Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice

Two superheroes for the price of one clash in spectacular but uninvolving smackdown.
The inevitable consequence of there being more than one superhero around is that sooner or later they will butt heads. Just as Marvel’s Avengers are set to disassemble, DC have rushed straight to the same place but in far fewer films. Without the years of build-up that their rivals have put in to get to this point, the results are disappointing and undemanding. While undeniably spectacular this is a movie that becomes less and less involving as it goes on. 


The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

A few notes on the Hunger Games finale. Missed this at the cinema so pleased to catch up finally having enjoyed the first three films. My overall impression though was that the finale would have been better as one film rather than being dragged out to two. The result of doing that means the second half of the story feels like another franchise altogether. Admittedly Hunger Games was never a laugh fest but the contrast between the gluttonous selfish Capital and the grey careworn districts made for compelling opposites. Yet the colour drains from Mockingjay the longer it goes on and this becomes wearing after a while. Part one lingered too long in limbo, seemingly underscoring the same points again and again. I’ve not read the books so perhaps this plays out better on the page than it does on screen. So Part 2 surprisingly continues in the same vein; the heroic poster advertising the movie is as much a misdirection as all of the news feeds from the Capital we see in the film. Maybe that’s the point. 


Top of the Pops 5 March 1981

Words: Chris Arnsby 
Mike Read: "Good evening. Welcome to Top of the Pops. On the programme tonight Phil Collins, The Who, Motorhead, and Adam and the Ants. And spinning like an apple just outside the top forty Duran Duran."

Duran Duran: Planet Earth [47]. Duran Duran's performance is augmented by a model of the Earth, brought along from the BBC Visual Effects Department by Mike Kelt who gets a Visual Effects credit for the second week in a row. It's a nice model of the Earth, although there's a nasty scratch running across the Bay of Bengal. So where's the model from? I'm pretty sure it's not from Blake's 7 or The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy so I'm going to stick my neck out and guess The Comet is Coming! BBC2's odd tribute to Halley's Comet broadcast in May 1981. 


Peter and Wendy

Umpteenth version of the JM Barrie classic takes an interesting angle..

There have been lots of versions of the perennial Peter Pan story but few have really improved on the original book perhaps because it’s a tale that now feels old fashioned espousing another time. This 2015 tv movie tries to root the story in the present day centring on a girl called Lucy Rose whose recurring heart condition has brought her into Great Ormand Street hospital for a vital operation. This is, of course, the same hospital to which Barrie left the royalties from the book and it entrance has a bronze statue of him. Thus she is aware of the Peter Pan story from the start. Adrian Hodges’ adaptation leans heavily on the power of storytelling over children as Lucy reads the classic text to other young patients. As her own condition worsens and she is rushed into the operating theatre, the events of the book play out in her head using people we have already seen as the characters. 


The X Files- Home Again & My Struggle 2

The final two episodes of The X Files 2016 miniseries reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Season 10 Episode 5 Babylon
"It’s unfortunate, then, that Carter’s noble message of transcending our fears of the other backfires spectacularly in an hour of television that manages to traffic in tired and dangerous stereotypes, especially of Muslims, whose beliefs and practices are shown only in the most ominous and reductive ways." That's a quote from an article by Ismat Sarah Mangla, The X-Files’ And Religion: Chris Carter Wants Us To Believe, But ‘Babylon’ Traffics In Muslim Stereotypes for The International Business Times. I agree with it. Chris Carter may have written Babylon with the best of intentions but the episode stands as an example of a sincere, compassionate, and well-meant message gone wrong. Could they have lead with something else as the starting point of this episode? Of course. They could have gone with a Christian blowing up an abortion clinic. But that's just as bad. If not worse. A stupid obvious inversion of the original idea. So what's the solution? I don't know. All I do know is that this episode steers itself into narrative waters that it's not equipped to navigate. Could Chris Carter have dodged the whole issue by using a different crime as the starting point? Not really, because the point of this episode seems to have been to generate whiplash between the serious bits and the funny bits. Yes, the funny bits. This is the episode in which Fox Mulder investigates a suicide bombing by dropping acid. 


Mr Selfridge

ITV’s other recently concluded period drama was not perfect but was much more fulfilling than the stilted Downton Abbey.

