Thursday, 28 November 2013

Persuasion (1995)

This particular adaptation of Persuasion is a made-for-TV movie that was produced by the BBC, although I think it was actually released in cinemas in the USA. This adaptation of Persuasion came out in the same year as the BBC's Pride and Prejudice and it seems to have been overshadowed by the latter's huge popularity. This is a massive shame in my opinion because I love this version and it's easily the best adaptation of the book that I've yet seen.

At this point in time I've seen almost 20 Jane Austen adaptations and, as far as I'm concerned, the perfect Jane Austen adaptation simply doesn't exist. Even the very best and most enjoyable adaptations of Austen's books have some faults however minor. So even though I really enjoy Persuasion 1995 I do believe that it has its flaws. Firstly, this adaptation is somewhat lacking in exposition. Viewers who aren't already familiar with the story might find those early scenes at Uppercross between Anne and Wentworth a bit confusing. It's not entirely clear as to what exactly happened between them. However, viewers should find this version easy enough to follow once they've got past these scenes.

This adaptation doesn't have 100% perfect characterisation either. Although the vast majority of the characters are both extremely well-written and acted I dislike how this version portrays Elizabeth Elliot and Mrs Smith. In the book Elizabeth might well be conceited, haughty and cold but she's still very elegant and dignified. But Phoebe Nicholl's Elizabeth is shouty, petulant, childish and far too over the top! She even slouches! Niccholls or the script went too far in trying to show the audience how horrible Elizabeth is. And although this might sound harsh I don't think Niccholls was beautiful enough for the role either. Helen Schlesinger's Mrs Smith also disappoints me. The Mrs Smith of this version is completely different to the character in the book. She's much more cheerful and she has no connection to Mr Elliot whatsoever. Instead she finds out the truth about him through Nurse Rook who knows all of the local gossip. This leads me to another issue that I have with this version; although Samuel West gives a great performance as Mr Elliot his character's backstory is changed. In the book the only real reason why Mr Elliot wants to marry Anne is so he can gain a landed title and a better position. He doesn't want to marry Anne for her money at all. He's already rich. But in this version Mr Elliot has squandered away almost all of his fortune and only wants to marry Anne for her money. Er, what money?! This version makes the extent of Sir Walter Elliot's debts clear! Also, Mr Elliot's relationship with Mrs Clay is only hinted at in this version and isn't explained fully. My final issue with this adaptation is that it leaves out one of my favourite scenes from the book. In the book there's a scene where one of Anne's young nephews is hanging onto her neck and Wentworth pulls him off. This is one of my absolute favourite moments in the book and I was sad not to see it.

Nevertheless, I still consider this film to be a beautiful adaptation of Austen's book despite its faults. One of the reasons why I love this adaptation so much is because of its brilliant casting. I love Amanda Root's performance as Anne. At the very beginning of this film Amanda Root's Anne is quite timid and quiet and this is reflected in her appearance. In the early scenes Anne looks worn-out, tired and even a little bit sickly. However as Anne's confidence grows she begins to regain her youthful bloom. This is very accurate to the book of course and I loved how subtly and gradually it was done.

Blimey! Just look at the contrast between these two pictures! There's no drastic makeover and you can still tell that it's the same woman but there's such a difference! In the second picture Anne has a healthy glow and a sparkle in her eyes. They did a superb make-up job on her and I also loved Amanda Root's acting in the role. Her Anne is clearly introverted and reserved but Root is able to evoke so much emotion simply from her eyes and subtle nuances. Root's Anne is also lovely, warm, kind, affectionate and wry-humoured. You can easily understand why Wentworth fell in love with Anne and I love Amanda Root in the role - she is Anne Elliot to me! Oh, and one moment that I especially love is the scene where Anne first meets Wentworth at Uppercross. Anne shows no obvious signs of nervousness apart from tightly gripping the back of a chair. It's such a nice and understated moment. I love that kind of acting subtlety!

I love Ciaran Hinds' Captain Wentworth as well. I have to admit that I don't find Ciaran Hinds handsome at all but he does have a craggy, rugged look about him and that's perfect for Wentworth's character. Unlike the Wentworth of the 2007 version I can definitely buy this version's Wentworth as a sailor who fought in the Napoleonic Wars! Hinds has great chemistry with Amanda Root too and his acting in the role is terrific. His Wentworth has clearly got a sense of humour and Hinds brings a real charm and charisma to the role - so you can see why Anne and the Musgrove sisters find him appealing. Hinds plays Wentworth's love for Anne brilliantly too. At first Wentworth tries to hide it by acting cold and indifferently towards her but even as early as Uppercross he notices that Anne is tired from a long walk and quietly asks the Crofts if they can give her a ride home. The scene where he gallantly lifts her into the carriage is very romantic and so is the scene where Wentworth and Anne finally get together.

I've got to mention the fabulous supporting cast in this version as well. Sophie Thompson plays Mary Musgrove in this film. Sophie Thompson is the younger sister of Emma Thompson - who wrote and acted in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility - and she would later go on to play Miss Bates in the 1996 film adaptation of Emma. Although Sophie Thompson is very good in that film I much prefer Tamsin Grieg's performance as the character in the 2009 version. But Sophie Thompson is fantastic in Persuasion. She just so brilliantly plays the neurotic and whiny hypochondriac of Austen's book. She's annoying but not so annoying that you just want to strangle her all the time. Corin Redgrave is excellent as Sir Walter Elliot. He's arrogant and vain and foppish and a complete idiot but also quite amusing at times. Samuel West is also excellent as Mr Elliot. He's charming and good-looking but he still manages to give off some shifty vibes. Susan Fleetwood gives a lovely performance as Lady Russell. You can clearly see that Fleetwood's Lady Russell is snobbish but she shows the character's compassionate, loving and caring side as well. There are some lovely scenes between her and Anne. Susan Fleetwood was actually suffering from cancer during Persuasion and died not long after it was filmed which is really sad. Simon Russell Beale, John Woodvine and Fiona Shaw are all great in this version. All of the actors who play the Musgroves are great. They seem like such a happy and loving family.

Aside from the beautiful acting there is just so much to love about this adaptation of Persuasion. It has some very impressive cinematography for one thing. This film isn't as beautiful as some of the more recent Jane Austen adaptations like Pride and Prejudice (2005) but it's still a lovely-looking film. It has beautiful costumes and it was actually filmed on location in Lyme Regis and Bath. There's some very beautiful music in this film too. Much of the dialogue from the book is preserved and this version is mostly very faithful to the book, far more so than the 2007 version! This adaptation does a terrific job at capturing the humour of Austen's book as well. Although Persuasion is Jane Austen's most serious and mature work it still has its fair share of funny and amusing moments. This adaptation reflects that, with this exchange between Mr Elliot and Anne being a great example:

Mr Elliot: "Have you thought any more about my offer?"
Anne: "What offer was that?"
Mr Elliot: "My offer to flatter and adore you all the days of your life."
Anne (with a shrug in her voice): "I haven't had a moment to turn my mind to it."

