Tagged: India

Michael Davis: Milestone Rising, Part 2

Paul Smith asked one question last week that would have been answered an entirely different way if not for a call where it was made clear that the only way Milestone will get any damn respect is the way I’ve gotten respect all my damn life.

Loudly.

What I’m about to say is my opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle both of which told me to calm down and ‘not do anything stupid.’

Paul, you my friend are about to become a very real part of Milestone history. It’s doubtful that after this that history will include me but just think what a story you will have to tell.

Paul, you wanted to know if I thought Milestone would be better off away from DC?

Yesterday morning the answer was no.

Yesterday late morning the answer was oh, HELL YEAH.

There’s a new editor at DC. She’s a woman and a person of color she has been given an editorial position which includes overseeing future Milestone projects.

How is that anything but great for Milestone?

I’ll tell you why: because she’s about as knowledgeable of the Dakota Universe as the Pope is about who killed Tupac and Biggie.

From the very little I could understand she headed up a pretty successful comic book company in India and was been hand picked by Jim Lee to head DC’s new diversity push.

The new head of diversity at DC had no idea Static was Black.

Really.

But wait—there’s more!

The new head of diversity and DC’s new Milestone point person is spearheading the Milestone Audio Books being announced at this year’s Comic Con.

Oh…damn.

Did I let that tightly guarded little secret slip?

My bad.

I’m overreacting right? So what if she did not know anything about the Milestone universe? Who cares if she didn’t know Static was Black? She could learn all those things right?

She could and very well will. However there’s another and bigger reason I’m FURIOUS!

It’s impossible to understand her!

She has the thickest accent known to man; of this I’m positive. She sounds like a freakin’ customer service rep from the lowest bidding company in the history of India an American company ever outsourced to.

“What?”

“Hun?”

“Say Again?”

That was the extent of most of the Milestone side of the conversation. I swear at any moment I just knew she was going to ask me for an account number—and who knows, she may have.

I’m sure this is a knee jerk response to Marvel’s recent success with diversity. Marvel’s timing on the Black Avengers, Black Spiderman and Muslim Ms. Marvel seemed perfect. Perhaps DC thought they were running out of time to make a big diversity splash and couldn’t wait until Comic Con when the series will be announced.

Sometime timing isn’t everything. I wrote an entire damn article apologizing for missing my ComicMix Tuesday deadlines and yes I’m well aware its freakin’ Wednesday but you can still understand what you’re reading, can you not?

The head of diversity at DC Comics should not have to be told Static is Black. Anyone charged with a product where SOUND is the single most important element MUST be heard loudly and clearly.

Jen Krueger: Checking in to The Grand Budapest Hotel

Sometimes living in L.A. has great perks, and one of the most recent I’ve enjoyed is the fact that of the four theaters in the U.S. that had The Grand Budapest Hotel on limited release this past weekend, one was just a few blocks from my apartment. I know Wes Anderson isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but as someone who’s been a fan of his films for more than a decade, I find myself increasingly annoyed by the most frequent criticism of his work: he’s making the same movie over and over again. The most common things cited to support this complaint are the look and themes of his films, but I don’t find either of these to be valid arguments. (more…)

REVIEW: Homeland The Complete Second Season

Homeland Season TwoiWhen last we checked in, former CIA Agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) had figured out the truth regarding an attack in Washington, D.C. but no one took her seriously as events caused her bipolar self to meltdown, requiring hospitalization. Therefore, she is the only one to realize that something is serious amiss with Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), the recently returned POW who has actually been turned by Al Qaeda  bigwig Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). Brody is poised to run for office, his wife unsuspecting, Vice President Walden (Jamey Sheridan) (the real target of all this) backing his run. Left to pick up the pieces is Saul (Mandy Patinkin), who is distracted by his wife’s departure for India, possibly taking their marriage with her.

Homeland’s inaugural season arrived with good buzz which grew in volume as audience’s glommed on to the show and Danes’ brave performance of a woman undergoing a total breakdown. It earned numerous nominations and awards at this past weekend’s Emmy awards and season three is ready to kick off. Thankfully, Season Two is now out in a handsome box set from 20th Century Home Entertainment. All dozen episodes are contained on three discs along with some bonus story material and a small number of extras.

