In the Forest of the Night

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CombinedpicSo this is our second Doctor Who episode review within a week, you lucky people. Sorry the last one was a bit later than normal, but attempting to juggle coursework, lectures, writing, sport and boozing is a lot harder than it sounds. I suppose you sort of know what to expect now. If you disagree with us feel free to comment and tell us what you think. Cheers, Ben

Ben: Shall we move onto to the forest one?

Lewis: “Tiger, tiger, burning bright, in the forest of the night”… I really liked the Blake reference.

Ben: I probably disliked this one more than the last one. Yet again I think it’s a priorities issue coupled with a tiger being scared by a torch… seriously… a torch?

Lewis: I definitely understand your point of view about the torch. It was one of the more light-hearted ones, which really didn’t work when they tried to make it look like it was the end of the world. All the gravity of the situation was taken away by the jokes and style of writing.

Ben: I think I might have to watch it again (I didn’t, but can you blame me?), but I really struggled to get to grips with this one. I thought it was trying to shove an environmental ideal on me with all that crap about trees protecting the Earth. I also thought they tried too hard to make Danny a hero at points… That bloody tiger again.

Lewis: Yeah, I’m willing to accept that he’s a stand-up guy, but if I was a tiger and some dickhead was shining a torch in my eyes, I’d maul him in a heartbeat. I definitely agree about the environmental message, it was done so clumsily it was painful… One positive thing I’d like to bring to the table is that the girl who played Maebh was a surprisingly good actress for her age.

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Ben: Yeah I’d agree with you about her. Not sure about the rest of the kids though, they got on my nerves more than anything else. And the “gifted and talented” lie was a little too much for me. What teacher lies to kids? This wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for this fictional school. If Clara was a real teacher she would be banned for sure.

Lewis: This episode, for some reason, seemed dead set on making Clara look like the worst teacher who ever passed their training. I now honestly believe she’s a terrible person to give responsibility to.

Ben: Yeah, she blamed Danny for losing the kid but she was in charge too. Disgraceful behavior.

Lewis: Truly awful… Even the kids know that she’s a crap teacher. Anyway, I assume you saw the preview for the first part of the finale?

Ben: Yeah… I’m not too sure about it. To be fair it was just a preview, but I don’t think it looks great. The Russell T. Davies ones were soooo good; Daleks vs Cybermen, The Master, The return of Davros. When you compare them to the finales under Moffat (TARDIS blowing up to reform the universe and the business on Trenzalore) there is no competition. Davies wins hands down.

Lewis: They definitely used to have a lot more impact, and weren’t over-complicated to the extent where you can barely grasp what’s going on.

Ben: I feel we are edging towards a conversation we should really save for after the next couple of episodes.

Lewis: Probably, but it’s a little teaser for the readers of the Moffat-bashing to come.

So that is what we thought. It wasn’t as bad a Lewis said it would be, was it? Thanks for reading.

Flatline

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So here we are, once again the piece is more than a week late. To be honest, I don’t know whether it’s worth apologising anymore, I think we’ve done more damage than we can fix. Please find it in your heart to forgive us, regular reader no.1.

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Lewis: Soooooo, the ‘Flatline’ episode! What did you think?

Ben: I wasn’t too sure about it to be honest; I can’t quite put my finger on why though. What did you think of it?

Lewis: I didn’t mind it, it wasn’t a really bad episode, but I get what you mean about not being able to put your finger on it. There was something about it that just wasn’t as good as it could be.

Ben: I think it might be because they are trying to empower Clara more and more, and as they do she just seems to get more unlikable as she swings from hating the Doctor to lying to Danny. It is just getting a bit irritating.

Lewis: She’s definitely in over her head at the moment, and if I were Danny I’d be getting pretty pissed off.
What did you think of the monsters in this one though?

Ben: I concur, and I thought the monsters were pretty solid. I initially thought they were ripping off the 2012 episode, but when they started dissecting the humans it was clear that it was pretty original. But, like the Robin Hood episode, I thought they were a bit underused. I think that it could have been a really good two-parter if the doctor was properly involved, which would’ve given the creatures more screen-time.

Lewis: Yeah, we didn’t really get a lot of explanation about them, we just got told that they were the bad guys and a brief explanation why, and then the Dr got rid of them within a minute of being out of the TARDIS.
I honestly thought the concept of 2D creatures was pretty cool.

