Tag Archive for '2000s'

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?”

Doctor Who, Series 1

Doctor Who, Series 1 (8/31/15) Netflix (2005 ***1/4) Series created by Sydney Newman, starring Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke and John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness. 13 episodes, originally aired 3/26/05 – 6/18/05. A Time Lord picks up a 19-year-old companion named Rose Tyler and takes her on a whirlwind tour of time and space, leaving a trail of dead bodies in the wake of his TARDIS. Even though my wife and I had watched the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood in its entirety, I had deliberately put off watching the parent show. But with my wife out of town on her long European holiday and having run low on things to watch, I figured: “Now’s the time.” I had heard from various friends that the “new” Doctor Who reboot (which is ten years old now) starts out very cheesy before settling into something more serious. Consequently I wasn’t entirely surprised by the flatulent extraterrestrial Slitheen family and things of that nature. I also had a memory from my teenage years of watching a handful of Tom Baker episodes of the old show, and, from what I could tell, the new incarnation had a great deal in common with it. I can see the appeal of the show. But am I down with watching another seven seasons? I don’t know. On another note: Sometimes I’m embarrassed by my inability to make even the simplest of connections, but I didn’t realize until after watching most the first season that Billie Piper (who plays Rose) also recently played Frankenstein’s third creation Lily in Penny Dreadful.

Get Smart

Get Smart (8/28/15) IFC (2008 **) Directed by Peter Segal, based on the TV show created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin and Terence Stamp. A top-secret spy agency analyst named Maxwell Smart is promoted to field agent and teamed with an experienced female agent named 99. Prior to this film being released, I’d looked forward to it. Steve Carell seemed ideally cast for the role made so memorable on TV by Don Adams. But then I read the reviews, which were not kind, settling at a not particularly fresh 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. My personal experience matched that rating pretty accurately. To be honest, more than anything it made me want to watch the original show which ran from 1965-1970, then played in syndication in the after-school block of programming, which is where I watched it. It’s a real shame, too, because I think it could have been an excellent film, worthy of a sequel, if not two. As evidence, I humbly point you to This year’s Spy (2015), starring Melissa McCarthy, which had the same exact premise.

Disturbia

Disturbia (8/26/15) Cinemax (2007 **1/2) Directed by D.J. Caruso, starring Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Carrie-Anne Moss and Sarah Roemer. When an angsty teenager spends his summer under house arrest, his voyeuristic proclivities lead him face-to-face with a serial killer. I was vaguely aware of this film when it was released eight years ago, yet never quite got around to watching it until now. Clearly intended as a tribute to one of Hitchcock’s greatest films, Rear Window (1954), it didn’t quite land for me. Then again, how could it? Watching the credits, I found it interesting that its Executive Producer was Ivan Reitman, then again maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. It worked reasonably well as a thriller (if you could turn a blind eye to a few lapses in narrative logic), but never really connected with me. As for why, I think I might have to play the generational card on this one: I didn’t really relate to the main characters and would love to know if audience members who were in their teens and twenties when the film was released had more they could relate to.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (8/22/15) HBO (2001 ***1/4) Directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss, starring Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Sam Robards and William Hurt. The parents of a young boy in a coma open their home — and possibly their hearts — to an incredible simulation of a scientist’s dead son. I remember seeing this film when it was first released, and my takeaway at the time was that it started out feeling like one of Spielberg’s best films… but then it took a turn and became something very disappointing. Nearly 15 years later, I can see it with somewhat fresh eyes and lowered expectations. The film divides itself into three distinct parts, the latter two of which are separated by… let’s just say a significant time span. Each of those parts has its own tone, and the jarring shift between the first and second parts was by design. I also appreciate more that Spielberg undertook one hell of a risk by taking up the deceased Stanley Kubrick’s final film and seeing it through to completion. Finally, I would like to give a shout-out to my former PDI co-workers who worked on the effects for A.I. (I did not.) Somewhere in our cupboard I still have a commemorative souvenir glass from the project.

