Doctor Who 5.10 – Vincent and the Doctor

If somebody asked me to make a short list of my favorite writers and/or directors working today, Richard Curtis isn’t the first person who’d leap to mind. He might not even be the fifth. Despite that, I count myself as a big, big fan of his stuff, going all the way back to “Blackadder,” and right up to his most recent work, “Pirate Radio,” a movie which didn’t do well at the box office and got some fairly tepid reviews upon release. Like Curtis’s “Love Actually” before it, I suspect “Pirate Radio” (or “The Boat That Rocked,” for those of you in the U.K.) will go on to become a favorite of many, many people, because it’s an utterly charming, daffy piece of cinema that doesn’t want to do much more than entertain the hell out of you for a couple hours. And that it does. When it was announced that Curtis would be writing an episode for this season of “Doctor Who,” naturally I was interested in the prospect, but if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t expect all that much from it, and even less so once it came out that it would be about Vincent van Gogh.

For starters, Curtis has no track record writing science-fiction or fantasy (at least not the type one thinks of when bandying about such terms), and while it seemed gratifying to have such a high profile writer onboard, nothing in his works indicated that, with only 45 minutes to play, he’d likely create anything more than an amusing romp. Perhaps it was less Curtis himself, and more the new series having a pretty bad track record when it comes to tackling historical figures, regardless of who’s writing them. In fact, they typically seem to end up…amusing romps. Probably the best was the first one, “The Unquiet Dead,” which featured Charles Dickens, and from there they’ve kind of incrementally gone downhill. I didn’t think the formula could get much worse than “The Unicorn and the Wasp” with Agatha Christie, but along came “Victory of the Daleks” with Winston Churchill to prove me wrong. So imagine my surprise upon discovering that Curtis trashed my expectations by creating a deep, lovely, tortured thing of beauty that reduced me to tears. I have really got to start trusting this guy. His name is a stamp of quality no matter what “they” say.

(Editor’s note: I’ll second that, having interviewed Mr. Curtis in connection with the release of “Pirate Radio.” You can check out the conversation by clicking here.)

“Vincent and the Doctor” is the new standard by which these types of stories will, or at least should be measured. I have never quite understood the point of the Doctor meeting up with famous figures from the past only so that we can laugh at them and their quaint, backwards ways, all while cramming in little in-jokes that play off of what we know about these people from today’s perspective. Curtis presents us with a fictitious riff on van Gogh that lays waste to the previous approach. His story demands that we feel for van Gogh and his problems, which in turn gives the episode a gravitas that’s lacking in stuff like “The Shakespeare Code,” in which young Will was little more than a smarmy Casanova. Curtis comes from a place that has a huge amount of respect for this artist, as well as understanding that van Gogh’s troubled history was a big part of what made him the artist he was. Curtis also wisely avoids tackling the infamous ear-cutting incident, which is something a lesser writer would’ve worked into the story by having the alien lob it off or some such nonsense.

From the very first sequence, the reality of van Gogh (Tony Curran) painting “Wheatfield with Crows” is mixed with the fantastical element of the unknown in the field, disturbing the birds, and thus giving a reason for the crows in the painting in the first place. Quickly the action moves to the present at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and before you can say Bill Nighy, there he is, as Dr. Black. At first it seems a somewhat wasted cameo, but lucky for us Nighy returns before the episode is over. The Doctor has taken Amy to see the van Gogh exhibit at the museum. It seems he’s taken her numerous places since their last adventure, and he’s got a guilty conscience about the loss of Rory, who of course Amy no longer even remembers. The painting “The Church at Auvers” catches the Doctor’s eye, as there’s something in one of the church windows that he recognizes as “evil.” And so it’s off to 1890 to get to the bottom of it all.

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“Rango” promo is not for the literal minded (updated 2x)

Tired of trailers that give everything away? Well, below is the teaser trailer — or whatever it’s supposed to be — that’s been mystifying bloggers like Drew McWeeney all day. The movie is called “Rango.” [UPDATE: The trailer has since been deleted.  I guess someone decided it was just too surreal.  ANOTHER UPDATE, MUCH LATER: And now it’s back.]

Reminds me of a joke:

Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: The fish.

Or, in this case, the mechanical fish, I guess.

As per McWeeney and YouTube, the movie is performance-capture heavy animated piece about a “chameleon with an identity crisis” and stars Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, and a truly impressive collection of venerable character actors including Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Ray Winstone, Beth Grant, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton and Alfred Molina. It’s being directed by Gore Verbinski and co-written by the very busy scribe John Logan. I am anything but a fan of Verbinski’s “Pirates” movies, but the marketing has worked. They’ve got my attention.

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The Film Formerly Known As “The Boat That Rocked”…

…has been given a new name for its U.S. release: “Pirate Radio.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the motion picture in question (which lets out most of our UK readership, as the film was released across the pond back in April), here’s the official synopsis from Focus Features:

“Pirate Radio” is the high-spirited story of how 8 DJs’ love affair with Rock ‘n’ Roll changed the world forever. In the 1960s, this group of rogue DJs, on a boat in the middle of the Northern Atlantic, played rock records and broke the law, all for the love of music. The songs they played united and defined an entire generation and drove the British government crazy. By playing Rock ‘n’ Roll, they were standing up against the British government who did everything in their power to shut them down. The band of rebels is led by The Count, played by the Academy Award-winning Philip Seymour Hoffman, Quentin (Bill Nighy), the boss of Radio Rock, Gavin (Rhys Ifans), the greatest DJ in Britain, Midnight Mark (Tom Wisdom), Doctor Dave (Nick Frost), and Young Carl (Tom Sturridge), who comes of age amidst the chaos of sex, drugs and rock n roll. The film features an unbelievable selection of music including The Beatles, The Stones, Beach Boys, Dusty Springfield, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Smokey Robinson, David Bowie, Otis Redding, Cat Stevens just to name a few. The film is laugh out loud funny and speaks to the rock n roll rebel in all of us.

A few other bits which might interest you: it also stars Kenneth Branagh, Rhys Darby (“Flight of the Conchords”), Chris O’Dowd (“The I.T. Crowd”), Ralph Brown (“Meadowlands”), January Jones (“Mad Men”), and Jack Davenport (“Coupling,” “Swingtown”), and it was written and directed by the always-enjoyable Richard Curtis, the man behind “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill,” “Love, Actually,” and the “Bridget Jones” films.

Here’s the trailer for your viewing enjoyment:

In a turn of events which obviously leaves me pleased as punch, I have been invited to participate in the press junket for the U.S. release of the film, so stay tuned to Bullz-Eye and Premium Hollywood for further coverage, including discussions with Mr. Curtis and some of the stars of “Pirate Radio.” Rest assured, my first question will be, “Who decided that Americans couldn’t appreciate a title like ‘The Boat That Rocked’?” (I’m guessing I’ll learn that some higher-up decided, “Hey, the kids love the pirates, so maybe we can trick ’em into thinking this is actually about pirates!”)

  

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Underworld / Underworld: Evolution

Here’s a pair of movies that are so relentlessly tedious in their presentation that it only makes perfect Hollywood sense that a franchise was born out of the simple notion that vampires and werewolves would make a kick ass combo if they were beating the crap out of one another. Admittedly, the idea has a sort of kitschy appeal on paper; in practice, however, it leads to one repetitive fight scene after another, broken up by some of the absolute worst dialogue to be heard coming out of center channels in years. There isn’t an insightful or clever word uttered from even a single fanged mouth, which is a huge shame when you’ve got fantastic actors like Bill Nighy, Derek Jacobi and Michael Sheen thrown into the mix. There’s also Scott Speedman as the male protagonist, who is the blandest leading man ever to stream through a movie projector, and yet the dialogue manages to sound quite right as it tumbles from his lips (go figure). The real star of the “Underworld” movies, however, is Kate Beckinsale’s ass covered in tight black leather, since it’s the only thing that you can’t take your eyes off of during the proceedings. That ass will unfortunately be absent from the upcoming prequel, “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” (probably to be replaced by Rhona Mitra’s posterior, and all things considered, that isn’t such a terrible trade-off). If someone is going to drag you kicking and screaming to what’s sure to be yet another misfire, you might impress them by beefing up on your “Underworld” history by picking up this affordably priced repackaging of previous releases (or, alternatively, use your experience with the set as the reason you don’t want to go).

Click to buy ” Underworld / Underworld: Evolution”

  

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