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Top Gear Series 20 Preview

There looks to be the usual mix of challenges, with the aforementioned hovercraft incident appearing to be part of the team’s attempt to build their own, while other misadventures will find them transforming a town into their own racing circuit, and James May in a Catamaran, surely another of their famous races which I always enjoy.

Its not all craziness though, and Sunday’s episode sees Richard Hammond taking three of the newest hot hatches around the track in an attempt to weigh up their various pros and cons.   I admit, as much fun as the team can be, these days I often find its in the straight car reviews that the show really shines, and this is no exception.   I always like those reviews that focus on the cars that are potentially within my reach, and seeing the Clio 200, Peugeot 208 GTI and Ford Fiest ST put through their paces was a lot of fun (albeit there’s still a bit of overload with the funky graphics sometimes).

If you think Top Gear is a blight upon the airwaves, then Sunday’s episode isn’t going to do much to change your mind.  But for the rest of us?  The boys are back.

Top Gear airs on Sunday night on BBC 2 at 8pm.

I am Santa Claus – Kickstarter Update

We recently featured the Kickstarter for the movie “I am Santa Claus” on the portal.  This week we’ve interviewed the director, Tommy Avallone, in the podcast.  He tells us about why he made the movie and some of the things in the movie; including how WWE Legend Mick Foley became a Santa for the very first time.

 

The “I am Santa Claus” team are getting close to their Kickstarter goal but they still have a lot of great incentives for backers.  If you are a wrestling fan or just like Santa it’s well worth heading over to the Kickstarter page and looking at the rewards for supporting them.

You can find the Kickstart page: Here

 

And here is a clip  to give you an idea of what the movie will be like.

 

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Doctor Who Anniversary Special Trailer Leaked?

A trailer for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 3D special has turned up on everyone’s favourite video-sharing website.  Real or fake?  Well, from this poster’s perspective it looks like the real deal.  Probably best to watch it before it vanishes.

 

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The Four Doctors

BBC Home Entertainment Celebrates

The First Four Doctors of Doctor Who

 First Four Doctors Revisited                    

 

Four Doctors, one special set: BBC Home Entertainment is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who with a look back at the best of the Time Lord’s eleven incarnations. Doctor Who – The Doctors Revisted: One – Four, available on DVD July 16, 2013, features a select story ark from the eras of William Hartnell (the First Doctor), Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor), Jon Pertwee (the Third Doctor), and Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor), along with four specials that explore the legacy of each Doctor and what they brought to the series. 

 

Doctor Who earned an Institutional Peabody Award in 2013 for “evolving with technology and the times like nothing else in the known television universe.” The longest running science fiction series on television will celebrate its 50th Anniversary on November 23, 2013, and it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on the evolution of the series. The first four Doctors represent a career time span of nearly twenty years, from the series premiere with William Hartnell in 1963 to Tom Baker’s departure in 1981.

 

This specially curated collection features one classic story ark from each Doctor: The Aztecs, a time-travel story that takes the First Doctor to 15th century Mexico, inside the tomb of one-time Aztec High Priest Yetaxa; The Tomb of the Cybermen, which finds the Second Doctor arriving on Telos – the last resting place of the infamous Cybermen – where he discovers a band of archaeologists on a secret expedition to uncover his old enemies’ lost tomb; Spearhead from Space, the first story to feature the newly-regenerated Third Doctor, banished by the Time Lords to Earth where the Nestene consciousness has also just arrived; and Pyramids of Mars, where an Egyptologist possessed by the god-like Sutekh needs the Fourth Doctor’s help.

 

Accompanying the classic stories are four specials that profile each of the Doctors. Featuring contributions by a range of Doctor Who actors including Tom BakerDavid Tennant (Tenth Doctor), John Barrowman (Captain Jack), Frazer Hines (companion Jamie McCrimmon), and Louise Jameson (companion Leela), as well as current Doctor Who lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat, contributing writer Neil Gaiman, and many more, these specials explore the unique personality that each new Doctor brings to the show.

 

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited premiered in the US on BBC AMERICAstarting with the First Doctor on January 27, 2013.

 

Bonus Features Include:

Specially recorded introduction to each classic story by current series Executive Producer Steven Moffat.

Street Date:  July 16, 2013

Suggested Retail Price: DVD $39.98 ($49.98 in Canada)

Length: Approx. 456 mins / 4-disc set

 

Introducing Menston Green

Menston Green is a one-off radio comedy starring the renowned British actor Colin Baker (Doctor Who, Jonathan Creek, Blakes 7, I’m a Celebrity Get me out of Here) from skerratt-media.co.uk.

