Monthly Archive for September, 2015

Doctor Who, Series 2

Doctor Who, Series 2 (9/10/15) Netflix (2005-06 ***1/2) Created by Sydney Newman, starring David Tennant, Billie Piper, Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke and Penelope Wilton as Harriet Jones. 14 episodes, originally aired 12/25/05 – 6/8/06. A time-traveling alien and his companion, Rose Tyler, go about the known universe, and history, getting into trouble and doing their best to sort things out. First off, I understand that David Tennant is considered to be one of the favorite Doctors, but I felt like I had just gotten used to Christopher Eccleston in the role and it took me a few episodes to warm to Tennant, who I felt tended to over-act at the drop of a hat. I’ve heard from a number of people that the “new” Doctor Who series starts out rough but at some point the production values should start to reflect bigger budgets. I found the on-screen “values” to be widely varying over the course of the season, though there’s a general sense that they’re “doing the best they can with what money they’ve got.” I haven’t watched any of the old Tom Baker-era episodes since I was a teenager, but they evidently made an impact on me: There was something about the 4th episode, “The Girl in the Fireplace,” that really, really felt like an episode from the late-1970s. It had this whole “shot in the studio” vibe to it, from beginning to end. I have no idea if that was intentional or not. This second season / series also started digging into the old show in a big way, featuring appearances by K-9, The Daleks, The Cybermen and even Sarah Jane Smith, one of the Doctor’s previous companions. As I explained in my review of the first series, I started watching the show on Netflix while by wife was out of town, not sure if I would really commit to it. But I think I actually may have crossed a certain threshold fan-wise: At some point the Daleks went from being ridiculous tin cans with irritating voices to being mildly scary creatures. Does this make me a “Whovian?”

Living With Lincoln

Living With Lincoln (9/6/15) HBO (2015 ***) Directed by Peter W. Kunhardt and Brian Oakes. Peter Kunhardt tells the story of his family, particularly his grandmother Dorothy, and his family’s very special collection of photographs of America’s 16th president. To be perfectly honest, this documentary was a bit of a bait-and-switch. Much, if not most, of its content focused on Dorothy Kunhardt’s life and career. She was the children’s book author of Pat the Bunny and Junket is Nice. While fascinating in her own right, I was understandably more interested in the Lincoln photographs. The documentary technique was solid, featuring home movies and plenty of motion graphics to break up the otherwise static material.

Dear Mr. Watterson

Dear Mr. Watterson (9/1/15) Netflix (2013 ***) Directed by Joel Allen Schroeder, including interviews with Berkeley Breathed, Seth Green, Stephan Pastis and others. This documentary is an examination of the work of Calvin and Hobbes‘ creator, as well as an unabashed love letter to the reclusive “J.D. Salinger of cartoon artists.” The documentary technique was solid throughout, with an appropriate use of motion graphics to break up the talking heads interviews. However, I found the narration to be a bit sophomoric at times, and had wished it were smarter and coming from a more authoritative position with respect to the history of American cartoons. Having said (written) that, the opposite could easily be argued, that it was in fact the perfect choice for the audience, assuming the audience was made up of grade school kids who had just discovered Calvin & Hobbes for themselves. As I watched the film, I kept wondering whether Bill Watterson himself might make an appearance, but (kinda sorta spoiler alert) sadly he did not. One historical note: Subsequent to the release of Dear Mr. Watterson in 2013, Bill Watterson did come out of his cave briefly, returning to the comics pages in a handful of panels in the strip Pearls Before Swine, created by Stephan Pastis, one of those interviewed for this documentary. One has to wonder what connection there might be, if any.