Ben: There could have been a perfect cliff hanger ending when the doctor was talking to them. He finds out they’re bad guys rather than lost creatures from another dimension, and then roll end credits. That way we could’ve seen more of them, had more character development, give them a bit of a back story and all that stuff.

Lewis: Yeah, it did feel very rushed towards the end, but not very tense. I also thought it was very convenient that the TARDIS now has a siege mode…

Ben: Oh yeah, I forgot about that… as with a lot of episodes this series, this one had potential but, again, I don’t think it had its priorities right. I think it suffered again at the hands of the season-arcing story line.

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Lewis: It definitely had the potential to be a good episode; it just didn’t quite reach it. Also, was it just me, or did Capaldi have a major haircut halfway through??

Ben: I can’t remember that to be honest, I’ll have to have another look.

Lewis: I’m pretty sure that for one scene in the TARDIS it was a lot shorter than the previous one, and then when they cut back to it, his hair was back to normal. It’s probably a weird camera angle or different styling of hair.

The review/slating of last weeks episode, ‘In the Forest of the Night’, will be out tomorrow. So be warned, you’ll be getting a double dose of our pessimism in rapid succession. To arm yourselves against this, I advise watching videos of old people being given puppies and kittens as presents. It’s sickeningly heart-warming.

Mummy on the Orient Express

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We at ‘The Minimum Effort’ would like to apologise for this late posting of last weeks article about Dr Who. Some stuff happened and we were busy and it wasn’t our fault. Mostly…

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Ben: We still haven’t spoken about Dr Who yet, it’s Friday! (And it’s now Monday evening… oops) What are we doing?

Lewis: Oh shit, I can barely remember it now… The one thing I do remember is that I really enjoyed it.

Ben: Yeah I remember really liking it too; I especially liked the ‘Are you my mummy?’ quote.

Lewis: Yeah that was a cool reference; it took me a moment to register that quote.
It was a pretty original idea too as far as I know! That ticking clock really made the whole episode tense, it gave it a sense of inevitability.

Ben: I think something fairly similar has been done a few series back but I can’t put my finger on it right now…

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Lewis: I can’t really remember if it has, but it was a cool idea nonetheless. All the characters were pretty strong; there really weren’t any that I didn’t like.

Ben:  Yeah, strong script, strong story line. To be honest, the only thing I didn’t like was the snap-of-the-fingers change of heart right at the end. It kinda seemed the whole episode was a build up for that moment. Also, at the start I thought I had missed a week’s episode. They flew straight into that heated argument (I am beginning to remember bits now), but I suppose they did explain it as the episode continued so that made up for it.

Lewis: Yeah, they did dive straight into it, and I totally agree about the change of heart, it was pretty poor. Although I think they did intend it to be a spur of the moment, irrational decision due to her spending most of the episode thinking about it.

Ben: Now there is spur of the moment and then there is the whole lying thing, which I think everyone can see is going to come back and bit her on the arse…

Lewis: Oh yes, she’s definitely going to get into trouble about that. I reckon Danny will give her an ultimatum, the Doctor or him.

Ben: And she will choose him and that will be the end of that.

Lewis: Maybe, although I think she said that she’ll stay in it for longer than this season, or was that a clever ruse to make us forget the rumours about her leaving?

Ben: To be honest I didn’t know about the rumours that she was leaving until someone told me about them.

Lewis: I read them online, but then I saw an interview with her denying it so I don’t really know what to think. As Hans Landa in ‘Inglourious Basterds’ says, “Facts can be so misleading, where rumours, true or false, are often revealing”. Do you think we’ll be seeing “Gus” again?

Ben: Fair enough. He may potentially turn up again, but I wouldn’t expect to see him again this series.

Lewis: Yeah, they’ll probably keep him for use in the future. Also, there was no mention of the Promised Land this episode, which makes me suspicious…

“Open the pod bay doors please, HAL”

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self portraitI’m afraid procrastination got the better of me again (Damn you, laziness!), which is why this piece is a little late. But it’s also late for another reason; this is probably the hardest article I’ve ever had to write. Why? Well, let me tell you…

2001

Where do I even begin with this film? There’s nothing I can say that will convey how strange, beautiful and affecting this film can be. It’s also the most confusing and ambiguous piece of film I’ve ever seen, but still, I love it. It’s based on a short story by Arthur. C. Clarke called ‘The Sentinel’ and the script was written by Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, the director. You hopefully know of Kubrick, he was, without a doubt, one of the finest directors in cinema. He directed films such as ‘Full Metal Jacket’, ‘The Shining’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ (A satirical black comedy about a nuclear crisis, which very nearly made it onto this list). So you can see from that list that he definitely made an impact on the industry, and created some of the most respected films ever made. However, for me, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is the cream of the crop. It’s an epic, science-fiction masterpiece that Steven Spielberg called his generation’s “big bang”, in terms of its innovative special effects and models.

