Thursday, 31 July 2014

Monthly Mini-Reviews: July - Animated Film Special

Our running feature Monthly Mini-Reviews is back for July - and it's a little more lively than usual. Lively? you ask. Well, imaginary reader, I say, it's lively because this month is dedicated entirely to animated films. So if you're a fan of all things not-real, put your hands together and read on. Although if you are anything like the characters from our first film, you might need to put your hands on first...

The Lego Movie

In the highly successful first cinematic outing for the age-old popular toy franchise, ordinary Lego Man Emmett discovers that he is the prophesied Special, the one who will stop the evil Lord Business from ending the world.
As has been said elsewhere, The Lego Movie is breathless fun. The cameos of favourite characters in Lego form proved to be one of the highlights of the film, everyone from Stars Wars to Superman made an appearance with, in my eyes, Lego Batman even stealing the film. However, The Movie's greatest achievement is surely the fact that it completely makes you forget that you are essentially watching an hour and a half advert for a multi-million dollar corporation by delivering a hilarious adventure with heartfelt themes of imagination and individuality. In other words, it could be said that all the pieces of The Lego Movie come together to form a wholesome family film.


Neil Gaiman's modern classic of a children's novel Coraline - which sees the uniquely-named little girl stumble into the otherworldly lair of the button-eyed Other Mother - could potentially be a hard one to adapt for the big screen: how scary should it be? How kid-friendly? Thankfully, in the hands of Henry Selick (director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach) this stop-motion film is a triumph and should entertain viewers young and old without sacrificing the weird heart of the original story. With all the elements of production working, the voice acting, the music and not least the wonderful animation (stop-motion films have long been a love of mine), Coraline presses all the right buttons and is definitely the finest adaptation of Gaiman's work. Here's hoping Selick and Gaiman team up again some time in the future.


I'm a little late to the party with this one (actually, I'm so late the party's already over and I'm the only one there surrounded by the vestiges of a fun time I never experienced, all alone without - ahem, that's enough with the painful reminiscing). In fact, the only experience I'd had of the once-ubiquitous 'Let It Go' song was this parody version by Doctor Who Arthur Darvill. This month, however, I finally caught up with everyone's new favourite film Frozen - and was left a little cold. I applaud its attempts to - potential spoilers ahead - invert the usual Disney tropes of 'true love' but generally had more fun watching the House of Mouse's last fairy tale effort Tangled (despite Frozen's endearingly chirpy snowman Olaf) and did not get invested in the characters as I much as in my favourite Disneys (The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, if you're wondering). So while many are calling this the Second Disney Renaissance, I'm putting that idea on ice until we see what happens next.

Princess Mononoke

On the exact opposite end of the scale of animated films from the syrupy Frozen we have Hayao Miyazaki's at-times unflinchingly violent Princess Mononoke; while Olaf the Snowman's head may come off I don't recall it doing so with quite the level of viscera displayed here. An epic fantasy in terms of both the scope of the story and the breathtaking visuals, the film is set in feudal Japan as an ancient war is brewing between Gods, Demons and Humans for control of nature -and on the front line is feral child San (to whom the title refers), raised by the Wolf God. While it's long running time results in the occasional loss of momentum, the grand sweep of the film makes for a beautiful spectacle with a serious environmentalist message, leaving Mononoke one of Studio Ghibli's absolute best.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Doctor Who: Step Back in Time - Series Six

With Peter Capaldi materialising on our screens in just under a month, it's time to up our game of this run-down through the previous series of our favourite bigger-on-the-inside programme. Earlier this month, we covered Matt Smith's first foray into the TARDIS in Series Five and now - anyone good at maths out there? - we come to Series Six. So join us as we sing Melody's Song...

Starring: Matt Smith (the Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) with Alex Kingston (River Song).
Produced by: Sanne Wohlenberg, Marcus Wilson and Denise Paul
Executive Produced by: Steven Moffat, Beth Willis and Piers Wenger

Best Episodes

The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon by Steven Moffat
No other Doctor Who series opener sets up the episodes ahead quite as well as this one. In a year full of twists and turns and complex plots that keep you at the edge of your seat, this two-parter delivers a unique take on the classic extraterrestrial incursion ('we're not fighting an alien invasion, we are leading a revolution'). some terrific monsters and a Doctor Who explanation of a famous historical event. When, just ten minutes into the new series the main character dies, you know you're in for a quite a ride. 

