Pick: Superman Returns
saddens and shames me in equal measure that, as a
movie fan, I didn't see the original Superman films
earlier - only catching them shortly before the then-impending
release date of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns.
The first two were instant cinema classics; though
I'm too young to remember firsthand the reaction to
the original films, it's since been written in history,
and Christopher Reeve's portrayl was just how DC Comics'
flagship superhero should be.
did Singer's sequel-like offering live up to everyone's
expectations? In this humble reviewer's opinion, yes.
I found Superman Returns to be a triumph; from
the nostalgic opening credits, right down to the final
shot of Superman soaring into the distance. The performances
of the two lead actors were top-notch. Newcomer Brandon
Routh was confident in both Clark Kent and Superman
roles, while Kevin Spacey brought a menace to Lex
Luthor that wasn't always there in Gene Hackman's
prior performance. The supporting cast was disappointing:
James Marsden was as one-dimensional in his role as
Lois Lane's fiancé as he was as Cyclops in
the X-Men films, and Kate Bosworth, although
a good actress, didn't seem as right for the part
of Lois as other actresses had been.
the film was astounding. Every special-effects shot
shone: Superman landing a damaged plane in a baseball
field; a great Kryptonite continent rising into the
ocean, and all those shots of Superman flying through
the air as if Routh could simply do it naturally.
All of these add up to one immensely thrilling and
was too late to add to my colleagues Camus and Lord
Summerisle's praise back in June (I felt a third review
would be overkill), so I'm pleased here to be able
to name Superman Returns my cinema pick of
the year for 2006. Here's hoping that whatever sequels
are in the pipeline will be just as fantastic.
review | Lord
Pick: Doctor Who, Series 2
was inevitable that I would name either Doctor Who
or Torchwood as my TV pick, as I watch precious little
TV aside from these series. So, as Torchwood hasn't
yet finished, and it would be unfair of me to pass
judgement on it as a series until it has, the gong
has to go to this year's Doctor Who. The man
with the plan, Russell T. Davies, had to overcome
the small obstacle of recasting the title role after
Christopher Eccleston's sudden departure, but his
choice of Scots actor David Tennant was pleasing to
all - as the Christmas special of 2005 (a kind of
teaser for the new series, intended to tie up loose
character developments) proved.
Tennant's Doctor wasn't without his faults - namely,
his propensity to go off on huge babble-fests to himself,
only to suddenly exclaim "THAT'S IT!", and his annoying
perpetual cheerfulness that I think owes much to Eccleston's
performance - he continued the "darker Doctor" character
arc that started with Eccleston. He's not as whimsical
as his predecessors from the old series, seeming a
lot like Peter Davison's interpretation at times.
He's merry, but when it comes down to the wire, he
can be driven to the point of instability when his
emotions are evoked.
I felt series 1 was a letdown was in the variety of
the stories. All of them were, on some level, set
on or around Earth. Series 2 goes some way to fixing
this; the Doctor (and companion Rose) visit the colony
of New Earth, and a far-flung asteroid, but again,
all of the other episodes are set on Earth. Series
3 needs to sever its ties and be unafraid to visit
more new places, rather than anchor itself to the
safety of London or Cardiff.
all its faults, the new Doctor Who is coming
along nicely, and viewers think so too - with Davies
talking of a fourth series in the works. And judging
by this year's Christmas special (only just aired),
series 3 will take it in new directions - which I
think is just what it needs to keep it going strong.
Pick: The 4400, Season 2
I mentioned above, I don't watch much TV; this is
mainly because I can't stand having to conform to
TV schedulers' ideas of when I should watch something.
Instead, I buy it on DVD to watch at my leisure. This
was the case with The 4400, an American-made
sci-fi drama series that's got its head in the stars
but its feet firmly on Planet Earth. The basic premise
runs thus: a comet falls to Earth one day and deposits
about four and a half thousand "refugees", all of
which went inexplicably missing at some point over
the past fifty years. US Homeland Security is on the
case; its top agents, Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) and
Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie) always seem to
stumble upon newly-uncovered secrets to do with these
forty-four-hundred people - not least, the fact that
several of them are displaying superhuman powers akin
to those of the X-Men.
the more recent series Heroes, The 4400 looks at how super-powered humans can fit into a real-life
setting, utterly divorced from the false reality of
comic books. It's also got a running narrative concerning
where these folks have been, and why they were taken.
The first season was only a "mini-series" of five
episodes, but it's been greatly expanded upon in the
thirteen episodes of Season 2. Each episode is divided
between the groups of main characters - the aforementioned
Tom and Diana, young couple Richard and Lily and their
baby, and Jordan Collier's vaguely-sinister "4400
Foundation". For a series such as CSI, which
focuses far more on episodic stories than characters,
this wouldn't be advisable - but with a character-driven
series like this, it works in its favour.
gripe is that it's not immediately accessible. Viewers
jumping into the middle of the series will find that
they miss out on references to past episodes, especially
as the season nears its conclusion - which, in the
grand tradition of arc-based television, ties up most
of the season's loose ends. However, I can't see a
way to avoid this without downplaying the overarching
plotline (as was done in Burst Angel), which
I think would kill the series' appeal.
4400 remains an enthralling series, and while
I haven't yet caught up with Season 3 (it's not out
on DVD yet), I'm anticipating more of the same great
quality of story and characterisation from it.