The Shelf: Doctor Who, The Muppet Movie, Luc Besson’s Newest
by Kyle Anderson on August 13, 2013
This week, it’s high-adventure with a French reporter, a frog, a bear, a pig, and two doses of a Time Lord in the ’70s. The president is also in peril, whilst fairy tales and New York gals deal with stuff. You know the drill.
Jon Pertwee’s very first adventure from 1970, the very first Doctor Who in color, is also the only classic series story to be shot entirely on film. This was due to being unable to use BBC Television Centre studios and being under time constraints. The result is one of the finest-looking stories of the whole run, and on Blu-ray it’s even better. A truly gorgeous job of HD conversion. Seeing ’70s Doctor Who in high-def is pretty great.
The story sees the newly-regenerated Third Doctor, exiled to Earth by the Time Lords, being taken in by UNIT and specifically Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and new chief science consultant Liz Shaw (Caroline John). He has little time to get situated, though, as the Nestene Consciousness is attempting to replace world leaders with Autons. No rest for the Gallifreyan, eh?
Now, this story’s been out on DVD in a few different forms, and most recently in 2012 in a Special Edition with lots of great extras, so I had worried there would be retreads of those, but I’m happy to say the Blu-ray release has all-new features, including a documentary about the lives of both Pertwee and John and 22 minutes of title sequence footage. It’s an excellent release and a good companion to the S.E. DVD of the same story.
A much later Third Doctor story gets a much-needed special edition. “The Green Death” is known in many circles as “the one with the giant maggots,” but it’s a lot more than that. It’s the show actively trying to discuss pollution and saving the environment, as well as offering Jo Grant (Katy Manning) a natural and respectful exit to the series, having her find essentially a human analog to the Doctor in a dashing eco-scientist. It’s got some great UNIT stuff as well, and the Brigadier is in top form.
This DVD set is PACKED with extras. Packed, I say! On top of the original release commentary featuring Katy Manning, late producer/writer Barry Letts, and script editor Terrance Dicks, there is a new commentary on parts 3-5 by actors Richard Franklin (Capt. Mike Yates), Mitzi McKenzie (Nancy), and visual effects designer Colin Mapson, and a commentary on episode 6 by Manning and former new series head Russell T. Davies. There’s also a new making-of documentary, the final part of the “Doctor Forever!” series, this time focusing on the show’s return in 2005, interviews, and photos.
Perhaps coolest, this set also includes both parts of the Sarah Jane Adventures story “The Death of the Doctor,” featuring Matt Smith and Katy Manning. Both episodes also have commentary by Davies and Manning discussing working with the late, great Elisabeth Sladen, among other things.
Yeah, buy it, folks.
Whilst their TV show was still “moving right along,” the Muppets took to the big screen for a road picture about how they got their start. In 1979, Jim Henson and company hit absolute comedy gold with The Muppet Movie directed by veteran TV skipper James Frawley. It’s got the TV series’ trademark zaniness, slapstick, and pun-based humor on a huge scale, and surrounded by cameos from everybody from Mel Brooks and Madeline Kahn to Steve Martin and Milton Berle. Truly, there’s just about no “human” appearing in this movie who isn’t a well-known star.
Watching it again for the first time since I was a kid, I was struck by how well the jokes work now in a way I’m sure I didn’t get then and how the songs, written by Kenny Ascher and former Nerdist Podcast guest Paul Williams, are just as catchy, if not catchier, now. The Blu-ray features a sing-along feature wherein you can just listen to “Rainbow Connection,” “Moving Right Along,” and “Can You Picture That?” which are three of the best songs ever written, let alone for a movie. Man, that Paul Williams is a genius, yeah?
The Blu-ray doesn’t have much else in the way of extras, unfortunately, but for fans of the Muppets and of this movie specifically, there’s never a bad time to watch it again.
Luc Besson might be the Steven Spielberg of France, at the very least in terms of output. He’s produced over 100 films and television shows and directed nearly 20 features himself. While he’s best known in this country for Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element or producing the Transporter and Taken franchises, his career has never been pigeonholed in his native land, and has of late been the director of the Arthur series of animated adventures.
In 2010, he helmed a French comic book adaptation, which is very much in the style of if Indiana Jones were surrounded by more magic and were a beautiful woman. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec stars Louise Bourgoin as the titular adventure-seeking heroine who leaves her home in 1910s France to go to Egypt to uncover the mummy of the Pharaoh Rameses’ personal physician so she can bring it back to a scientist friend of hers who has developed the ability to bring things to life so that the mummy can help her heal her invalid sister who has been catatonic for years. Confused yet? Well, the scientist, in the meantime, brings to life a pterodactyl from inside an egg in the history museum and it begins terrorizing Paris. And, as if this weren’t enough, the police, hunters, and a rival treasure-seeker want to stop Adele at every turn. All in a day’s work for the woman whose last name means “Dry White.”
This might not be up there with Besson’s most powerful work, but it is a whole lot of fun and has some terrific performances. The CGI work on the dinosaur and especially the mummies is really phenomenal, as is the makeup used to “subtly” turn actors into comic book-like characters. There’s nothing wrong with a fun movie, and this one, making its North American debut, certainly is that.
Once Upon a Time: Season Two – ABC’s hit fairy-tales-come-to-life television show’s second season gave viewers Captain Hook, giants from up the beanstalk, and Mulan, of all people, in 22 enjoyable episodes. Catch up before the third season premieres on September 29th.
Girls Season Two - Speaking of second seasons, HBO’s hit about four young ladies living in New York City hits DVD and Blu-ray as well with more witty banter, more awkward situations, and more fantastic non-diagetic music.
Olympus Has Fallen - The first of two “president in peril” movies to come out this year, this is the one with Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman.
Dragon Ball Z: Rock the Dragon Collectors Edition – Evidently, people have complained hard enough that a complete set of the series with the Canadian voice dub is finally being released. Go, Canada!