Adapted from an Israeli series, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa took full advantage of the adless premium cable opportunities and created taut hours of storytelling with rich characters and inter-relationships, anchored with an excellent cast. They moved things along at a nice clip and positioned all the pieces so the second season would move even faster. Carrie knows Brody more intimately than even his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin), although his daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) is rapidly coming to realize something is seriously off about dad.

We open months later with Carrie seemingly “normal” after ending last season with electroshock therapy, which gives Saul enough confidence to send her to Beirut when her former mentee has information she will only disclose to the former agent. Brody is in Congress, now receiving orders via Washington reporter Roya Hammid (Zuleikha Robinson), and still morally tortured over helping Nazir exact vengeance or be the perfect dad and all-American boy.

Things are nicely stirred although the trajectory of Brody from POW to hero to replacement Congressman to potential Veep candidate is way too fast and lacking the suitable background checks that any politician would do before committing (especially this early in a campaign). There’s also not really enough with Brody and Jessica compared with last season. All minor quibbles though compared with enormously entertaining episodes, well-written and strongly performed. Of course, the explosive concluding moments made us wait way too long for the next installment.

As one would expect, the video transfer to disc is fine both visually and aurally.  Scattered throughout the disc are episode specific Deleted Scenes and several bonus features starting with

Returning to the Homeland: Filming in Israel (7:52) showing how it doubled for Beirut and honoring its roots. On disc three there’s The Border: A Prologue to Season Three (1:40) which becomes moot in a matter of days. Of more interest is A Super 8 Film Diary by Damian Lewis (11:05) with a lighthearted look behind the camera. Wrapping things up is The Choice: The Making of the Season Finale (15:41) which is fascinating for those of us who love to understand the creation process.

REVIEW: Stoker

REVIEW: Stoker

Stoker_Rental_BD_Spine_rgbWhen you name a thriller Stoker, you immediately have people concluding it has something to do with Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, and therefore maybe the movie involves vampires. The film’s characters address that at one point but let’s stipulate that there are no members of the undead here. Instead, we have a stylish, noirsh film that marks a mostly successful American debut for Korean director Chan-Wook Park. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Matthew Goode, it’s an uncomfortable story of family.

India Stoker (Wasikowska) has just lost her father, shattering their close bonds. Distraught, she is withdrawn, and initially shrinks further within Goth herself when Uncle Charlie (Goode) turns up and comes to live with her and her mother Evelyn (Kidman). In her eighteen years, India has never heard of an Uncle Charlie and more, what she begins to hear strikes her as fantastic and contradictory. Is he a rich adventurer, an ex-con, an opportunist? Maybe all of the above. But, as Charlie insinuates himself into their Tennessee home, life changes.

India is uncomfortable around Charlie until his charismatic personality begins to change how she acts and more, how she sees herself. There’s a hint of sexual desire pouring forth while her own mother, dealing with the loss in her own way, seems equally drawn, making dinner time more than a little awkward. There’s a piano duet that is nicely sexually charged and the film is filled with visual metaphors that make this a cut above most thrillers.

Wentworth Miller’s script was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt down to naming the mysterious stranger Uncle Charlie. There are plenty of structural ticks Miller picks up from the old master, successfully maintain the tension throughout the 99 minutes. Unfortunately, like Hitchcock, the characters are cold, never quite warming up to one another or the audience and undercuts the movie’s impact. And trust me, this film has plenty of impact, especially when things get violent and here Park exceeds Hitchcock, bringing his natural talents to the fore.

The performances are strong and should have been stronger and this might be a culturally issue as Park works with his Australia/English cast in an American setting. Goode (Watchmen) is nicely creepy while the women vie for coolest character.

This is a strong transfer to Blu-ray, out this week from 20th Century Home Entertainment. Cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon’s imagery is well preserved, letting the atmosphere ooze into your home. The matching audio allows you to enjoy the splash of rain, the crack of a hardboiled egg and the eeriness of Clint Mansell’s excellent score.

The disc, which comes with an Ultraviolet digital copy, contains a handful of extras. There are three deleted/extended scenes (10:01), none of which are really missed; Stoker: A Filmmaker’s Journey (27:50), a Making Of mini-documentary that is cut above others of its ilk; Photography by Mary Ellen Mark (11:15), on-set photographs that can be auto-played or manually advanced;

London Theater Design (2:35), showing how a London theater was transformed for the film’s premiere; and,  Theatrical Behind-the-Scenes, seven short featurettes that were repurposed from the documentary and rehashes that material. You also get the theatrical trailers.

