VENICE — There's a piece of slang used on the website TV Tropes that regrettably applies to much of "The Cut." That word is "narm." Narm is defined as a moment that is supposed to be serious or tear-jerking, but due to poor execution becomes unintentionally funny. "The Cut" is unfortunately the narmiest drama I've seen at Venice.
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[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
I love “Doctor Who.” Ever since discovering it in my Netflix queue years ago (Christopher Eccleston is still my Doctor) this silly, sentimental show about a mad man in a box has enthralled me. But I — like many fans — worried that lately the wheels had been coming off. Too many cliches and consequence-free actions and terrible treatment of women. Not to mention an infinite number of reset buttons. But from the looks of tonight’s episode, “Into The Dalek,” it truly feels like writers heard the fans…and they’re beginning to patch up the holes this season.
We begin where we’ve begun before. The Daleks are in pursuit of a spaceship, intent on exterminating all those inside. Flying through an asteroid field, the human pilot desperately tries to keep the ship from crashing while also trying to keep her co-pilot conscious. In the end she fails, and the ship goes up in a blossoming fireball.
The pilot’s screams turn into confusion as she is very much not dead. Instead she is on the bridge of the TARDIS, with a very alien looking Doctor staring at her. I don’t know what it is about Capaldi but with his head turned just so, he looks more like a bird of prey examining a potential meal than the savior of the galaxy.
Our pilot’s name is Lt. Journey Blue and she is not amused. Gun in hand she demands to be taken back to her ship. That co-pilot was her brother and he is dead. The Doctor is heartless, tells her to stop crying because at least she’s alive. He then pretty much refuses to return her to her people unless she asks nicely. They are really hammering home that Twelve is a dick.
Upon returning Lt. Blue to her platoon, it seems they’ve caught themselves a Dalek. No one here knows the Doctor, seeming to think he is talking about his profession and not his status as most infamous of the Time Lords*. Not even the captured Dalek realizes who it is in the presence of. It’s too busy malfunctioning, believing in truth and and love and beauty
and absinthe and destroying all other Daleks.
*So at least Eleven erasing himself from history seems to have stuck.
What the humans do know is that they want to shrink Capaldi down using a molecular scanner and send him in to see what exactly has turned this Dalek to the side of morality. Because when Daleks stop wanting to kill everything, obviously they’re very sick. This episode is literally going to pay homage to sci-fi classic “The Fantastic Voyage” and I for one, (and Twelve for two) couldn’t be more pleased.
As the “Whovian” music rolls, I wonder why this super science-y and tonally bleak episode feels familiar. A quick Google search turns up the answer. The writer of “Into the Dalek” is Phil Ford, who’s only other “Doctor Who” writing credit (for the show) is “The Waters of Mars.” That episode deals with an invasion of the body snatcher and the inevitability of fixed points in time despite good intentions. My hopes for this episode suddenly became much higher.
Back from the opening credits, we’re introduced to the newest character, Mr. Danny Pink. I’m starting to pick up on some “Reservoir Dog” undertones in this episode, but not one person makes the obvious joke. C’est la vie. From first glance, Mr. Pink is good with kids, bad with ladies, and just trying to make it in the civilian world as a math teacher. If only everyone from the students to Clara would stop making light of the fact that he killed people. It’s flaring up his PTSD.
Bringing on Mr. Pink — Danny from here on out — has the delightful side effect of continuing to morph Clara Oswald from living MacGuffin to human being. She’s an English teacher who has a well-meaning co-worker who is keen to set her up with Danny. There’s even the secretary who is really bad at innuendo. I hope shows up again.
It takes a minute for me to realize this is actually Danny and Clara’s meet cute, but once I do, I instantly ship it. He is endearing but awkward and she is charming yet abrasive. The show even lets Clara take the lead, prompting Danny not once, but twice, until he overcomes whatever fears he as about dating and accepts her offer for drinks. Watching Clara have a life outside traveling in a blue box as the Doctor’s Impossible Girl is truly fun to witness.
So of course, this is the exact moment the Doctor chooses to pick Clara up for an adventure.
For some reason, the Doctor immediately cuts Clara down because we really need to understand he is not a nice person, I guess? He condescendingly tells Clara to keep her spirits up, she’s not that young anymore but maybe she’ll still find love. After shading the living hell out of her, he proceeds to ask if she thinks he’s a good person. Clara is the soul of discretion because she merely says “I don’t know” instead of “No, you’re a misogynistic jerk face who is way too cavalier with the lives of everyone around you.”
Yet the Doctor hears what she’s not saying and — bless him — actually seems to realize how hard it can be to put up with him sometimes. Then shock of all shocks, he introduces Clara to Lt. Blue and the rest of the platoon…as his boss. In one exchange, the dynamic is upended as the term ‘companion’ is shunted off stage and into the trash.
Once introductions are out of the way, it’s time to get small and get inside this Dalek. We get some fantastic science mumbo-jumbo about remembering to breathe during the shrinking process or you’ll explode. They do away with the trope of an enforced time table before they return to normal size though. As the Doctor, Clara, and three soldiers are inserted into the eyestalk of the Dalek (a sentence I never thought I’d type), we’re treated to a full body scan of said Dalek…which might be our most complete look at their biology to date?
Safely inside, our team moves forward. I’m just gonna assume they don’t need suits for oxygen because Daleks are inherently more porous than humans. A short jaunt later and they’re standing in front of the brain. The Doctor explains the thing in front of them is an augmented memory storage. This feat of engineering filters out anything good and fuels the Daleks hate. So basically they’re Psychlos from “Battlefield Earth.”
But now this particular Dalek is malfunctioning. And they need to find out why. To do that, they need to get down to the bottom of this mystery…literally. The soldiers being soldiers, immediately start shoving grappling hooks into whatever crevice is available. Which brings out the Daleks antibodies in droves…droves of mini-Wheatleys from “Portal 2.” Man this episode is just overflowing with shout-outs to other sci-fi!
In another display of “I’m definitely not Matt Smith,” the Doctor pragmatically let’s the antibodies kill one of the soldiers so the immune system will think the threat is over. He sacrifices the only male soldier. Wait, what? He just had to pick someone to let die and it was the only other dude which means there are two lady soldiers, Clara, and the Doctor to save the day. And this is the moment when I realize that maybe, just maybe, this season is going to be different.
[As you probably already know, starting on Thursday, August 21, FXX is running the Every Simpsons Ever Marathon, running through all 552 episodes of "The Simpsons," plus "The Simpsons Movie." To aid in your viewing process, Team HitFix is selecting our favorite episodes from each day, plus an episode or two that you can skip and use as a bathroom or nap break.]
We're nearing the end!
Day 11 of FXX's Every Simpsons Ever Marathon takes us from "The Greatest Story Ever D'ohed" (mid-Season 21) through "Beware My Cheating Bart" (late-Season 23).
Personally, I was shocked to see at least one or two episodes in this period that I haven't seen, as well as a lot of episodes I haven't seen multiple times, which was almost unheard-of for the first eight or nine days of the Marathon.
But we still have preferences for you. Yup! We're gonna make it through this whole darned Marathon, for which we're unlikely to receive a prize. But we've got commitment.
[Oh and the episode guest-starring Katy Perry is "The Fight Before Christmas," airing at 7:30 a.m. It was neither good nor bad enough to get mentioned here, but it makes for a good picture.]
Check out our recommendations for Day 10 and chime in with your own favorites...
At the end of the last episode, Claire’s plan to secure her freedom by being the best prisoner ever blew up in her face spectacularly. Turns out when you act like you want to hang out with your captors, they are less likely to let you leave. Funny that.
But undeterred, Claire hatched a plan. A plan based on a folk song. A folk song that she disregarded pertinent information from (I blame the Rhenish). So, yeah. This should go well. Can Claire escape “The Gathering”?
As the credits fade, scaffolding appears. No, not quite. It’s men with guns in tree stands. Out in the open. Where any snipers in the opposing tree line could pick them off like fish in a barrel. Good job, guys. These astounding strategists are guarding Clan MacKenzie from all sorts of enemies…like giggling children. Calm down Trigger Jim, unless you really fear a gaggle of unwashed children and a lone time-displaced woman. Actually, I’ve watched “The Walking Dead.” Fear them.
Claire’s giggling on the ground while swarmed by plucky bairns is interrupted by an unwanted look up STILL not Jamie’s kilt. When the offending guard asks Claire if something caught her eye, she is forced to resort to basically saying “gross” because these miscreants wouldn’t get any insult involving magnifying glasses and toothpicks. The 18th century can take a lot of things from a modern woman, but relinquishing scathing insults is just too much to bear. Yet Claire soldiers on.
Turns out playing with children serves an ulterior motive. Our heroine has been scouting the terrain. Over the past few days (weeks?) she’s learned the lay of the land, finding not one but TWO possible roads to freedom. Smart girl. But she’s also been leaving behind bright white strips of ribbon to lead her back to the mapped out escape routes. Oh honey, no.
After torturing her guards by keeping them away from the beer (by the way, these two have got to be wondering who they pissed off to keep having to watch this persnickety woman who doesn’t seem to grasp the prisoner/guard dynamic), they finally pout hard enough that we are taken to the Annual Gathering of Scottish Santas. I am so excited!
OH GOD NO, IT’S JUST CAMPING. I’ve been tricked. No one said anything about camping! And there’s not even a bevy of flowing white face-tresses. UGH.
