Film reviews

Review: X-Men 3

X-Men 3
In my hurry to slag off the Odeon on Monday, I forgot to review the film I went to see: X-Men 3.

Let’s keep this one short. It’s directed by Brett Ratner, director of Rush Hour, Red Dragon and Rush Hour 2. If you’re aware of his work, that’s all you need to know.

If you’re not, imagine an “averaging device”. What’s an averaging device? It’s a thing that takes the absolute worst movies ever made and the absolute best movies ever made and then turns whatever it’s shone on into the complete average of the two groups.

Brett Ratner is an averaging device.

X-Men 3 isn’t awful. It isn’t good. It just chugs along, doing the same sort of things that the previous X-Men movies did, except you don’t feel a single thing. The effects look good, but you won’t really be wowed. The acting varies from bad to good, but you won’t care either way. Most of the major characters don’t actually get to say anything since Halle Berry stole all their lines. Some of the cinematography is interesting, but even in the most potentially shocking moments, when favourite characters get killed off willy nilly, you just won’t care. The camera angles, pacing and everything else about the movie are designed simply to get the plot from the beginning of the film to the end – nothing else.

Only the dialogue manages to escape being average and that’s by descending into complete banality. The plot, which is vaguely about a potential cure for mutants and the argument about whether they should take it or not – are they a disease or are they a normal part of evolution – could have been good. But while Bryan Singer, who directed the previous two movies, made sure his plots were reasonably smart, Ratner makes his averagely stupid. Magneto wants to take his army across to Alcatraz. Does he hire a fleet of helicopters or speed boats? Maybe use a submarine? No, he moves the Golden Gate Bridge. Looks good – well, average actually – but makes no sense whatsoever.

So save your money, particularly if you were thinking of watching it in The Gallery.

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Two new channels joining the Sky EPG

Apparently, there aren’t enough film channels on Sky Digital. Film Four, Film Four Weekly, TCM, Sky Movies n, Sky Movies Gold n (where n is an integer member of the positive reals), etc, etc. Not enough. No. Not enough.

So there’s another channel on the way that’s going to be better than all the others put together. Actually, I have no idea if that’s true. I’d like it to be true. The only one I watch at the moment is TCM and that’s because

  1. it’s free
  2. it occasionally has a good movie on it

And when I say I watch it at the moment, I mean once a month at the most.

So a shiny new film channel that’s free and has good movies on it would be nice. I don’t think Film Four is going to be it, even when it becomes free next month. And I’m not sure if Film24 is going to be it either, but I’d like it to be.

Film24’s based in Pinewood according to the web site. This means either it’s being run by Pinewood (which would be nice) or they’re just based in Pinewood – if you’ve never been there, take it from me that there’s a hell of a lot of companies based on-site that have nothing to do with the studios proper and indeed have nothing to do with movies at all.*

Also coming soon is Fight+. Or is that Fight Plus? What if they do a time-shifted version of the channel? Would it be Fight++?

Fight+, as the name suggests, is a channel dedicated to fights. Not Bum Fights, but proper martial arts and boxing. Now I’ve been meaning to blog for some time about the sorry state of martial arts coverage on British TV: repeats on Sky n (where n is a member of the set {1,2,3}) of Fight School, which is to actual martial arts what Big Brother tasks are to life in a FTSE100 company, and endless reshowings of the Paris-Bercy martial arts festival on Eurosport do not make for “coverage”, I’m afraid. Anyway, I’ll rabbit on about that when there’s a slow news day – I’m thinking some time in August.

So is Fight+ going to change all this? Already a big hit in Sweden and ready to sweep across the world, I’d say no. Frankly, endless UFC, wrestling, ESPN boxing and cage-fighting matches don’t do it for me, and we already have enough of them on Bravo. The current programme guide has one karate bout listed, which apparently also includes kickboxing (did they change the name of karate when I wasn’t looking?). But that’s about it. I’m amused by the idea of “Master Wongs fighting system”, whatever that might be. And as for:

Naked Womens Wrestling

Watch some of the sexiest female fighters rumble and tumble as they compete against each other in a very sensual naked way.

FFS! I hate sharing viewing interests with a demographic that seems to think “naked womens wrestling” is a legitimate programming concept. I’d rather watch yet another staged Paris-Bercy aikido vs tae kwon do “what a surprise! It’s a draw!” session than grace Fight+ with even a second of my viewing time if that’s its plan.

Tsk tsk.

Prude or pro-feminist? I’m not sure which.

On the other hand, Fight+’s supposed game plan is spelled out in this Wikipedia article and seems to suggest they’re aiming for greater variety in their pick of martial arts and programming, so it may be all right by the time it arrives in the UK.

Anyway, that’s two new channels coming to Sky soon, so brace yourself. There’ll be more to come.

Footnote

* I could do the journalist-thing and find out which it is, but frankly I can’t be bothered. It’s not exactly life or death is it? Plus I’m supposed to have been spending the last three days taking days off work. See how that panned out?

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News

The next assistant

Or should that be companion? I don’t know the terminology these days. Anyway, as well all know know from yesterday, The Sun wasn’t telling porkies and Billie Piper is leaving Doctor Who at the end of this season. We’ve had various theories, most of which seem to be about Michelle Ryan, but some of today’s papers have ‘exclusively’ revealed who’s in the running to be the next companion (even though The Sun says she’s already been cast).