We all shop and lots of people enjoy period dramas especially those based on fact so the potential of Mr Selfridge was clear from the start. It ticks a lot of boxes being based (rather loosely as it turned out) on a true story, involved an American who created a big business from a literal hole in the ground and changed the way people shop. It also had a large cast of characters with their lives and loves. Chuck in some financial dabblings, themes of loyalty, family versus work plus a smidgeon of good old gangster chic and you have the makings of something good. So why did the series fail to wow the critics?  It was hardly the `tired` show that Radio Times described yet equally it never quite soared as much as it might. Instead it was the nothing –much- happens trundle of Downton Abbey that took the plaudits, the higher ratings and the transatlantic interest leaving Mr Selfridge as ITV’s `other` big drama. 
The store's dance routines needed more work



Shown on E4  recently – now available to buy.
Parallel worlds are a staple of the fantasy genre but it is probable the concept has never be done quite like this before. First shown last December and now available to buy, Tripped is a riotous journey through a number of alternative realities courtesy of our somewhat hapless heroes Danny Gates and Milo Edwards. There is something of The Wrong Mans about their being roped into an unbelievable scenario and tipping from one peril to another but that series was set in the world of espionage and this is a full on fantasy show. However at its heart it has similar themes of friendship and loyalty.


Top of the Pops 1981 12 & 26 Feb 1981

Double edition! Shown (frequently) on BBC4.Reviewed by Chris Arnsby


Richard Skinner: "You're right it's Top of the Pops. And, some great music tonight. We've got The Pretenders to start the show with a Message Of Love. YES!"

Pretenders: Message of Love [28]. Poor Richard Skinner gets lost in a crowd of waving and overexcited teenagers. As the camera crash zooms on his startled face he's forced to start leaping to stay in shot, which might explain why his final "YES" registers a six on the Peter Powell scale. What happens next is unclear because we cut to another camera but it looks as if Richard Skinner looses his balance and takes a tumble, bringing a couple of audience members down with him. Hilary West is on Vision Mixing duties tonight and decides to go old school at one point with a colour replacing effect that was big in the 1970s. 

Ultravox: Vienna [2]. Richard Skinner's next link is accompanied by a low angled shot which makes it look like he's retreated up to escape from the audience. Who's that at number 2? Why it's Midge Ure and the boys from Ultravox. Remember, 2 comes right after 1. I think this is the first Top of the Pops outing for the video. The fake widescreen bits which bookend this video were designed for 4:3 ratio televisions, so they now look weird when played back on genuine widescreen TVs. 


The X Files Home Again

Season 10 Episode 4 Home Again
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
 Mulder and Scully have a child. It's becoming clear that I think this is considerably less of a big deal than the production team. I can understand why the idea appeals to them. It's irresistible to writers and gives depth to characters and creates new angles to explore in their relationships. It's great for the actors, because it gives them a chance to show that they really can act. It's great for directors because it means they're working with enthusiastic actors who want to do more than go through the motions. And yet it's dull for me.
"It was the janitor, not an alien! You made me shoot the janitor" "Ooops"


The Flash Season 1

Faster than light- and that’s just the speed of each episode!

I took a punt on The Flash largely on the basis of people saying it was less starchy than most superhero affairs and it was a good choice indeed. Admittedly it has taken me considerably longer to watch the 23 episodes comprising the first season than it takes Barry Allen to whizz through a year in his life but it has been well worth the time. In fact it’s probably the most enjoyable series of its type since Buffy the Vampire Slayer. By which I mean it may have the accoutrements of a superhero show and indeed there is a miasma of impressively delivered visual effects but this is a series stuffed with people you like and care about. There is a minimum of frowning and emotional beats are earned. It is also something of a lesson in how to couch clever timey- wimey plots into something that is invigorating and tense rather than smug.


New Doctor Who Book!

Saturday Night Monsters is a compilation of fan written articles and reviews about Doctor Who originally published in the fanzines Faze and This Way Up. Covering the whole series from the early days to recent episodes, this 260 page volume is packed with comment, analysis, opinion and flapdoodle about different aspects of the programme.
 Features include: The triumphant 2005 Return ,The 1985-6 Cancellation Crisis,Hartnell’s Historical Stories, The Philip Hinchliffe Era,The stories of Robert Holmes & Robert Sloman, Season 21,The road from Survival to the TV Movies and more… 
Reviews include: Talons of Weng Chiang, The Dalek Masterplan, Spearhead from Space, The Macra Terror, The End of Time, The War Machines, Dalek, Remembrance of the Daleks, Blink, The Tenth Planet,  The Name of the Doctor, Logopolis, Tomb of the Cybermen, School Reunion, Pyramids of Mars, Human Nature / Family of Blood, The Dominators, Day of the Doctor, City of Death, Amy’s Choice, Earthshock, Day of the Daleks, The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon, Carnival of Monsters, Trial of a Time Lord,  The Android Invasion,  Deep Breath,  Castrovalva,  The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, Death to the Daleks, Horror of Fang Rock,  Vengeance on Varos, Dragonfire, The Three Doctors,  The TV Movie, The Doctor’s Wife,  The Ice Warriors, Heaven Sent, Turn Left, Web of Fear, The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End and many more...
The book is available from Amazon in either print or electronic form. The links below should take you to the very place where you can buy it. 

For more info about the book including excerpts check out the Saturday Night Monsters Book page via the tab at the top of the Time Lines blog.