Tag Archives: film reviews

From start to finish in three tedious hours

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Unbearably long, lots of explosions, plot thinner than a randy nun’s knickers.

No.

Deadpool.

Deadpool is some sort of mercenary, either intimidating people or shagging his hot girlfriend (or she shags him; either’s good in Deadpool’s world). Unfortunately, Deadpool gets cancer and is offered a cure which will alter him physically, turning his lovely smooth skin into an approximation of a pink-coloured lunar surface and rendering him immortal. The treatment is horrible, but Deadpool eventually escapes to hunt down Frances, the man who turned him into a mutant.

There’s a big fight at the end set on a derelict aircraft carrier and with the help of a couple of cut-price X-Men, Deadpool takes out Frances and his minions.

By dint of being different, Deadpool is, to a degree, a bit more entertaining than the usual Bowdlerised superhero films. It’s not as metrosexual as the Guardian hacks gushed because it’s a parody. The girl-on-boy action is part of the mockery; so, too, when Deadpool gets shot up the bottom.

Entertaining, rather silly, and not for everyone.

Interstellar.

The Earth is dying. Well, American farmlands are dying. NASA, working in secret, has sent astronauts on a one-way mission through some wormhole that has appeared near Saturn. Cooper, an ex-NASA rocket jockey, finds his way to NASA’s secret base where Michael Caine instantly appoints him to the expedition to go in search of the pioneering astronauts on the other side of the wormhole. When the expedition arrives, they find that the whole thing has been a failure, and that Matt Damon has gone mad and causes part of the expedition’s mother ship to be destroyed. Cooper uses a local black hole to try and slingshot himself to safety, but ends up behind the bookcase in his daughter’s bedroom, trying to send her messages. Somehow he’s rescued and wakes up inside a Dyson torus.

The other half of the film is about what’s been happening on Earth while Cooper is in space. His bad-tempered teenage daughter grows up to be a bad-tempered teenage woman who hates her father for abandoning her, but ends up working for NASA and working out that Michael Caine had already solved the gravity equation, only lacking one vital piece of information, viz. what happens beyond the event horizon of a black hole.

By that stage, the audience has ceased to care about this rambling, baffling film, which seems to be a metaphor for something entirely different. Something about fathers and daughters? Oh, who bloody well cares? Lacks adequate explanatory power.

The Revenant.

A group of hunters is attacked by the Ree, who are searching for the chief’s daughter, Powaqa. The survivors start making the trek by river and overland to Fort Kiowa. On the way there, their guide, Hugh Glass, is badly mauled by a bear. When it becomes clear that the rest of the hunters cannot haul him all the way to safety, he is left behind with his son, Hawk, Hawk’s mate, Bridger, and the villainous Fitzgerald, who kills the former, tries to kill Glass, and intimidates Bridger.

In spite of his horrific injuries, and encounters with the Ree and the French (also, the man seems strangely immune to being thrown into ice-cold rivers where he ought to be dying of exposure), Glass is eventually rescued and Fitzgerald’s crimes are exposed. Even after all he’s been through, Glass insists on pursuing Fitzgerald and eventually leaves him to the tender mercies of the Ree.

The Revenant is an intense film, but drags on and on and on (which seems to be a common feature of all the films which I’ve watched recently). By the time Glass fights Fitzgerald, the whole plot has outstayed its welcome and the final battle descends into bathos with the two men crawling across the snow.

The cinematography is gorgeous, though, and the wintry American wilderness has never looked so nice.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

A considered survey of the parts of this film would almost certainly end up with it being reduced by an hour to an hour and a half with the removal of all the tedious bloat. By asking the questions “Where did the First Order come from?” and “How can the rebels be the rebels if they restored the Republic, and just who is the government?”, the film almost entirely vanishes.

The main storyline is that a BB8 droid has the final piece of a map leading to the location of Luke Skywalker, who appears to have disappeared after Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, turned to the Dark Side just as his granddad, Anakin Skywalker did under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The droid eventually reaches the rebels, who also have to see off Death Star++. Han Solo leads the away team, tries to get his son to return to the family fold, and gets skewered on a light sabre for his pains.

