26 March 2012

Doctor Who, season 2 (starring David Tennant and Billie Piper)

We were reluctant watchers, initally, of the new Doctor Who TV series (started in 2005). Our sons persuaded us at least to try out the new style, high-graphic storyline-intensive series and recommended beginning at the start with the relevant DVDs.

So we bought Doctor Who season 1, and watched it, off and on, through the latter part of 2011. We did like it, but I'm not sure that we would ever have progressed on had it not been for one of our sons spotting four out of the five series 2 DVDs on a church bookstall. So we paid a grand total of four euros for them, ordered the remaining one online, and have just completed watching Season 2 in three months.

I wasn't at all sure that I would like a new Doctor Who after just one season with Christopher Eccleston. He was a very good choice, and the ending of season 1 was rather over-dramatic. However, we were very quickly impressed by David Tennant, who stars in Season 2 as the tenth incarnation of the Doctor. In the early episode, he somehow succeeds in acting as if he were Christopher Eccleston - he pulls some of the same expressions, uses the same catchphrases, and relates to his companion Rose (Billie Piper) in the same kind of way. This gradually eases off, but the transition worked extremely well and we quickly became fans of David Tennant as the Doctor.

The early episodes, story-wise, are a bit of a mixed bunch. We rather liked the third one, 'Tooth and Claw' where they meet a very believable Queen Victoria (Pauline Collins), despite it having some frightening moments. I also very much enjoyed 'School Reunion', where one of the Doctor's previous companions, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) re-appears, along with her wonderful mechanical dog, K9, whom I had totally forgotten about.

On the other hand, warned by one of our sons, we did not watch the two-part story 'The Impossible Planet' and 'The Satan Pit', warned that if we found earlier ones scary, we would have nightmares from these two. It was not a difficult decision since neither of us like horror at all. It was bad enough to see the Doctor's old enemies, daleks and cybermen, arise afresh in other storylines!

Yesterday evening we ensured that we had time to watch the final two episodes of Season 2, knowing that they were another two-part story. I'm glad we did, since the first of the two ('Army of Ghosts') ended with a terrifying cliff-hanger. Still, despite the Doctor's worst enemies all appearing, there was some light humour in the episode which helped us relax, and the second part was gripping.

We knew it was to be Billie Piper's last appearance, and felt that it was very well done. Rose's mother Jackie (Camille Coduri) plays a bigger part in this than she had done previously, and I was pleased to see Rose's old boyfriend Mickey (Noel Clarke) make a re-appearance. However, the ending was such that I can't see any possibility of Rose or any of her family appearing again.

Then again, one never knows...

I think we're now established as fans, at least in a low-key way, of the new-series Doctor Who. We've already bought Season 3 and look forward to watching it soon.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

23 March 2012

Danielle Steel's 'Secrets' (starring Christopher Plummer, Linda Purl and Gary Collins)

Danielle Steel is a very popular novelist, although I was not particularly impressed with either of the books I have read by her, so far. I don't suppose it would ever have occurred to me to get hold of a DVD of an adaptation of one of her books, but we were given this - a freebie from a weekend newspaper in the UK - by a relative. It has sat on our shelves for quite some time, but last night we finally sat down to watch it.

'Secrets' is set in Hollywood, and is the story of a group of people who get together to make the pilot series of a new TV show called 'Manhattan'. The director, and really the star of the whole film, is called Mel - nicely played by Christopher Plummer in a role that seemed to suit him well.

The cast he gets together are a somewhat caricatured and unlikely mix. There's Sabina (Stephanie Beacham) who really doesn't like TV, but very much likes Mel, and yet keeps popping off to San Francisco for some purpose which is not revealed until the end. There's Jane (Linda Purl) who is in a horribly abusive marriage. There's Zack (Gary Collins), a likeable guy who becomes quite protective of Jane, yet evidently has a worrying secret of his own. There's Gaby, apparently a diva, who turns out to be rather wealthy, and Bill (Ben Browder) whose wife is a druggie.

Somehow all these confused and hurting people manage to create a show that is a terrific hit, and the movie shows the filming interspersed with scenes from their increasingly unpleasant private lives. The movie was well done in a 1990s kind of way (I had thought it earlier) but the story itself is artificial, with exaggerated traits in all the cast, and a tidy, predictable outcome. There seems to be rather a lot of bedroom scenes; they're fairly subtly done with no nudity as such, but by the end had become somewhat tediously repetitive.

It wasn't a bad film, if a bit depressing in places; I thought Christopher Plummer held it all together very well, and the ending was at least positive, if unlikely. But the story felt too plastic to be interesting; perhaps it somewhat reflects life in Hollywood, but the characters did not seem believable in the ways they behaved. I was not at all inspired to get hold of the book.

Oh, and there was a very odd start and end to the film, featuring Danielle Steel herself thanking the viewers for watching - I expect she's a very nice person, but these parts were cringeworthy, and very offputting. Perhaps they were put on the DVD for the freebie version.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

13 March 2012

Moonstruck (starring Cher and Nicholas Cage)

I'm not sure how 'Moonstruck' found its way to my wishlist; perhaps it was recommended because I've enjoyed other films of similar genre. Perhaps it was because I've rated highly a couple featuring Olympia Dukakis. Perhaps it was just random. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I was given it; we watched it last night, and enjoyed it very much.

It's a film about Italian Catholics in the USA, made in 1987 and I assume contemporary for the time. I suppose vinyl records were still played in that era. It stars Cher as Loretta, a rather down-to-earth bookkeeper, whose husband died suddenly seven years previously. I had not previously thought of Cher as an actress, but she plays the part very well.

Loretta decides that she will accept a marriage proposal from the middle-aged Johnny (Danny Aiello), an old friend whom she likes but does not love. He doesn't seem particularly keen to make any arrangements, but she is determined to do the wedding 'properly'. He hurries away to the deathbed of his mother, instructing Loretta, at the last moment, to get in touch with his estranged brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage). Loretta does just that…

The film is good fun, quite engrossing, if caricatured. The box said it would be a 'comedy', but it was mildly amusing rather than hilarious, with some comic moments. However there are also some bittersweet parts, and some quite thought-provoking scenes which are far from funny. We liked the almost farcical scenes of confusion and misunderstanding which develop towards the end.

All in all, 'Moonstruck' was nicely done, the characters not too extreme or unbelievable (despite the plot being a little extreme in places) and there was a good, encouraging ending.

Recommended. It's rated PG in both the US and UK, with nothing unsuitable for children, but the content would not really be of any interest to a child.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews