Almost Doctor Who:
Out of the Woods.

Music The promo for Taylor Swift's Out of the Woods appeared yesterday and me being me and not being able to turn it off, my first thought was of the Eighth Doctor's companion Compassion from the BBC novels in the 90s who was a humanoid TARDIS within which he travelled for a while. The look is wrong. Compassion had "copper red hair" and "freckles" and seems to have been based on a young Nicole Kidman, but the way Swift shifts between the environments is very TARDIS like.

My Year In Film 2015.

Film  Happy New Year!  In 2015, for various reasons, I visited the cinema regularly again, attending most of the large action adventure films during the Summer months and into the Autumn (and The Lobster).  Most of the audiences were fine as were the films, and it was refreshing to be able to take part in discourse or at least understand the discussion surrounding the release rather than simply listening again much later to the Kermode review and looking below the line at The AV Club review.

Probably the most fun I had was with Mad Max, Jurassic World, Mission Impossible and of course Star Wars.  About the only entirely rubbish film on this list was Fan4stic which thanks to complaining about the noisy air conditioning unit which accompanied the screening I didn't end up having to pay for anyway.  Spectre was the most disappointing.  Bond's a busted flush until it does its own thing again and produces proper period adaptations of the books.

If I have to choose, my favourite film of the year which wasn't the obvious was Advantageous which I was happy to nominate for The Double Negative review of the year.  Here's what I wrote:
"Bought for distribution at Sundance by Netflix, ironically causing unfortunate obscurity, Jennifer Fang’s indie wonder Advantageous glimpses a dystopian future in which an older woman is given the choice of losing a job which guarantees her child’s future, or sacrificing her own identity. Tense, impressionistic, refreshing and warm filmmaking. Classic."
Seriously if you haven't found it yet, go seek.

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of my film studies degree, I'm currently working my way through the 1001 Films To Watch Before You Die book which thanks to being annually for the past ten years is actually nearly 1,200 films and growing.  My only rule is to ignore anything I've already seen in my life which slashes the number in half.  I'm also working through them chronologically and so having worked through the silent era, I'm currently at the end of the 1930s.

This project will also be my last hurray with Lovefilm which I'll be cancelling once I've reached the end of the list.  Between the iPlayer, my own unwatched archive and subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime and NowTV and the imminent price rise, I simply can't justify getting shiny discs through the post any more.  Despite back catalogue issues, there'll always be something to watch and frankly I'm also sick of something turning up on Netflix the week I receive the dvd.

So having spent much of the year watching classic films, you'll have to forgive me for not singling anything out.  Instead, I've gone the Soderbergh route and listed everything I've watched this year as far as my various sources suggest and my own memory will allow.  Find listed three hundred and forty films, although I think there may have been the odd thing on the iPlayer or from my own collection which could add another twenty or so titles.

Predictions 2015.

That Day We reach the time when I assess how well I predicted the ups and downs of the year and look forward to the next. Here we go again:

The Beatles are added to Spotify.

There it was and not just Spotify, all streaming services. On Christmas Day we opened our presents while listening to the 1 compilation. One Mark.

Taylor Swift does Glastonbury.

No, although there was much fevered speculation when the Foo Fighters had to understandably pull out, because she was in the country. She didn't but clearly not for the reasons Ed Sheeran suggests since she later featured at the BST festival in Hyde Park and at Radio 1's Big Weekend. No marks.

Greens overtake the LibDems in Parliament.

No, but close, the LibDems being demolished at the General Election. No marks.

The next series of Doctor Who is better than the last one.

Entirely subjective but I think it was. I certainly enjoyed it more and many of my reviews were pretty upbeat. One mark.

Spider-man joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Which was seemingly on the cards after the Sony hack but I didn't think would actually happen. Another reboot, but bravely keeping him a teenager and in high school so different enough to be interesting. One mark.

Three out of Five, which isn't bad at all.

Right then, for next year:

The Mutya Keisha Siobhan album is finally released.

Arden Shakespeare announces Arden of Faversham.

Moffat and Capaldi leaving Doctor Who at the end of series ten.

Film streaming services announce deals which allow for studio back catalogues to be available in greater depth and for longer ala music.

Major scandal leads to early UK general election.

Review 2015:
Film Experiences:
Mags L Halliday on Fatal Attraction.