I really love Nick Dear's script for the most part and he clearly has a far greater understanding of the book than the writer of the 2007 version. I'm very pleased that this version of Persuasion wasn't written by Andrew Davies either! I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Andrew Davies and you just know that if Andrew Davies ever adapted Persuasion that he'd throw in a sexy "wet shirt" shot of Captain Wentworth, and that he'd actually show Mr Elliot seducing Mrs Clay on screen. And finally I have to praise this version's excellent pacing. This film is only 10 minutes longer than the 2007 version but those extra 10 minutes make such a huge difference! It doesn't feel rushed at all.

Rating: 4.5/5
Film Certificate Rating: U

Wise Words from C.S. Lewis

Monday, 18 November 2013

My Favourite Fictional INFJs

After I took a few Myers-Brigg personality tests and tested as an INFJ I did some research online to see if any fictional characters that I liked were INFJ. Certain characters came up time and time again and there were quite a few that I loved! My reaction was "Well it all makes sense now! No wonder I loved them so much!" : D I've made a list of these characters below.

Amelie Poulain - Amelie

Aragorn - The Lord of the Rings

Batman/Bruce Wayne - The Dark Knight Trilogy
Only Christian Bale's portrayal of the character is an INFJ. Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer's Batmen are INTJs. Adam West and George Clooney's Batmen are ESTJs.

Daenerys Targayren - A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones

Elphaba - Wicked 
This only applies to Musical Elphaba. The Elphaba of Gregory Maguire's book is more of an INTJ.

Ichabod Crane - Sleepy Hollow
This only applies to Tom Mison's Ichabod Crane from the current TV show. Johnny Depp's Ichabod Crane from the Tim Burton film is an INTP.

Jay Gatsby - The Great Gatsby

Jean Valjean - Les Miserables

Jon Snow - A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones

Loki - The Thor movies and The Avengers

Margaery Tyrell - A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones
Ooh, there are quite a few INFJs in this book series/TV show!

Will Graham - Hannibal

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Why Winter is My Favourite Season

Winter is my favourite season. Here are the reasons why. 

1. The fashion

I much prefer winter fashion over summer fashion. I love wearing cosy jumpers, scarves, coats and jackets. I always feel a slight sense of despair trying to pick out clothes in the summer that aren't crop tops or skimpy shorts.

2. There are fewer annoying insects.
haaaaate wasps! They terrify me! I don't like bees either. I'm not as scared of them as I am with wasps but if one was in my house I'd still be quite freaked out. We occasionally get earwigs coming into our house during the summer months and they freak me out as well. Oh, and I can't stand flies! Sure they can't sting you but they're still as annoying as hell. 

3. Staying in
I think there must be some sort of a correlation between being an introvert and preferring the indoors. I'm an introvert and one of the things that I love about winter is that there's less pressure to go out. To be honest I tend to be happiest spending the night reading a book or watching a film with a nice cup of tea than going out and socialising. This is much easier to get away with in Autumn or Winter because the weather puts people off from going out. But come the warmer months and suddenly everyone is saying "Oh, look how lovely it is outside! Let's all go out!"

4. Snow
Yes, snow has its bad points. It slows public transport down and when it starts to melt it gets icy and slippery and scary. And yet I still can't help but get excited when I look out the window and see snow on the ground.

5. The clocks go backward
Yay! An extra hour in bed!

6. Christmas
I don't think I even need to give an explanation for this one do I? :)

7. German Christmas Markets
Over the past decade or so German-themed Christmas markets have become more and more common in Britain and now most major cities and towns have them. The one in my town can get horrendously busy but it's still a great place to drink mulled wine and eat waffles, bratwurst and ostrich burgers (yes, really).

8. My Birthday
I'm a winter baby :) My birthday is on the 13th of January and I actually share it with a friend of mine which is really cool.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Neverwhere (2013)

This BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Neil Gaiman's book was adapted by Dirk Maggs and it features a cast that many Hollywood films would kill for! It has a very famous cast and many of the actors involved are personal favourites of mine. The cast includes James McAvoy, Game of Thrones and Elementary actress Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Romola Garai, Anthony Stewart Head, Sir Christopher Lee, Bernard Cribbins, Homeland actor David Harewood, Sophie Okenado and even Neil Gaiman himself! This radio drama was played on BBC Radio 4 earlier this year and over six consecutive nights. It's now available on CD which is how I heard it. Episode One of this radio drama is 60 minutes long and all of the remaining episodes are 30 minutes long.

If you've read my review of Neil Gaiman's book - and I recommend that you do because I talk about its plot - then you'll know that Neverwhere has a somewhat unusual history. It started off as a miniseries that Neil Gaiman was commissioned to write for the BBC. It starred Peter Capaldi as the Angel Islington, Patterson Joseph as the Marquis de Carabas, and Laura Fraser as Lady Door. The miniseries wasn't a huge hit but it later went on to gain a small but passionate cult following. However, Neil Gaiman wasn't happy with the miniseries because the producers had cut many of his scenes. This was partly due to time constraints and partly because they simply didn't have a big enough budget to present Gaiman's ideas onto screen. Gaiman then decided to adapt his original script into a novel and - although the miniseries does have its fans - the general consensus is that the novel was a huge improvement. This recent BBC radio drama is an adaptation of the novel and Neil Gaiman was much, much happier with it than he was with the miniseries!