Enter to Win The Dark Beauty, Stoker, on Blu-ray June 18th

Stoker_Rental_BD_Spine_rgbAcademy Award Winner Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode star in this “darkly wicked, beautifully executed mystery” (Los Angeles Times) by critically acclaimed filmmaker Park Chan-wook (Oldboy).

Following the tragic death of her father on her eighteenth birthday, India Stoker (Wasikowska) meets Charlie (Goode), her charismatic uncle, whom she never knew existed. When Charlie moves in with India and her unstable mother (Kidman), both are drawn to his charming and calming demeanor. But it soon becomes clear that Charlie’s arrival was no coincidence, and that the shocking secrets of his past could affect India’s future…or shatter it completely.

To gear up for the upcoming release of Stoker on Blu-ray and DVD on June 18th – we’ve compiled some of the most iconic Lolita- esque characters in recent cinematic history.  Who’d be your top pick?

The Virgin Suicides – Kirsten Dunst

Part innocent teen, part mysterious seductress, Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of Lux Lisbon is Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut is all Lolita. At one hand she does fragile teen in the movie so well, writing the name of ‘Trip’ onto her underwear, yet underneath her girly demeanour, a true female seductress lies. She wraps men around her finger, teases, seduces and finally fools her family and the rest of the neighborhood boys into realizing the true extent of their tragic plans.

American Beauty – Mena Suvari

American Beauty tells the story of a suburban father (Kevin Spacey) who snaps when he becomes disgusted with his stale, repetitive existence. He quits his job and begins a regression into young adulthood, lifting weights, smoking pot, doing nothing, and discovering the overflowing sexuality of his 16-year-old daughter’s best friend, Angela (Mena Suvari). Like the film itself, Mena’s performance is at first dark, somewhat comic, clichéd yet intelligent, scandalous, emotional, and without question one of the most seductive teenage performances of all time.

Jodi Foster Taxi DriverTaxi Driver – Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster made a huge impact in her performance for Martin Scorsese’s iconic Taxi Driver (1976). Playing opposite the equally mesmerising Robert De Niro, the film really hit its stride when Foster’s 12-year-old child prostitute, Iris, steps into Bickle’s cab in an attempt to escape her pimp (Harvey Keitel).  It’s no real surprise that Foster was great, as this was already her 33rd role as an actress. At only age 14, she already had more performances than some have in their entire careers.

The astonishing thing at play in her scenes is not even that she holds her own with a titan like De Niro, but that she truly carries herself like a grown up, someone who has lived twice the life of any girl her age. This is not a child actress acting adult-like in an amusing way, but a child conveying the utter loss of childhood. A true Lolita.

Stoker – Mia Wasikowska

In Stoker, Mia Wasikowska plays India, an introspective, peculiar, solitary girl who mourns the recent death of her father whilst being constantly at odds with her mother. She finds herself attracted to her mysterious Uncle Charlie who comes to live with them, following the funeral.

Taking on the role of Lolita, the pair engages in a seductive piano-playing sequence alongside a shower scene that somewhat recalls that scene in Psycho, Wasikowska’s character discovers herself in the shower after witnessing her Uncle dispose of her lecherous classmate. The incestuous relationship between niece and uncle in the film provides much of the picture’s sense of unease, as India becomes more and more drawn to her charismatic relative.

Sue Lyon LolitaLolita – Sue Lyon

The film, that started it all. “How could they make a movie out of Lolita?” screamed the print ads to Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 movie. By changing the 12-year-old object of Humbert’s lust into a 15-year-old, that’s how. Selected to portray Vladimir Nabokov’s celebrated nymphet was Sue Lyon, who was 14 when she won the role. The original novel caused no end of scandal by detailing the romance between a middle-aged intellectual and a 12-year-old nymphet.

Lolita is the object of Humbert’s love, a young girl who epitomizes the seductive qualities of the nymphet. Though she seems to like Humbert at first, over time she grows irritated with him and defies his authority. Beautiful, she is also vulgar, crude, and attached to popular culture.

Kick Ass – Chloë Moretz

When Kick-Ass was released in April 2010, everybody left the theater thinking about Hit Girl. Maybe it is a testament to the character and not the performance, but the two should go hand-in-hand. The unbelievable charisma of Chloë Moretz was unmatched by any other actor in the film. And we’re talking about a girl who went toe-to-toe with Nicolas Cage and Mark Strong.