Better Off Ted, Season 1

Better Off Ted, Season 1 (8/1/15) Netflix (2009 ***1/4) Created by Victor Fresco, starring Jay Harrington, Portia de Rossi, Andrea Anders, Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett. 13 episodes, originally aired 3/18/09 – 8/11/09. Ted Crisp, head of R&D at Veridian Dynamics, has his hands full with his mischievous daughter, ungainly subordinates and a boss who is a borderline sociopath. A friend recommended this easy-to-digest sit-com, and it made the perfect companion while I worked on an art project. Having worked in a corporate project-driven culture for the past 25 years, it was easy to relate to the sit-com’s workplace setting. The writing was consistent throughout, though never particularly brilliant. However, I did enjoy the little stock footage-based Veridian Dynamics “commercials,” each linked thematically to the episode in which they appeared. Which brings up a certain central paradox of the show: We’re supposed to care about all the central characters, and yet they have all chosen to work for a company that is… well, evil. Probably best not to think about that too much.

Wet Hot American Summer

Wet Hot American Summer (7/31/15) Netflix (2001 ***1/2) Directed by David Wain, written by Michael Showalter and David Wain, starring Janeane Garofalo, Michael Showalter, Marguerite Moreau, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd and many others. You won’t believe the madcap antics that happen to the Camp Firewood kids and counselors on the last day of summer camp in 1981. I first reviewed this film back on 4/1/08, but having recently watched the Netflix prequel set on the first day of summer, I knew I wanted to go back and watch the film again. The first time around I gave the film three stars, which was undoubtedly an honest reflection of my enjoyment. This time I’m raising my rating, because I think I “get” the film more, adding to my appreciation of it. In particular, the film’s comedic tone wasn’t just a single note, but instead was a number of different styles of comedy, sometimes jumbled together. The obvious question is what the proper watching order should be? Film first or the Netflix series? Though it violates chronological “first/last day of summer” order, I would recommend watching this film before the series.

Good Night, and Good Luck

Good Night, and Good Luck (6/18/15) HBO (2005 ***1/2) Directed by George Clooney, starring David Strathairn, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. Respected chain-smoking newsman Edward R. Murrow plants a flag of journalistic integrity, standing up against black-balling enthusiast Senator Joseph McCarthy. I last reviewed this film back in November of 2005, and it has stayed with me since then, largely because of its immersive period visual style. One of the things that happened since then is the TV series Mad Men (2007-2015), which ended earlier this year. Both this film and the first few seasons of that series were set in New York in a similar time period, and both utilized production design to create a form of time travel. As for the politics of the film, It’s sad to think that I have come to think of congress as a largely incompetent confederacy of idiots.

Doc Martin, Series 4

Doc Martin, Series 4 (6/13/15) Netflix (2009 ***1/2) Created by Dominic Minghella, Mark Crowdy and Craig Ferguson, starring Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Katherine Parkinson and Lia Williams. 8 episodes, originally aired 9/20/09 – 11/8/09. Following their mutual decision not to marry, Dr. Martin Ellingham and a now-pregnant-with-his-baby Louisa form two corners of a definite love triangle. I very much enjoyed this season, and there was a sense of the show getting its mojo back after a less-than-exciting Series 3. I credit this to the arrival of obstetrician and romantic rival Edith (played by Williams). I was frankly less interested in the subplot regarding Ellingham’s desire to cure himself of his blood phobia so that he could take a surgical post in London.

Doc Martin, Series 3

Doc Martin, Series 3 (6/11/15) Netflix (2007 ***) Created by Dominic Minghella, Mark Crowdy and Craig Ferguson, starring Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz and Katherine Parkinson. 7 episodes, originally aired 9/24/07 – 11/5/07. Dr. Martin Ellingham and Louisa Glasson’s “will they or won’t they” dance in the streets of Portwenn comes to a head. While the show remains pleasant enough, and I’m sure we’ll continue watching it, I didn’t seem to enjoy its third season quite as much as the first two. And, without giving anything away, I was disappointed by the note on which it ended.