Because I’m probably going to end up confusing both you and myself by trying to explain the premise of the film, I’m going to borrow this brief summary from IMDB.com-

“Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.”

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Fairly simple and concise, wouldn’t you agree? Now that you know the basic idea behind the film, I’m going to expand on it a little. It’s all about evolution, from man’s earliest days to man’s next step along the evolutionary chain. Along with this main theme the film explores philosophical areas such self-discovery, our place in the universe and the ethics of artificial intelligence (HAL is such a great character, and any fan of ‘Recess’ or ‘The Simpsons’ is bound to recognise him). It also examines physical issues and questions, like mankind’s journey out into the stars, the commercialisation of space travel, the colonisation of the moon, and a whole lot more. This film completely redefined the sci-fi genre, and continues to set the bar for films that fall into the same category (It looks like ‘Interstellar’ is going to attempt to follow in 2001’s footsteps). It is still praised for its attention to detail and scientific realism, which, for a film made in 1968, is incredible. When you watch this beast you’ll see a lot of amazing scientific ideas, but none of them are beyond real-life’s limitations.

Speaking of realism (Did you like that sweet segue?), the models and effects in this film are absolutely incredible. They’re so realistic they put most CGI effects to shame, even those used now! All this is achieved by attention to detail, realistic lighting, and amazing innovation by the artists. If the models of spacecraft and space-stations weren’t enough, the visuals of the galactic landscape and the emptiness of space are some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen in a film, and they too are as realistic as Sci-fi comes. The music is yet another highpoint for the film; Kubrick takes well-known classical pieces and pairs them with the incredible visuals. The scene where a shuttle docks with a space station to the soundtrack of Strauss’ ‘The Blue Danube Waltz’ is mesmerising. When I first saw it I thought that it really shouldn’t work, but it’s a great combination of the future and the past, creating something that’s very unique.

I’ve used the word “beauty” a few times in this short piece, and that’s because, plot and philosophical messages aside, that’s what Kubrick wanted to achieve with this film. He said this during a Playboy magazine interview in 1968, “[I] tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeon-holing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content … just as music does … You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning”. He definitely achieved his goal with this film. The music, the visuals, the search for meaning; they all combine to create a piece of art, and I love it.

Thanks for giving this a read, I know this is probably one of the more stuffy/pretentious pieces I’ve written, but it’s not my fault, I’m an English student. Seriously though, I can’t recommend this film enough. It’s long, it doesn’t have much dialogue in it, and it’s confusing as shit (The best way to appreciate it is to look up the book after you’ve seen it, it explains things a lot more), but it’s still an incredible movie.

-Lewis

Kill The Moon

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CombinedpicLewis: So, what did you think of Dr Who then?

Ben: I don’t know, I thought it was a bit stupid to be honest… for all the build up that egg thing really didn’t pay off. And Clara’s temper tantrum was pretty irritating as well

Lewis: Yeah I thought it was a bit naff too, to be honest. She really pissed me off as well, I mean, I know the Dr isn’t the best at explaining his intentions, but there’s no need to be so whiny about it.

Ben: Yeah, the series has been building up to her having a tantrum, it came sort of unexpectedly though. She always wants more responsibility but when she is given it this happens. It is essentially the start of her exit from the series really.

Lewis: I wasn’t expecting it to be in this episode though and I’m still really hoping that the mouthy girl isn’t going to be the new assistant.

Ben: She might not be through with the doctor yet though, I can’t image them ending it like that. I think we’re all praying that doesn’t happen.

Lewis: She won’t be leaving yet, and it won’t end like that if she does, they still haven’t tied up some of the mysteries about her.
I don’t know if I’m being whiny, but I really wasn’t happy about those spiders, I thought they were really shitty combinations of Face-huggers and Xenomorphs in ‘Alien’.

Ben: Hmmm, I think they could have been used much more. They were there for a bit and then we never heard about them again.

