28 September 2011

Mass. Effect (Review: 'Rizzoli & Isles' 1.1, "Pilot")

Since September 2000, when CSI first arrived on US screens, forensics has become sexy. You could fill a Tube carriage with the glamorous pathologists, anthropologists and trace analysts that now parade across TV land. From Nikki Alexander to Danny Messer to Temperance Brennan to Nick Stokes, people who die in crime shows can be assured that someone pretty good-looking (and sometimes inappropriately dressed for the job) will help bring them justice.


Rizzoli & Isles is not really an exception to this. Dr Maura Isles, played by Sasha Alexander (Kate Todd in NCIS back in the day) is a tall bottle blonde who in the words of another character, always looks like she’s about to do a photo shoot and wears high heels to crime scenes.


Enough about her for the time being though. R&I, based on the novels by Tess Gerritsen, is another one of those buddy cop shows where two chalk and cheese characters trade witty remarks while solving relatively fiendish crimes. There’s Isles, a slightly odd coroner and Detective Kate Rizzoli, a short-tempered world-weary cop, who solve murders in Boston, hence the Irish jig theme tune.


This opener doesn’t waste time having everyone meet everyone – we’re straight in with a rather grisly plot involving a serial killer’s apprentice and the serial killer himself, played by a guy who I think was Ira Gaines in the first season of 24. The latter, you see, once almost killed Rizzoli and she still bears the scars from where he nailed her to the floor. The only reason this guy hasn’t got a needle yet is that MA doesn’t execute people and so he’s in jail. You just know he isn’t staying there for long…


I’m going to call this show Grizzly & Smiles. A dark plot involving horrific murders is counter-balanced by Rizzoli getting saddled with a mangy dog (she’s got an allergy) and the two leads eating cat food. There’s the second best tactical use of a flare I’ve ever seen and a rather chilling/thrilling climax as the serial killer decides to finish what he started. Much of it is telegraphed, but so was ‘Allo! 'Allo! (RIP David Croft).


Only real gripes with this were firstly the slow pace and the lack of any explanation of what happened to the old detective who get a cut on his throat.


A show with real promise – it’s already got a third season in the States. I’ll be along for the ride.



26 September 2011

Another case of sequelitus (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.12, "Closing Time")

“The Lodger” was one of the surprise hits of Season 31 and so it’s not too surprising that James Corden was asked to reprise his character in this season.


In retrospect, it might not have been a good idea.


“Closing Time” sees the Doctor, nearing the encounter with the Impossible Astronaut as seen in the season opener, take a trip to Colchester to meet up with his mate who I have now managed to completely forget the name of. They investigate some mysterious activity at a department store and encounter Cybermen, where the guy learns the power of love.


I wasn’t too impressed with this episode – while there were a lot of good elements in it, they didn’t really gel into a coherent whole.  Matt Smith was excellent, but James Corden lacked a certain something. The plot seemed pasted on for the humour, when the humour should have been integrated into the storyline (see “The Empty Child” as a demonstration of how to do this properly). The best bit was the ending, despite feeling a bit tacked on.


All in all, this was a poor episode made average by Matt Smith and quite frankly the worst one of this half of the season.


Suppose we’ll find out how Amy Pond became famous next week.



19 September 2011

That's going to scare some adults (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.11, "The God Complex")

It’s a good thing I don’t suffer from a fear of clowns, Weeping Angels or gorillas, because I might not have made it through this episode, which was seriously freaky – and rather hard to understand (more so in some areas than Inception).


The Doctor, Amy and Rory end up trapped in a bad 80s hotel with a Muslim nurse, a mole, a Trekker and a gambler, which also contains a minotaur. This really strange plot description hides what is actually a rather good episode. [To be honest, Silent, you can describe many greats in strange ways -Ed]


In fact it’s very good – not a classic, which it would need to be to warrant a 9 or a 10, but a good old-fashioned romp (albeit a disturbing one) with a lot of running around identical corridors [Perhaps they’ve got budget problems – but then again judging by the CGI… - Ed]. There’s a real sense of terror and the gradual killing of the characters a la certain Agatha Christie novel, Alien or other things like that.


The supporting cast are very good; David Walliams excels as a mole and the first Muslim in Doctor Who since well, “The Crusades” (I may be wrong on that) also comes across a well-rounded character. Yet again, the dialogue from Toby Whithouse (who gave us Sarah Jane and Rose’s memorable verbal one-upmanship in “School Reunion”) sparkles and produces memorable one-liners. Plus Caitlin Blackwood as Amelia, who must be considered a recurring character by now, was great without even saying a word.


