Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DOCTOR WHO returns

Steven Moffat on the new series on BBC1 from Saturday 27th August...

The wait is almost over. The second part of the thrilling new series of Doctor Who begins on 27 August 2011.

The rules have changed, and the game is deadlier than ever. Out in the universe, where the earthly rules of time and space do not apply, Amy and Rory know only too well that their baby daughter needs them. For Melody Pond is destined to become River Song, mysterious archaeologist and convicted murderer – the woman who killed the best man she ever knew...

The Doctor leads Amy and Rory across centuries and galaxies in a desperate search for baby Melody, but a terrible and inescapable date looms large. At 5.02pm on 22nd April 2011, the Doctor will die. These are his last days, and the quest for Melody his final mission.

The search will result in a crash landing in Thirties Berlin and will bring them face to face with the greatest war criminal of all time. And Hitler. Old friendships will be tested to their limits as the Doctor suffers the ultimate betrayal and learns a harsh lesson in the cruellest warfare of all.

A distress call from a terrified little boy will break through all barriers of time and space and lead the Doctor to visit the scariest place in the Universe. George's bedroom. George is terrorised by every fear you can possibly imagine. Fears that live in his bedroom cupboard. His parents are desperate – George needs a doctor. But allaying George's fears won't be easy. Because the monsters in George's cupboard are real.

An unscheduled visit to a quarantine facility for victims of an alien plague – a plague that will kill the Doctor in a day – leaves Amy trapped. Alone, Rory must find Amy and bring her back to the TARDIS before the faceless doctors kill her with kindness. But Rory is about to encounter a very different side to his wife.

In an impossible hotel, the Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves checked-in but unable to check out. Walls move, corridors twist, rooms vanish and death lies in wait for every visitor. But the Doctor's time has yet to come. He has one last stop to make on his final journey. His old friend, Craig Owens, desperately needs his help – a new and unfamiliar presence is wreaking havoc in Colchester. And then come the Cybermen. But time catches up with us all and the Doctor can delay no more.

By the shores of Lake Silencio, in Utah, all of time and space hang in the balance. And a NASA astronaut is waiting..."

And MATT SMITH's views:

With viewers still reeling from the shocking news that River Song is actually Amy and Rory's baby, Bafta-nominated actor, Matt Smith, provides a sneak-peek at what is coming up in the new episodes of Doctor Who.

"I thought it was brilliant because it's such a great science fiction pay-off," explains Matt as he reveals how he felt when he learnt the truth about River Song. "Steven Moffat set it up so well and it now leaves the story open to go in so many different directions. She's Amy and Rory's daughter which is mad, but yet brilliant, and it's going to be really interesting to see how the dynamic between all of the characters shifts."

Despite Melody Pond being kidnapped at the end of A Good Man Goes To War, Matt says viewers can rest assured that Alex Kingston, who plays River Song, will be back and there are more shocks in store. "We get to learn a lot more about River in Let's Kill Hitler" he explains, "and she's on her best flirty form; the River I love! It's certainly Alex's episode and we had great fun filming the scenes, so hopefully we have some good on-screen chemistry."

New monsters are also set to make an appearance, sending children and adults alike scuttling behind the sofa in true Doctor Who style. "I think it's fantastic the way the show can tap into people's primal fears as children" says Matt, specifically referring to Mark Gatiss's episode Night Terrors. "Mark has come up with a really clever idea by featuring a dolls house with terrifying and creepy dolls – it's a brilliant adventure-packed episode and Danny Mays, who guest stars, is superb in it."

The Tin Tin actor isn't the only high-calibre guest artist to secure a role in Doctor Who. Upcoming episodes also feature funny men David Walliams and James Corden. "James reprises his role as Craig, who appeared in The Lodger last year," explains Matt. "He's back in an episode which also features the Doctor's arch enemies, the Cybermen. We had such fun on set; it was hard to keep a straight face when we were filming.

