story could have been played out over a month or six weeks.

So the underlying point - the Doctor gets a daughter - had to be wrapped in the simplest, primary coloured, paper thin plot they could come up with. Why were the Hath and the humans there? Never properly explained. Why did they have guns and replicating equipment and not much else? Never properly explained. Etc. Etc.

Still, some good points were made about nature vs nurture and making your own choices and all that. But it was all too lightly done and too quick. It is possible to convey a story with some meat on it in 45 minutes.

Nice touch that Jenny, the Doctor's daughter, was played by the daughter of a previous incarnation of the Doctor, Peter Davison. And she's a babe, so she's welcome back on my TV anytime. I get the feeling this isn't the last we'll see of her.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Brokeback Mountain

I watched 'Brokeback Mountain' on telly the other night. Its been on my 'to watch: eventually' list ever since it came out a few years ago. It wasn't worth the wait.

It was one of those films with great performances and stunning scenery and was beautifully shot and all that, but I really didn't care what happened next at any point. An hour into the film and I could quite easily have gone to bed and would not have bothered to ask anyone how the film ended.

Two things put me off the film. The first thing is perhaps the most important as it was the crucial scene in the first part of the film - the first time Ennis and Jack, erm, get physical. Maybe its because I'm not a closet homosexual, but that scene just didn't ring true to me. The sexual tension built up a bit and then - all of a sudden - it was belts-off, trousers-down, rodgering... nothing tentative, no foreplay, not even any snogging first, just straight to it. Is that the way it works? Maybe it it, maybe I've led a sheltered life, but it just didn't ring true to me. And given that the rest of the film relies on that scene ringing true to the audience, the film lost me there.

The other thing that annoyed me about the film was the timeline. It jumped several years in time with no warning and little explanation. OK, so we could observe time passing as hairstyles changed and kids grew older, but as neither of the lead characters aged much it didn't ring true either. By the end of the film, when nearly 20 years have passed since the first scenes, Jack still looks like a bloke in his mid 20s and - being generous here - Ennis is clearly not much above 40. Some better use of makeup would have been appropriate. Perhaps Jack could have had a bit of middle aged spread?

The story is basically: two closet gay guys meet, fall in love and live unhappily ever after. The end.

Yes it may have been art, yes it may have told me something about human behaviour and emotions, but no it was not gripping and was not entertaining. So it fails to meet my basic expectations of a movie. Shame.

Will have to go and see Indiana Jones to compensate... ;o)


Sunday, May 04, 2008

'Making Money' by Terry Pratchett

Once there was a time, a few years ago, when I eagerly awaited the publication of a Terry Pratchett book. Luckily for me I have a birthday in November and Pratchett books tend to be published in early November, in time for Christmas shopping. I think I've had a present of a hardback Pratchett book for every birthday so far this century. I got 'Making Money' in November last year, along with a few other books, so it didn't get read straight away.

It wasn't really worth the wait. It is a disappointing read. Nothing of any interest actually happens in the book. The characters appear to be quite interesting at first glance, but aren't really fleshed out as the book goes on. The character of 'Adora Belle', for example, is just there. She doesn't do much, she doesn't grow as a character and we learn nothing about her through the book. I didn't really remember much about her from 'Going Postal', but that might be because there isn't much to remember. Maybe she is just a paper thin, 2D character. The main character 'Moist' isn't much better. He's a man who needs a challenge too keep him on the (reasonably) straight and narrow, but beyond that he doesn't have much of a fleshed-out character after two books.

Most of Pratchett's early books were funny and entertaining. In some of them the plot was secondary to the laughs. Later Pratchett books have tended to be humourous rather than funny, but the plots have often been interesting, clever and gripping. This book was humourous in bits but never gripping and rarely interesting. Which is a big shame.