The God Complex by Toby Whithouse
In a series full of gems, this thrilling, slightly surreal offering from Being Human creator Mr Whithouse is often unfairly overlooked. With a spellbinding premise - a creepy hotel with a different horror in each room - and an interesting collection of supporting characters - Rita is one of the best companions-who-never-was - as well finding time to look at the relationship between the Doctor and Amy, this is one of the bravest and most accomplished of its year. In fact, in a near-quote from the episode itself, praise it. 

Closing Time by Gareth Roberts
I've spoken before on Mr Roberts' reliability to produce the funniest Doctor Who episode of the year every time but here, a sequel to his tremendous The Lodger, he outdoes himself, creating possibly the most outright hilarious Who story ever told. Even if the Cybermen are underused, Matt Smith and James Corden simply crackle with comic chemistry and the humorous set pieces and one liners never let up. An episode to please the Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All, in all of us. 

For more on my other favourite episode of Series Six, see here


For the first time in the modern series, the regular cast of Series Six were exactly the same as the previous year. And the growing familiarity between the Doctor and his companions, arguably to a level not seen since the Tenth Doctor and Rose, shines through as surely never before had the TARDIS Team felt so much like a family unit. There's Mum and Dad and their two kids. However, here's a question for you, which is which? 
With Series Six, Rory is promoted to full-time companion and, now that Mr and Mrs Pond have tied the knot, there is a greater emphasis on the love story of Amy and Rory, and how it is stronger than their, in particular Amy's, ties to the Doctor. In the reverse, a character who's ties to the Doctor increase this series is River Song. Previously their timey-wimey relationship had been rather strained but over the course of the series it burgeons into a fully-fledged romance. Despite the reveal that River was raised a perfect assassin for the Doctor. Well, what other kind of woman was the Doctor going to fall for?
Our four heroes begin the series as a group of friends but end it as a pair of married couples travelling through time and space (though only occasionally with River - one psychopath per TARDIS, unfortunately). However, every story has to end sometime...

 Story Arc

While Series Five introduced us to the story arc of the series being, rather than a few peppered references, like a rolling stone, building and building until it got to the finale, Series Six takes this one further. If Series Five was a rolling stone then the overall arc of Series Six is a boulder crashing down a mountain. Doctor Who was more of a serial show than ever before, with plots interweaving all over the place (and time).
In content, this series revolved around the Doctor discovering the mythic Silence who had been mentioned throughout the previous year and their new plot to ensure the Doctor dies. And at the centre of all this, as hinted above, is River Song - who it is not only revealed as an agent of the Silence but also the daughter of Amy and Rory. This marks the evolution of the story arc revolving around the main heroes to actually being about the heroes themselves (the mystery of Clara in the next series continues this).
Series Six, then, combines the show's classic story-a-week philosophy with modern television's penchant for ongoing storylines. As such, the result was a winner and overseas interest for the show increased, laying the path for Doctor Who's 50th anniversary which turned out to be an international extravaganza. In short, Series Six sees Doctor Who bigger, brighter and boulder than ever before.

Next Month: Series Seven - Putting the Who Back in Doctor Who

Monday, 14 July 2014

Doctor Who: A Look into Darkness - Series Eight Trailer Breakdown

The clock really is striking Twelve as the début of Peter Capaldi's Doctor is right around the corner, with more and more stuff coming out about this series (both officially and, ahem, illicitly). Yesterday, Who fans everywhere brought the internet down when the first full-length trailer for Series Eight was released (what do you mean there was some sort of big sporting event happening too?). So, in grand Scribble Creatures tradition, I'm here to breakdown the trailer to see what is in store for the new man...

Oh, but first, you might want to see it.

So, now that you know what I'm talking about, let's shed some light into this darkness... 

'Life Returns... Life Prevails!'

The most recent mini-trailer, which featured a Dalek voice talking about souls and beauty, started rumours that the Daleks' creator Davros could return. While I personally don't agree with said theory, we had more evidence for the new series featuring a more eloquent Dalek (or maybe a whole bunch of them) in the first dialogue heard in this trailer - 'LIFE RETURNS... LIFE PREVAILS!' went the Dalek voice with a more nuanced delivery and certainly a wider vocabulary than usual. Only time will tell what this means...

