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Doctor Who: The Web of Fear (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.

The Web of Fear originally aired in 1968.

See, now this is interesting.

The Enemy of the World had the luxury of arriving almost unannounced, a genuine honest-to-goodness classic story that had been written off by all but a minority of fans as a generic run-around James Bond pastiche. It was recovered, it turned out to be quite brilliant, and so was a massive surprise. Indeed, even if it had been merely “good” or “fine”, it would have been a joy to watch, because the episode was being measured against a popular imagination that had never really been too bothered with it. I don’t think it was too near the top of the majority of fans’ “would love to recover…” lists.

There were no expectations, so The Enemy of the World didn’t have to worry about measuring up to anything. The fact that it was quite brilliant was icing on the cake. In contrast, The Web of Fear has a lot of expectations to live up to. It is being measured not against the weight of continuity – featuring a much loved monster and introducing a recurring character – nor the sky-high expectations of fans. It is measured against the popular imagination. While The Enemy of the World probably seemed like an after-though to most Doctor Who fans, The Web of Fear is a massive part of what Doctor Who is to the general public.

Fur and loathing...

Fur and loathing…

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The Sopranos: Isabella (Review)

With Isabella, the first season of The Sopranos comes to a head. It’s all been building and building since the pilot, and the penultimate episode is the point where things really start to pay off. It’s amazing how structured the first season of The Sopranos is, dedicated to build-up and pay-off. Despite the show is about the randomness of life and how stuff just sort of happens, there’s a very clear internal structure and logic to the first season.

Those frustrated by the ending (or arguable non-ending) of Made in America may have missed the point of the larger show, but it’s not an unreasonable expectation when the first season was so careful about paying off all of its plot points and thread. Isabella is the point where things go wrong for Tony in a big way. It’s the episode where Junior and Livia’s scheming puts a bullet in him (and – in one of the show’s countless references to The Godfather – through his orange juice).

At the same time, it remains a story driven by Tony, focused on his character and his own psychology.

Let sleeping mobsters lie...

Let sleeping mobsters lie…

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Non-Review Review: The Omen

A whole bunch of ropey sequels and a dodgy remake aside, The Omen remains a rather wonderful little Satanic thriller, and a fantastic horror movie in its own right. The sixties and seventies were populated with reproductive horrors like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, and I think that there’s a reason that The Omen has endured. More than three decades after its original release, The Omenremains a superb example of seventies horror at its very finest.

Not quite father-of-the-year material…

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Non-Review Review: Hannibal

I actually have a bit of a soft spot for Hannibal. I think the key to enjoying and appreciating Ridley Scott’s 2001 serial-killer film is to realise that it’s a fundamentally different animal to The Silence of the Lambs, to the point where it isn’t really a sequel – despite featuring many of the same characters and considerably fewer of the same actors. Those expecting a faithful follow-up or conclusion will be disappointed, as will those who fell in love with Jonathan Demme’s delightfully understated The Silence of the Lambs. Even the title character here seems to lack the complexity he demonstrated in that earlier instalment, instead acting like the villain of a slasher film cast in the unlikely role of an anti-hero.

Still, despite these flaws, Hannibal is quite entertaining (if far too uneven and unsatisfying) on its own terms.

She looks good enough to eat…

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Batman: Son of the Demon (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises this week, today we’ll be reviewing the complete “Demon” trilogy, exploring the relationship between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul.

Son of the Demon is an interesting graphic novel. Written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Jerry Bingham, it occupies a strange place in the Batman canon. A story in which Bruce allies himself with his old enemy Ra’s Al Ghul and marries the villain’s daughter, Talia, the story was all but forgotten for years until Grant Morrison unearthed it for his Batman run, reuniting Batman with the child fathered in this story. Son of the Demon has an intriguing premise, even if Barr’s execution feels a little clumsy and overwrought, and it makes for an interesting exploration of some of Batman’s deeper facets.

He shall become a bat…

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Non-Review Review: Alien vs. Predator – Requiem

To celebrate the release of Prometheus in the United States this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem is pretty close to indefensible. I’m not the biggest fan of the original Alien vs. Predator, but I’ll concede the film throws a few interesting ideas into a disappointingly generic and less-than-enthusiastic monster mash run-around. While the first film wasn’t original, it at least looked to acknowledge its hokeyness in places. In contrast, the sequel is just soul-destroyingly mundane, taking anything that had been unique or compelling or interesting about these two iconic movie monsters and rendering it all completely pointless as it devolves them to the equivalent of generic teenager slasher villains.

Death of a franchise…

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The Sopranos: College (Review)

College is interesting because it perfectly captures a lot of the themes at the heart of The Sopranos, effortlessly blending Tony’s upper-middle-class concerns with his familial obligations (both to his nuclear family and to the mob). At the same time, it explores many of the inherently contradictory aspects of modern living, including the implied acquiesce to a culture of greed and corruption. College is the first time that we really see Tony get his own hands dirty, and it’s the point at which we explore how complicit Carmela is in his shady dealings and illegal activities. I think it’s a show that really pins down what the show is going to be – and it’s no surprise that the episode won Chase his first writing Emmy for the show, and is reportedly his favourite episode of the series.

Driving the conversation...

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