 

Colin Baker

 

Menston Green has been running since 1951. Families have been gathering around their television sets every night for almost sixty-two years to catch up with the residents of IBC1’s most famous village.

But since the death of the show’s most enduring cast member, the ratings have taken a dive. As a result, Mr Cutler (the producer) has no choice but to end his tenure and hand over the reins to the next generation – a last chance saloon to breathe new life into television’s oldest soap opera.

Enter new employee Dale Delaney, a warm-hearted but dim-witted young dreamer with some unique ideas about TV drama. Together with his new recruits – Apple the first-time script writer and Clifford Bowfinger (creator of IBC1’s other smash hit, Blake’s Rebels) – the scene is set for a reboot of truly galactic proportions. But not everyone will survive his vivid re imagining…

 

The Cast

 
Menston Green is available to buy online.

Watch the trailer here.

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Big Finish Licences The Avengers

No, not those Avengers.  The other ones.

As fans of the popular series The Avengers will know, like Doctor Who, several episodes remain lost to this day of the series which introduced the world to John Steed.

Big Finish have now secured the rights to make audio adaptations of those missing episodes and while cast details are to be forthcoming, I couldn’t be more excited for these plays, especially given the stellar crew of John Dorney working on the scripts, Ken Bentley directing and David Richardson producing.  The plays are due to be released next year.

Read more at BigFinish.com

The Companion Chronicles – The Apocalypse Mirror

The TARDIS lands in the city of Tromesis.  It’s a city on Earth but this is a world far removed from the one the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe recognize.  Deserted streets and ruined buildings are host to ghostly echoes of the city’s once vibrant past.  People vanish, and huge metal birds attack without warning from the sky.  Can the Doctor find a way to save the future when the world he is trapped in hasn’t got one?

Apocalypse Mirror

The Apocalypse Mirror stars Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon and Wendy Padbury as Zoe Heriot.  Once again Frazer is working double, no make that triple, time, providing a lot of characters voices as well as voicing the Doctor.  Frazer’s take on the second Doctor is very impressive and he also effortlessly slips back into the role of Jamie.  This is most evident in the scenes he shares with Wendy Padbury; the pair have a great chemistry together.  The Companion Chronicles definitely work best when two companions are combined in the same story.

The tale itself is an interesting fresh take on what I had thought was a well worn science fiction staple (I won’t say which one as it would be too big a spoiler).  It’s also one of the most atmospheric we’ve had in a while with its ruined dystopian setting and eerie echo’s of people from the past. 

The companion chronicles are not for everyone but the Apocalypse Mirror demonstrates what is so good about them.  Hines does such a good impersonation, if that is the right word, of Patrick Troughton that it feels like the story has the full TARDIS cast.  Director Lisa Bowerman has also worked Frazer hard and with him doing so many different parts it feels much busier than most of the Companion Chronicles.  Eddie Robson, the writer, clearly knew how talented Frazer was and didn’t shy away from adding the characters he needed to tell his tale.

If you’ve never tried the range, or only tried it when it first started out, then this story is worth giving a shot.  It shows how the format has evolved and how it can be used to really tell amazing, captivating stories.  Unless we suddenly find some old episodes then this is also the nearest we will get to enjoying the second Doctor.  It’s out now and available from the Big Finish website.

Despicable Me 2

Gru’s back.  The former super villain with an army of cute minions returns in Despicable Me 2.  He’s still on the straight and narrow and still taking care of the three young girls who changed his life.  But now he has been recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new Super Criminal who’s identify is unknown.

Despicable Me 2

It was an interesting idea in the first movie with Gru going through a journey of redemption after finding three adorable orphan girls who filled the hole in his heart.  It allowed the movie to have it’s cake and eat it.  Gru starts as the villain, with all the enjoyable nasty fun that allows, and slowly changed as he learned from the three tiny teachers until he finally transitions into a hero, and adoptive father, at the films conclusion.

So where can the second movie go?  Thankfully it doesn’t try to retread any old ground. Gru never slips back into bad guy mode only to be redeemed.  Instead it’s a more straight forward tale of Good vs Evil with some undercover comedy and a search for Love thrown in.  But let’s be honest you’re not going to go and see this movie because of the plot.  No you’ll be going because of the minions.  And quite right too!