I completely recommend this radio production. It was an absolute joy to listen to and I really can't praise its cast enough. Sadly it's sometimes the case that when big-name actors agree to do voice work that they phone their performances in but that's absolutely not the case here. No-one phones it in and every single actor is clearly giving it their all. And they're all perfectly cast! There isn't a single weak link and they all have chemistry with each other! It must have helped massively that the actors were all together when they did the recordings. James McAvoy gives a wonderful performance as the protagonist Richard Mayhew. In the book Richard is a bit bland but he's still fairly likeable. However in this radio drama McAvoy brings a real charisma and strength to the character. He's also very funny. James McAvoy is one of my favourite actors and at this moment in time I think his performance in Neverwhere is my favourite that he's given so far. I loved him as Richard and it was really cool to hear him act with his real-life Scottish accent for once! I've only ever heard McAvoy act with various English and American accents before. Natalie Dormer brilliantly portrays Door's innocence, sweetness, bravery and sadness. She has especially great chemistry with James McAvoy as well. Apparently both of them are massive Neil Gaiman fans in real-life and were among the first to sign up for the project. You can read a lovely article in which Dormer talks about what it was like to make Neverwhere here. Romola Garai is superb as Richard's self-absorbed fiancée Jessica and is very funny. To be honest the role of Jessica is simply too small for an actress of Garai's talent but I'm still really glad that she took the role on. She's one of my favourite actresses, she does a great job with what she's been given, and I really enjoyed listening to her. I've been a massive fan of Anthony Stewart Head ever since he played Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer - which is one of my all-time favourite TV shows without any shadow of a doubt - and he's brilliant as the assassin Mr Croup. He's just so awesome at playing villains! I really wish that Buffy could have done an Evil Giles episode because it would have been fantastic! Head is seriously creepy and menacing in Neverwhere and is very well paired-up with David Schofield as Mr Vandemar. Sir Christopher Lee is just awesome as the Earl of Earl's Court. Lee has such a powerful, commanding and aristocratic-sounding voice that it makes him perfect for the role. However, the Earl is also doddering and a bit senile and Lee played this brilliantly as well. I know Bernard Cribbins from his role as the honorary 10th Doctor companion Wilfred Mott in Doctor Who. I loved Wilf and Cribbins did such a wonderful job at playing him. Cribbins is also a very experienced voice actor and in Neverwhere he's wonderful as the Old Bailey. I loved him in the role. He brings so much kindness and warmth to the character just like he was able to do with Wilf. Neil Gaiman has also got a couple of minor roles in this production of Neverwhere, playing both the security guard Mr Figgis and the Fop with No Name. Surprisingly he was really good too! OK, I doubt that RADA will be asking him to join their ranks any time soon but he's clearly having fun in the roles and is very funny as the Fop. I haven't seen a huge amount of David Harewood and Sophie Okenado's work before but needless to say they were both brilliant in Neverwhere as the Marquis de Carabas and Hunter. They played their characters exactly as I imagined them from the book. And finally there's Benedict Cumberbatch as the Angel Islington. Oh, wow! Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my favourite actors and I knew he'd make an amazing Islington. He's such a fantastic actor and his voice work is fantastic in Cabin Pressure (another BBC Radio 4 production that I'd completely recommend!) Cumberbatch is fantastic in Neverwhere as well. OK, I'm going to have to give a spoiler about the book away now so you might just want to skip to the next paragraph. Okay... 1-2-3. In Neverwhere it turns out that Islington is the one who arranged for Croup and Vandemar to assassinate Door's family. He's the main villain of the book. I've seen Cumberbatch play a villain before thanks to Star Trek into Darkness. He was amazing in that and he's amazing in this too! I can't wait to hear his Smaug in The Hobbit now! Cumberbatch uses such a deep and creepy voice towards the end of the radio drama! And, according to Dirk Maggs, Cumberbatch performed his extraordinary voice with no technical aid or computer wizardry whatsoever! After hearing the voice that he uses below I think you'll have to agree with me that the voice he uses in Neverwhere bodes very, very, very well for Smaug! Cumberbatch even sings in this brilliantly! OK you can tell that he isn't a technically great singer but his acting sells the song sooo well!

I know that for many years fans of the book have been clamouring for a big-budget movie adaptation of it but, honestly, I would never want Neverwhere to be adapted into a movie now! I love this radio adaptation that much! The cast give stunning performances. The sound effects are very impressive and really help to build up the atmosphere. There's some very haunting choral music in it. It's also extremely faithful to Gaiman's book! Much of the dialogue is the same and only a few scenes from the book are left out (like the Serpentine scenes). It's three and a half hours long and the story doesn't feel rushed. It brilliantly captures the tone and spirit of the book. Just like the book, this radio production is exciting and suspenseful and dark and very funny. That being said very little of Gaiman's narration is actually used in this radio production so I'd still completely recommend the book even to people who come to this version first. Again, I love this radio production and I would only want a movie adaptation of Neverwhere if they could get every single actor from this radio drama on board.

Finally, I have to praise Neverwhere's 20 minutes of bonus features. After the drama ends we get 10 minutes of bloopers and outtakes and then two extended scenes: we get a longer version of Richard, Door and Hunter's meeting with the Earl and then a longer version of the final confrontation with Islington.

Rating: 5/5

Friday, 8 November 2013

'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman (1996)

Synopsis: Richard Mayhew is a young Scottish businessman and lives in London. He lives a perfectly ordinary life until he goes walking through the city one night and finds a mysterious young woman called Door who's lying on the ground and bleeding. Despite the protests from his fiancée Jessica, Richard decides to help Door and his life is then completely changed as a result. Door is a noblewoman, has supernatural powers, and comes from the world of London Below - a vast subterranean realm that exists beneath the London that we know. In London Below familiar place names from London take on a new significance. It's a world in which Knightsbridge is a dangerous place called "Night's Bridge" and the Angel, Islington is an actual angel. By helping Door, Richard has thwarted an assassination attempt but is now invisible and non-existent to the people of London Above. He's left with no other option but to travel down to London Below and team up with Door and her companions: the Marquis de Carabas and a bodyguard called Hunter. Richard then embarks on a quest to protect Door from the assassins Croup and Vandemar and to find out who ordered them to murder Door's family - all whilst trying to get back to his old life in London Above.

Neverwhere originally began as a miniseries that Neil Gaiman was commissioned to write for the BBC. The miniseries wasn't a huge hit at the time but it later went on to gain a small but passionate cult following. However, Gaiman wasn't happy with the miniseries because the producers had cut many of his scenes. This was partly due to time constraints and partly because they simply didn't have a big enough budget to present Gaiman's ideas onto screen. Gaiman then decided to adapt his original script into a novel.

