Category Archives: the list

The List – The 7 things that Torchwood ‘Children of Earth’ got right (BBC, 2009)

WARNING – MILD SPOILERS

Let me start by saying that this latest series (the third) of Torchwood has been outstanding. Although I have watched some of the previous episodes, I never really got it, though I am a fan of Doctor Who and Russell T Davies. This time round though, and with a move from BBC2 to BBC1, my preconceptions have been blown away and as the week progressed my expectations grew. Despite a few things that didn’t really work (Gwen Cooper as a female all-action Jack Bauer-type figure, the Ianto-in-a-forklift rescue scene

1) The fear factor. The threat of Children becoming something that is beyond our (adults / parents) control is a chilling concept, and has been used in classic Science Fiction to great effect (Midwich Cuckoos). By using the Children of Earth as a remote Herald for the first episodes without revealing the 456 attempt, an atmosphere of dread and fear was swiftly enabled. And that was before we found out the 456’s intent. When we found out what the 456 wanted, and worse still, what the purpose of their needs were, it was a terrible discovery. By using Children as the subject matter throughout its run, Torchwood Children of Earth created a climate of fear throughout its five day run.

2) Everyone was expendable. Without wanting to give too much away, one of the main characters (ie one of the Torchwood staff) lost their lives in a very dramatic fashion in episode 4. Elsewhere, main characters were despatched without fear as the high stakes at play – control of the Earth, the survival of the Human race – exacted a heavy cost to some. Torchwood series 3 was not afraid to let the viewers believe that they wouldn’t get rid of that character – and then promptly did get rid of that character. Some of the fatal scenes, especially in the final episode, were extremely harrowing, but handled with sensitivity.

3) The emotion. The thought of hundreds of thousands of British children being herded onto buses from their school playgrounds, while mothers desperately try to break through the ranks of armed soldiers to save their sons and daughters? The desperate attempts of Gwen and Rhys to save a handful of young children from the advancing troops, sent to find those children who had not turned up to school that day?

The Fathers failed struggle to attack the soldiers as children were dragged kicking and screaming from their houses?
Incredibly moving, emotionally charged to the point I was filled with rage at what I was seeing. This was great television. Television drama with a purpose – to entertain but to also ensure you felt how much was at stake, and that the world was in peril and ordinary people were being affected in a very painful way.

4) The 456, heard but not seen. Shrouded in a huge containment tank that swirled with a fog of chemicals to sustain them during their negeotiations, the 456 were never fully revealed. Apart from huge crab like claws and the eerie,devastating glimpse of a child from the past welded to the creature, the ‘less is more’ approach worked incredibly well. The intelligence of the creative team to not fully reveal the Alien(s) appearance allowed the viewer to only imagine the horror that lay beyond the obscuring fog.

5) The Doctor was nowhere to be seen even though this was BBC1. That could have been a cheap ploy – at the height of the drama, when everything seemed beyond repair or salvation, I really did think that maybe Captain Jack Harkness was going to call on the Time Lord to help resolve the situation. Having transferred from BBC2 to prime time BBC1, this would have been a way to get new viewers on board. They didn’t.

6) The acting. Look, it was great – John Barrowman, Peter Capaldi, Nicholas Farrell, Paul Copley, Kai Owen, Gareth David-Lloyd, Susan Brown, Eve Myles, Cush Jumbo and Lucy Cohu – they all played some great scenes. The tragedy of Peter Capaldi and Paul Copley (pictured below, with Eve Myles).

The sneering and scheming of Nicholas Farrell. The steely determination of Susan Brown. All were quite brilliant. Not forgetting the children! Each and every one of them played their roles to perfection – real children in a truly dire and horrific situation.

7)The politics and the evil spin. The process of damage limitation for the Government – how they plotted to hand the ‘tribute’ to the 456, how they would handle the inevitable fallout, and most of all, how they could ‘spin’ their version of events to ensure that it never appeared that they were colluding with the Aliens – was chilling and sobering. It felt like it could happen here, and amongst all of the horror and despair going on outside of that meeting, perhaps there, amongst the politicians, military and the advisors and civil servants, were the most horrific scenes from Children of Earth.

8) Economy – Series 3 of Torchwood was just 5 episodes long, dedicated to one storyline and went out over 5 consecutive nights. Not a ground breaking format, but one that perfectly suited this involving and gripping drama. Each episode effectively ratcheted up the tension from the previous one, and managed the difficult task of making each episode better than the previous one. If Torchwood is to return, this series is going to be difficult to beat. If Torchwood has now ended, then this was a brilliant way to go out, at the top of its game, having produced some of the best British Science Fiction Television ever. This stands alongside some of the best Doctor Who (Blink, Turn Left, Journeys End) and some of the best television drama of the year.