 

The film has been wise enough to increase the role of the Minions this time and they provide more than their fair share of the laughs.  But Steve Carell’s Gru is still a lot of fun.  Carell can really play the uncomfortable social outcast with a heart of gold.  The new characters are OK; Kristen Wiig’s Anti-Villain League Agent Lucy Wilde is probably the best of the newcomers.  The main disappointment is Russell Brand who gets very little to do and feels like a wasted talent.

If you have children then this film should be a no brainer to fill up some time over the summer holidays. This movie knows its audience and caters to it, as the humor is mostly kid friendly slapstick and fart jokes.  Otherwise if you enjoyed the first one then there are enough laughs here to make it worthwhile.  And at 90 minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Marvel Heroes

Except, its quite a different beast, so comparisons to City of Heroes or DCU Online don’t entirely work.  Whereas those games were role playing games, instead Marvel Heroes is much more a straight action game, that puts me in mind of classic “dungeon crawl” games.

Essentially the way it works is you have a roster of heroes from the Marvel Universe.  So unlike DCU Online, you do actually get to play as the characters the company is famous for, rather than just helping them out.  Having selected your starting character, you then play through the main storyline, moving out from the main game hub in Avengers Tower (where your bank, vendors or crafting takes place) to the streets of Hell’s Kitchen.  You’ll be given missions by various SHIELD agents and you essentially work your way through the area, beating up various miscreants along the way, before you make your way to the boss’s lair, beat your way through his various thugs, before smacking the boss (Green Goblin, Taskmaster or the like) in the face, collecting your XP and loot, and then moving onto the next area and beating up some more people.

As gameplay goes, there’s no real role play here.  Its all about the combat.  That said, it is an awful lot of fun to play as your favourite Marvel Heroes and battle well-known villains.  As is usual, as you collect XP from your various encounters, you’ll eventually level up and be able to upgrade your abilities and powers, as well as access new ones.   You’ll see other players running around the same areas as you, and you’ll team up with them throughout the game, either being put into a party in an instanced boss lair, or taking part in some of the open events, which see the likes of Electro or Venom attack in an area of the map, and large groups of heroes have to descend to defeat them.

The game itself is free to play, so there’s nothing stopping you checking it out.  When you start playing you’ll be given a chance to select a starter hero from a basic set (I went with Daredevil, and I heartily recommend Mark Waid’s current run on the book if you’re not reading it), and from there you can build up your roster of heroes to play.  While there is a chance of a new hero being rewarded by the game or dropped as loot from any mob in the game, this is however where the game starts to make its money.  

The game operates an in-game store where you can buy alternative heroes, costumes for those heroes or power ups for in-game currency (paid for by the real world kind).  This is a pretty common model these days, however I will say the heroes and costumes are not cheap.  That said, I do think the model this game is using seems pretty generous, since you can play without spending any cash at all, as long as you’re not as fussed who you’re playing as.  And there’s always that chance of getting another hero as a reward.

The drawback however is that on buying a new hero, you’re essentially prompted to restart the game as that hero.  The ability to just bounce between the different heroes isn’t perhaps as clear as it should be, and it took a bit of time before I realised I could travel back to previously-visited waypoints without resetting my game progress and simply fight my way through those old zones in order to level up the new hero to the point I was at.  The downside to this though, is it does stall your progress in the storyline as you go back to the old zones.  However at least its not lost.

This does however throw up other issues with the game.  I found it not uncommon to run into an area as Daredevil, only to find another 10 Daredevils looking back at me.   It does rob the game of some of its effect and breaks some of the engagement you might enjoy.  Having plonked down some cash in order to try out another hero or two, I did also find that there perhaps wasn’t as much differentiation in the characters.  Sure as Iron Man I’ve got a more ranged approach to things than Daredevil’s more melee style, but it doesn’t feel as well defined as a proper class structure.  I also missed some of the feeling of those heroes.  As Iron Man you’re still just running around zapping people, not flying.  Spider-Man isn’t web-slinging around the maps.   There’s limitations imposed by the gameplay that do serve to make the characters feel a little more generic, at least to the point I’ve played the game.  Its possible later powers will open things up a bit, but realistically you’ll never have the freedom of movement that a game like DCU Online or City of Heroes offered.   In fairness to the developers, they’ve done a good job modelling the various characters, and many fan-favourite looks are available through the in game store, and at the end of the day, the game does seem to be designed to be a dungeon crawl with friends, and in that regard it succeeds well.

I’ll be honest, I’m enjoying the game a lot more than I thought I would.  Despite being so combat focused I do still find it fun running around, and it seems like a game I’m more inclined to pick up for half an hour and then put down, rather than something like Skyrim that’d need me to sit down for a few hours. Your mileage will probably vary though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if non Marvel fans get bored a bit more quickly.