Chloe Moretz Hit Girl

Instead of resorting to the obvious and ultimately awkward sex appeal of a female hero, Moretz went with a mysterious badass persona. Hit Girl is the reason Kick-Ass lives up to its name. The other characters and the movie’s style are enjoyable on multiple levels, but without Moretz’s turn as Hit Girl the film just doesn’t have the electricity it needed. She left the humor up to her Big Daddy (Nic Cage) and kept a straight face the whole way.

Moretz is definitely a force to be reckoned with, reminding us of a young Jodie Foster without the overwhelming sexuality. Moretz was fun to watch in (500) Days of Summer and was even more graceful in Let Me In. However. Hit Girl was her coming-out character and the world will be able to recognize her because of an off-the-charts charisma that no other female youngster can match today.

Leon: The Professional – Natalie Portman

Most of the performances on this list excel because of the maturity of each youngster’s character. Sometimes a role is written that way, while others are the work of a dedicated child actor. Portman’s work in The Professional (a.k.a. Leon) is both.

As the film progresses, her balance of vengeance and progressive maturity is fascinating to watch. The fact she is now in the hands of a quasi-mentally-challenged hired assassin makes her resurgence as a lost soul even more powerful. It truly is all the work of Portman, though; she knew her character backwards and forwards, giving her a realistic quality that bleeds through the screen.

Natalie Portman The Professional

Her face contorts with every emotion, her lust for revenge comes through with an unsuspecting humor and her sex appeal is as uncomfortable as it is realistic. She just fits so snug into this character of Mathilda that it’s hard to tell if she is even acting at times – but there is no doubt she portrayed a character that has experienced something way beyond Portman’s real life.

In order to win your very own copy of Stoker on Blu-ray, simply answer the following question:

Director Park Chan-wook also directed which iconic cinematic tale of vengeance?

 

  • Old Boy
  • I Spit on Your Grave
  • Irreversible
  • Hard Candy

Post your response by 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, June 18 and the decision of ComicMix‘s judges will be final. Open only to residents of the United States and Canada.

Space Goat Ups Dave Olbrich to Veep, Adds Darren Vicnenzo

Dave Olbrich(February 25, 2013- Bellingham, WA) – Space Goat Productions, the premier comic book talent management and production company, adds manager Darren Vincenzo and promotes Dave Olbrich to Vice President to handle another busy year of making great comics, growing careers, helping editors and reviewing portfolios. Space Goat offers a full range of services: everything from comic book creation (interior art, logos, pinups, character designs, full-book packaging, etc.) to motion and interactive comics to project consulting and property development.

Darren Vincenzo, longtime Batman Editor for DC Comics, joins Space Goat as Talent Scout and Talent Manager. With a career that spans over 25 years, and includes offering Space Goat founder Shon Bury his first writing assignment, Vincenzo has developed a keen sense for discovering and developing talent.

“Space Goat offers an environment that provides guidance to developing artists. I know what artists need to get noticed initially, how to avoid pitfalls and how to help them hone and polish their work with each assignment,” said Vincenzo.  That type of thing doesn’t really exist anywhere else.”

Dave Olbrich has been promoted to Vice-President of Space Goat Productions. A longtime industry professional, Olbrich has worked as a Talent Manager with the company since 2010. He will be assisting in Space Goat’s aggressive plans to build a deeper and more versatile talent roster and extend its reach with art buyers, publishers and producers.  His scope includes the American direct-sales comic market, as well as international opportunities.

“Space Goat is a unique company with incredible potential,” Olbrich said. “I have seen the company grow by providing a real service to publishers, essentially making it easier to produce their titles. Shon broke the mold of other comic book ‘agencies’–and now we have set our sights even higher.”

“We feel honored to be able to offer such an outstanding roster of talent, coupled with a high degree of professionalism, to our partners,“ said Shon Bury, Owner and President. “And we’re thrilled to announce these staff improvements. ”

Space Goat Productions is home to top talent, both established and up-and-coming. A look at the roster includes talent ranging from established artists like Yvel Guichet (Pacific Rim), RB Silva (Superboy),  and Iban Coello (Justice League Beyond) to the next generation, including  Edgar Salazar (Deathstroke), Allan Jefferson (Batwing) and Victor Drujiniu (Justice League Dark).  And it’s more than just domestic talent. Space Goat works with creatives around the world, with studios from Brazil, Spain, India and more.