Lewis: Yeah, even if they were a bit crap, they were pretty under-used. Although I guess they were what made them realise that the moon was an egg in the first place…
However, it seemed like their sole purpose was to kill off the secondary characters.

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Ben: I don’t think it was a bad episode, I just think it had it had its priorities wrong. It seemed to be so focused on getting to the temper tantrum that the actual story was pushed to the side lines.

Lewis: Yeah, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. One thing I really did like about it was the comments on how humanity had given up on space travel, which is a very real problem we might face.

Ben: Why thank you. I think it started very well but as with a lot of the episodes it seemed to lose its way. This series had a lot to say about what is going on in the world, a lot more than any other series I can remember.

Lewis: Yeah, which I’ll admit hasn’t worked in some cases, but in others it adds more to the story and its relevance.

Ben: I concur, again.

Lewis: One other picky thing though, if the moon was breaking apart, then why on earth would you detonate every last nuke? Surely that would just speed up the process? And I know it’s probably to prevent large debris hitting the Earth, but I’m fairly sure that wouldn’t work.

Ben: Yeah, I would have said that it would be to stop large debris. But it would actually cause huge amounts of nuclear fall-out because it would all get pulled back to Earth. I think we might be being a bit too literal though…

Lewis: You may be right, but it feels like they just thought of the most over-used, clichéd, action movie resolution and whacked it in there as a potential ‘deus ex machina’

Ben: I get what you mean; it does seem a bit cheap.

Lewis: Well, hopefully the next episode will be an improvement, but we shall have to wait and see.

“I’ve got a bad feelin’ about this”

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self portraitI’m gonna cheat a little for this one, but I hope you can forgive me; it’s for a very good reason.

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”

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The ‘Star Wars’ franchise played a huge part in my childhood, and I don’t think it’d be wrong to say that it’s the same for a lot of children around the world. If I think back to my earliest memories, ‘Star Wars IV: A New Hope’ is the film that dominates them, and so it was probably one of the first films I saw as a kid. I remember watching it with my cousin and playing with our ‘Star Wars’ figures at the same time, re-enacting scenes and making new ones. This love for the franchise continued well into my teens, and I still look back on it with fondness and nostalgia. I said that I’m going to cheat a little for this piece, and I guess I am in a way. I’m going to put the original trilogy in one of my favourite film slots.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, this is surely heresy!

I can’t do this!

Yes I can, and I’m going to.

The reason why is simple. I’ve loved ‘Star Wars’ since before I can remember, and over the years I’ve liked each of the films more than the others at different times. So while ‘Episode IV’ might have been my favourite when I was five, ‘Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’ might have been my favourite when I was eight years old, and so on. My favourite at the moment is probably ‘Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back’, and to be honest, it’s probably going to stay that way. But it’s never been a constant for me, it’s always in flux, and so I shall be posting all three as a collective.

‘Star Wars’ is the epitome of 70s Sci-fi, created and partially written by George Lucas, it still sets the bar for all space-faring sci-fi that has come after it. Its technical aspects, special effects, and costumes were perfection at that time, and while the plot may seem cheesy or a bit too black and white for some people, it’s still a great watch, for both adults and children. It’s the modern equivalent of a fairy tale or myth, like the ‘Wizard of Oz’ was for the previous generation. The only difference is that this one is set in a science fiction world, while the typical myth or fairytale is purely fantasy. You could argue that it’s as much a fantasy film as it is a Sci-fi one though. It definitely has aspects of both within it…

I’m sure most of you know the plot of ‘Star Wars’, or at least know the basics, but I’ll give you a run-down just in case. The original trilogy follows the story of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and his journey to become a Jedi Knight and bring balance to the force. Along with him are Princess Leia of Alderaan (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca, and his ever-faithful droids R2 D2 and C3PO. This group, along with the rest of the rebels, are the heroes and heroines of this story. And then you have the Empire, a galaxy-spanning domain ruled by The Emperor, a Sith Lord, and his apprentice, Darth Vader (Voiced by the impressive baritone of James Earl Jones). There is a constant war being waged between the two sides, with the overwhelmed rebellion seeking to restore peace and democracy to the galaxy.

The films are essentially about the constant battle between good and evil, both within a person and on a much larger scale. Along with this deeper meaning there are countless action-packed battles, romantic encounters, and a glamorisation of space travel, which result in a nicely balanced set of films. They aren’t pretentious or too philosphical in any shape or form, and they most certainly aren’t just eye candy either. For me, the original trilogy is far superior to the prequels, since they don’t feel a need to dumb everything down, nor introduce a character purely for “comic relief” (you know who I’m talking about), although the Ewoks are cutting it fine.