Nikki SandersonThe Daily Express (no link because their web site is pants) says former Coronation Street star Nikki Sanderson is going to be the name of choice, this time. I suspect that rumour’s about as reliable as their weekly Princess Diana revelations, in part because young Nikki seems to have done an awful lot of Loaded shoots, which probably won’t endear her to the Beeb as a possible star of its family flagship. You never know though.

Freema AgyemanMeanwhile, The Sun, which as we all know is the paper that managed to get the exclusive rights to the BBC’s press release first, is claiming Billie’s replacement is going to be Freema Agyeman, who appeared on the short-lived revival of Crossroads. She’s also appearing in the final two episodes of this season. Again, seems a little unlikely, but since it’s The Sun, which appears to have a hotline to RTD these days, we might have to give this particular rumour a little more weight.
Plus maybe RTD is thinking along the same lines as us and reckons it’s time for the TARDIS to finally get multi-cultural. Or maybe she’s a really good actress and we just never noticed. All the same, probably not.

None of today’s other papers have names yet: most are just following up with the news; the Daily Star, as always, is claiming their news is exclusive; the Daily Mirror is busy slagging off Billie in its ‘TV Land’ column, accusing of her dishonesty for making us all think she was signed up for season three (which she still might be).

Michelle RyanThank God for Welsh papers though. The Western Mail goes out on a limb and names… Michelle Ryan as the name in waiting, mainly thanks to an interview with Paul Murphy of TV Choice magazine. It also hedges its bets with a few other names, all of which are probably wrong. But who would have guessed “Billie Piper” two years ago?

Sarah Dunn“Sarah Dunn, who is leaving Hollyoaks this week”

Eve Myles“Eve Myles, currently starring in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood”

Roxanne Pallet“and former Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallet”

The Western Mail has also commissioned John Campbell Rees, 39, from Treherbert, who has a science-fiction degree from the University of Glamorgan (I never knew there was such a thing…) and is a self-confessed Doctor Who super-fan, to tell us all (officially) who are the best/most important Doctor Who companions/assistants. Turns out, they were Sarah-Jane Smith, Romana, Victoria Waterfield, Susan Foreman and Jamie McCrimmon.

Caroline John as Liz ShawHa! No Liz Shaw? Your list is worthless, I tell you!

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US TV

Windfall

Windfall

It’s been a while since we’ve had a “money changes people” show but NBC’s Windfall cheerfully revives the format for the post-Lost age, complete with a large range of words with capital letters. It’s not fantastic writing, but it’s good enough to keep the interest over the summer and may well develop into something better.

It’s party time somewhere in the US and a group of friends, all with Very Important Problems, are drowning their sorrows. Cunning plan of the evening is a large pot into which anyone can put a dollar towards the state Lotto. Is that an American thing, Lotto parties, or merely a narrative device so that we can have an ensemble cast like Lost? I don’t know, but it seems an odd idea either way.

Anyway, wouldn’t you know it? One of the lucky lines comes up and the group is $386 million the richer (on only five numbers – clearly we’re being shortchanged with our system’s odds and jackpots).

With tax, etc, that means 21 people, including the pizza delivery girl, now have nearly $20 million dollars they didn’t have the day before (I know. If you do the maths it doesn’t seem to work out. But those are the numbers. Maybe couples are sharing their allotted wins). Cue inordinate amounts of jumping around whooping and waving arms in the air, impulse purchases of Mercedes when rubbish car breaks down outside a dealership, etc. Clearly, that’s just the beginning though, and this is going to Change Their Lives. But for good or for better?

With 21 people (not all of whom get their Very Important Problems explained), there’s bound to be a broad spectrum of issues and since it’s television, none of them are the same. We have the minor with the hard-to-please father; the married woman having an affair with a married man; a murderer who works in a flower store and cannot reveal his true identity; the couple undergoing a divorce who bicker over who gets what share; potentially thieving Russian mail-order brides and so on. It’s to the show’s credit that all these scenarios don’t seam totally stale, but it would have been nice to have seen some different scenarios from the norm, such as a pair of fundamentalist Christians who decide to use their winnings for good works or a pair of Muslims who set up an Islamic bank for their friends. You know, something different.

Most of the cast are unknowns, although 24 fans will spot Sarah Wynter – Jack Bauer’s squeeze from season two – as the Slightly Dull Wife Who Could Soon Be Jilted Now Her Husband Has Money; Murder One aficionados will recognise that bloke who played Neil Avadon in the good first season; and Luke Perry finally sheds his 90210 image to play the Slightly Dull Husband Who Could Soon Be Jilted Now His Wife Has Money.

There is enough plot to make future episodes worth watching for a while, as we try to work out Russian bride’s game, whether murderer is trustworthy or untrustworthy, whether husband and wife will leave wife and husband, and so on. I’m not saying it’s going to be spectacularly thrilling. But as a summer filler, we could do worse. On the other hand, if it airs in the UK in winter, give it a wide berth because it’ll be like watching The OC on Ovaltine.

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Billie Piper leaving?

If you can believe The Sun, Billie Piper’s leaving Doctor Who at the end of the season, as foreshadowed in The Satan Pit. Her replacement has already been picked.

The article’s got quotes from Billie and RTD, so it’s probably true, but you never know with The Sun. There’s nothing on the Beeb’s Doctor Who site or its news site yet.

UPDATE: There’s a press release now. Thanks Scott!

UPDATE 2: Now the Beeb’s news site has a story about it. The door, apparently, is open for Piper’s return. Who reckons this is all so she’ll be a surprise regular next season?