The List – The top 5 Beastie Boys singles (1987 onwards)

This week TWLB will be posting some nice lists all about the Beastie Boys, simply because they are great and make us very happy indeed, and have been doing this amazing trick for years. So, this week you get the top 5 Beastie Boys singles, the Top 4 Beastie Boys albums and the Top 3 Beastie Boys EP’s. Might even do something about the videos or the Grand Royal magazine. Anyway, today, its the……….

……..Singles!

The Beastie Boys – The Top 5 Singles

Number 5 – ‘The Electric Worm’.

A slinky cocktail lounge affair – ostensibly a reboot of what they were doing in the Nineties with the likes of ‘Sabrosa’, off ‘Ill Communication’ – this sublime instrumental is a fine way to introduce the joys of its parent album, ‘The Mix-Up’.

Number 4 – ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)’.

A genius use of brackets heralds the breakthrough hit for the Beastie Boys. Still incredibly exciting 20-plus years on, this single is the originator of rock and rap, and miles ahead of the likes of Kid Rock forever. Amen.

Number 3 – ‘Intergalactic’.

They needed something special to get the attention after the 3 year break since anything was released from ‘Ill Communication’. With ‘Intergalactic’, a boisterous old-school romp, complete with amazing video, they delivered.

Number 2 – ‘So What’cha Want’.

Oh my gosh. Crunchy organ, bounding beats and a superbly simple and brilliant video. It all makes sense. An awesome track from the awesome ‘Check Your Head’ album;

The List – The Top 5 ‘could have been’ actors for roles that went to another actor

A lot of people know that Christopher Walken was screen tested and considered for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars (and in that link you also find out that “Han Solo first appeared in the rough and first drafts of Star Wars as a hulking green alien with no nose and large gills. He was a Jedi warrior and friend of General Skywalker. As the story developed, Solo became a burly, bearded Corellian pirate who dressed flamboyantly. By the third draft, Solo became the reckless starpilot we all recognize.”) The possibility of Walken starring as that iconic character is tantalising. You cannot imagine anyone else playing as Solo other than Harrison Ford, but Walken in the role could have made the character more a loose cannon, less of a lovable rogue. It could have given the film a completely different dynamic, with Solo and Luke Skywalker showing real antipathy toward each other – I merely speculate, just to illustrate how interesting ‘could have beens’ can be. Another example is Tom Selleck turning down the role of Indiana Jones, due to his commitment to the wonderful TV show Magnum PI, so the role of the whip cracking archeologist went to….Harrison Ford. Being able to turn sloppy seconds into a major career victory twice? Is Harrison Ford the jammiest guy in Hollywood? Tom Selleck would have brought the requisite humour and charm to the role, but would have probably not offered much different to what Ford did with the character anyway.

What we have here though, are some other possibilities – some are tantalising, and some are strictly WTF?? Here are TWLBs top 5 ‘could have beens’ – actors considered / offered / lined up for major roles, but for whatever reason, another guy got the gig;

1) Charles Bronson as Snake Plisken (Escape From New York)

Okay, so Kurt Russell is Snake Plisken, but you know what? I think Bronson would have completely owned that movie as well.
http://www.fast-rewind.com/making_esc-ny.htm

2)Ray Winstone as Jimmy McNulty (The Wire)

Played to perfection by posh Yorkshireman Dominic West, I am just not sure that Ray Winstone would have cut it as the troubled murder police from Baltimore. Intriguing, but as far as I am concerned, this was a fortuitous miss. The reason Winstone turned it down is in an interview conducted with The Guardian

3) Sean Connery as Morpheus (The Matrix).

Wouldn’t have worked – Laurence Fishburne gave the role the energy and physical prowess that made him the perfect mentor to Neo, and a respected, feared warrior. Sean Connery would have been to old, and although he would have given the role a certain maturity and gravitas, Fishburne was definitely the man for the job.

4) Charles Bronson as Superman (Superman: The Movie)

Charles Bronson – seriously??? Apparently so – him and a whole lot of others – http://www.notstarring.com/movies/superman. I cannot imagine why they would have thought Bronson was right for the role – he would have been better as Batman in Millers ‘the Dark Knight Returns’. Superman has an image of clean cut American handsome wholesomeness – Charles Bronson was a lot of things, but the craggy faced actor was NOT an epitome of clean cut American handsome wholesomeness. Look st the picture below, of Bronson in 1973, a good 3 or 4 years before the first Superman was shot. Do you see what I mean? Bronson as Plissken – yes. Bronson as Superman – no!