Meanwhile, Rey, some random girl from Jakku, goes and finds Luke Skywalker.

Not boring, but definitely flabby and full of holes.

X-Men: Apocalypse.

Terry, the first mutant, who was a bit of a bastard, is raised from suspended animation by some chanting Egyptians. How does that work? (Oh, and I’m calling him Terry because he doesn’t appear to have a name.) He goes in search of the biggest bastards among the mutants of the 1980s, including Magneto. Only the X-Men can save the world.

Actually, only Jean Grey can save the world because she seems to be the only mutant powerful enough to taking down the power-sucking Terry, which begs the question why she wasn’t brought into play sooner, thus sparing the audience considerable amounts of suffering.

Is there life on Mars?

The Martian.

When a Martian storm turns out to be much stronger than predicted, the astronauts manning a base on Mars evacuate the place, but as they trek through the storm to their shuttle, a satellite dish hits Mark Watney, who is left behind, presumed dead.1

Watney survives, and finding himself stranded on Mars, must work out how he can stay alive long enough for the next manned mission to arrive there. Fortunately, he’s a botanist and he starts doing some indoor gardening, growing potatoes.

NASA eventually realises that someone is still on the surface of the red planet and manages to make contact with him. Plans are made to send a supply rocket, but it explodes not long after launch, and the only other plan is to send the Hermes (the mother ship) back to Mars to pick Watney up by sling-shotting it around the Earth and collect a Chinese supply ship at the same time.

“I’ve done the maths,” says the NASA scientist who doesn’t even recognise the man who runs the show. “It’ll work.”

Meanwhile, Watney loses all of his crops and must trek to another shuttle, but in order for him to reach the Hermes when it gets back to Mars, he has to strip it of most of its kit or he’ll never make it to the rendezvous point. But even without all the extra weight, he doesn’t quite make it, and must stab a hole in his suit for that extra propulsion to cross the gap to safety.2

It obviously wouldn’t make for a good film if Watney merely got on with his gardening for a couple of years, and nothing bad happened. In the best traditions of Hollywood, you know that the moment someone says, “Provided nothing goes wrong”, everything will go wrong, and it does. It could’ve been worse, though. It could’ve been Gravity-bad, with increasing levels of ludicrousness.

Matt Damon at least plays Watney as a personable individual. His banter with the rest of the expedition members is informally chummy and entertaining. Jeff Daniels is a bit bland as the head of NASA, and the scientists who aren’t in major roles are all typically nerdy because, er, that’s what scientists are. Oh, and the head of China’s space programme wouldn’t ever have grey hair. He would’ve been at the hair dye like almost everyone else.

Overall, The Martian is a decently entertaining piece of cinema even if it has to conform to The Big Book of Hollywood Disaster Film Clichés.

Notes.

  1. On this point, I have to wonder why the storm was strong enough to rip the dish off its mount and blow it hard enough to knock Watney 20m or so through the air, but neither affect the astronauts nor kill him.
  2. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation why the other five members of the expedition were able to fly back to the Hermes without any problems while Watney’s super-light spaceship can’t make it.

Disintegration of the mind

Still Alice.

Alice Howland is a 50-year-old lecturer in Linguistics at Columbia (and – thankfully – we’re spared a lot of gushing about what a genius she is) who starts forgetting words, and then things in general, even those which she has only been told moments earlier. She goes to a neurologist who diagnoses early onset Alzheimer’s disease, which she inherited from her father, and which she has passed to at least one of her children.

Howland does what she can to retain her memories, testing herself every day to see whether she’s still capable of remembering basic facts. Before the disease has gone too far, she makes a video to tell herself where she has stashed a bottle of sleeping pills which she is to take when she can no longer answer the questions she puts to herself. The obvious problem is that she’s likely to have forgotten about the video by that stage, and it’s by accident that she stumbles across it later on. Howland’s attempt to instruct herself to commit suicide fails because the nurse arrives, but she struggles to retain the instructions.