It's funny for me to look back on this now but I didn't actually care all that much for the first couple of Neil Gaiman books that I read. I was disappointed with American Gods and Stardust. I didn't feel that either of those books were bad but neither of them really lived up to my expectations and I felt let down. I wouldn't have the slightest hesitation in naming Gaiman as being one of my favourite authors now though because I love Anansi Boys, Coraline, The Graveyard Book and now Neverwhere :) Gaiman has also written one of my all-time favourite Doctor Who episodes (The Doctor's Wife) and I even got him to sign my copy of Anansi Boys from when he did a press tour a few years ago! :D

Now that I've finally read Neverwhere it's seriously challenging Anansi Boys as being my favourite out of Neil Gaiman's adult novels because it's an utterly fantastic urban fantasy novel! It's gripping and fast-paced and suspenseful and full of adventure and excitement. I can honestly say that I would never actually want to visit London Below - there are far too many sewers for my liking! - but it's still an extremely entertaining place to read about as it's vivid, gritty, dangerous, eerie and full of atmosphere. But there's also a huge amount of humour in Neverwhere and if you've ever lived in London or know it reasonably well (as I do) then it's even more fun to read! To enjoy this book a good knowledge of London is by no means essential but it will definitely enhance your enjoyment of the story. London tube journeys have now been forever changed to me because I'm never going to be able to hear the phrase "Mind the Gap" in the same way again!

Then there are also Neverwhere's brilliant characters. Richard is a slightly bland hero to be honest but he's still quite likeable and the supporting characters in this book are even better. They're so eccentric and weird and fascinating! I loved the Marquis de Carabas, Old Bailey, Lady Door and Islington and their characters will stay with me for a very long time.

I really hope that Gaiman will eventually write a sequel to Neverwhere some day. Gaiman doesn't do sequels but he's always said that Neverwhere is the only book of his that he would actually consider writing a sequel for. I'd love to read about Richard, Door and the Marquis de Carabas having further adventures so I would be so thrilled if a sequel eventually materialised one day! And finally, before I wrap this review up, I feel I should also mention that I'm absolutely loving the recent BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Neverwhere at the moment. It has an insanely star-studded cast of actors and will be the subject of my next post :)

Rating: 5/5

P.S. I was extremely upset when I learnt that an American high school had recently pulled
Neverwhere off of its reading list because of a parent complaining about its "graphic sexual content". The fact that the school caved in to the demands of one - one! - parent without even putting up any kind of a fight is absolutely pathetic. Neverwhere had been on their curriculum since 2004 and hadn't ever received a single complaint before - and would you give in so easily to just one parent's objections?! Obviously parents should have a role in what their own children are exposed to but no parent should have the right to force their values and tastes onto other people's children. I'm a fervent opposer of book banning and censorship and I would encourage my readers to read this great post from my blogger friend BookWormans on the subject :)

For anyone who's curious, the parent wanted the book banned from the school because of a very brief scene which you can read here. All that happens is that an adulterous couple start kissing on a park bench next to an invisible Richard. The man slides his hand up the woman's jumper, they exchange a few swear words ("f***"), and then they leave. We never even see this couple again. This scene is only there to highlight Richard's invisibility to the people of London Above. It's a massive stretch to call the entire book inappropriate just because of this one scene! Gaiman has also said that with Neverwhere he was basically trying to write an adult's take on the books that he had loved as a child - Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and The Chronicles of Narnia. However Neverwhere has actually got very little of the features that sometimes crop up in adult books. There's very little swearing or sexuality in this book at all and it's only really adult in terms of its mature themes.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

This is Me

I use my blog to review books, films, TV shows and musicals/plays. Recently I've even reviewed radio dramas and a web series. When I encounter a story that I love passionately I want to tell everyone about it! I love the fact that I now have this little corner of the internet in which I get to express myself and that I've been able to interact with people because of it. It means a lot. However, I tend to keep more personal posts about myself and my life to a bare minimum. It's just not something that I'm interested in doing. I'm not comfortable with the idea of writing deeply personal posts. Also, my life is actually pretty dull! Even if I did feel comfortable enough to write more personal posts I doubt many people would find them interesting!

One thing that some of my readers might find interesting though is that I'm an INFJ. This is one of the 16 Myers-Brigg personality types and the INFJ type is believed to be the rarest one of all. They estimate that only 1% of the world's population fits into this type! The first Myers-Brigg test that I took identified me as an INFJ. I've taken a few more Myers-Brigg tests since then though and some of them have actually identified me as an ISFJ. However, because the INFJ personality profiles describe me so much more accurately I'm almost 100% convinced that I'm an INFJ. So, if you'd like to learn a little bit more about what I'm actually like as a person, then these links should give you a very good idea!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Chicago (2002)

The musical Chicago made its debut on Broadway in 1975. Although it was directed and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse it wasn't a massive hit. However the musical had a very successful Broadway revival in the mid-90s and this led to a film adaptation in 2002, which was directed by Rob Marshall. And out of all of the movie musicals that have been released in the last 10 years or so Chicago has been the most successful. It was mostly very well-reviewed, won six Oscars, and made over $170 million dollars at the box office. After Grease! it's the most successful movie musical of all time.

The musical is set during the 1920s and in the city of Chicago. The main character is Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger). She's a former chorus girl who's married to a sweet but not terribly bright man called Amos (John C. Reilly). Roxie dreams of becoming a big vaudeville star like the famous Kelly sisters. In the opening scene of the film Roxie watches with envy as Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta Jones) performs All that Jazz in a Chicago nightclub. At the end of the song Velma is then arrested by the police. She murdered her husband and sister after she discovered that they were having an affair and now she has to go into prison whilst she awaits her murder trial. Roxie soon has problems of her own. She shoots her lover dead after she discovers that he lied to her about having showbiz connections. After unsuccessfully attempting to get her husband to take the rap for her, Roxie is put in prison whilst she awaits her own murder trial. The prison is being run by a woman called Mama Morton (Queen Latifah). She tells Roxie that her best chance of getting a "Not Guilty" verdict is to hire Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) as her lawyer. Flynn has also been helping Velma (who is in the same prison as Roxie). He quickly fabricates a story for Roxie so that she can gain media sympathy. It works and Roxie is soon an overnight celebrity. This makes Velma furious because her own fame is now fading by comparison. A bitter rivalry then develops between the two women. I should point out that this is only the plot of the film. Apart from seeing a few videos from the recent Hollywood Bowl production I've never actually seen the stage version of Chicago. Therefore I can't personally comment on whether this film is a faithful adaptation or not.

I'm not a Chicago fan. Yes, it does have some very entertaining scenes and songs - my favourite songs being Cell Block Tango and Mr Cellophane. And John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah are both really good in the film. But for me the very best thing about the film is Catherine Zeta Jones. She was the only actor in this film to have any kind of prior musical theatre experience and it really shows. Her acting, singing and dancing are all fantastic and imo her Oscar win is the only one that the film actually deserved.