Speaking of being tricked, Claire has realized she’s basically being babysat by Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Hagrid, which means she could pretty much escape at will. But instead of just throwing something sparkly in one direction and running in the other, she’s opted for an elaborate plan. Involving getting her guards distracted by sexy camp ladies and/or getting them exceptionally drunk. Preferably both. This plan has approximately 100% chance of working.
Just an aside here, exactly how worried should I be about inbred babies? Aren’t all these people related? The family tree needs to branch, y’all!
Once the Tweedle Twins are sufficiently diverted, Claire is off to the stables. Apparently Uncle Lamb taught her how to ride when she was a girl and dammit that was a great place for a flashback but no. Instead we get a dumb old stable guy who ALSO isn’t Jamie. But wait, do you hear that? The music changed to 1940s bluesy jazz.
I’m so distracted trying to figure out the lyrics and why they’d add such an anachronistic mood now I almost miss that Jamie isn’t in the stables because he’s hiding from his family. What is he, the moody teenager avoiding Aunt Edna’s lipstick kisses at the family reunion? Claire — and the audience — are disappointed but at least Claire has her getaway horse. The plan is coming together.
The strains of 1940s pop music follow us all the way back to Claire’s dungeon/office. To be honest, I’m half expecting a radioactive wastelander wearing a human flesh mask to jump out of the shadows. “Fallout” truly ruined this era of music for me.
Which is why Gilly should be grateful she scares the ever living hell out of Claire and not me because she’d be halfway into the fireplace before the Pavlovian response wore off. And then where would the port she brought be? In the fire, wasted.
The background music finally stops as Gilly starts in with another round of “Questions I Know The Answers To Just Tell Me You’re From The Future And End This Charade Claire.” But while our red-headed witch is asking things like “are you knocked up with Jamie’s lovechild?” and “what’s with all this food that looks like it’s prepared for an ill-advised escape?” and “so is your husband dead or what?” we find out a few interesting bits about Gilly herself. She came to this part of Scotland with nothing (obviously because time-travel stones don’t let you check bags) and married Arthur for security and plays him like a fiddle so she can do as she pleases. Claire is suitably impressed and I have suspicion whiplash over whether Gilly is trustworthy or not.
Also, poor Frank is totally Schrödinger's husband.
Report: Taylor Swift will be part of “The Voice”
Swift will join the NBC singing competition as an advisor for all four teams, serving in the same capacity as Chris Martin did last season, according to Us Weekly.
"Downton Abbey" unveils its first Season 5 trailer
Says Carson: "I feel a shaking on the ground I stand on."
TELLURIDE — When Fox Searchlight's "Wild" landed Friday afternoon in Telluride, the Oscar fuse was instantly lit for star and producer Reese Witherspoon. But as our own Greg Ellwood noted in his review, after last year's "Dallas Buyers Club," director Jean-Marc Vallée seems almost destined to again be the unsung hero of a film that leaves audiences talking about the power of its performances and the efficiency of its economy.
TELLURIDE — In August of 2005, the Palm Theater in Telluride was inaugurated with the world premiere of Bennett Miller's Oscar-winning biopic "Capote." Nine years later Miller was back for the North American bow of his latest film, "Foxcatcher," which screened to a packed audience eager to get a look at this dark and mysterious story.
VENICE - If you liked "The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists!," the "Wallace & Gromit" films, anything by Monty Python or just funny, witty movies in general, make sure you catch Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi's "The Boxtrolls." Based on the book "Here Be Monsters" by Alan Snow, I can't remember the last time I saw a family animation so visually rich, tightly scripted and charmingly performed which was also built on a sound and progressive message. It's unlikely to become a cultural juggernaut on the level of something like "Frozen," but I think it is as enjoyable.
TELLURIDE — In recent years, Journalists have come under siege all across the world from governments trying to minimize their influence either through subtle or not-so subtle means. One of the more dramatic instances in recent memory was chronicled in Maziar Bahari's 2011 memoir "Then They Came for Me" which has been adapted into the new film "Rosewater." The film, with director Jon Stewart on hand, debuted Friday night at the 2014 Telluride Film Festival.
VENICE — The first scene in "The Humbling" ends with a once great veteran actor falling flat on his face. Well, quite.
“Do you believe that? Was that real for you?” Oh, Al Pacino. Playing a formerly great, now floundering actor like a needy lover, the scene begins with Simon Axler (Pacino) monologuing to himself in his dressing room. He's due on stage any moment to deliver Prospero's closing remarks in "The Tempest" ("We are such stuff / As dreams are made on; and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep").
VENICE — Yesterday's Al Pacino vehicle here at Venice, "The Humbling," was a disappointment: this is not the Pacino you are looking for. Thank goodness, then, for "Manglehorn", where the sure directorial hands of David Gordon Green know exactly how to unlock latter day Pacino's strengths while reining in his worst excesses.