The film ends with Howland unable to produce much more than noises.

Julianne Moore largely dominates the movie in which the rest of the cast has a supporting role. This is perhaps for the best because otherwise it would be easy for this to have become mawkishly sentimental (little is made of the end of her academic career) or filled with shouting born of frustration with her inability to recall things. Similarly, Howland’s decline is tragic, but it’s presented as a tragedy which is a natural consequence of the disease.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Metal Gear Solid.

“Can I have a look at Loki’s Sceptre? Pretty please?” says Tony Stark.

“Yeah, fine” says everyone else, quite forgetting that this isn’t going to end well. (You’s think they’d never seen a single American film in their lives.)

And no, it doesn’t end well. Stark’s defensive program, Ultron, comes to life and decides to destroy the Avengers and humanity. The former will be fractured by a pair of twins, one with super speed and the other with mind control powers. The latter will be annihilated by dropping a central European village on them.

Unfortunately for Ultron, his attempt to upgrade to a living body leaves him open to mind reading, which reveals his nefarious plan, and the twins change sides. (Damned robotists all with their robotism creating a barrier between humans and their metal overlords!)

The village gets fired into the air and falls back to Earth, but somehow ends up in a lake. The Avengers go home, leaving Captain America and the Ginger Assassin to train some new recruits at their new HQ.

Another glossy action flick from the Marvel stable with plenty of fighting and explosions for Third-World audiences.

Speaking of many things

Lovelace.

In the first half of the film, the 1970s are sexy fun times as Linda Lovelace throws off the shackles of her mother’s oppressive Catholicism, and becomes the poster girl for the sexual revolution.

In the second half of the film, it becomes apparent that it wasn’t sexy fun times at all, and that Lovelace was the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her violent and manipulative husband, Chuck Trainer.

It’s this split approach which makes the film less than satisfying. The whole thing could not be Boogie Nights without being factually inaccurate, but it could be cut in half and turned into some worthy miniseries.


The music industry.

I bought myself an iPod Nano last week partly because I have it in mind to have enough devices on which all my music can be left permanently, and partly because it gives iTunes something to do.

So far I’m very pleased with the iPod. I especially like the earphones which produce decent quality sound and which managed to stay in my ears without being jammed in as is the case with the noise-cancelling Sony ones.

I had thought my days of editing the metadata of sound files were largely over, but it seems I was wrong. I’ve been curious to know how changes made in Windows Media Player, iTunes, Winamp, and mp3tag affect the other programs.

My hypothesis was that whatever change I make in one program should affect how the file is read in all the rest. In reality, they all seem to keep their own counsel. While I prefer using WMP to edit the metadata with new material before I load it into iTunes and Winamp, it seems that the peculiarities of WMP which annoyed me in the first place still remain.

I was trying to correct “Privilege” in Reach the Beach by The Fixx. I may have misspelt the title myself, or it was always that way and I’d never noticed. No matter how many times I corrected it, though, it kept reverting to “Priviledge” in WMP after a second or two until I went into Explorer and moved the entire folder, which seemed to have the desired effect.

I also discovered that right clicking on an album in WMP and selecting “Update album info” caused the entire album to be restored to its original state even although it might’ve been two or three years since that last existed. It also makes me wonder why such information is preserved when it’s either incorrectly presented or completely wrong. In addition, WMP seems to have issues with music ripped using iTunes even although the current version plays m4a files. For reasons I cannot begin to explain, WMP read some tracks, but refused to read others, and even moving folders didn’t wholly correct the issue. (Perhaps there was also a problem with setting iTunes as the default player for m4a files.) Well, at least it was only an experiment.