One of my issues with Chicago is that its story is simply nowhere near as clever as it seems to think it is. I realise that the musical is trying to expose the corruption of the 1920s but how could anyone believe in Billy Flynn's obvious lies?! Yes, the musical is set pre-internet but did no-one think to double-check Roxie's background?! Not one single journalist?! And even if they didn't, Flynn's claims in the courtroom reek of so much BS that you'd think it would have made the judge and at least some members of the jury suspicious! I simply can't believe that a real-life courtroom could be so stupid! Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere are both miscast in this film as well. I'm shocked that Renee Zellweger actually won an Oscar nomination for her performance in this film because I thought her acting was really bland and her singing extremely weak. Richard Gere's dancing and acting is surprisingly good but his singing voice is veeery nasal and grating!

However, my biggest issue with Chicago is that there isn't anyone to like or sympathise with. Well, I suppose there's Amos and that Eastern European acrobat but they get barely any screentime. The main character, Roxie, is an immoral bitch. Velma's motives for murder are more sympathetic than Roxie's but she's still a horrible person as well. Billy Flynn is sleazy and slimy and horrible. Mary Sunshine (Christine Baranski) is incredibly stupid. There's nothing remotely likeable about these people! I didn't want them to have happy endings!

I suspect that the main reason for Chicago's success is because it isn't really a traditional musical. Many people, even film critics, simply can't accept the idea of characters singing because of the "lack of realism". It's sad but true. There are people who can watch fantasy films and enjoy them. But characters singing? "Oh no, that's going much too far! That's so unrealistic!" This is just a massive cop-out of course! I get the impression that the reason why a lot of people seem to like Chicago is because the characters aren't really supposed to be singing in the story. Most of the songs in this film are actually taking place in Roxie's mind. They're figments of her imagination. For them, Chicago doesn't require as much suspension of disbelief. But for me, well, Chicago doesn't do anything for me. The film leaves me completely cold. Past experience has taught me that one should never judge a musical by its movie adaptation but I highly doubt I'd enjoy the stage version of Chicago either. Unless it had a really, really great cast I wouldn't be at all interested in seeing this show live.

Rating: 2/5
Film Certificate Rating: 12

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Doctor Who (Series Five)

With series five of Doctor Who there was an almost complete changing of the guard. There would be a new head writer, new producers, a new Doctor, a new companion and a redesigned TARDIS. About the only thing that would remain the same about New Who would be Murray Gold staying on as the show's composer!

Back in 2008 it was announced that Steven Moffat would be taking over as the new showrunner of Doctor Who and this was greeted with mass jubilation from the fans. This was because many of the very best episodes from the RTD era had been written by him: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead and the mini-episode Timecrash. So, what would Steven Moffat's first series as the Doctor Who showrunner actually be like then? Er... AMAZING! To this date series five (along with series six) is my absolute favourite of the show's run! And when I think that Moffat was also working on the first series of Sherlock at the time this blows my mind! Whilst many of my absolute favourite Doctor Who episodes belong in other series, none of those series have the same level of consistency and overall brilliance that series five has. It's practically flawless! It was because of this series that I finally made the transition from being a casual fan into a true Whovian! Another brilliant thing about series five is that it's completely accessible. You'll still be able to watch and enjoy this series even if you've never seen any of the episodes from the RTD years or the classic era of the show. You can easily follow it.

For me the most frustrating thing about Doctor Who during the RTD years was its lack of consistency. The show was so hit-and-miss back then. You could watch an absolutely stunning episode one week and then the next week see an episode that was absolutely awful! It was an era of spectacular highs like the episodes Human Nature/Family of Blood and The Fires of Pompeii. But it was also an era of abysmal episodes like Love & Monsters and Fear Her! And this was extremely frustrating! As much as I enjoyed the 9th and 10th Doctors, I became tired of potentially great episodes being ruined by crappy villains and cheesiness. I got tired of those over-hyped series finales that always promised so much and were just massive let-downs. Also, I just wasn't a fan of RTD's writing. In his five years as the Doctor Who head writer he only wrote two episodes that I really, truly loved: Midnight and The Waters of Mars. To be fair, having spent the last year going through all of my RTD era boxsets, I now realise that for all of its many flaws it was still great television. I also have a huge amount of gratitude to RTD for bringing the show back. But the Steven Moffat era is soooo much more my thing!

Doctor Who has become a far more consistently enjoyable show ever since Moffat took over as its showrunner. Of course that's not to say that there haven't been any bad episodes. Rings of Akhaten, Beast Below, Curse of the Black Spot and Victory of the Daleks are all pretty poor. But these episodes are only poor in the sense that they're mediocre and average and "meh". Unlike the very worst episodes of the RTD era none of these episodes are downright dreadful! There's also much more continuity in Moffat-era Doctor Who. The only real continuity in the RTD era was having the words "Bad Wolf" and "Torchwood" repeated over and over again throughout their series! But in series five there is proper continuity with each episode building up to the finale. Also Moffat's writing style is so much more my cup of tea! His stories are so intricate and mind-bending and full of wibbly-wobbly Timey Wimey craziness! It actually took me a couple of viewings before I understood everything that was going on in the series five finale The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang. But I'd happily take feeling confused over feeling frustrated, annoyed, angry and disappointed - which is how I feel about the majority of the RTD era finales. Yet another thing that's improved about the show since Moffat has taken over has been its visuals. Even though the budget for Doctor Who has actually decreased over the past few years you'd never believe that from watching it! Since Moffat has taken over, the show has become much more cinematic looking. It has much better cinematography. As an example of this you only need to watch the RTD era episode The Christmas Invasion and the Moffat era episode A Christmas Carol back to back! It's almost like watching a completely different show! And finally Doctor Who has also become much less modern-day Earth based ever since Moffat took over.

The Doctor
Back in 2009 a 26 year old actor called Matt Smith auditioned for the role of John Watson in an upcoming show called Sherlock. Smith had given some extremely well-reviewed performances on the West End but would have probably been most famous for his roles on the BBC's The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North (which also starred former Doctor Who companion Billie Piper). But really Smith was pretty much a complete unknown. Sherlock's co-creator Steven Moffat found Smith's audition for John entertaining but ultimately he felt that Smith was just too barmy and eccentric to play the character. However, Moffat had also begun to work on Doctor Who. Moffat had originally wanted his Doctor to be played by an actor who was aged 40+ but he now felt that Smith would be ideally suited for the role of the 11th Doctor. He asked Smith to come back and audition for that role and a week later Smith had won the part. But when Smith's casting was eventually announced it caused a massive backlash amongst the show's fans. I can still remember many rants from fans who swore that they'd never watch the show again!

