The critical and academic response to Anonymous makes you want to praise it more. Rather like the current Three Musketeers movie, Ronald Emmerich’s latest has drawn considerable fire either for its (lack of) accuracy or as a piece of filmmaking. Yet beneath the harsh words, you can sense a holier than thou attitude. At least with Alexander Dumas it’s only his story that’s been altered. For poor old Will Shakespeare, his very credentials are under scrutiny. And of course the idea he didn’t pen his famous works its nonsense in a way. As Bill Bryson neatly surmised a few years back (and which Shakesperios will no doubt expand on in conservable detail) - there is probably a wider difference between the fame of his work and proven facts about his life than for any other famous historical person, however there is enough evidence to prove his authorship. Yet the idea that he didn’t write the plays is actually more interesting than the fact that he did. It’s called fiction and Ronald Emmerich, who usually spends his days blowing up famous monuments, has made a rather fun film with it.


Dangerous Games

John Newman bolts the doors and settles down to watch The Shadow Line.

With opening music that sounds like a spectral hymn and characters whose names seem self consciously melodramatic- Gabriel, Bede, Gatehouse, Wrattan – The Shadow Line appears to be an  attempt to bring high art to police procedural and criminal gangs. In a way it is – and it does- yet not in the way you expect.


Goodbye Sarah Jane Smith

The Sarah Jane Adventures bow out with a trio of excellent stories.
Words: John Connors

It’s impossible to watch these final six episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures without thinking of what happened after they were made though there had already been reports that this was planned as the final series due to the young cast growing up and, perhaps, the inevitable BBC cuts.

Season opener `Sky` seems to contradict that introducing the title character as a potential replacement for Clyde and Rani, both of whom are now clearly too old to still be at school. It’s a great season opener, including a big explosion, an impressive “metal kind” creature and strong performances all round. Phil Ford’s script manages to circumnavigate any budgetary restrictions to bring a vivid feel of a galactic war headed for Earth while director Ashley Way makes sweeping use of the power station in which the main action is filmed.


The 3D Musketeers

The new version of The Three Musketeers reviewed by John Newman

Rambunctious, playful, exciting and funny, the latest version of the trusty Alexander Dumas classic The Three Musketeers is a must see. While remaining largely faithful to the source material, the film plays with modern motifs and adds a certain steampunk ethos to proceedings. In that respect it bears roughly the same relation to its predecessors as Guy Ritchie’s updated Sherlock Holmes did and Paul WS Anderson’s film is just as enjoyable.

Official trailer:



Dark Times

“In a land ...” etc. John Connors looks at the first three episodes of the fourth series of Merlin
The success of the third series of Merlin earned it both a reprieve from an initial ten episode commission for a fourth and we can only presume that the BBC were so impressed by this year’s episodes that they granted a fifth series before this one was even shown. Thus the creators will be able to conclude their planned five season arc. However it does mean that from an audience point of view, having always impressed without the sort of expectations that sometimes overwhelm Doctor Who, 2011 sees Merlin return for the first time with some pressure to perform well.

"Spoilers if you go past here matey"


The Wedding Party

Roger Jones on the Doctor Who season finale `The Wedding of River Song`

At least one thing` Closing Time` and `The Wedding of River Song` has done is silence the tedious cries from various quarters that ‘the Doctor has just committed casual genocide against the Silents’. There seems to be a Doctor Who fandom equivalent of Godwin’s Law (loosely, ‘there is a finite time in any internet discussion before someone makes an analogy to Hitler or the Nazis, at which point they have lost the argument’) whereby there is a rush to find genocidal or similar bad or dark behaviour in the central character. Just to be clear, giving a race enough power to recognise a predatory enemy and defend itself if not morally equivalent to genocide (after all, the predator can just out of your way, or else defend itself), nor is it likely to be efficient enough to remove a whole species. Sorry, rant over.
That said, the second half of the series (32? 6B? Smith 2? Apple petrichor?) has certainly had a slightly fannish obsession with the downside of being the Doctor. It cannot be said that this was not forewarned. When we were told how high the Doctor would rise and how low he would fall, I think many expected some huge and spectacular rise and fall all within `A Good Man Goes to War`. What we have actually seen has been far subtler; a fairly impressive rise in his ‘Coalition of the willing, and a couple of the coerced’ that managed, with heavy losses, to defeat two armies at Daemons Run. (And yes, I did think about whether or not to insert an apostrophe there – think of the rhyme!) The fall, however, was not the sudden reverse and kidnap of Melody Pond, but rather the slow erosion of the Doctor’s sense of self-worth and belief in his right to have companions. This is, in a way, old ground from the RTD era, and if I have any complaints about it as a plot arc it is that I would have anticipated more objections to the view from companions.


Two of a Kind

John Connors reviews the Doctor Who episode `Closing Time`
When people used to go on about the flexible format of Doctor Who they were talking bunkum because it’s only since its return in 2005 that the series has been flexible enough to include episodes like this. Likeable though conceptually slight, `Closing Time` (another pun title) makes you smile and keeps you entertained. It seems to have been designed to appeal to those who like Matt Smith and James Corden messing around which they do with much gusto whether battling a Cybermat or looking after a baby.  They are a good team punctuating the episode with some amusing behaviour. Perhaps JC chose the wrong partner for his comedy series of a few years ago.

Will Matt catch any bargains?


Current Affairs

John Connors reviews `The Hour`

About half way through The Hour something surprising happens. The hitherto enjoyable enough series becomes something quite gripping and the disparate elements that had seemed so odd suddenly splice together to begin a tremendous surge to the conclusion. Abi Morgan’s script is ambitious in scope- she is simultaneously trying to depict political and social commentary via the story of a pioneering current affairs TV series and she is also writing a spy thriller. On top of that, it is also a love story.  The chance of these fragments working together seems remote and indeed over the first couple of episodes they do jar.


Theory of ivolution

What legacy has Steve Jobs left us?

Nobody is in any doubt about the huge role Steve Jobs in particular and Apple in general has played in re-shaping the way we live our lives. Devices such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad have grown in record time from being the shiny new gadget to ubiquitous essentials. They have become things people feel they cannot do without which is remarkable when you think that not so long ago they didn’t exist. While Apple did not invent these things per se, Jobs’ genius was to develop and combine existing technology with a canny insight into what people would be persuaded to buy.




Pond's Life

Anthony Malone & Mike Morrison cannot agree about the Doctor Who episode `The Girl Who Waited`

 Another popular internet based cult media site recently suggested that “The Girl Who Waited” had been greeted by unanimous critical praise on its transmission and was by some distance one of the best Matt Smith episodes yet. Really? Two reviewers for the show with two Amys seemed like an amusing idea for this site at first. Then “The Girl” made planet fall and with it came two very different points of view. One of us believed this to be the best Matt Smith episode yet; the other thought “Night Terrors” trumped it for spooky thrills. One saw this episode as a classical fairytale, dripping with enchanted gardens, magic mirrors, wizened old women and reluctant heroes. The other saw this episode as 45 minutes of banality about a relationship he wasn’t interested in starring a Doctor that wasn’t David Tennant. One of us watched this episode in a state of shock that it was so good. The other remained totally unmoved. This is how (flame) wars are started, people. This is not a kindness. Observe. 

"I've been waiting for this bus for 35 years, dearie"