The behaviour of iTunes is also variable, although it’s not as querulous as WMP. It seems to detect changes made in Winamp and mp3tag (at least sometimes), but also often requires manual updating. It can be quirky in that when I moved some files to a new folder, the album art vanished even although the files were the same as before. (Album art is an odd thing because it may appear in some programs but not in others, and changing it in WMP, for example, doesn’t mean that it’ll change in other programs.) It has advised me on one occasion that about 40 tracks were missing, but this information was volunteered for reasons best known to iTunes. I had to then find the missing files, which included Pachelbel et al. played by The English Concert. Why had iTunes misplaced this particular album? No idea.

Winamp seems to be the most flexible of the media players because it can be told to rescan either the entire Music folder or to reread the metadata in an album. It’s also the most technical, but doesn’t demand a high degree of technical understanding at every turn.

mp3tag is good to a point, but requires every little change to be saved manually, which can be a nuisance.

WMP is mostly all right, but can be temperamental and I don’t like the fact that it seems to retain data that ought to have been overwritten long again. If I’m instructing it to update an album, I mean for it to read the tags in their current state. iTunes seems less temperamental, but could do with options such as telling it a.) to find files which it can no longer find and present them for review, and b.) to have the option to reread the metadata for a whole album rather than individual files. Winamp the least temperamental of all even if it does present a technical face behind. Of course, it shouldn’t matter matter which program I use to edit the metadata of music files because they should reread the data in the Music folder – if not in its entirety each time the program is started, then from the files which comprise the particular albums I’m looking at.

Film reviews Part LXIX

American Hustle.

A couple of con artists are nicked by the FBI and forced to work for them to nick some corrupt politicians. The Mafia gets involved. Things could get very unpleasant, but our heroes manage to wriggle out of trouble and keep everyone happy apart from the FBI.

The film lacked spark, I thought. There were tense moments such as the appearance of Robert de Niro (yes, again) as the potentially über-violent mobster who could speak Arabic, but that was just largely a cameo which resulted in no particular payoff. All mouth and no trousers. No one seemed to be in any real danger and the denouement of the film was not one of those moments when the audience breathes a sigh of relief that the main characters have got away with it.


12 Years a Slave.

Solomon Northup get a job as an itinerant musician, but one night, after imbibing a little too much, he wakes up the following morning to find himself in chains and bound for the slave states where he is called Plat(t) and must hide the fact that he’s an educated freeman. During his time in servitude he witnesses and suffers all manner of barbaric treatment on the plantations, but eventually manages to get a Canadian to get word to people in New York, who rescue him.

Sad to say, Northup never received any justice for his abduction because although he had papers to prove that he was free, the law did not permit him to testify against the men who abducted him. He became an abolitionist and was involved in the underground railway that smuggled slaves to freedom, but the circumstances of his death are wholly unknown.

Not a bad film overall, but it suffered from feeling episodic in that there was this part from the book, that part from the book, and the other part from the book with only a fairly loose connection between them.


Saving Mr. Banks.

P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, proves to be a difficult collaborator during her involvement in the making of the 1964 film because she objects to almost everything about the production. Eventually, Disney mostly wins her over and everyone sings happily ever after.

The story is intercut with scenes from Travers’ childhood when she was Helen Goff, the daughter of an alcoholic bank manager in Australia who died of influenza at the age of 43.

As my subsequent research revealed, this is the Disney version of the making of a Disney film. In reality, much of Saving Mr. Banks is invention. More interesting would have been a biopic of Travers’ life because although she does seem to have had a very prickly personality, she wasn’t exactly conventional, having had a string of boyfriends and a very close, long-term relationship with another woman. She has started out as an actress and won fame and fortune as a writer. Although Travers had no children of her own, she had adopted an Irish boy, Camillus, whose twin brother (passed over by Travers on the recommendations of an astrologer) eventually found him in London. At the premier to which she had not originally been invited, she cried not because she was moved by the film, but rather because she was furious at what it’d done to her books.

But who cares about reality when Tom Hanks is playing Disney’s version of Walt Disney, the genial storyteller rather than the right-wing con­serv­at­ive?


The Butler.