Poor Matt Smith had a terrible time of it when his casting was first announced. Fans were judging him, calling him a terrible Doctor and declaring that he'd ruin the show a full six months before they'd even seen him act in the role! It really bothers me that Matt Smith got so much hate when he was first cast as the Doctor! Yes David Tennant had been - and still is - a tremendously popular Doctor and many people were sad to see him leave. But that's still no excuse for the hatred that Smith received! And when it comes to criticisms against Matt Smith's Doctor I think I've heard pretty much everything. The Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant detractors all seem to have the same issue with their Doctors, but the Matt Smith detractors can't seem to make up their mind about what they dislike about his Doctor. I've heard so many stupid complaints when it comes to Smith's Doctor. I've addressed the most common complaints below!

He isn't attractive enough!
Since when has the Doctor had to be attractive?! William Hartnell wasn't exactly sexy was he?! And Matt Smith's Doctor is attractive! I wouldn't say he's as handsome as David Tennant but he's still really good-looking! Lots of fans do fancy him including myself! And if anyone could be shallow enough to give up on the entire show just because they don't find Smith's Doctor as attractive as Tennant's then good riddance to them, because they were never Doctor Who fans in the first place. They were David Tennant fans. I'm sorry if this is starting to sound like a scary rant but, well, I guess it is!

His Doctor is rubbish because he's too different to David Tennant's! He's trying too hard to copy David Tennant!
Smith does not copy Tennant's portrayal of the Doctor. The 11th Doctor is as different to the 10th Doctor as the 10th Doctor was to the 9th Doctor. And, brace yourselves, this is actually a good thing! Smith makes the character completely his own. He might not be your personal favourite Doctor but he is still unquestionably THE Doctor!

He's too young! 
The complaint that Smith is too young for the role is the one that I find the most understandable. I admit that I did have some reservations about Matt Smith because of his age, and also because he'd never watched Doctor Who as a child. But Smith would completely win me over when I finally saw him in the role. Also, Peter Davison was only a few years older than Smith when he was first cast as the Doctor. And at 26 Smith wasn't that young to be playing the Doctor! It's not like they'd cast an 18 year old!

He can't act!
Are you high?!
Matt Smith's Doctor is an absolute joy to watch! Now David Tennant is an absolutely phenomenal actor and was absolutely marvellous as the Doctor. He gave brilliant performances in even the very worst of the RTD episodes and he was the first actor that made me really and truly fall in love with the character. Got that? Oh, and Tennant's Doctor definitely got the coolest catchphrase with "Allons-y!" But Smith captures the sheer essence of the character in a way that Tennant didn't. With Matt Smith you can completely believe that you're watching a 900 year old alien who's trapped in the body of a young man! The 11th Doctor is clearly and obviously not from our world. He looks very ethereal for one thing. But he's also bonkers! And a mad man with a box! The 11th Doctor is outrageous and flamboyant and incredibly charismatic but also socially awkward. He can be extremely energetic and light-hearted and childlike. He obviously loves his companions very much and can be very affectionate towards them, but they'll also be moments when he'll be acting just like an eccentric and grumpy old man. Eleven is never as brooding and intense as Nine but he's got more of a temper than Ten. Eleven even dresses like an old man! The Doctors just keep getting geekier and geekier on New Who! Nine wore all-black and had a leather jacket. Ten wore suits and converse. Eleven wears bow ties, tweed jackets and suspenders! And yet he still manages to look cool! Matt Smith has also got impeccable comic timing and his Doctor can be absolutely hilarious! But there are also moments when Eleven reminds you of just how dark and dangerous the Doctor can be. There's still the same self-loathing and guilt-ridden side to Eleven that Nine and Ten had. Eleven just does a better job of hiding it. There are still moments when Eleven can be sinister and powerful and emotional. He's still capable of rage.

I adore Matt Smith's portrayal of the Doctor and the thought that anyone could hate him astounds me. If you don't love Matt Smith's Doctor then I think you're wrong! Right now Smith is actually tied with Tennant as my favourite Doctor and I'm going to be so upset when he leaves! Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm excited about Peter Capaldi's Doctor and I'm sure I'll grow to love him as well, but at this moment in time the thought of Smith leaving makes me feel really sad. Thankfully I know many fans also feel the same. Over the years many of the fans have slowly begun to accept the 11th Doctor and I know that there are lots of people out there who are heartbroken that he's going. Oh sure there are still those annoying people out there who insist that David Tennant is the one and only Doctor but there seem to be fewer of them around these days. Yay! There are just a couple more aspects to the 11th Doctor that I thought I'd mention. Firstly, I have to mention that he has the most tremendously epic and exciting theme music! I particularly love this version of it! I also love Matt Smith's Doctor wonderful rapport with children. Just watch the 11th Doctor in any scene where he's with a child. You can really tell that these child actors are having a terrific time working with him and vice versa. It's lovely to see. The same is true whenever Matt Smith interacts with younger fans. Just watch this video with Matt Smith and a young fan! It's ridiculously adorable!

The Companion
The opening episode of series five, The Eleventh Hour, takes place directly after the events of The End of Time. It begins with the TARDIS crash-landing onto the front garden of a small cottage. The newly-regenerated 11th Doctor then immediately meets a young Scottish child called Amelia Pond. Amelia isn't the least bit afraid of the Doctor but, after spending several minutes chatting with her, he discovers that there is something that she's frightened of: a mysterious crack in her bedroom wall. Amelia can hear voices on the other end and it scares her. After examining the crack the Doctor becomes concerned himself and promises to return in five minutes to help her. Unfortunately the TARDIS is still re-organising itself and its instruments are off-kilter. Those five minutes turn into twelve years! Amelia is now a young woman, has shortened her name to "Amy", and is working as a kissogram. However there's still something sinister going on in Amy's house and, when it places everyone's lives in jeopardy, the Doctor has to get rid of it. Once this is dealt with Amy then becomes the Doctor's new companion.

Amy Pond has a far more interesting backstory than any of the RTD companions even if it does have some similarities to Reinette's from The Girl in the Fireplace. She's also a great companion! Along with Donna Noble and Rory Williams, Amy is one of my favourite Doctor Who companions. I love her! She's feisty, witty, fun, independent, adventurous, strong-willed and helpful. The fact that she managed to work out what was really going on in Beast Below leaves me seriously impressed every single time. She completely pwned a Weeping Angel with a remote control! She also managed to resurrect the Doctor from the power of her memory in The Big Bang! And after Martha Jones, Amy is also the most intelligent companion of New Who. I also love Amy for the fact that she never lost faith in the Doctor - even though she had to spent most of her life being told that the Doctor was an imaginary friend that she'd made up. She never managed to end up in a mental institution because of this either! I also love the fact that Amy lives in a small English village called Leadworth. It makes for a really refreshing change from all of the cockney companions from the RTD era. Another very refreshing change is that when we do eventually get to see Amy's parents it turns out that she's got a good relationship with them and that they're not annoying! And I also love the fact that Moffat let Karen Gillan keep her Scottish accent for the role of Amy.