The trailer also offers us a glimpse at a revamped TARDIS interior. Unlike the transition from David Tennant to Matt Smith and then later Matt Smith to, um, Matt Smith, the console room hasn't completely regenerated but it is subtly different. The green glow of the Time Rotor has been replaced by an orange one and it can be seen that more home-y additions have been implemented such as bookshelves, suggesting the feel of Matt Smith's first TARDIS.
Plus, it's going to be on fire at one point. I hope they've added a fire extinguisher. 

Old Friends, New Foes

The only episode we know anything concrete about (and if you're someone who's sought out the episode online - everything about) is the series opener. Titled 'Deep Breath', it sees the newly-regenerated Doctor and Clara return to Victorian London and to their old pals the Paternoster Gang. Fun fact: in her one line in the trailer, Vastra says 'here we go again...' This is exactly what the Brigadier said upon the moment of the Third Doctor's regeneration into the Fourth. Yes, I do know too much about Doctor Who. But you're reading me meticulously picking apart a minute-long trailer so really you're just indulging me and it's all your fault.

Moving on. What would a new Doctor Who series be without new monsters? Nothing that's what. So let's take a look at the latest monstrous villains and alien enemies that the Doctor will face.

This cyborg (or perhaps robot covered in human skin) presumably appears in the opener alongside Vastra, Jenny and Strax going by their visibly Victorian clothing. They're the first of what appears to be a very cybernetic collection of monsters (more later). But this one has what looks to be a flame thrower for an arm so he might just pip the rest. Flame throwers are cool, as ol' Eleven would say! Oh, what did I go and do that for. I need a moment...

Robot number two here seems to be a fan of top Who monsters, the Cybermen and the Daleks, as its metal skin slightly resembles the Cybus Industries Cybermen while its striking blue eyes are the colour of a Dalek's eyestalk. You know, whimsicality aside, a monster that takes parts from the Doctor's other deadliest foes is quite an idea. Hmm, Steven Moffat, if you're reading this and something similar appears in the next series I want to be made co-Executive Producer. And be given a BAFTA. And perhaps a yacht.

This handsome fella is the only alien alien seen in the trailer and he seems to be rather a treat, with his eyes on stalks (but not in the Dalek way). In fact, it looks like the Doctor is giving it a staring contest. Expect that episode to be a tense forty-five minutes. Don't blink, indeed.

Say hello Robot Number Three! Going by the background, perhaps a castle or a monastery, it looks like this robotic ragamuffin has shacked up in a historical location, possibly the medieval setting said to feature in the Mark Gatiss written episode this year. Interestingly, the robot's helmet and prominent cross resembles the look of English Knights from the Crusades that went on in that period.

And finally, we have... dinosaurs! For such a popular extinct race of creatures, they're a surprisingly rare thing to find on Doctor Who. For instance, the last time they appeared was... last series. Ahem, yes.

Ah, I hear you cry (I mean, I imagine that you cry. Don't check behind that vase. I promise there is not a bug hidden there) those Dinosaurs were on a spaceship, this adorable little predator is trampling through the streets of London. That's never been done before.

To this, I have to awkwardly look away and mumble that you are mistaken. Third Doctor story 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' featured... Dinosaurs in London. Unlike that story, however, it seems Mr. T. Rex here will appear in Victorian London in 'Deep Breath', with the cyborg man and the Paternoster Gang (alongside Capaldi's first full appearance, this is turning out to be a packed episode!), going by the steam and hat seen in the image above. Also, there's this shot in the trailer of the skyline of a Victorian-looking London. Look close enough, and you may find something out of sorts...

'Into Darkness...' 

But you don't want to know about all this. The only question on your lips (apart from 'how did he get that bug in here?) is: what will Peter Capaldi be like as the new Doctor? The trailer, though only short, does give some hints. True to the rumours and scant comments we've had so far, he looks set to be a very different Doctor from the last two. A darker, more sombre Time Lord, who, rather than despair over the losses of his past, seems to actively want to atone for them. The heart of the trailer, and more tantalising than any of the clips of monsters and the new TARDIS (as fun as they are), is the short speech the Doctor gives Clara in the TARDIS - handily presented on this dinky photo for your pleasure. 