Don’t take my word for it though.  As I said, the beauty of the game is free to play.  So why not check it out, and let us know your thoughts in the forums?

http://www.marvelheroes.com

The Golden Years – 1963-1973

The range of how the show altered over those 10 years, from its original inception as historical, educational adventures with no bug eyed monsters, up to Pertwee in a Venusian Karate mind fight with Omega is massive. Going back and rewatching some of the first Hartnell stories can be quite a shock to the system. Of course, not only are they in black and white, but the pacing is so utterly different to later eras, with everything moving at a much slower, considered pace. The emphasis of the educational aspects, with the attempts to keep pure historical adventures in focus is I admit, a reason I sometimes struggle with Hartnell stories. More than any other era, I tend to feel they are best digested in their original format: watch a single episode, and then walk away for a bit before coming back to the next one. It is perhaps little surprise that the show eventually moved away from the pure historical stories to focus on the aliens and monsters, but even to this day it sometimes feels like something’s been lost and there’s scope for the Doctor to have a monster-light story.

Of course, its well documented how the Doctor of those early episodes was a far different character. Much more interested in his secrecy in the first episode, he’s clearly not a fan of Susan’s desire for a settled, normal life in attending Coal Hill school. A more sinister, untrustworthy figure, the emphasis is far more in Ian, and later to a lesser extent Stephen, to be the hero of the piece. A stark contrast to Pertwee’s more action-oriented Doctor. Discovered by Ian and Barbara, the Doctor’s first thought is to kidnap them, to prevent his and Susan’s secret being revealed. However, this contrasts nicely with the second story, where we see that wanderlust and excitement that would later inform so much of the character with his enthusiasm to explore the Dalek city (albeit even here his duplicitous actions land the team in a heap of trouble)..

Over the course of the first series the more sinister aspects to the Doctor of course are chipped away at, through his relationships with Susan, Ian and Barbara, leaving the more heroic character we’re familiar by the time Daleks invade the Earth.

Then, as illness took its toll on William Hartnell, a brave decision was made, and the Doctor regenerated. Not simply recast, but a whole new take on the lead character, in many ways almost new character, but with that desire to help those in trouble and that wanderlust to see the universe reminding us that this was still The Doctor. It remains a great shame for the show that the destruction of episodes has hit Patrick Troughton’s era harder than any others. Many actors will point to him as their favourite in the role, and its no surprise. Troughton’s incarnation ran with the idea that his Doctor was unassuming, unthreatening, a buffoon. And then his eyes would harden, and you’d see that razor sharp intellect lurking in the background. Its a take on the character that would inform several of those to follow, most notably Matt Smith.

At this point in the show, the base under siege format would become a favourite, as the Doctor and his companions would arrive in a suitably enclosed area, meet a core cast of characters, and then do their best to save them from the Ice Warriors or, more likely, the Cybermen. And as this move towards invading monsters solidified, and the Doctor returned to modern day Earth with a little more frequency, the groundwork was laid for a very different incarnation of the whole show.

And what a change it was. Now exiled to Earth with the TARDIS disabled, the previously anti-establishment figure became scientific advisor to UNIT. Now at home raiding the wine cellar of Sir Reginald Styles the Third Doctor seems light years away from his past incarnations. But that said, Jon Pertwee made it work. Playing against type, and playing the role dead straight, he manages to toe the line in the character well. While he enjoys an increasingly cosy relationship with UNIT, its setup well by the antagonism of series 7 often finding the Brigadier and the Doctor at loggerheads. While they manage to build a working relationship as they gain respect for one another, the Third Doctor still often finds himself at odds with many of the authority figures he runs across (of course, it helps that many of them are portrayed as self-serving idiots). The Pertwee era would also foster the idea of the UNIT family, with the Doctor no longer just being joined by a few companions, but also have entire supporting cast. An idea that would seem to inform more recent series with the likes of Rose, Martha and Donna’s families making frequent appearances.

1963 to 1973 would see the show going through some of the biggest changes it would face. Despite losing core characters, changing production teams and the main character going through several regenerations, the show would endure. Despite moving from a historically based time and space adventure series to one that was Earthbound and set in (vaguely) the present day, the show continued from facing the axe to being more popular than ever. Something about Doctor Who had grabbed the audience no matter what changes it faced. It had been established as a show that wouldn’t go away. And its biggest star, had yet to be cast.

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