After seeing his dad murdered with impunity, Cecil Gaines decides to leave a life of picking cotton behind him and gets a job in a hotel. He then gets a job in a hotel in Washington where he is headhunted to work as a White House butler, serving eight presidents and finally seeing a black man ascend to the American throne.

The film contrasts Gaines’ subservient role in the White House with events which were affecting black Americans as they fought for equality. One of Gaines’ sons gets involved in the Civil Rights Movement, but another goes to Vietnam and is killed.

Much of the film focuses on the 1960s and early 70s, and is dedicated to the people who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Apart from protests against the apartheid regime in South Africa, much of the rest is glossed over.

The film does tend to drag on and I found my interest in it waning. Like other films I’ve been watching recently, this is an American film for Ameri­can audiences.

If anything can go wrong, it will in the worst possible movie

Gravity.

I had high hopes for Gravity, but it brought me down to Earth. Disaster movie based on Murphy’s Law.


Elysium.

Social satire. The bosses live on a posh space station. The plebs live in Los Angeles, which looks like a South African shantytown. The villains have the most outrageous Seth Efrican accents. Jodie Foster has a weird accent. Matt Damon dresses up like a robot and downloads himself for the greater good.


The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

The film is based on some book I’ve neither heard of nor read, but it’s painfully obvious that the producers cherry-picked bits of it because there are various non sequiturs (e.g. “Hello, we’ve just met,” says Lily Collins. Five minutes later. “Now I’m going to address you as if we’ve known each other for years.”).

It’s a little Harry Potter (“I’m a special girl,” says Lily Collins), and a little bit Star Wars (“You’re my dad?” says Lily Collins. “You’re not Darth Vader, are you?” No, replies Henry VIII from The Tudors, but you did snog your brother).

After Buffy, why does anyone bother with these sorts of stories any longer?


The Family.

A black comedy about a Mafia family in a witness protection programme who end up in a village in France where they prove that an apple never falls far from the cliché. Their old associates track them down and send a hit squad to take them out. Fortunately, it’s not played for deliberate laughs, which saves it from being utterly dire.

More and more beddy gooda!

The Bagman.

Robert de Niro tells John Cusack to go to a motel in the middle of nowhere, wait in Room 13, and not look in the bag which is in his care.

Cusack finds himself in Bizarro World, killing everyone from dodgy FBI agents to corrupt policemen to weird motel managers while acquiring some six-foot-tall Amazon as a sidekick.

The film ponders dully along, and eventually de Niro turns up and reveals the ghastly truth – he’s murdered Cusack’s girlfriend so that she won’t distract his most faithful employee. There’s a gunfight. Our heroes get US$5 million.

I think the film was meant to have been a black comedy, but it was all black and no comedy worth mentioning. It was dull. Even the exciting bits were dull. Why would the likes of John Cusack and Robert de Niro even bother with such a soggy celery stick of a film?


Ender’s Game.

Ender is a creepy, skinny 14-year-old child who looks like he escaped from the Boys from Brazil. Stick a toothbrush moustache on him and he’d be Hitler with blue eyes.

Instead of being a normal 14-year-old, he’s fast-tracked through the military to become High Commander of Earth’s forces as they prepare for a strike against some race of insects from another planet.

“It’s the final test,” says Han Solo. What was the final test? Actually destroying the alien planet and committing genocide. “Well done, Hitler. Sorry, Ender,” says Han Solo. “We’re promoting you to admiral even although you only arrived a couple of days ago and haven’t even reached puberty.”

Meanwhile, in cinemas across Japan… “Dude, this is like a total rip-off of Neongenesis or RahXephon.”

Ben Kingsley is apparently meant to be a Maori, although he has a South African accent.


Now You See Me.

A group of illusionists commit a series of robberies in the hope that they’ll gain admittance to an ancient guild of magicians.

The FBI and professional sceptic, Morgan Freeman, are after them, but always a step behind.

Ultimately, showy but shallow. The audience had no real reason to empathise with any of the characters or even care why the illusionists wanted to get into such an exclusive club.