In dialogue presumably taken from the first episode or one of the first, even the Doctor seems unsure of his new nature asking Clara,'Tell me, am I a good man?' 

So while everything is still bathed in mystery until 23rd August (well, for most of us), only one thing is certain...

Capaldi is coming...

Friday, 11 July 2014

Doctor Who: Step Back in Time - Series Five

As the début of Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor materialises ever closer, we continue our retrospective on the past series of modern Doctor Who. This time, we've reached a new decade and it's time for a new Doctor. So as the clock will soon strike Twelve, let's look back at Eleven's first - and finest? - hour.

Starring: Matt Smith (the Doctor) and Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) with Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) and Alex Kingston (River Song).
Produced by: Tracie Simpson, Peter Bennett and Patrick Schweitzer 
Executive Produced by: Steven Moffat, Beth Willis and Piers Wenger

Best Episodes 

The Eleventh Hour by Steven Moffat
Having the unenviable task of regenerating the series when it had never been more popular, Moffat pulls a blinder of an episode which not only introduces us to the twinkling talents of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan but also serves as a blueprint for the new incarnation of the show; fast-paced and as funny as it is clever. In just one hour, Doctor Who proved that you can better the best. 

Amy's Choice by Simon Nye
Amongst the wealth of terrific episodes in Matt Smith's début series, this quirky curio is oft-forgotten. Trapped by the enigmatic Dream Lord, the Doctor, Amy and Rory have to choose between dream and reality.In short, it has everything you could ever want from the show; an inventive premise, lots of heart in the form of Amy's declaration of love for her boyfriend and a corker of a villain. Truly, the Doctor Who episode from my dreams.  

The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang by Steven Moffat
Simply Doctor Who's most thrilling finale. Never before - or, arguably, since - had a single story been packed full of so many strong ideas. With the universe blown up by the TARDIS, the Pandorica, Rory brought back to life, the stone Dalek ETC, these episodes glut their audience on the magnificent amount of imagination on show. It may leave answers hanging but it certainly makes for a satisfying climax to the series. A big bang indeed. 


For only the third time in Doctor Who history (after numbers Three and Nine), the new Doctor was accompanied on his fourth-dimensional travels with a new companion. This time around the companion came in the form of Amelia 'Amy' Pond, an orphan girl who's known the Doctor all her life. As such, Amy's relationship with the Doctor differs as to her he is her imaginary friend brought to life, due to her never really growing up, while the Doctor still sees her as the seven year old he once met. Also, Amy is perhaps unique in having an ulterior motive to joining the Doctor aboard the TARDIS. She wanted to run away from something, something terrifying. Her wedding.
Superficially similar to Mickey Smith from Series One and Two, Rory Williams is Amy's under-appreciated boyfriend/fiancé who later on joins them on their travels. In Rory's case, however, unlike Rose who automatically chose the Doctor, Amy has trouble deciding between her two 'boys.' Although she does eventually decide and Amy and Rory become Mr and Mrs Pond. And, yes, it does work like that.
Series Five also saw one-off character River Song become a recurring character and exceedingly important person in the Doctor's life. Is that the cloister bell in the TARDIS I hear? Or is it wedding bells?

Story Arc

In strict contrast to the growing trend of the RTD era of lighter story arcs, Series Five employed the biggest yet with the developing threat of the Time Cracks. Rather than simply acting as Easter eggs for the audience to spot (although that element is present), the Cracks feature prominently in several episodes in the run-up to the finale, namely in the series opener when one is found in Amy's bedroom wall and in 'Flesh and Stone' where it is actually key to the climax of the episode. Doctor Who was clearly evolving. No longer just a series of independent stories, this series could be seen as both that and one longer story.
What's more, for a first on the show, several plot points are left unresolved in the series finale, leaving them as ongoing questions asked for the next few years of the show. This was a Doctor Who more ambitious and audacious than ever before, aiming to keep its viewers on the edge of the sofa when they weren't hiding behind it. In many ways, this series was a taster for what was to come, with many greater changes just around the corner. After this cracking series of some of the best-told Doctor Who stories ever and an exceptionally talented central cast, the show had once again proved that change was not only necessary it was welcome. Geronimo!
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