Film I think I saw every film released between 1987 and 1991, many of them twice in one day. I worked in an independent cinema chain. It was an ideal job for a teen too young to work in bars and too snarky to survive long as a waitress. I always wanted the Friday shift, when the cans of reels would arrive at lunchtime and be stitched together by the projectionist ready for the first screening. I also liked Sundays, where you started later (the religous manager not wanting anyone working before lunchtime on the sabbath) and got double-time. Everyone hated Saturdays: the kids left to run riot at the matinee; the teens leaving used condoms behind in the back row at the late screening.

As an usher, my job included selling tickets and popcorn, tearing tickets, selling ice-cream, cleaning the screen after each screening, being ready to evacuate the building in event of a fire, and 'watching the audience'. In practise, unless there was trouble in that pre-mobile era, the final task really meant 'watching the film'. I might watch in the screen, or through the projectionist's window. The latter meant I could have a quick fag whilst watching, so long as I didn't mind the loud whirring of the projector (and snores of the projectionist). We also got free passes to see films: those tended to be great currency in our social group as they are the cinema equivalent of your name being on the list for gigs.

The downside of the job was I became used to missing the start of films: the first 20 minutes were spent either letting the other screen in, cashing up the ice-cream sales, or both. If two of us were on, I might convince one of my colleagues to cover so I could see the start of a film I really liked. I have a lot of random memories of those years behind the torch. Like the time I fell asleep in Rambo 3, or how me and a friend crushed so hard on Carey Elwes in The Princess Bride. Or how I knew which of the town's small goth population were fibbing when they claimed to have seen The Lost Boys on its first night (one week run, mostly empty). Or that my last film was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which I adore to this day.

But I'm going to focus on Fatal Attraction.

It was due to be huge: we knew that as all passes were suspended and nearly all of us were on duty the first night. The first week, our big screen was sold out every night. And it ran for three weeks. I know that because by the end of its run, I hated it and counted up that I had seen it 20 times. Twenty times is a lot of times to see a film you don't like. I don't like Michael Douglas in it, I didn't like or care about the characters, I didn't like the plot or the sexist subtexts. I've never rewatched it since the last Thursday it played in that seaside cinema (by then downgraded to screen 2). And yet...

The first Friday, its opening night in our fleapit, I stood in the ushers' bit and clutched my colleague's arm in surprise when Alex suddenly reappears. A couple of screenings in and I started watching the audience. It was fascinating to see 200 people jump in unison and then - and this was the bit that fascinated me - sit back with an embarrassed grin. I watched it for weeks: this visceral response, and unpicked shot by shot how Adrian Lyne created it. The mise-en-scene used to denote each world, the zooms, the diegetic sound effects. I applied critical film theory to it to understand why an audience reacted en masse to a film. People go to thrillers with the same mindset they go to an illusionist: they think they won't be fooled like all the others. And they're wrong. Because film lures you in, creates a suspension of disbelief and then slams you in the gut with it.

I've seen that same communal gasp in other films over the years. At the first screening of Resevoir Dogs in a full Sheffield multiplex screen, when the only other woman in the screening walked out after the ear scene. Or at a moment in The Force Awakens two weeks ago (despite the person with their bloody mobile out just in my eyeline). That first time, when I started analysing how it worked, was another early step on a path to studying film history and creating a cornerstone of my life.

So whilst I still can't stand it, Fatal Attraction was a major film experience for me.

My Favourite Film of 1966.

Film And so, with some inevitability, let's talk about Doctor Who or Dr. Who as is the case with Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (or whatever it's called - opinions surprisingly differ).

I've already talked at some length elsewhere on multiple occasions, and here's a version here, about how I properly became a Doctor Who fan, during the so-called wilderness years after listing to an audio starring Paul McGann.

I've also written here about my first memory of the television series, which was later revealed to be a scene from The Invisible Enemy.

With that covered there's one aspect of the Amicus film series which I've always found slightly fascinating.

If Daleks - Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. had been a bigger success, and notice how it wasn't, how the first flush of Dalekmania had subsided enough for kids not to want to see this version of Who at the cinema, the third film would have been an adaptation of The Chase.

Although for production company Amicus this must have seemed like the natural choice being the third television story to go into production featuring the robotic Russian dancers, the whole process of actually adapting a two and a half to three hour, six episode epic into an eighty minute widescreen technicolour film sounds like a challenge.

If someone has ever seen a potential outline I'd be intrigued as to where they went with it.