Charles Bronson in 1973

5) OJ Simpson as the Terminator

Just. Wrong. In hindsight.

http://www.notstarring.com/actors/simpson-oj

LINKS

http://www.notstarring.com/ If you liked this list, you will love this site.

The List – The Top 5 Walking Dead Covers (2003-2009)

The Walking Dead generally delivers on cover art, with some future covers being amongst the best yet, as seen here, here and here. However, this list is celebrating the best cover art up to the current published issue (#58). Here we go, from no.5 to no.1;

5)Issue 36. Art by Charlie Adlard, Colours by Cliff Rathburn


What is unusual and interesting here is the perspective this cover takes, an aerial approach shot over the Prison where Rick and his fellow survivors had taken refuge. It contrasts the emptiness of the prison compound with the teeming undead filling up the periphery, crowding around the fences, seeping into the edges of the cover itself. They are juxtaposed with the solitary humans inside the ‘safety’ of the yard. Although not as overtly ‘dramatic’ as a lot of Adlard covers, this understated piece works well in highlighting the sense of the survivors isolation, and of being outnumbered, despite the relative safety of the Prison.

4)Issue 25. Art by Charlie Adlard, Colours by Cliff Rathburn


Tony Moore was the original artist on The Walking Dead, and illustrated the first six issues, to be then replaced by Charlie Adlard, who continues on the title to this day. Moore did continue to provide the covers for the series until this issue, when Adlard took over the covers. This is a statement of intent – a bold, bloody statement, as Adlard transforms the survivors, with the aid of newly acquired prison riot armour, into Gladiators cutting swathes through the undead hordes, their blood splashed against the warriors shields. The placing of the title – in the centre of the cover – is another bold move and it works, as it highlights the stature and intent of the characters striding forward, almost pushing the title into your face as they do so.

3)Issue 6. Art by Tony Moore


Another Tony Moore classic, with brilliant, vivid colours from Cliff Rathburn (whose use of colour on these covers to dramatise, set moods and define themes is a boon to the title). Obviously an inspiration to Charlie Adlard when he rounded off the ‘No-One Is Safe’ arc with the sombre issue #48, Issue #6 has a haunting quality, with the silhouette of Rick and the makeshift cross especially effective. The lurking danger in the background is quieted in this moment of sorrow and reflection, almost as if the undead themselves are paying respect to the fallen.

2)Issue 47. Art by Charlie Adlard, Colours by Cliff Rathburn


All of the ‘No-One is Safe’ cover art is a treat, framed by the vivid red backgrounds courtesy of Cliff Rathburn, but this one, issue 47, is a magnificent and dramatic cover. Although the cover arts relation to the actual storytelling is tenuous (and that comes as part of the territory with this title), its all part of the fun. Taking it at face value, what you have is a very striking and effective cover. Lori, who is Ricks wife, is on the ground in a defeated pose, clutching her newborn daughter tightly while appearing to scream / cry in anguish / anger, while the helpless infant reaches out to her mother for comfort / reassurance. Over the pair stands a mysterious figure, holding a gun that appears to point at the mother and child. It a scene of death, of an execution, with the last few moments of the victims captured in chilling detail. In the background we can see that the once impenetrable defences of the prison are now broken and accessible. The danger and despair are palpable, with the despairing Lori framed against a harsh red background the colour of blood.

1)Issue 9. Art by Tony Moore


This is just genius, and shows that despite how great Charlie Adlard covers are, it would be great if Tony Moore would contribute a new one every now and again. This cover is just so well designed and delivered, taking a unique perspective but making it easily recognisable and accesible. It shows Rick, posed as if taking a break / exhausted, seemingly unaware and in danger, from the perspective of the approaching undead, as we look straight into the eye of the zombie from point blank range, targeting its potential victim. The fly adds additional detail (maybe the dead do not blink?) but does not dilute the power and menace of the piece, with Rathburns colours understated around the edges to give clarity to the piercing blue eye of the revenant. One of the best comic covers I have seen.

There were plenty of covers that nearly made it, such as the suspense of issue 33, the iamge of the apocalypse that is issue 4 and the ‘all out action’ of issue 54. For a great overview of the cover art of this title, try here – http://www.comicvine.com/the-walking-dead/49-18166/ – a full spread of Walking Dead covers, up-to-date and with detailed information on each issue. If you are a fan of The Walking Dead then this is a truly great resource.