The Wolverine.

Logan goes to Japan. There’s lots of fighting, ninjas, and a mecha made of adamantine.

Er, well… That’s it!


Kick-Ass 2.

Kick-Ass is back in an uncomfortable combination of gags and ultraviolence. This time, the Motherf_cker, who dresses in his mother’s bondage gear, wants to kill Kick-Ass in revenge for the death of his father (by bazooka) in the previous film, and recruits an army of wannabe supervillains to help him.

Kick-Ass teams up with a small group of superheroes, wishing that Hit Girl would join them. But her foster father has clipped her wings and she promises not to get involved.

Yes, of course she gets involved when Kick-Ass goes to confront his rival. There’s a fight. The Motherf_cker falls into a shark tank and gets eaten… by a shark.

Hit Girl decides she’s had enough of New York and rides off on her purple motorbike.

I need to watch the original film again, but this seemed to be a reasonable sequel to that even if the novelty is no longer there. The tone did feel inconsistent with the violence being cartoony on some occasions, and nasty and vicious on the other, The Motherf_cker was a sad specimen where Kick-Ass really needed his archenemy to have a proven record of evil behind him.

Bridging the gap

The rest isn’t silence.

I’ve been intending to post something here for some time, but every time I’ve tried to do something about it, I eventually look at what I’ve written and decide that I can’t be bothered posting it.

The start of this term has been busy with the practice for the individual orals, the practice for IGCSE speaking, the Written Assignment, and the actual individual orals all being dealt with in the first three weeks. As a consequence, the winter holiday is a distant memory with a feeling of unreality about it. The coming week will be the first normal week we’ve had all term, but the week after is the mocks (yes, already), and by the time those are out of the way, the final exams for English B will barely be a month off.

In other news, I decided to buy myself some nice speakers for my laptop when my latest set of Edifier R10s started giving off a hum. This time I bought a set of Edifier M3 Plus speakers which consist of a tube-shaped sub-woofer and two golf ball like satellites, which I tried with my Walkman and suspected that the sound was better that my big Edifier R30s. (Yes, I do seem to have a thing for Edifier speakers; I did look at some Logitech speakers, but the model I considered had too much bass and no control over it.)

I finally did something about getting better broadband at home, and have switched to China Mobile. The new service offers 10Mbps, which is a marked improvement on the pitiful 1.5Mbps which I’d previously had. The downside is that China Mobile appears to block Live Journal even although I am able to access it from school. In better tech news, I found I was able to chat to Mum and Dad on Skype using my phone.


Indo-European Linguistics by James Clackson.

This is an overview of issues in Indo-European, laying out issues in phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and affiliations among the IE languages. In my own field (stress assignment), Indo-Europeanists generally think in terms of paradigmatic shifts rather than morphologically generated patterns, which is a little like applying templates to the process. An interesting book which gives some insight into the limits of our knowledge of (P)IE.


Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang.

In her book, Chang shows that the picture we have of Cixi is not exactly accurate and that while some of the charges levelled at her are well founded, the author presents a woman who ought to be lauded rather than reviled. As well as trying to correct the bias against Cixi, Chang also shines the light on the people who helped her, including foreigners such as Sir Robert Hart, who was instrumental in improving the Chinese government’s finances. Chang also takes quite a few implicit swipes at the present dynasty with the Dowager Empress and her supporters being keen to put reform into practice rather than waffle about them and make empty gestures.


Proof.

Gwyneth Paltrow fears that she might’ve inherited her father’s mental illness. “How shall I play this part?” thought Gwyneth, and said to herself, “Like a very damp, monochromatic sponge.” Film of the play. Yawn.


Michael Collins.

The American version of the road towards Irish independence. Michael Collins fights to free Ireland from the clutches of the British Empire while conducting a bromance with Harry Boland which turns sour when he returns from London with a declaration of almost independence and triggers a civil war. Harry is killed in the internecine fighting, and de Valera apparently entices Collins to a remote part of the countryside where he can be assassinated. History takes a drubbing at the same time.