There's certainly plenty of incident.  From the chase around the desert to meeting the Aridians (and mire beasts!) to visiting contemporary Earth a couple of times (with the whole business in the haunted house!) and then the material with the doppelganger, the filmmakers would have a lot of spectacle to choose from.

There's a lot of chaff in the script too.  With needs and budgetary requirements of having to create more new locations on a weekly basis than normal, the scripts contain a lot of moments which feel like writer Terry Nation giving his characters something to do to fill the duration of the episode having had the set built rather than a proper sense of action or jeopardy.  In some cases the action just stops altogether.

Nevertheless you could imagine plenty of jokes being achieved through montage sequences of the TARDIS team finding themselves in scrapes, of some sections being given the full adaptation treatment and others being parred down to a visual gag.

Unless it's simply the concept which is retained and the rest would be thrown out.  The Daleks chase the TARDIS across time and space.  For reasons.  Plenty of scope for the utilisation of stock footage and premade costumes and sets.

Which crew?  Would Roy Castle have returned?  Or Bernard Cribbins?  Or some new comedic leading man?

Either way, this is another one of those delicious almost wheres in Doctor Who's long history.

The Diary of River Song: The Rulers of the Universe.

Audio Marvellous, totally, bloody marvellous. As you might have gathered, I'm rather enamored with Doctor Professor Song and the actress who plays her, so the idea of a dedicated spin-off is really, quite welcome. But oh the danger. Apart from Big Finish having to produce something featuring a time travelling archaeologist which sounds totally unlike the Bernice Summerfield stories (not easy given that Benny is a clear influence on this television character) it also has to feel as though it's a natural extension of the television revival.

Well it does on all counts.  She's entirely unlike her antecedent.  River's motives ambiguous and her methods reckless and very much the figure who devised the baroque approach to contacting the Doctor in Time of the Angels, who can barely suffer fools, generally men.  As is often the case when actors shift a character into a new medium, Alex seems to take a few beats to get into her stride in translating her performance to audio but within minutes,Song sings again, entirely charming and electric and dangerous.

There are a couple of niggles.  An element of the overarching story (oddly) has strong echoes of Paul Magrs's Fourth Doctor Nest Cottage audios which is distracting if you're already aware of that story.  Plus much like the design on the box set cover, to an extent River is pushed to one side in the final installment in favour of the Eighth Doctor ultimately becoming the figure who confronts the main antagonist.  Which isn't to say she doesn't have a strong story thread of her own, you will punch the air, but it feels like an odd piece of structuring.

But the writing from all four authors is incredibly strong, notably James Goss's typically experimental third part which is a two hander best approached without any knowledge so, y'know, spoilers.  Everyone has captured exactly what it must be like for River, still learning what it means to be a Time Person, finding herself running into her husband but unable to tell him who she is, because as she says, he's yet to go through the change that leads to him becoming the man she loves (which in and of itself is an interesting delineation).

Quick skippable spoilery discussion about placement: It's very much about The Diary of River Song as an information source and how it structures River's life, not simply an audio crutch to allow for exposition.  Although it's very non-specific about timing, my guess is it's some time after The Angels Take Manhattan in the two hundred years mentioned in Husbands helping to account for why she's so clued in on his earlier incarnations almost expecting one of those to show up instead of a future version.

The Rulers of the Universe.

Here we are, Paul McGann's first occasion playing the Eighth Doctor during the Time War on audio.  With just his brief pre-regenerative television appearance to build on, the approach in performance and writing is to return to something of his pre-Dark Eyes state, more adventure seeking, less cynical about the universe, perhaps because he realises that it might not be around for very much longer.  He's notably treating the TARDIS as a friend again, perhaps because he's travelling alone and she's as close to a companion he has now.

Deciding to go with this version of the Eighth Doctor is somewhat dictated by this being a spin-off from the television revival and the pre-regenerative Time War version most likely to be familiar to the potential audience; teaming River with the even younger pre-Storm Warning figure or even not specifying where he's from in his timeline would have been the braver approach but as a result, the writers are also boldly able to make the war a central part of the narrative, perhaps as a pre-cursor to the upcoming boxed set.

As expected his interactions with River are frustrating because he can't know who she is, but as is becoming customary between Kingston and her various opposite numbers, the chemistry is palpable.  Throughout there's also the nagging question: if this is set after the second Doom Coalition box, how does he not know who she is and this seems to her first interaction with him, although she's clearly aware of him and able to describe him.  Will they meet on equal terms then and if so, how will he forget her again?