"David Walliams was also hilarious" continues Matt. "He plays a character called Gibbis and he had to wear a lot of prosthetics for the part. Once he was all made up he looked a lot like a giant Mole, so it was hard to take him seriously!"

However, Matt's tone does become more serious when talking about the fate awaiting the Doctor...

"The Doctor died at the start of the series" explains Matt. "He was shot in the future by someone in a space suit and, despite the adventures he goes on in these next few episodes, inevitably he's moving closer towards his own death. Amy, Rory and River are aware of his fate but they have no way of stopping it. I can't tell you what happens but Steven has set up an explosive finale."

But can he reveal if his Stetson makes an appearance? "Yes, I can tell you the Stetson is back; I do love a good hat!" chuckles Matt. "The Doctor also has a new coat; a long green moleskin one. We always wanted the Doctor's outfit to evolve and the coat certainly kept me warm when filming during the winter.

"I still haven't lost my clumsy streak though," sighs Matt. "We were filming the final scenes last month in a cornfield and, needless to say, I was the one who tripped over and twisted my ankle!" If only there had been a doctor around...

Monday, August 01, 2011

CAPTAIN AMERICA: The First Avenger


As a child in the early 1970s I read a lot of Marvel Comics' output, and I quite liked Captain America. Despite appearances, the character wasn't so much a flag-waving super patriot, but a decent old-fashioned guy (active during WW2, he is frozen in ice, and awakens in the modern day), who is made fun of by more hip and 'with it' types. Thankfully, director Joe Johnston and Marvel Studios have successfully transferred the good captain to the big screen, and given us a glorious retelling of his origin story, neatly setting up next summer's blockbuster, 'The Avengers', where Captain America will team up with Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk.
Chris Evans gives a great performance as Steve Rogers, transformed from a 90lb weakling into a strapping 'super soldier' by kindly scientist Dr Abraham Erskine (a charming performance by Stanley Tucci) with the help of engineering whizz kid Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper). In his early scenes, Evans' head is grafted (by special effects) onto the body of a much smaller actor, and (to quote the late Eric Morecambe) you can't see the join. We warm to the sickly young man as he suffers one humiliation after another; whether it be at the hands of local bullies, rejection by the girls, or failure to be accepted in to the military. All he wants to do is fight for his country, and with his indomitable spirit he is the perfect candidate for Dr Erskine's experiment.
Tommy Lee Jones is his usual reliable self as the gruff but humane Colonel Chester Phillips, while upcoming British actress Hayley Atwell shines as Steve's love interest Peggy Carter. The romantic scenes are nicely underplayed by Evans and Atwell, with Peggy's growing admiration for Steve's courage blossoming into deep affection.
The main plot sees crazed Nazi scientist The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) attempting to take over the whole planet with the help of an ancient religious artefact. Only one man can stop him, but the politicians have decided that our hero must be paraded around as part of a propaganda exercise rather than risk their expensive investment on the battlefield. Once again Steve Rogers faces endless humiliation as he is dressed in a series of ill-fitting costumes and forced to take part in corny Busby Berkley inspired stage shows and shoddy adventure movies. The film-makers cleverly address the sheer outlandishness of a red, white and blue costumed character called 'Captain America' existing in a realistic wartime environment. The character IS ridiculous, but it is Steve's integrity and moral strength that eventually elicits sympathy and admiration from his fellow soldiers and, more importantly, we the audience. With Peggy's support, Steve decides he must play the super hero for real, and engage the enemy in the field.
Director Johnston handles the action sequences effectively, and there is a lot of fun to be had watching Captain America taking on hordes of Nazis and despatching them with ease. But it is the quieter scenes that work best, and a top notch cast really breathe life into characters that began as truly two dimensional creations. Alan Silvestri's music is suitably heroic and bombastic, and there's a great cheesey song over the end credits you'll be humming in your head for hours after you leave the cinema.

Certificate 12A
Directed by Joe Johnston