Film Buffs get New Releases from Fox Cinema Archives

Warlock one sheetLOS ANGELES, CA (February 19, 2013) – Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment today introduced 23 new films to its manufacture-on-demand (MOD) series, Fox Cinema Archives. Designed for true collectors and film aficionados, Fox Cinema Archives goes deep into the studio’s vault each month to bring classic films featuring some of the biggest stars of the twentieth century to DVD for the first time.

Launched in 2012, Fox Cinema Archives has seen the release of more than 140 films from the Studio’s library. Movie lovers can purchase previously released and new films from the Fox Cinema Archives series at major online retailers and at www.foxconnect.com.

New titles available today include:

Warlock (1959), 122 min.

The town of Warlock is plagued by a gang of thugs, leading the inhabitants to hire Clay Blaisdell, a famous gunman, to act as marshal.

Clive of India (1935), 94 min.

In the mid-1700’s the East India Company has power over commerce with the blessings of the British government, and clerk, Robert Clive, is frustrated by his lack of advancement.

Wife, Husband and Friend (1939), 75 min.

Woman hopes to be a great singer and is encouraged by her scheming teacher. After she flops her husband, encouraged by an amorous professional singer tries opera and also flops. (more…)

Mindy Newell: The Greatest Generation

Newell Art 121230This is a story I told to Joe Kubert. He loved it, said to write it up and he would use it as a backup in Sgt. Rock.

1943. Somewhere over Burma. The Dragonfly Squadron, inheritors of the famed Flying Tigers, is returning to base after flying a coverage mission for Merrill’s Marauders. First Lieutenant Meyer “Mike” C. Newell is flying wingman to his best bud, First Lieutenant Benjamin “Blackie” Blackstone. They met in training, and have been flying together ever since. The P-51D’s are pretty banged up, but the planes are the workhorses of the CBI and the pilots are confident that they will make it back to base, even though Johnson’s aircraft is leaking hydraulic fluid.

It is the rainy season in Burma and the landing strip, cleared out of the jungle overgrowth by Army engineers and sun-baked and rock-hard during the dry months, is a quagmire of mud that sucks at the wheels of P-51s as they touch down. The pilots must come down fast and hard with their throttles all the way open to clear the runway.

Three succeed, but Johnson’s plane, with its loss of hydraulic fluid, doesn’t have the power. Even with the throttle all the open the plane comes in slow and dodgy, and the mud captures the P-51 halfway down the runway. Johnson quickly gets out of the plane, and with the aid of the ground crew, is working to move the plane off the landing strip.

Blackie is already making his approach when the flare is sent up warning the other pilots off. Unable to veer off, he is forced to come in, still flying hard. As the wheels hit the ground, Blackie pulls back on the throttle and hits the brakes, but the inertia drives the P-51 forward and up onto Johnson’s plane. Blackie can’t shut off his engines, and the propellers are chopping their way through the other plane’s fuselage. That bird is still leaking hydraulic fluid. Blackie tries to open his canopy, but it is stuck. He is trapped.

Up above, Mike Newell, preparing his landing, sees the flare and pulls off, circling over the airfield. There is radio silence; no one knows what is happening below, though they know it is bad.

Admiral of the Fleet Lord Louis Mountbatten, First Earl of Burma and Supreme Allied Commander, Southeast Asia Command (SEAC) is visiting the base. He and his aide-de-campe (they have been together for many, many years) are watching the disaster on the landing strip unfold.

Fire is dancing from the Johnson’s plane, and billowing black smoke is making the work of the ground crew even more difficult as their eyes tear and their lungs fill with the noxious stuff. Blackie is still alive; he can be seen struggling to open his canopy.

Suddenly the aide-de-campe runs to Blackie’s plane, jumps up on the wing, and works to free Blackie…

The fire is inching closer. It is an inferno consuming both P-51’s…

They explode.

The air is heavy with the smell of fuel.

Bits of burnt fuselage dance in the air like dust motes.

There is nothing left.

The runway is clear.

A second flare is sent up. Mike Newell resumes his approach.

He lands cleanly.

The remaining pilots bring in their planes, one by one, without incident.

They report for debriefing.

Late that night, Mike Newell is sitting on the wing of his plane, a bottle of Scotch in his hand. He swills it frequently, staring at the now silent and empty runway. It is raining again.

A shape approaches him in the darkness, and a clipped British voice says, “May I join you, Leftenant?”