It has to be said that Amy is certainly a flawed companion and that there are times when she can be annoying in series five. In fact her character isn't all that dissimilar to Rose Tyler at first. Amy doesn't treat her lovely fiancé Rory very well at first due to her crush on the Doctor and she even tries to seduce the Doctor on the night before her wedding! This is a hilarious scene - because of the Doctor's reaction to it - but it's still very, very wrong! Because of this it actually took me a few episodes to start liking Amy again. But thankfully she eventually realises just how much she really loves Rory and makes her choice. Amy becomes far more loving and affectionate towards Rory and chooses him over the Doctor every single time. By the end of this series Amy's love for Rory can't even be questioned! And out of all of the companions that we've had on New Who, it's Amy who's developed and matured the most. Oh of course Donna was developed beautifully in series four but this was then completely ruined in the episode Journey's End! Argh, it still makes me angry! 

I should also mention the actresses who play Amy. Well, Karen Gillan is wonderful in the role! She has a lot of charisma and screen presence and is brilliant at both comedy and drama. She has fantastic chemistry with both Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill. I'm so grateful that Moffat brought her back to the show! Gillan's first introduction to Doctor Who was actually in series four with the episode The Fires of Pompeii. She had a minor role as a soothsayer in that story. Gillan has an English accent in that episode and is wearing a lot of make-up but you can still tell that it's her. That episode would also feature the 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi!

There's also Caitlin Blackwood who plays the younger version of Amy - Amelia. Caitlin Blackwood is actually Karen Gillan's real-life cousin which explains why they both look so alike! After Gillan got cast as Amy Pond, Moffat and the producers then began to search for a child actress who could play the character's younger self. Gillan then remembered seeing a photo of her younger cousin Caitlin and suggested that they audition her for the role. Blackwood won the part and she and Gillan actually met for the first time on The Eleventh Hour. Blackwood is clearly a great child actress and I think she deserves far more credit for helping to create the character of Amy Pond. I'm also really glad that Blackwood didn't just get to play Amelia once. She makes an appearance in The Big Bang and has actually shown up a few times since then.

Recurring Characters
Amy Pond's fiancé Rory Williams is introduced in The Eleventh Hour and then gets brought along on an adventure with the Doctor and Amy in Vampires in Venice. He then has further adventures in Amy's Choice and The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood before he gets shot by a Silurian whilst saving the Doctor's life. He's then swallowed by the mysterious crack that was first seen in Amy's bedroom and is erased from history. Technically he never existed and only the Doctor can remember him. But Rory then gets mysteriously brought back as a Roman centurion in The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang and would later become a full-time companion in series six :)

Now I love Rory Williams so much that it's hard for me to believe that there was a time when I didn't! But it's true. Back when Rory was first introduced in The Eleventh Hour I had a feeling that his character was just going to be the new Mickey Smith, the butt of the Doctor's jokes and the companion's mistreated boyfriend. Yes, Mickey did get some more development during series two but he still wasn't a particularly well-written character. We never really got to know him. But I was very happily proved wrong about Rory! The 11th Doctor is never as mean towards him as the 9th Doctor was towards Mickey. The 11th Doctor actually really likes Rory and does everything possible to repair his relationship with Amy. There's also the fact that Rory is an awesome character! He's charming, funny, kind, endearingly awkward and incredibly brave, loyal and determined! He duels a vampire with a broomstick! He spends 2000 years guarding Amy and doesn't complain! Rory is probably my second favourite Doctor Who companion after Donna and is easily my favourite male companion. I never really cared all that much for Mickey and I've always thought Captain Jack was kind of overrated. But Rory is a brilliant character. He complements the Doctor and Amy TARDIS team superbly and his relationship with Amy becomes so lovely and touching. It really makes me angry that Rory often isn't even acknowledged as a companion in the media! Yes he didn't receive top billing until series six but still! And of course I've get to give some love to Arthur Darvill. He plays Rory brilliantly and has fantastic chemistry with Karen Gillan and Matt Smith. And he's from my home town! I find this very cool! :D

The other main recurring character of series five is River Song, who was first introduced in Steven Moffat's Silence of the Library/Forest of the Dead from series four. Since River and the Doctor are both time travellers they never meet in exactly the same order. The Doctor first meets River in the story that she dies in. In series five the Doctor meets River again and we discover that she's actually in prison - not that this stops her from breaking out and having adventures with the Doctor!

River Song is a very divisive character. Some fans love her, some fans hate her. Hardly anyone seems to be indifferent. Me? I love her! I was instantly sold on River's character in series four. I found her absolutely fascinating, was moved by her death (which is even more heartbreaking in hindsight!), and was thrilled that she was going to be making a return to the show. I love River even more now. Also, I don't usually get very shippy when it comes to TV characters but I ship her and the Doctor HARD! Matt Smith and Alex Kingston have an insane amount of chemistry! Which is especially impressive when you consider that there's an almost 20 year age gap between them! I love the relationship between Eleven and River Song. When the Doctor first meets River again their relationship is pretty business-like. The Doctor doesn't really know River yet and he's still fairly uneasy and wary around her. But over time we get to see them become much more comfortable with each other, and by the time we get to series seven their relationship is very romantic. I find Eleven's romance with River far more believable and interesting than the romance between Ten and Rose. I could never buy into the Ten/Rose romance. The Doctor is over 900 years old, has travelled all over time and space, and has met countless amounts of people. He's an extraordinary person. So why on earth would he fall in love with a completely ordinary girl with a completely ordinary life?! The Eleven and Rose romance though makes far more sense because River is extraordinary too. She's a far more dynamic and interesting character than Rose ever was and the Doctor is obviously fascinated and intrigued by her. He finds her fun. He doesn't have to explain things in as much depth to River as he does with his other companions because she can actually keep up with him and has decades worth of experience. The Eleven/River romance is fascinating and I think it was a brilliant move on Moffat's part not to have the romance between their characters completely take over the whole show like the Ten/Rose romance of series two. River hasn't become an official companion and she and the Doctor are having plenty of adventures that are taking place off-screen. We're probably only seeing a fraction of their adventures! This is a good thing. Of course being the Eleven/River shipper that I am there is a part of me that wishes we could see every single moment of their relationship but Doctor Who is above all else a sci-fi show and it should stay that way. We're clearly seeing all of the important Eleven/River moments on the show, and there are several mini-episodes that do show more of Eleven and River's relationship. I especially love Rain Gods!