Only real issue I have is the ending. I mean it’s obvious that’s not the end for Amy and Rory. Right? Right?



12 September 2011

For the fourth time: Two is better than one (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.10, "The Girl Who Waited")

Since Steven Moffat arrived as EP, this show has been getting seriously, seriously timey-wimey. This episode is a case in point and it wasn’t even written by the Moff, but by Tom Macrae.


I’ve got a feeling that this episode was the cheap one, although the large amounts of CGI in part refute that conclusion. Mind you, this is the most white we’ve seen in Who since “Warrior’s Gate” and arguably the most TARDIS time we’ve seen in years.


The story is a very interesting one – with Amy getting stuck in a separate time stream to Rory and the Doctor, then the two arriving 36 years too late to rescue her. Mind you it lacks something in the execution – perhaps a general pacing issue. If I notice the time during an episode and how long I’ve got left, then something isn’t working.


However, there’s plenty that works. The idea that a person in an alternative time stream might not want to erase themselves from existence isn’t that common in these sorts of stories – I think the only other time I’ve seen it recently is in the Stargate SG-1 movie The Ark of Truth. The concept of Twostreams is interesting, even if I can’t get my GCSE in Science Possessing head around it. However, the best part of this episode was undoubtedly Karen Gillan, who definitely proved once and for all that she is more than a pretty face and a nice pair of legs. Getting to wear a good amount of ageing makeup, Gillan had the hardest job of the episode and pulled it off with aplomb. Plus I’m sure she enjoyed decapitating robots – who doesn’t?


The ending was something of an issue for me – Amy Future’s decision seemed a bit off after the rest of the episode. Matt Smith does one of those alien moments that every Doctor gets every so often, which doesn’t quite work here.


Overall, this story lacked a certainly something to make it great. I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse. It’s good though.


Next week, a nasty hotel.



10 September 2011

Ten years since 9/11

Tomorrow marks ten years since the September 11 terrorist attacks. While the West has made many mistakes and done some wrong in its response to the attacks, let's make something clear to these terrorists: your actions were not justified, still are not justified and never will be. You are never going to win.

04 September 2011

That's going to traumatise some kiddies (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.9, "Night Terrors")

Seeing Amy Pond turn into a wooden dolly is the stuff of nightmares. It was disturbing even for a seasoned adult who finds The Omen to be a comedy. I’ll get to that in a minute.


Mark Gatiss has been a bit of a hit-and-miss writer for Doctor Who – with works varying from the good “The Unquiet Dead” to last season’s stinker “Victory of the Daleks”. “Night Terrors” will definitely be considered one of his successes.


The Doctor, Amy and Rory are summoned through the psychic paper to help an eight-year-old kid who seems to be scared of everything (and suffering from OCD to boot). Shortly after their arrival, while looking for said kid’s residence, Amy and Rory have a frightening lift ride and end up in a creepy house. The Doctor finds the kid and discovers a truly scary cupboard…


After some initial comedy with the search for the house, this episode gets very creepy very fast. The fact that nearly all of the episode takes place in darkness massively helps with the atmosphere. The plain face dolls also qualify as horrific in a way that a Sontaran doesn’t quite do – the lack of expression makes them scarier. There are some very interesting horror/sci-fi concepts here, but that’s not what people will remember. This episode enters Moffat levels of scary; many kids were probably scurrying behind the sofa at much of this. The tension is racked up throughout and there aren’t even any spring-loaded cats to provide a temporary respite. The horror is genuine, not comical gore, especially the people turning into dolls.


I’ve gone on record as saying I prefer two companions to one as it allows for separation of one them while keeping the other two to have chemistry with each other. This is further demonstrated here with Amy and Rory, who get on well together (of course, they are married to each other) and have some great dynamic in the house.


While everyone does well, special pride of place in the acting department must go to Daniel Mays as Alex, a “muggle” who just thinks that his child is strange and, as we discover, has a bigger effect with that thought than he realises. It’s a far cry from his great turn on Ashes to Ashes.


Only flaw in this? The climax was a little overlong and predictable. It’s not too bad, but you have to be pretty near perfect to get a ten from me.


In summary, this is an excellent episode, which is well written, well-acted and well-paced, with a great hook, line and sinker. It’s one of the best episodes of Season 32.


Next week looks very interesting too.