Mountbatten swings himself up onto the wing as Mike moves over.

“This buggered war.” says Mountbatten.

“Yeah,” says Mike Newell.

“May I have some of that?”

Mike hands him the bottle. Mountbatten takes a swallow.

The two men sit in silence, sharing the Scotch.

•     •     •     •     •

Lord Mountbatten was the Last Viceroy and First Governor-General of India, overseeing the transition of that country into an independent republic. The IRA, who planted a bomb aboard his yacht when Mountbatten was vacationing in Ireland, killed him. First

Lieutenant Meyer C. Newell, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and many other medals and honors for his service in the Army Air Corps, survived the war, came home, and married Loretta Yontef. They had two children, Mindy and Glenn. He stayed in the Army Air Corps – which became the U.S. Air Force – until the middle of the 1950s. His unit was called up during the Korean War, but never saw active service. The new Israeli Air Force sought him out, offering him a high commission if he would join them. Worried about losing his United States citizenship, he refused. In 1985 he received the Medal of Honor from China for brave and decorous duty for the Chinese Republic during World War II. The Dragonfly Squadron received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their service to the United States of America several years ago. Last year, a student at the Air Force Academy wrote his graduate paper on the CBI theatre, the Dragonfly Squadron, and First Lieutenant Meyer Carl Newell, P-51 fighter jock.

Sgt. Rock was cancelled and the story of Blackie, the aide-de-campe, Lord Mountbatten, and my father never saw print. Until today.

My father, who will be 90 in January, is dying. We brought him home from the hospital. He is receiving hospice care. Every now and then he will talk to us.

Yesterday I said to him, “Dad, it’s Mindy.”

“I know,” he said.

“I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you, too.”

I bent over and gave him a kiss. He moved his head, weakly gesturing for me to come closer.

He gently kissed me on my cheek.

 

A Doctor A Day – “The Christmas Invasion”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode, The Snowmen.

A new tradition, a new series, a new Doctor, a new threat, a new Prime Minister, and all happening just in time for…

THE CHRISTMAS INVASION
by Russell T Davies
Directed by James Hawes

“What about Torchwood?”

After being forced to regenerate, The Doctor returns Rose home to Britain.  Jackie and Mickey both here the TARDIS’ wheezing engines, and race outside to meet it as it comes crashing down in the center of the plaza.  The Doctor comes barreling out, raving and dazed, collapsing in a heap at Jackie and Mickey’s feet.  Rose has to explain what little she knows about the regeneration process, and they bring The Doctor back to their flat, changing him into pajamas (lucky girls…) and making him as comfortable as possible.

While Rose has been away, people have moved on. Harriet Jones, former MP of Flydale North was voted Prime Minister after her stirring speeches after the events of the Slitheen “hoax”.  She spearheaded Britain’s first solo space probe, Guinevere One, which will soon be broadcasting pictures of Mars.  Or it would do, if it wasn’t for the Sycorax spaceship that grabs it, analyzes its contents, and uses it as a Michelin Guide to the Earth.  They hie hither to our blue marble, and by using a biological sample included on the ship, take control of everyone on Earth with Type A-positive blood and effectively hold them hostage.

While that’s happening, the aliens are also trying to make sure The Doctor can’t stop them, and attack him and his friends with yuletide-themed weapons – robot Father Christmases with 44 caliber trombones, rotating killer Christmas trees…you know, as aliens do.

More than a few changes going on here. First off, this is the first of the series’ Christmas specials.  Save for a moment where William Hartnell broke the fourth wall and wished the readers Merry Christmas, the show’s never done a Christmas special, something quite common on British television.  But the new show proved so popular, the BBC asked they write one.  Russell T Davies was in the process of writing this script while they were recording the commentary tracks for the First Season DVD, so he talked quite a bit about what he had planned for everyone.  Also part of a new tradition was the prequel scene they recorded for the annual Children In Need appeal.  It was the first opportunity viewers had to see the chemistry between Tennant and Piper, and didn’t it just sparkle.  The scene, readily available on YouTube, is of course included with the DVD set.