Also, another point, lightsabers are frickin’ cool as shit, which is the only excuse anyone needs to love these films. Who didn’t want to be a Jedi when they were a kid? In fact, who doesn’t even when they’ve grown up? It’s such a cool concept that it’s hard to resist any kind of love for it. They’re essentially samurai warriors in space with mystical powers and laser swords. Again, you can’t say that that’s not cool.

So there you go, ‘Star Wars’ is on my list because it was a huge influence on my childhood and my love for the sci-fi genre. It’s also simply a great franchise, with a rich story and memorable characters who you’ll remember for a long time after you stop watching them every other day.

What?

I can’t have been the only kid who did that!

-Lewis

We’re On a mission from god

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                             Here we go, film number two in my top seven movies of all timeself portrait (In no particular order), ‘The Blues Brothers’.

Elwood: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Jake: “Hit it.”

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This is, without a doubt, my favourite comedy of all time, and it just so happens to also be a musical about some of my favourite music, which really is convenient, huh?

The Blues Brothers is the story of two brothers, Elwood and Jake Blues, who are trying to save the orphanage they grew up in by raising $5000 dollars to pay its taxes. In order to do this, they’re putting the band back together for one last gig (This film arguably started that cliché). Hilarity and music ensue, which prove to be a winning combination in this case. Dan Aykroyd, the comic genius who co-wrote and co-starred in the film explained the plot as such, “It’s the story of two hoodlums who want to go straight and get redeemed. But they just don’t have it together, and they keep getting into bigger and bigger trouble.”

The idea of ‘The Blues Brothers’ came from a double act that Belushi and Aykroyd used to perform for their friends and at small venues. It didn’t appear in the public eye, however, until it was used as a sketch on Saturday Night Live, where they performed a version of “Soul Man” as the two over-the-top brothers, Jake and Elwood. This small but popular sketch spawned a star-studded film that is now considered a classic around the world, despite having a reputation for being a flop at the box office.

John Belushi called it a “tribute to black American music”, and it definitely fits that description. It has a host of songs from genres like soul, the blues, country, rock ‘n’ roll, and latin music. This huge variety of music is all contributed by famous artists and bands, with a lot of them appearing to perform their own pieces as integral characters. The Blues Brothers themselves perform blues and soul hits like “Everybody Needs Somebody”, and “Sweet Home Chicago”. However, occasionally they’ll bring out other famous tunes that you’re bound to recognise. Most of the country music appears in a particular scene that provides laugh after laugh. This film is packed with famous faces from both the music and film industries, including James Brown, Carrie Fisher, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and a whole lot more. It’s this casual insertion of celebrities and living legends that help make the film what it is. Throughout it, there’s this sense that all the crazy events and ridiculous characters are completely normal things to happen in everyday life. No one reacts to these incredible circumstances at all; it’s all background noise to them.

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Most scenes in this film provide at least one snicker and others will make you cry with laughter (at least I do, anyway). But the thing is, even though all the comedy is outrageous, bordering on the surreal; the characters react to everything with complete dead-pan expressions. So it’s quite often difficult to tell whether to laugh or not at points, since the characters don’t react to the situations at all. I’ll say this though, when I first watched it I didn’t laugh a lot, I just loved the music and the characters. However, once I saw it for the second time it got a whole lot funnier, and every time after that it’s only increased in its hilarity and genius.

This movie has become ingrained within popular culture, with many clichés and tropes having been created in these 148 minutes (extended) of pure comedy gold. And I can guarantee that if you haven’t seen it, when you do watch it you’ll recognise a lot of scenes just from the parodies and references that other shows and films have made towards it. Any fans of the kids show ‘Drake and Josh’ or ‘Family Guy’ will, without a doubt, be able to recall scenes about the film. (On a side note, the episode of ‘Drake and Josh’ when they performed in a talent show as a Blues Brothers tribute band is still the best tribute I’ve seen).

So yeah, if you like feel-good music, great comedy, and action-packed car chases, you’ll love this film. If you don’t quite get it on the first viewing (like I didn’t), watch it again and it’ll be even better than the first time. If you like it then it’s also worth picking up “The Definitive Blues Brothers Collection” CD, it’s a great album of their live music.

-Lewis