Again, I really love River. She's strong, capable, intelligent, funny and self-confident. She's an academic. She's a complete badass and even made a Dalek beg for mercy in The Big Bang! Her interactions with the Doctor are either enormously entertaining or extremely touching. River is a wonderful character and I've loved all of the episodes that she's been in. Also, Alex Kingston is a great actress and she plays River brilliantly. I absolutely love Kingston's portrayal and I love that she's a mature older woman. Alex Kingston is by no means old but she's older than most female love interests on film and TV tend to be.

My Favourite Episodes: Since I love almost all of this series' episodes it's incredibly hard for me to narrow this down to just three!
  • The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone (by Steven Moffat)
  • Vincent and the Doctor (by Richard Curtis)
  • The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang (by Steven Moffat)
My Least Favourite Episodes:
  • Victory of the Daleks (by Mark Gatiss)
  • Beast Below (by Steven Moffat)
My Favourite Guest Stars
  • Tony Curran in Vincent and the Doctor
  • Toby Jones in Amy's Choice
  • Helen McCrory in Vampires in Venice
  • Ian McNeice in Victory of the Daleks
  • Iain Glen in The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

The episodes of series five summarised:

1. The Eleventh Hour (written by Steven Moffat)
This episode is widely considered to be the best post-regeneration story ever. It's a glorious opening episode! OK, this episode does have a couple of minor faults. There are a few plot-holes. But still, this is a brilliant episode and it gets so much right! It's far better than Rose and The Christmas Invasion! Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Caitlin Blackwood are all superb in this - and Matt Smith's "Hello, I'm the Doctor" speech to the Atraxi is a particularly awesome scene! The episode is literally an hour long and it's fast-paced and funny with some brilliant one-liners. It would also make complete sense to someone even if they'd never seen any of the RTD era or the classic era. 
2. The Beast Below (written by Steven Moffat)
I suppose it was inevitable really. At some point Steven Moffat was bound to write an episode that I wouldn't like, and even Moffat admits that this episode is the worst he's written for the show. The Beast Below is by no means a terrible episode and Smith and Gillan are both great. But the episode is just very average. I can't even pinpoint exactly why I'm so lukewarm about this episode. It's just, yeah, average.
3. Victory of the Daleks (written by Mark Gatiss)
This is another average episode. It just doesn't live up to its potential and the redesigned Daleks look ridiculous. Also, at the end of Beast Below Winston Churchill seemed really suspicious of the Daleks but in this episode he doesn't seem to have any kind of problem with them. It's still a fairly fun episode though and the Dalek saying "You do not want tea then?" cracks me up every single time.
4-5. The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone (written by Steven Moffat)
There isn't a single thing that I don't love about this two-parter! This story is the "Aliens" to Blink's "Alien". Blink is basically a haunted house story with Weeping Angels being used instead of ghosts. But this story is basically an action movie with the Doctor and his companions being besieged on all sides by the Angels! Matt Smith and Karen Gillan both knock it out of the park in this two-parter. This was actually the first story that they filmed for the show but you'd never believe it from watching their performances! They're both astonishingly good! We also get the return of the awesome River Song. The writing, the acting, the extremely cinematic production values and direction... this story is insanely good! Also, the Doctor's "Leap of Faith" speech at the end of the first episode is amazing! It show that no matter what the situation you should never, ever put the Doctor in a trap. It's brilliantly written and brilliantly delivered by Smith. It was an instant classic!
6. The Vampires of Venice (written by Toby Whithouse)
This episode was written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse, who previously wrote the brilliant School Reunion from series two. Even though this episode isn't as brilliant as the two-parter that came before this is still a great episode. It has a great story, it's really funny, Rory's great, it looks stunning, and the vampires are really creepy. Helen McCrory is brilliant as Rosanna and her confrontation scene with Matt Smith is awesome. There's a really nice William Hartnell tribute scene as well.
7. Amy's Choice (written by Simon Nye)
This is yet another great episode. It has a brilliantly clever and simple premise. It's full of atmosphere. It's got an awesome villain and Toby Jones does a brilliant job at playing him. He steals every scene he's in and is obviously having an incredible amount of fun in the role. There are some extremely touching scenes, it's really funny, and there are some fantastic visuals.
8-9. The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood (written by Chris Chibnall)
This two-parter features the return of the Silurians, who were Classic Who monsters. Initially I wasn't actually all that keen on this two-parter for some reason but when I saw it again I loved it far more. This is a terrific story for the Doctor's companions. Amy and Rory are both hugely independent in this story. They both take control and get to do a lot of things. The Silurians are both sympathetic and threatening. The supporting characters are all really likeable and well-developed. Rory's death is an extremely sad moment and Amy's reaction to it is heartbreaking. It's brilliantly acted by Karen Gillan. The ending, which has the Doctor finding TARDIS debris, is brilliant too.
10. Vincent and the Doctor (written by Richard Curtis)
I'm not really a fan of Richard Curtis's romantic comedies. They're far too schmaltzy for me. But this episode is absolutely wonderful and is easily the best thing he's written since Blackadder! I could point out that the monster in this episode isn't the best but it really doesn't matter. This is an utterly beautiful and emotional episode. It never shys away from depicting Vincent Van Gogh's mental illness. It shows the pain and tragedy of his life whilst still celebrating his incredibly beautiful paintings. Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Tony Curran are all fantastic in this and the ending is stunning.
11. The Lodger (written by Gareth Roberts)
I was a bit anxious about this episode because it guest-stars James Corden and I don't usually find him funny at all. But in the end this episode turned out to be really funny and entertaining. This is because Corden actually plays his role straight and it's Matt Smith who gets to be the funny one! He steals the show in this and is absolutely hilarious! I especially love his reaction to the "annihilate" comment! The Craig-Sophie romance is also surprisingly sweet. Karen Gillan doesn't get all that much to do but she still gives a good performance.
12-12. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang (written by Steven Moffat)
This episode is a million miles away from the "epic" finales that RTD used to do. There's no modern-day London, no annoying mothers, no celebrity cameos! It's just got lots of timey wimey-ness and Stonehenge! And it's the best series finale so far! Everything comes together in a hugely satisfying way. It's exciting and emotional. Matt Smith gives a stunning performance. River Song is wonderful. The special effects are brilliant as is Toby Haynes' direction. It's an awesome end to a wonderful series : )