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Non-Review Review: About Time

About Time is pretty much vintage Richard Curtis. I don’t mean that in a bad way – certainly not in an entirely bad way. Curtis knows how to structure a romance, has a gift for distinguishing characters in a large ensemble, and has the capacity to employ sentimentality to calculated and devastating effect. About Time has moments of brilliance and emotional punch, framing the main character’s inexplicable ability to time travel in delightful metaphorical terms.

At the same time, Curtis has his weaknesses. Most notably, there’s the sense that his lead characters are all variations on the same character – with more cynical pundits suggesting the base model might be Curtis himself. Similarly, his ensembles are constructed efficiently as a collection of quirky characters who do quirky things quirkily, living out the most quaintly British of lives involving afternoon tea and indulging in the most stereotypical of exclamations (“just a tick…”, “oh gosh…”, etc). There’s a sense that Curtis’ world exists inside old-fashioned post cards more than in anything approaching the real world.

More than that, though, Curtis labours his point just a little bit too much, as if worried the audience might miss the whole “we’re all travelling in time” metaphor and the “secret to being happy” philosophy if it isn’t explicitly articulated in a voice-over monologue set to an upbeat pop song.

Time enough at last...

Time enough at last…

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Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Vincent and the Doctor originally aired in 2010.

But you’re not armed.

I am.

What with?

Overconfidence, this, and a small screwdriver. I’m absolutely sorted.

– Vincent and the Doctor

One of the strengths of the revived series has been a willingness to engage with a variety of writers. While Andrew Cartmel may have tried in vain to convince Alan Moore to write for the final years of the classic show, Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat have managed to draw a wealth of diverse talent to write for the revived series. Sometimes this didn’t always work out (Life on Mars creator Matthew Graham wrote Fear Her), but it did mean that the series could boasts scripts from figures as diverse as Neil Gaiman and Richard Curtis.

There’s something to be said for the diversity the format of the show allows. Vincent and the Doctor is really unlike any other story the show has ever tried to tell, but it still manages to feel like Doctor Who. Which is something pretty spectacular, and worth celebrating. Doctor Who works best as a vehicle for any and all kinds of stories, where the audience isn’t always exactly sure what it is going to get.

An artist's eyes...

An artist’s eyes…

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Gideon’s Daughter (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

Stephen Poliakoff’s companion piece to Friends and Crocodiles, airing just a month after that original drama film, Gideon’s Daughter feels like it owes a lot to a bunch of fascinating central performances. While Robert Lindsay provides the only on-screen evidence of a link between the two projects, reprising his role as an embittered old writer here, Poliakoff’s two stories are thematically linked, as the author focuses a lot of his frustrations on meaningless celebrity culture. This time, however, he sets the stories in the late nineties, allowing him to explore what he undoubtedly sees as the vulgarity of the millennium celebrations and to subtly examine the national outpouring of grief offer the loss of Princess Diana, while telling a rather simple story of a father and his daughter.

All tied up...

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Non-Review Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

Coming from director John Madden, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is fairly straight-forward in what it offers audiences. Unlike Dev Patel’s entrepreneurial “Sonny”, who lures foreign tourists to his Indian hotel using a carefully photoshopped image, there’s no sense that the movie is in any way misleading. It’s a feel-good travel comedy-drama that throws together a wealth of experienced British talent in a story about embracing life and change and various other wonderful aspects of existence. It’s always thrilling to see these sorts of actors afforded the opportunity to shine, and a huge amount of the appeal of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in watching its veteran thespians just cut loose and have a bit of fun.

Lounging around...

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Non-Review Review: Rango

I quite enjoyed Gore Verbinski’s Rango, even though I was never quite sure what to make of it. While it isn’t quite as strong as the typical Pixar fare, the film compares rather well with some of Dreamworks’ better output over the last number of years.

A prickly customer...

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Non-Review Review: The Boat That Rocked

This is a movie that ends with a rendition of the classic Bowie pop number Let’s Dance, because it couldn’t fit it anywhere in its linear narrative amid all the time-specific pop and rock tunes. The movie has quite a bit in common with that most financially successful of songs from the Thin White Duke. It’s light, it’s breezy and it’s catchy, with just a hint of some extra darkness that is rarely found among its light and fluff compatriots. It’s also the work of an intensely talented artist (and, indeed, artists) who probably should be doing more innovative and important work, but we almost can’t blame them because it’s so much fun. Almost.

Quite a board walk...

Quite a board walk...

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