December 9th, 2013


The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

It's almost amazing to think about it. Doctor Who has been around for fifty years.

Fifty years. Just let that sink in. Doctor Who is older than most of its fans. It's older than most of what is considered "classic TV". The amazing thing is that all of it, all of it has been leading to one event. That event was The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

I won't go overlong on this story. The whole thing was only about 20 minutes long, but I laughed almost nonstop from beginning to end. If there was ever a "love letter" written to fans of the show then it would be this. I admire Peter Davison for coming up with this and finding a way that he, Colin, and Sylvester could be part of the 50th anniversary festivities. It doesn't stop there, though. Davison assembles a tremendous cast including many actors from the classic and new series. We even get cameos from Peter Jackson and Sir Ian McKellan. John Barrowman makes a fairly large appearance and we also get cameos from Matt Smith, David Tennent, Paul McGann, Janet Fielding, and others.

The whole thing is hilarious to watch as Peter, Colin, and Sylvester try to convince themselves and us that they're relevant while convincing themselves that they're doing it "for the fans". The whole thing is tremendous fun as you see Peter's kids don't care at all about the 50th and Colin's family can't stand to be forced to rewatch his whole episodes for umpteen millionth time. Sylvester feels the need to tell everyone that he's in The Hobbit. It all culminates in their storming BBC Wales as the music not so subtley shifts from an 80's Who styles to new series style.

I can't recommend this thing enough. It made me happy to be a Whovian and reminded me of the characters and the actors that I have loved for so many years. If you haven't seen the classic series then this probably won't mean much to you although you'll probably laugh at a good many of the jokes, but to truly appreciate it you have to be a classic series fan and then the whole thing will be 100% hilarious.


Hulk: An underrated film

Although the name of this blog is blogger_who, I have interests other than the good Doctor. One of my interests is Marvel Comics and its unique cast of characters. One of those characters and one who I really enjoyed reading back when I got into comics in the 90's was the Hulk. When I read the Hulk it was no longer a story about a childlike giant. It had become a story about the psychology of Bruce Banner and how the foibles within that man had created the various monsters that had taken on the name of Hulk. Written by Peter David, the Hulk was a far more interesting character than I had ever thought that he could be. Year ago, I watched the Hulk movie of 2003 starring Eric Bana with some interest on how they'd interpret the character. Just recently I rewatched it while I was sick.

Frankly, I think that they did a fantastic job on getting just about everything with the Hulk right. Part of the thrust of Peter David's time with the character was showing that the Hulk portion of Banner's mind came into being when he witnessed his father murdering his mother. The trauma that caused was shown well in the film and I really liked the discussion of how a physical scar if finite but an emotional scar is infinite, showing why the Hulk's power is supposedly infinite. His rage can just get worse and worse and worse as part of the emotional scarring. I couldn't have asked for better casting. Sam Elliott is Thunderbolt Ross. It's almost like a role that the man was born to play. I couldn't have asked for a better Betty than Jennifer Connelly. Josh Lucas worked really well as the slimy Talbot. I also think that Bana was fantastic as Bruce, although I will say that no poor actors have been cast in that role from Norton to Ruffalo.

The real sins of this movie are threefold. The first is Nick Nolte. I realize that they wanted some name recognition and throwing a big name like Nolte at the movie got some interest, but honestly that was such a bad decision. He obviously wouldn't do it unless the movie was about him so rather than just providing background on Bruce's relationship with his father Nolte became the centerpiece of the movie, forcing them to make him some weird amalgam of Bruce's dad, The Absorbing Man, and Zzzax. Frankly, I don't think that a supervillain was really needed in an origin film. Hulk vs the military would have been fine on its own but if they'd wanted a baddie the Absorbing Man or Zzzax would have been a decent first movie villain to allow them to build to something more significant later.

Another issue is that the pacing was weird. You get almost no action until about 2/3 of the way through the movie and then whole final act pretty much is a hulk-fest. Evening out the action would have helped immensely. I also think that Ang Lee's artsy experimentation with comic book panel style layouts didn't really endear him to audiences. I get what he was doing but I don't think that it added anything to the film and I think that many moviegoers without the comic background just found it cheesy or weird. I think that someone forgot that the general public probably doesn't really know that the Hulk was a comic book characters. Most people know him from the TV series starring Bill Bixby.

Anyhow, I think that the Hulk succeeds more than it fails. Its a pretty decent movie that's about who Banner and the Hulk are. Some details are changed, yes, but they are in every superhero movie. I still think its one of the more faithful adaptations of a character. It's a little on the slow side and takes a while to get to the action but once it's there its awesome. If you can just squint your eyes past Nolte and just watch this for the great acting then I think that many people can reevaluate this movie as the excellent film that it is.

Lord of the Rings - Still has it after 60 years

One of my fondest memories is that my dad used to read The Lord of the Rings to us as a series of bed time stories. I can't recall how long it took to get through it but I think it was about a year. Everyone's seen the movies these days but I often lament the fact that very few of those people have actually read the books. We owe so much to Tolkien and every one who wants to hold up their fantasy of choice and tell me that LotR is old and therefore no good needs to realize that if it hadn't been for Tolkien 90% of the fantasy that exists today would have never happened. You'd have fairy tales. You'd still have The Wizard of Oz but most other fantasy works came after The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings became hits.

Its no accident that Lord of the Rings did hit it big. It is excellent. The world has an air of verisimilitude to it because Tolkien spent decades developing the history of Middle-earth. The people and relationships work because he had figured out what happened both before and after the narrative that he wanted to tell. With that kind of background everything fits together and you get characters and places that feel real with a rich history and even a language and way of talking that fits who they are and where they're from.

Knowing all of this, I wanted to share it with my wife as well so over the past several months I have been reading Lord of the Rings to her to help her to sleep. One of the things that hit me yet again is how much better this version is from the movies made by Peter Jackson. Some edits for time I can understand. Tom Bombadil is an easy omission (although there's still a part of me that would have liked to have seen Robin Williams as Bombadil). I'm fairly onboard with what they did with Fellowship of the Ring and I think that Fellowship remains the best of the movies because it makes sense, it keeps the sense of doom and dread, and it does all of that because it adheres to the original storyline. Once we get into The Two Towers we go off into lala land. We have the character assassination of Faramir and a whole bunch of filler. Why did we waste all that time when we could have just ended the movie either at Sam taking the ring from Frodo and making it look like Frodo's dead or having Sam overhear that Frodo is alive as the orcs capture him. Either would have been better than just Gollum talking ominously after they'd gone way out of their way from a story perspective. Then Return of the King is really weird. Why do we get 1 hour of ending and not get the Scouring of the Shire? The whole point of the scouring is to show that Pippin and Merry are no longer just the little squires anymore. They've leveled and are now heroes in their own right. Its also a more satisfying end for Sauruman who metaphorically fell from a great height not the crass, literal fall that the extended edition movie gives us. By the way, the theatrical edit of that is just stupid. They spend all that time trying to get to Sauruman only to have Gandalf declare as soon as they arrive that Sauruman is defeated and they can leave.

I'm really happy that I got to revisit these books recently and I'm also glad that they're just as good as I remember. Even my wife kept mentioning that the book version was way better than what had happened in the movie versions. Tolkien is great and I want to keep spreading the word because there are a lot of people who keep getting told that its dry and boring but it really isn't. It's an epic, so it's long but its also some of the best time that you'll spend reading a book or some books ever.