Three shiny spinning discs

Ironman 3.

Once again Tony Stark dons his tin trousers and jacket to give villainy a damned good drubbing. This time his opponents are genetically engineered humans who can blow themselves up and regenerate afterwards. They are led by the Mandarin. “I gonna kick yo’ ass,” says Tony on TV. The Mandarin, not one to back down from a challenge, destroys Stark’s home.

“He’s missing something,” said one studio exec. “A youthful sidekick.”

“It’s all about the money,” muttered Robert Downey Jr.

“And panic attacks,” said another exec. “Audiences love flawed heroes.”

“I know! I know!” said one of the younger execs, who was prone to excited outbursts. “The Mandarin is a drug addict.”

“A failed actor who’s a drug addict,” added an older, wiser head. There were nods of approval. “A comic turn.”

“Who would play him?” asked the first exec.

“Ben Kingsley. He’s been whining about being cast as a villain ever since he arrived in Hollywood. And he’ll pull in British audiences.”

“But what about the real villain?”

“Mel Gibson.” Laughter shook the room. “Guy Pearce – if he can lose the weight.”

“I think that’s Val Kilmer.”


Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Wrath of Khan remake. Er, well… That’s it!


The Day of the Doctor.

Matt Smith and David Tennant team up with John Hurt (as a younger incarnation of the Doctor) as he prepares to destroy Gallifrey and end the Time War against the daleks. In the meantime, the zygons have been embedding themselves in 3D oil paintings in the 16th century so that they can invade Earth in the 21st. They’re forced to the negotiating table and quietly forgotten. The Doctor solves the Gallifrey problem by having all the incarnations of himself freeze Gallifrey in time, thus saving himself a great deal of angst. There was also a cameo by Tom Baker, and Billie Piper played the avatar of the ultimate weapon.

As for the other Doctors, three of the actors are dead, Christopher Ecclestone isn’t interested, and Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy have all vanished from the face of the Earth. It might’ve been nice to have had the Master in the mix.

The Day of the Doctor was a small step above the usual Christmas special fare, which typically stretches some already skinny plot to its limits. On the other hand, the zygon subplot could easily have been removed without hurting the overall story.


Thor.

After some frost giants try to recover a stolen artefact from Asgard at the very moment Thor is about to become king, he and his friends got to Jotunheim to teach the giants a lesson.

It all goes a bit wrong, and it’s only Odin’s intervention that saves the day. Thor is banished to Earth and will only be able to wield his hammer, Mjölnir, again when he proves himself worthy. In the meantime, he’s just going to have to tolerate Natalie Portman drooling all over him.

Back in Asgard, Loki confirms that he’s actually a frost giant. Odin falls into a coma, and Loki becomes king, but makes a secret pact with the frost giants, offering them a way into Asgard so that they can kill Odin. In fact, it’s so that he can kill them to make himself look heroic. Loki also dispatches a robot to kill Thor.

Thor’s friends head to Earth to help him. The robot arrives. There’s a big fight and the robot kills Thor, who sacrifices himself, and thus proves himself worthy of Mjölnir, a device which can resurrect the dead.

With his hammer back in his possession, Thor jets off to Asgard, defeats Loki, and smashes Bifrost, thus cutting off the link to Earth.

What’s the deal with Thor’s weird accent? Is this how the Americans think Scandinavians (excluding the Finns, who speak a Uralic language) speak? He also turns up like some muscle-bound Jesus, dies for someone’s sins and gets raised from the dead (which, in Norse mythology, is kind of what Odin does, but for far creepier reasons).

And with Thor, I believe I’ve seen all of the Marvel-based films to date. Like others in the series, I’m shrugging indifferently. Possibly if I was to watch them in order, I would get some epic cinematic sequence of films, although that would not necessarily make them any better. If anything, Thor reminds me of antique Flash Gordon films, but future generations won’t be muttering, “Wires.”