It’s always a risk when you change actors in a role. The folks who do the Bond films can tell you all sorts of stories.  Just recently, a TV station in India elected to cancel an outrageously popular soap opera when the male lead elected to leave – they decided any new actor would generate outrage from the fans.  So to have to bring in a new Doctor after only one season back on the air was a risk indeed.  Luckily, David Tennant took the part and ran with it.  The whole tone of the series got lighter with him at the helm. Eccleston’s Doctor was dark and brooding, often angry, while David is much more positive and happy. Judging from the way the popularity of the show skyrocketed, it was clearly successful.  And the fun part is, he’s barely in the episode.  It’s much more an opportunity for the backup cast to step forward and shine.  Tennant gets a delightful scene in the early part of the episode, and shows up at the end, in rather a nice parallel to Rose’s last-minute save in The Parting of the Ways.  In a dressing gown, yet.

We get to see U.N.I.T. back in full strength this episode, a position they’ll keep more than a few times in the next few seasons.  Originally the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, it was quietly updated to “Unified Intelligence Taskforce” after a request not to connect it to the proper U.N.  One must assume requests to update the name of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. went unanswered.

Penelope Wilton is a treasure.  The flibbertigibbet back-bencher she played in Aliens of London / World War Three is now a sure of herself Prime Minister, and the performance she gives changes just a shade, while still keeping that seam of daftness that made Harriet Jones such a glorious creation the first time around.  And at the end of the episode, when she takes the step The Doctor forbade, she actually takes a heel turn in his eyes.  Don’t worry, she gets a chance to redeem herself in a season or two, and quite right, too.

And speaking of the events of the earlier episode, there’s a very nice bit of continuity in this adventure – as they cut to a shot of London, Big Ben it surrounded by scaffolding, still under repair from the crashing spaceship from that past event.

While most people think this is the first mention of Torchwood, it’s the second.  The Torchwood Institute was the answer to one of the questions from Anne Droid in last episode’s Weakest Link game.  Nobody was listening for it, so it went right over everyone’s heads.

REVIEW: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Your first thought at seeing this review is: “Why on earth is ComicMix reviewing this?” First of all, we’re a pop culture site; but more importantly, this is a film filled with marvelous British actors we have enjoyed in countless genre offerings. They deserve to be seen in just about anything they do and when you put them all together, it’s a British version of The Expendables, the geriatric edition. When you have Judi Dench (the current Bond films), Maggie Smith (Harry Potter, et. al.), Bill Nighy (the Pirates of the Caribbean series), and Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins) acting together, you sit down and pay attention.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a charming, well-written, well-acted film that is actually about something. It was directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and based on Deborah Moggach’s novel These Foolish Things. The cast is fortunate to still be working, but many of their peers – and many of us – are not working as we age, and our future has come into question. The film follows these Brits as they decide to relocate from their homeland to a more affordable retirement community in India. They were suckered into believing the glossy brochure, without stopping to investigate. The reality, of course, is far worse than imagined and now they have to deal with the decisions they have come to make.

The film, now out on DVD from 20th Century Home Entertainment, plays things with a light touch while the subject matter is fairly heavy and resonates with our aging elders here, too. There’s Dench as a recently widowed woman who finds 21st Century technology baffling, and Wilkinson, who lived in India as a young man and has desired for a return. Nighy and Penelope Wilton (Shaun of Dead) blew their retirement savings on funding their daughter’s failed start-up so make this move out of desperation. And there’s Smith, playing a racist who only came to India for a quick and cheap hip replacement operation. It’s not all bleak as Ronald Pickup plays a retiree hoping to score with some of his compatriots, his ardor still running hot.

Sharp contrasts are drawn between the characters and their motivations for making such a major move so late in life. How they react to the decrepit hotel, run by the charming, enthusiastic and overwhelmed Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) propels much of the story. Jaipur, where the story takes place, is beautiful and squalid, a composite of modern day India.

The film follows the characters and over time we watch some adjust, some struggle, and many fight. It’s a school of fish out of water, prompting a lot of cultural miscues and comedy, but it overlays a poignancy that this stellar cast projects in a nice, subtle way. They learn things from the local people, and each other, while they also teach Sonny a thing or two, letting him finally take the belated steps towards a mature adulthood.

The film has its predictable moments but you’re smiling through most this and you want a happy ending for all concerned, which you (for the most part) get. It’s immensely satisfying and worth a look.

The transfer to Blu-ray is good, not great, and has fine audio. There are a handful of perfunctory extras that are too short for the subject matter, such as Behind the Story: Lights, Colors and Smiles (2:34) and Casting Legends (3:55). The exotic and picturesque locales get their due in Welcome to the “Real” Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2:55) and Trekking to India: “Life is Never the Same” (2:45).