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Doctor Who: The Movie (II)

16 11 2011

Announced Director David Yates

A couple of days ago Variety, one of the leading trade publications for those working in Hollywood, announced that a big budget Doctor Who movie is in the works in cooperation with BBC Worldwide.  Though no script or actors have been announced, the film will be directed by four-time Harry Potter alumnus David Yates.

According to Yates, the film is planning to be a stand alone venture, separate from the current sixth series of the reboot starring Matt Smith as the eleventh incarnation of the time traveling Doctor.  Furthermore, both American and British writers will be considered for the scripting duties; being a main stay of British culture, an American writer could upset fans.  However, Yates points to the precision of American writer Steve Kloves in capturing the British element of the Harry Potter films expertly as reason for leaving stateside writers in contention for the film.

I find the news to be both exciting, yet also quite worrisome.  In the past, two features starring Peter Cushing in the 1960s were made that are not considered part of the standard canon; in 1996, a telefilm starring Paul McGann was released in cooperation with the FOX Network, which is considered as part of the canon, counting McGann as Doctor number eight.

The excitement lies, of course, in the mere idea of Doctor Who getting royal treatment with a large budget and mass audience release.  Yet, the worry also stems from the same reasons for excitement.  Doctor Who has long been a cult program in some regards, with legions of fateful fans.  As a television series, it is just now somewhat breaking into the mainstream with the popularity of the 2005 reboot and younger, exciting Doctors like David Tennant and Matt Smith.  To fully commercialize on the series, I feel that a sacred aspect of this now nearly 50-year canon of two series and a telefilm might be dismantled.

To be fair, however, if there is one person that can pull this off, I think that the BBC made a wise decision in choosing director David Yates.  Yates, a National Film and Television School graduate, had early success in television before directing his first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  His adaptation was such a success, that he continued on as the director for the following three films.  He seems to have a good knack for understanding the sacred nature of beloved cultural icons such as Harry Potter or the Doctor.  In my opinion, his idea to split the seventh book into two movies to better serve the source material was an excellent choice.

Though it looks like the project may be three to four years away from release, it will be interesting to see how it is handled.  Hopefully, the production will not stray too far from the 50-year history to upset long-time fans, but will be able to be commercialized enough to recruit more fans for the beloved Time Lord.  After all, the more fans there are for a fictional character, the longer that character seems to stick around in popular culture.  As a huge fan of the series, I know we would all hate to see another nearly 16 year gap with no Doctor on television or film.

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Chaplin in Review – PART I – The Kid

20 06 2011

For the next eleven days, I am going to be doing a special Chaplin in Review series which will be a Chaplin Feature review, once a day, of his eleven feature films from 1921 to 1967.  Going in chronological order, the first film on the table is 1921’s The Kid.

Copyright 1921 Charlie Chaplin Studios

★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

While completing his obligatory two-reelers for First National in the late 1910s, Chaplin built his own studio, Charlie Chaplin Studios, and started United Artists with Mary Pickford, her husband, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith.  In 1921, though released through First National rather than United Artists as many of his future features would be, Chaplin released his first feature (at least where he was in creative control), The Kid.

The film allowed Chaplin, for the first time, to develop the style that he would ultimately be known for: the comedy drama.  The story starts with Edna Purviance, as a mother, who can’t keep her baby child.  In hopes the child will grow up in a better situation than she can provide, she leaves the baby with a note in a millionaire’s car.  However, by chance, the car is stolen and the thieves find the child, leaving the baby on the side of the street.  Chaplin, playing the eternal Little Tramp, finds the baby.  At first, he is reluctant to bring in the child, but in the end he does.  Five years pass and we see that Chaplin and his found son (Jackie Coogan) are quite close; actually, they are literally partners in crime.  The young Coogan breaks windows, while Chaplin as a window fixer comes to offer repair.  In the meantime, Purviance’s character has become a wealthy star who volunteers at various charity organizations for children to cope with leaving her poor son so many years prior.  When the boy falls ill, a doctor finds out that Chaplin is not the father, and orders men to take the boy.  From this point on, between various authorities and a reward from the now wealthy mother for $1,000, the boy and Chaplin’s relationship seems in deep peril.  The final scenes and dream sequence elucidate the mastery of Chaplin as an auteur of the film medium.

Coogan, who at the time was a vaudeville actor, became a huge movie sensation because of this film.  Funny as though it may seem, the cute kid Coogan eventually played Uncle Fester on the 1960s Addams Family television program as an adult.  Also, following the production of the picture, the negative became a part of a divorce struggle between Chaplin and his first wife, Mildred Harris.  She tried to get rights to the picture, so in an attempt to save his “baby”, Chaplin and several colleagues went to a hotel room in Salt Lake City with the negative to finish cutting and finalize the picture.  A sequence depicting this true life occurrence was produced in Keystone Cops chase vain for the biographical film Chaplin by Richard Attenborough in 1992.  In the end, Chaplin prevailed, and the film nor its rights made their way into Harris’s hands.

Like most of Chaplin’s features to come, The Kid was written, directed, produced, starring and, eventually, scored, by Chaplin.  Unlike many films of today that state “A ____ film” at the head credit, Chaplin’s films were most definitely his.  Every nuance was closely observed by Chaplin himself and tailored to his specification.  To make a film that not only, as the head credit says, is a “…picture with a smile-and perhaps, a tear,” but to do it with such a consistent mix of comedy and drama intertwined is truly an amazing achievement.

My two favorite sequences in the film are the sequence where the kid is taken from Chaplin by the orderlies under orders from the doctor and the dream sequence with the angels and demons (one such young angel being Lita Grey, Chaplin’s future wife).  The absolute horror and heartbreak as the young Coogan, crying and screaming, as he is taken away from his father is touching on every level.  Not giving up without a fight, Chaplin’s Tramp races over the rooftops after the truck the kid is in – arms outstretched, needing each other to go on in life.  In the dream sequence, the exquisiteness of  Chaplin’s ideals of good and evil come to a front between a utopian city of angels and the lecherous villains of the underworld who come to dismantle all that is good.

Even after 90 years, this film still holds all the smiles and tears that it first offered to audiences in 1921.  I’m sure it will continue to stand the test of time and think this is definitely not a bad place to start with Chaplin if you are generally unfamiliar with his work.








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