I've read all the Discworld books. I realise that is nothing remarkable to several of the readers of this blog and probably marks me out as a geek to the rest of you. Here, in very potted form are my opinions on the series so far:
  1. The Colour of Magic
    The first Discworld novel. Quite funny, made me want to read more but I wasn't expecting TP to become as huge a success as he did. If you haven't read any TP this is a good place to start, but it gets better after this.
  2. The Light Fantastic
    More coherent and less episodic than the first book. Also much, much better. A very funny book with a great story. Rincewind is a fantastic comedy character.
  3. Equal Rites
    Good ideas in here, but not as well done as The Light Fantastic. Introduces the character of Granny Weatherwax, who'll get to be in much better books later on.
  4. Mort
    The first brilliant TP book. This is where he gets into his stride. Fantastic ideas and some really funny stuff. You could read this as your first Discworld book.
  5. Sourcery
    Rincewind is back, yippee. Entertaining.
  6. Wyrd Sisters
    Another brilliant TP book. This is the first proper book about the Witches and is one of the best Discworld books. This book is perhaps more clever than any of the books so far.
  7. Pyramids
    I really, really liked this one when it came out. Philosophy and fantasy rolled into one. Excellent. Stands up well to repeat readings too.
  8. Guards! Guards!
    Brilliant again. This one is probably (in my opinion) the best Discworld book of the lot. This is also probably the last book which you could read as your first exposure to Discworld, all the subsequent ones kind of rely on those that have gone before, to a greater or lesser extent. This one is jam-packed full of fully constructed characters and has a great and interesting story for them to be in.
  9. Eric
    Ricncewind returns in a fairly slight story. Not great, but quite adequate.
  10. Moving pictures
    I didn't like this on first reading. It improved the second time, but is still not great.
  11. Reaper man
    Again, I didn't like this on first reading, but when I revisitied it a few years later I enjoyed it quite a bit.
  12. Witches abroad
    The Witches are back in another highly entertaining story. I think TP had a lot of fun writing this.
  13. Small gods
    This one ranks second to 'Guards! Guards!' in my opinion. Brilliant. I love all the philosophical ideas in this one.
  14. Lords and ladies
    This picks up straight after 'Witches Abroad' but isn't half as good a story.
  15. Men at arms
    The sequel to 'Guards! Guards!' is very good, and also one of the best Discworld stories.
  16. Soul music
    This is kind of like 'Moving Pictures', but a bit better. Still not one of the greats though.
  17. Interesting times
    Another Rincewind story. Funny and, erm, interesting. I like this one a lot.
  18. Maskerade
    The Witches return in a fine story, which is a bit on the long side.
  19. Feet of clay
    Another in the 'City Watch' thread, a great, gripping read.
  20. Hogfather
    I loved this book on first reading, but subsequent reads haven't been as good. Quite philosophical again. This has been made into a TV mini-series which included the plot and some of the humour, but most of the interesting stuff got chopped out, which is a big shame.
  21. Jingo
    Serious. This one marks the switch from frivolous to serious. Its about war. Its not about Iraq, honest. Not enough gags. I didn't like it much and have never tried a second read.
  22. Last continent
    Rincewind again. OK, but not a great one. Some of the idas in here don't seem to fit with the rest of the story.
  23. Carpe jugulum
    Quite a dark one this. All about vampires. I don't really like vampire stories much.
  24. The fifth elephant
    Having done vampires, this one is about werewolves. The word 'gritty' might start to apply here. Less jokes than of old, more politics. A bit grim in bits. And the whole thing of the 'clacks' system becoming like the internet is dull.
  25. The truth
    The first really good book for a few years. Introduces new central characters while characters we know well appear in cameo roles. Pratchett does this in subsequent books a lot, but (in my opinion) this is the only book where it really works well. Interesting plot and some good comedy moments.
  26. The last hero
    Short story with pictures. Featuring Rincewind again. Nice but forgettable story.
  27. The thief of time
    I never really 'got' this one. There are some interesting ideas tied up in a strange plot and I'm not really sure what's going on.
  28. Night watch
    Serious again. Good story but with not a lot of laughs.
  29. Monstrous regiment
    Back to war again. Serious. I didn't like this one at all.
  30. Going postal
    A new character is introduced and lots of old ones cameo. Not a great or interesting story and not very funny. Disappointing.
  31. Thud!
    Serious and political again but with some good bits. Best of the recent books, but that's not saying much.
  32. Making Money
    Reviewed above.

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Doctor Who: 'The Sontaran Strategy' & 'The Poison Sky' (S4E4&5)

I do like Doctor Who two parters. Indeed, I do like Doctor Who six parters, but we haven't had any of those for a long time.

I don't really remember the Sontarans from the old days. Or rather, I remember what they looked like, but not anything about their characters. Their modern day appearance is slightly more Vogon than they were in the 70s.

So, there were a few plot holes, but on the whole this was a reasonably entertaining story. Like many of the NuHu two parters, there was a bit in the second episode where I felt like shouting 'Oh, get on with it!' at the screen, but it was still good fun.

Martha Jones was a bit underused, really. [Spoiler alert] It seems that the Sontarans went to huge bother to create a clone of Martha, just so she could press the 'no' button every few minutes. Not a great part really. But nice to see her back anyway.

Going by the preview, next week could be interesting, but I just wish they'd get on with it and do the story where Rose finally catches up with the Doctor. Preferably when Martha is still there...

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